All posts by Derek

24 May 2017

So often my playlist is influenced by what I have seen or heard since the previous show. During the last week I saw live performances in Norwich from two artists that have featured on Cosmic Jazz so it was to them that I turned to open the show.

There is, however, a major difference from what I played first and what I saw live. For one thing, The Loud Minority on which Dee Dee Bridgewater passionately bawls out and proclaims the rights of the oppressed, was recorded a long time ago – 1972 to be precise. Secondly, what she is doing now is, in her words, not what many in the audience who knew her as a jazz performer might have expected. She is currently showcasing, in advance of an autumn release, a new album entitled MemphisShe has returned to the place of her birth and is re-interpreting the great soul and blues sounds of Memphis, Tennessee. With the support of a tight band and two young sisters as backing vocalists who really looked as if they were having a great time, she gave a belting, raucous and sprightly vocal performance – and that at the age of 67 and with a leg in plaster. Not surprisingly, the audience loved her. If you’re checking out a date on her short European tour, just don’t expect to hear jazz.

Brad Meldhau, who performed in the spiritual setting of St. Andrew’s Hall Norwich, the site of a former monastery, was a different proposition. Surprisingly, there were spare seats for this festival performance, disappointing but there were enough people to give a warm reception to this great piano improviser, There was music from the recent album Blues and Ballads but good to hear there was more besides, including new work. At times, the trio, with Jeff Ballard on drums (very cool and impressive) and Larry Grenadier on bass, were soulful and bluesy too but in a different, much more understated way. They certainly meld together as a whole. There were solos – including a long and intricate one from Meldhau – but this concert wasn’t just about him as a soloist – the trio (who in this incarnation have been together since 2005) are a strongly cohesive unit.

The Aga Derlak Trio from Poland has a much more strident approach which you can hear on Troublesome, the tune featured this week’s show. They are a young group who made a huge impact in Poland when they appeared on the scene and are now reaching a wider stage, for example, the Edinburgh International Festival. They are led by pianist Agnieska Derlak and you know clearly when she is taking the lead, with bold and very definite playing. She is there to be heard. The tune this week was from her 2014 album First Thought and there is more music available. Check Steve’s Jazz Sounds to track down her music.

Jelle Van Giel, a drummer based in Antwerp Belgium, is someone we like on Cosmic Jazz. He leads a septet which sounds like a melodic, almost modal big band. They have a new album, The Journeyreleased in 2017 from which this week’s tune was taken.

It just felt time to return to Brazil. perhaps it was the weather, more likely the need for the sort of feel-good uplift that so much Brazilian music can bring. Sergio Mendes, from an album that was much praised as a return to form on its release, Paula Sentoro with a tune well known to any devotee of classic Brazilian tunes and The Tamba Trio explaining the influence of jazz provided three short, but perfectly formed tunes.

To end the show, the late Arthur Blythe from last year’s two CD release of four original vinyls showed us how a traditional tune can be transformed and enhanced by a great performer – much like Dee Dee Bridgewater is now doing with traditional soul and blues.

  1. Frank Foster – The Loud Minority from The Loud Minority
  2. Brad Mehldau Trio – My Valentine from Blues and Ballads
  3. Aga Derlak Trio – Troublesome from First Thoughts
  4. Jelle van Giel – Just A Little Waltz from The Journey
  5. Sergio Mendes – Senoras Do Amazonias from Brasiliero
  6. Paula Sentoro – Corcovado from Bossa Nova Baby
  7. The Tamba Trio – Influencia Do Jazz from Tamba Trio Classics
  8. Arthur Blythe – Just A Closer Walk With Thee from Blythe Spirit


18 May 2017: Cosmic Jazz plays cosmic jazz

This week’s show, available now via the Mix Cloud tab (left), is made up of four long, Old School tunes. An identifying feature of two of them at least (and maybe elements of a third) is that they are not only on a Cosmic Jazz show they are cosmic in sound, ambience and effect!

Saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders is a name many would associate with cosmic jazz. His tone is one of the most distinctive voices in jazz – full of raw, rasping overtones one moment and warm, rich and deep at others. The fire of his eleven Impulse! label albums recorded from 1967-1974 gave way to an often more lyrical exploration of jazz standards but still with that commanding tone that remains uniquely strong. For more on that golden age at Impulse! Check out this Red Bull Music Academy feature for more information – and then search out some of the albums.








Now 76, Sanders is still performing, although his most recent record releases tend to be as guest slots on other albums. Some of these are well worth seeking out: we have featured two on CJ over recent years – The Voyage with Japanese band Sleep Walker and his live recording with alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett on the Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium album. Listen to the deep Intro to Africa track here.

Both sides of Sander’s unique tenor saxophone voice can be heard on the track Love is Everywhere played in full on the show this week. It comes from one of the last of the albums Sanders recorded for Impulse! and features the under-rated piano of Joe Bonner. This is truly music that encompasses freedom and gentleness and speaks deeply of peace and understanding. Sanders, of course, played with John Coltrane in his last years – and in his more recent recordings Sanders channels ‘trane so convincingly that if you close your eyes… You can hear this clearly on this excellent 2011 live concert from London’s Jazz Cafe (here presented in full) – for example, on  the Sanders composition Nozipho that begins the show.

The Pharoah Sanders world of cosmic spirituality could apply equally to the music of  Alice Coltrane. This week’s show featured the tune Blue Nile – which includes Sanders on tenor saxophone and alto flute. Recorded in 1970, this harp/piano/tenor saxophone combination has become a template for many more recent cosmic jazz heroes, including the UK’s Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall. Just listen to Halsall’s Tribute to Alice Coltrane here to see what we mean. Coltrane’s soaring, modal sounds can be found on Ptah, the El Daoud or the excellent Impulse! compilation Astral Meditation which is an excellent place to start your Alice Coltrane journey. Joining Coltrane and Sanders here are Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Ben Riley (drums).

Last week I played the tune Black Renaissance by the band of the same name led by Harry Whitaker. The CD has two tunes only and normally I am so enraptured and mesmerised by the first that I play it over and over again. Last week, however, I left the CD playing and gave the second track some attention. Magic Ritual does not match Black Renaissance – I doubt if there is much that can – but it is good, deserves to be heard and has that same feeling of spontaneity, joy and the search for  African-centric expression.

To end the show I played as much as time would allow of what is currently my favourite Fela Kuti tune, Just Like That. You can find it on a number of Fela releases including the excellent compilation, The Two Sides of Fela,  French Barclay release and distributed here by none other than Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label. It’s not that easy to find now but you can also get Just Like That on the Underground System album.

  1. Black Renaissance – Magic Ritual from Black Renaissance: Mind, Body and Soul
  2. Pharaoh Sanders – Love is Everywhere from Love In Us All
  3. Alice Coltrane – Blue Nile from Astral Meditations
  4. Fela Kuti and Africa 80 – Just Like That from The Two Sides of Fela – Jazz and Dance (from Jazz CD 1)

So – having whetted your appetities – would you like to listen to twelve hours of spiritual jazz? For much more of this music, listen to this magisterial, extended review of the genre from London’s NTS Radio. Thanks to Kalamu ya Salaam and his excellent Neo Griot blog for this one.


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

10 May 2017: featuring Black Renaissance

Every year as summer draws near I have to play Harry Whitaker’s sensational Black Renaissance: Mind, Body and Spirit – and in full. It is simply a wonderful piece of free, spontaneous and Afrocentric jazz, soul and rapping – before rap was known. In effect and reality, the whole piece was a jam session recorded in one take and – rather fittingly – on Martin Luther King day in 1976.








There are just two tracks – Black Renaissance (side 1) and Magic Ritual (side 2). Whitaker comments on the record sleeve that “we discussed ideas the night before – just the basics like the bass lines and the drums, but that was it. It was recorded in what I call moment-to-moment.” For many years the tapes were thought to be lost forever, but they they were eventually tracked down in 2002 by the Luv’n’Haight label in California and released on Ubiquity.

Harry Whitaker was a pianist, producer, arranger and composer who played and recorded with Roy Ayers and Roberta Flack and had influential jazz friends and contacts. The record includes Woody Shaw (check out his trumpet solo), Azar Lawrence, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and Mtume. The music is essentially a  map of the African American musical canvas of 1976, with echoes of Sun Ra’s call and response, Coltrane’s tonal meditations and touches of the electronic wizardry of Herbie Hancock’s early 1970s music.  You simply need to hear this essential music – press the Mixcloud tab now! You can still track down the album on both vinyl and CD. Original Japanese pressings from 1976 come up at around £300 so go for the Lu’n’Haight reissue – around £10 for CD and a little more on vinyl. If you don’t have this jazz essential just treat yourself.

It was another tune from the Dinosaur record Together as One that started off the show. Extinct has been an ever-present on my current playlist for some time now. The clarity of the playing from each player comes out really strongly on this tune. It is jazz for our times from a significant, young British group.

I was reminded recently that a year ago this week I saw the Sun Ra Arkestra under the musical direction of Marshall Allen, now aged 92 and still as strong as ever. The orchestra continues to carry the spirit of Sun Ra and Cosmic Hop manages to combine the spiritual with the danceable. The Jelle Van Giel group from Belgium have featured regularly on the show. We like them and they merit repeated listening. There was another tune from The Devotion, US drummer John Lumpkin’s release from last year. This was one of those tunes that ends in a free and improvised blow-out (like Black Renaissance) – quite different from how it starts. The whole album, available on download, is, in fact, quite unpredictable. One tune, in particular, is very different, maybe I should try it next week…

Two other artists I saw almost a year ago were UK musicians pianist Kit Downes and cello player Lucy Railton. At that time, they were playing with Norwegian Thomas Stronin as he toured in Europe. This week we ended the show with a track from the duo’s recent release Tricko .

  1. Dinosaur – Extinct from Together as One
  2. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Black Renaissance: Body, Mind and Spirit
  3. Sun Ra Arkestra – Cosmic Hop from Songs for the Sun
  4. Jelle Van Giel Group – The Truth from Songs for Everyone
  5. John Lumpkin – The Red Sea from The Devotion
  6. Kit Downes – Jinn from Tricko


Neil is listening to…

03 May 2017: another Cosmic Jazz mix

We try on Cosmic Jazz not to keep to formulas or restrict the genres of music we draw upon within a jazz framework. This week the show was less a mix of jazz related genres but more a mix of jazz styles.







By the end of the show I felt it was a strange mix – but one that had really worked. Listen up and see what you think – just click on the Mixcloud arrow left.

Edition Records is an exciting British jazz label with releases from the likes of Tim Garland, Phronesis and artists from continental Europe such as Morten Schantz. Among the very best of these is trumpeter Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur band. Possibly I have been a bit late to pick up on their self titled album Dinosaur released in 2016 –  but it was worth the wait. The tune Awakening had echoes of Miles Davis’ classic In A Silent Way but it is still a contemporary sound for our times. Elliot Galvin, the keyboard player with Dinosaur, leads a trio of his own and one of their tunes followed the Dinosaur tune.

I returned to some of the excellent music available from Steve’s Jazz Sounds, this time from Poland with US connections. Krzystof Popek is a well-established and respected Polish flute player, composer, band leader and record label owner. His Fresh Air album has what appears to be a well-established Polish tradition to invite musicians from other countries, in this case the US. Victor Lewis, George Cables and Cameron Brown are among those featured, as well as Cosmic Jazz favourite, the Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. Bass player Piotr Lemanczyk is another well-established Polish musician with 25 years of experience. Double Escape illustrates his professionalism, experience and the strength of his bass playing. Piamist Michal Wroblewski is from a different generation. His tune is soulful and spiritual – almost New Orleans comes to Warsaw.

I have had The Devotiona download album from US drummer John Lumpkin for a few months but not given it the attention it merits. Perhaps it is the opening bars of The Conqueror that have put me off, sounding a bit like some melodramatic rock blast, but once you get through that it is something else. I was mesmerised.

There is always room on the programme for jazz greats and this week there was Herbie Hancock from the classic Blue Note album Maiden VoyagePlaying The Eye of the Hurricane conjured up further Caribbean images to follow my last two weeks in Grenada. It all made me stop and realise just how good this album is. The quality of the sound, the musicianship, the strength of the rhythm section and – of course – Herbie Hancock’s timeless composition.

The other iconic jazz artist this week was pianist Andrew Hill. Probably not so well known as Herbie Hancock, at times he is more obtuse and Dedication is for me another of those tunes that does not have the most inviting of opening bars. However, once you are there it is a tune of intense spirituality. Andrew Hill was never predictable, and at times not the easiest to listen to but he is a perennial CJ favourite and unquestionably one of the greats. Add in that the album Point of Departure features the following musicians – Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorham, Richard Davis and Tony Williams – and you can understand how the man commanded the greatest respect.

New York based singer Somi, whose music I adore, has a new album out. Until I acquire it I made do with her last album and her adaptation of a Fela tune featuring Beninoise singer Angelique Kidjo. Finally, and to complete the mix, there was another piece from New York, albeit a percussionist with a  Cuban heritage. Manny Oquendo is here performing with some of the elite from the Nuyorican Latin scene on a Latin classic, Rafael Cepeda’s Candela. Check out the man himself here in some bomba magic from New York’s Lincoln Centre sometime in the 1970s.

  1. Dinosaur – Awakening from Together As One
  2. Elliott Galvin Trio – 1666 from Punch
  3. Krzystof Popek – Letters and Leaves from Fresh Air
  4. Piotr Lemanczyk – Double Escape from Live at Club Zak
  5. Michal Wroblewski – Joyride from City Album
  6. John Lumpkin – The Conqueror from the Devotion
  7. Herbie Hancock – The Eye of the Hurricane from Maiden Voyage
  8. Andrew Hill – Dedication from Point of Departure
  9. Somi feat. Angelique Kidjo – Lady Revisited from The Lagos Music Salon
  10. Manny Oquendo – Candela from Mejor Que Nunca (Better Than Before)


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

26 April 2017: Go flute and other funky things

This week’s show from Derek featured music sourced by co-presenter Neil, air-freighted in from his base in Singapore. You can hear it all – just press play to your left and sit back…

The playing order chosen by Derek was truly inspired, starting with a reflection of his recent stay in the West Indies, courtesy of Lunar 7 from Barbados. With more than a nod to the classic guitar sound of Isaac Hayes, African Bump was followed by a track from a 2014 compilation of Congolese music from consistently inspired German label Analog Africa. Multi-instrumentalist Georges Mateta Kiamuangana became a teen star in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) with his Kinshasa band OK Jazz in the late 1960s. He adopted his stage persona after mis-hearing the name of great American R&B saxophonist King Curtis as “Verckys”. You can hear the influence here – have a listen to the King Curtis classic Memphis Soul Stew to see what we mean. The Kingpins were truly some band – with Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree and Billy Preston and those Memphis Horns.

Onwards with the music of London remixer, DJ and flautist Tenderlonious from his excellent EP, On Flute and the cut Ghana which references west African styles with some cutting edge synth beats too. Staying on that African tip but over to – yes – Belgium for Ethiopian-inspired grooves from Black Flower. It’s a kind of Ethiodubjazz and it just works! You can listen to, download and buy the CD here on Bandcamp.

One of our favourites, Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, celebrated its recent 10th anniversary with a compilation download. Derek picked out a couple of tracks – Shabaka Hutchings with his South African-influenced Ancestors group and pianist Tigran Hamasyan working with London-based sound artist duo LV.

Why McCoy Tyner in this selection? Well, Neil had chance to check out last month’s Singapore Jazz Festival. Centre stage were artists like Esperanza Spalding and Youssou N’dour but Gilles Peterson had brought over the aforementioned LV and also new UK tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia whose band took on an inspired cover of Tyner’s classic modal masterpiece, Contemplation. You can see more of Garcia on this Red Bull See. Hear. Now feature. And finally, back to the flute, first with Ahmad Jamal and then on a taste of Peter Davis and Dan Biro’s London-based band Mysteries of the Revolution. At first glance Jamal’s album One looks like one of those late 70s middle of the road outings – but prepare to be enlightened. Yes, Jamal’s opening piano figure channels the Isley Bros. Summer Breeze, but there’s terrific piano work throughout and on the title track, yes, more flute – this time from LA sessionman David Crawford.

Mysteries of the Revolution usually sound like an inspired collision between the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gong, Frank Zappa and Tony Williams’ Lifetime – a heady brew! Here though, and to end our flute-fest, it’s pretty much just Tenderlonious again on the track Pandinium from MotR’s recent You Turn Me On EP.  More from these artist in upcoming shows – check out Cosmic Jazz each week.

  1. Lunar 7 – African Bump from Message from the Islands of Barbados
  2. Verckys et l’Orchestre Veve – Bassala Hot from Congolese Funk Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978
  3. Tenderlonious – Ghana from On Flute
  4. Black Flower – Bones from Artifacts
  5. Shabaka and the Ancestors – Joyous from Brownswood 10
  6. LV feat. Tigran Hamasyan – Hammers and Roses from Brownswood 10
  7. McCoy Tyner – Contemplation from The Real McCoy
  8. Ahmad Jamal – One (Ahad) from One
  9. Mysteries of the Revolution – Pandinium from You Turn Me On


Neil is listening to…

19 April 2017: Caribbean connection

I have just returned from three weeks in the beautiful, friendly, warm and music rich Spice Isle of Grenada. I have, therefore, heard more soca and reggae than jazz. This is reflected in what I am currently listening to (see list below) with Far From Finished by Voice, which won the February 2017 Soca Monarch title in Trinidad and Tobago’s 2017 Carnival, a particular favourite.

There is no soca or reggae in the programme but I was able to start the show with some Caribbean jazz links. The show began with an album we like from young British alto saxophonist Camilla George, whose father was born in Grenada. George’s quartet of young British-based musicians will be well worth seeing live – you can catch them here on the jazzre:freshed site. This was followed by a calypso-influenced piece from alto player Kenny Garrett who has been a great influence on Camilla George. She includes his Ms. Baja bossa influenced composition on her album Isang – you can find Garrett’s original on his excellent album Songbook from 1997.

Some jazz tunes did appear among my iPod shuffle songs while sitting on a verandah enjoying the sea breeze, two of which reminded me of just how good are the albums from which they came. I need say no more about Kamasi Washington but the Dhafer Youssef’s tune I heard reminded me how tranquil, spiritual and profound is his 2016 album  Diwan of Beauty and Odd. The superb trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is a guest on the record. The third in this sequence came from Belgian drummer Jelle Van Giel and his Group. The tune is modal, calming and deep – you could be forgiven for thinking you are listening to Matthew Halsall. Finally, the iPod brought more of Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik and his album Old Land which has become a Cosmic Jazz essential.

The final two tunes on the show reflected my visits to Norwich, both past and in the future. Just before I went away I saw the excellent Norwich-based trio Mammal Hands who have now established a formidable reputation not only nationally but internationally. Their most recent recording Floa is highly recommended as a prime example of contemporary jazz that appeals to a wide age range. Finally there was Brad Meldhau, who I will see at the 2017 Norfolk & Norwich Festival on 18 May, followed by Dee Dee Bridgewater on the 20th.

  1. Camilla George Quartet – The Night Has A  Thousand Eyes from Isang
  2. Kenny Garrett – Calypso Chant from Do Your Dance
  3. Kamasi Washington – Re Run from the Epic
  4. Dhaffer Youssef – 17th Flyway from Diwan of Beauty and Odd
  5. Jelle Van Giel Group – A New Beginning from Songs For Everyone
  6. Piotr Wojtasik – Recognition, Understanding & Acceptance from Old Land
  7. Mammal Hands – Quiet Fire from Floa
  8. Brad Meldhau – Since I Fell For You from Blues and Ballads


Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

12 April 2017: old and new favourites

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was the last pre-recorded show from Derek
before his return from the Caribbean island of Grenada. It featured favourites old and new – including two Norwich-based artists, Mammal Hands and pianist Kit Downes. Cal Massey’s often recorded Assunta was here performed by flautist Krzystof Popek, in a group including US jazz stalwarts Kirk Lightsey, David Friesen and John Betsch. Compare with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s version of the tune from his Blue Note album Here To Stay.

The always excellent Trish Clowes was featured in a track from her acclaimed album Pocket Compass, and the show ended with two Far Out label favourites that we often return to at CJ – the excellent track Montag’s Dream from the Brazilian Otis Trio and fellow countryman Marcos Valle’s perennial Freio Aerodynamico from his comeback album Nova Bossa Nova.

  1. Mammal Hands – Kudu from Floa
  2. Kit Downes – Waira from Tricko
  3. Kit Downes – Tricko from Tricko
  4. Krzystof Popek – Assunta from Fresh Air Project
  5. Mateus Gaweda Trio – Timmy 3000 from Overnight Tales
  6. Trish Clowes – Question Mark from Pocket Compass
  7. Guilio Romano Malaisi – Looking Up from Unexpected Ride
  8. Otis Trio – Montag’s Dream from 74 Club
  9. Marcos Valle – Freio Aerodynamico from Nova Bossa Nova


Neil is listening to…

05 April 2017: CJ favourites (alternate titles)

This week’s show included different tracks from albums that have featured before on CJ, but we began with a blistering take on the jazz standard There is No Greater Love from Chico Freeman, here playing with Polish guitarist David Kostka and his quartet. This standard dates from 1936, and has been interpreted by many jazz artists, including Miles Davis, Ahmad Jamal and, of course, singer Billie Holiday.

It was followed by one of the most impressive of recent Polish records out of Steve’s Jazz Sounds. The Piotr Wojtasik album Old Land has the power and range to be regarded as something of a contemporary spiritual jazz classic. Trumpeter Wojtasik is playing with a couple of US heavyweight percussionists – Billy Hart and John Betsch and the depth of sound here is terrific. More Polish jazz from Stansilaw Slowinski and then a new to CJ track from Marcus Strickland’s ambitious Twi-Life group and the album Nihil Novi. This is Strickland’s first release on the now-revitalised Blue Note label under its direction from Don Was. Celestelude actually features clavinet rather than celeste but it also showcases some powerfully funky bass from co-producer M’shell Ndegeocello.

The show ended with a return to two much played records – the debut release from UK saxophonist Camilla George and a terrific reissue from Jane Bunnett, whose jazzy exploration of Cuban sounds on Spirits of Havana was rather unheralded at its initial release in 1993 but now, twenty five years later, comes in a much expanded 2CD reissue. Finally, a blast from the past with the African Jazz Pioneers, a group that dates from the 1950s but was revived by founder Bra Ntemi in the 1970s, going on to share the stage with Youssou N’dour, Nina Simone, Chick Corea and many more.

  1. David Kostka Quartet & Chico Freeman – There is No Greater Love from Love at Aquanet
  2. Piotr Wojtasik – Old Land from Old Land
  3. Stanislaw Slowinski Quartet – Lawina/Avalanche from Landscape
  4. Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Celestelude from Nihil Novi
  5. Camilla George – Mama Wati from Isang
  6. Jane Bunnett – Descarga a la Hindemith from Spirits of Havana
  7. African Jazz Pioneers – Riverside from African Jazz Pioneers


Neil is listening to:

29 March 2017: world jazz dance special

This week’s Cosmic Jazz took a worldwide jazz dance trip – from Poland, through Japan, Ethiopia, New York and Argentina,  all ending up in Nigeria with the Afrobeat master Fela Kuti. It’s the kind of eclectic approach we like here at CJ and it certainly goes down well with live audiences.

The surprise in here might have been the lead off track from pianist Michal Wierba – but there’s no doubt that his excellent live Body Language album is a good place to start. Even the old warhorses St James Infirmary and Summertime dance along in his hands. Listen to this album either through the Bandcamp site or our good friends at Steve’s Jazz Sounds and you’ll understand why the next obvious action is to go out and buy this album for yourself.

We’ve featured Takuya Kuroda before on CJ and his Afro Blues (not Mongo Santamaria’s Afro Blue by the way) is always a good place to start listening to this fine young trumpeter. Off to Addis Ababa next and Ethiopian jazz icon Mulatu Astatke, here playing with UK band the Heliocentrics. Astatke will be back in the UK in September for two dates at the Barbican, London. Catch him if you can.

Across the Atlantic to the centre of NuYorican activity and two tracks that captured the Latin influence at the heart of NYC. The first from Puerto Rican trumpeter Ray Gonzales and the second from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and their cunningly titled album Un Gran Dia en el Barrio which references the famous Art Kane photo of NY jazz musicians taken in 1958 on some Harlem brownstone steps (and reproduced below). There are too many jazz greats to name here but Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Hank Jones, Horace Silver, Sahib Shihab , Sonny Rollins, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Dizzy Gillespie and – yes – Count Basie are all present.

Between these two performances sat the fiery Argentian tenor player, the late Gato Barbieri, in a performance from one of his finest albums on the Impulse! label. It was then back to Japan for two club favourites from the two groups Quasimode and Sleep Walker. Both emerged in Tokyo in the 2000s and became club favourites in Europe and Japan. Down in the Village is a composition by UK tenor player Tubby Hayes – check out his original version here. For more on one of the greatest British jazz artists, search out Simon Spillett’s inspirational biography and the excellent film A Man in A Hurry.

And so to Fela. Like some other musicians for whom one name is just enough (like Miles and Prince), Fela Anikulapo Kuti is a timeless legend whose influence on both music and resistance politics is profound. For more on this most prolific of musicians, watch the trailer for the excellent Finding Fela here.

  1. Michal Wierba – I Can Make The World Dance from Body Language
  2. Takuya Kuroda – Afro Blues from Rising Son
  3. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics – Cha Cha from Inspiration Information
  4. Ray Gonzalez – El Swing from Yo Tengo Lo Que te Gusta
  5. Gato Barbieri – Viva Emiliano Zapata from Chapter III: Viva Emiliano Zapata
  6. Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Vale Mas Un Guaguanco from Un Gran Dia en el Barrio
  7. Quasimode – Down in the Village from Oneself Likeness
  8. Sleep Walker – Ai-No-Kawa from Sleep Walker
  9. Fela Kuti and Egypt 80 – Just Like That from The Two Sides of Fela


Neil is listening to…

22 March 2017: from Chuck Berry to Mammal Hands!

The music of the late Chuck Berry was important to so many of us. Berry was no jazz musician – but he famously appeared at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival with jazz artists (including a delighted Philly Jo Jones on drums) playing Sweet Little Sixteen. Music from this event appears in Bert Stern’s celebrated Jazz On A Summer’s Day film. It’s available on a Charly Records CD along with a DVD of the film. That particular performance could well have had a lasting impact on Chuck Berry’s approach to promoters – apparently he was not the easiest artist to work with. You can hear from the recording how well  he was well received by the festival goers but, in response to his pelvic gyrations on the stage, festival promoter George Wein shouted out “disgraceful” and Berry was forced to leave the stage before his last number. Now that to me does sound disgraceful. Neil adds: For more on Berry and his lasting influence on music, read the ever enlightening Richard Williams here. My favourite Berry song? It’s a straight draw between Too Much Monkey Business and Memphis, Tennessee – both masterpieces of musical storytelling.

Last week I was part of a delighted crowd that saw Mammal Hands playing at the venue of their first-ever booking – Norwich Arts Centre. For two of the band this is also their home city. Mammal Hands are amazing: sax player Jordan Smart never rests, his brother Nick provides strong backing on piano and on drums and tablas Jesse Barrett ranges from the powerful to the subtly sublime. Moreover, the group demonstrate how jazz-related music can attract a predominantly young audience. See them live if you can and pick up their sophomore recording Floa on the ever reliable Gondwana Records out of Manchester.

Birnham is a Scottish CD pressing and packaging company who have released a number of their own albums. Whilst the artists may not be well known, CJ has enjoyed Unexpected Ride, the first release from guitarist Guilio Romano Malaisi. At the age of 18 he moved from a small Italian village to London and has stayed there ever since. He has paid his dues as a session musician and played gigs with high-profile singers. Most of his compositions on this album were written while he was between the ages of 18-20 and Randagio, the tune selected this week, when he was 18.

Polish bass player Piotr Lemanczyk is now a firm Cosmic Jazz favourite. This week he appeared twice in the different guises of his band Orange Trane. The first tune – About MV – featured British sax player Soweto Kinch and from its title and sound must reference Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. The second came from the acoustic version of Orange Trane, and showcased Lemanczyk himself and superb vibes player Dominik Bukowski.

Jazzwise magazine is an essential monthly read for jazz enthusiasts. There are excellent comprehensive record reviews, interviews with artists and some inspiring playlists. Often as a bonus, there is a free CD and the April 2017 edition includes a sampler from the essential British jazz label Edition Records from which we featured two tracks. How good are Dinosaur, a group led by trumpeter Laura Jurd? Judge for yourself but on the evidence of Extinct alone they are top class. There was also an interesting tune from Norwegian pianist Eyolf Dale from his album Wolf Valley – the title is simply a translation of his name into English… Edition have gone from strength to strength in recent years – check out their current catalogue here and for a taste of the label’s sound buy Jazzwise or the Fiona Talkington Nordic-influenced sampler Northern Edition, released last year.

Norway often features prominently on Cosmic Jazz and there was even a Norwegian connection to the two British artists at the end of the show. Kit Downes was accompanied by cellist Lucy Railton, both of whom I saw perform in Norwich last year with Norwegian musicians led by Thomas Stronin. In the audience,  were the members of Mammal Hands and the connections go further as Kit Downes is also from Norwich. A Fine City it says as you arrive – but clearly now also for the music as well as its architecture.

  1. Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Sixteen (live) from Jazz On A Summer’s Day
  2. Mammal Hands – Hillum from Floa
  3. Mammal Hands – Think Anything from Floa
  4. Guilio Romano Malaisi –Randagio from Unexpected Journey
  5. Orange Trane feat. Soweto Kinch – About MV from Interpersonal Lines
  6. Orange Trane Acoustic Trio – Fugu from Fugu
  7. Dinosaur – Extinct from Together As One
  8. Eyolf Dale – Ban Joe from Wolf Valley
  9. Kit Downes – Tricko from Tricko

Neil notes: As I was adding to this blog, I learned of the death of alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe. We have featured Blythe’s unique tone on several recent CJ shows and I’ve chosen three tracks that capture his edgy vibrato that can still draw us back to jazz’s New Orleans heritage – including a fabulous version of John Coltrane’s Equinox from Blythe’s last album as leader in 2003. We may feature more from this underrated and sometimes neglected alto player in upcoming shows.


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…