All posts by Derek

Week ending 21 March 2020: CJ goes virtual…

Cosmic Jazz is recorded at a community centre/venue which has had to be closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. There will be no live shows recorded there for some time. Here at CJ we are exploring the possibility of home recording, but until we can secure this, the CJ website will feature ‘virtual shows’, links to online videos, jazz news and record reviews. From time to time, we’ll include a few links to classic past shows too. To ‘listen’ to this week’s show, open up CJ twice and you can check out the blog and listen to the music at the same time! Enjoy our bumper crop of music and stay safe.

This week’s virtual show starts with the tune To Nowhere and Back from a new album by Czech saxophonist Ondrej Stveracek called Space Project. Check out a trailer for the new album here. The album might suggest some Sun Ra-inspired flight to the stellar regions but this is not the case – instead the music has a more conventional, hard bop and jazz-rock sound. To Nowhere and Back is one of the more restrained tracks on the album – relaxed, slow and melodic. The band includes Tomas Baros on bass, Klaudius Kovac on keyboards/synthesiser and features US drummer Gene Jackson. Like so much great jazz from eastern Europe, this album comes via our friends at online store Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Wherever you are in the world – and especially if (like us) you’re in lockdown – then you owe it to yourself to enjoy some new music from Steve. Also check out his Facebook page where you can open up some Youtube links and enjoy the music. Remember – especially in these difficult times – if you like what you hear, buy from  independent sites like Steve’s Jazz Sounds. We can’t recommend this site highly enough.

By contrast, the next choice is a UK/US collaboration. J Z Replacement  are an exciting, innovative and highly contemporary band. Their new album has the title Disrespectful – but it’s not to us here at Cosmic Jazz. The tune Displacement A features a long, fast and definitely sinewy sax lead from Zhenya Strigalev, with heavy backing from drummer Jamie Murray and bass player Tim Lefebvre. It is fast and furious stuff that will have your body moving, maybe even dancing. You can hear a live version of the track (Displacement B) right here. Better still, listen to – and buy – the album here on the group’s Bandcamp site here.

There has to be another selection from the highly important legacy of the late jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. Neil recommended the tune Ebony Queen from his 1972 Milestone album Sahara. The album has to be considered as one of his best. Tyner plays the piano with breathtaking speed that combines both power and subtlety and Sonny Fortune’s soprano saxophone provides a stirring, spiritual start to the track.  Calvin Hill is on bass and the superb Alphonse Mouzon features on drums.

The recent award winning Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool movie is now available to download from the BBC iPlayer site – check out the cinema trailer here. This superb film gives a chronological account of Miles’ musical career and explores his music and personality in real depth.  Birth of the Cool rightly emphasises Miles’ role as a musical innovator and style icon who – as he acknowledged in a famous anecdote – changed music (at least) five or six times.  Mademoiselle Mabry is, of course, titled after one of his muses Betty Mabry (who is interviewed at length in the film) and comes from the Filles de Kilimanjaro album. It’s a great example of the musical telepathy in that second great Miles Davis Quintet. The band included Tony Williams on drums (who joined as a 17 year old teenager), Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone. There is nothing that this band recorded that’s less than exceptional and you owe it to yourself to have at least some of these great albums in your collection. And never dismiss the Miles Davis’ last years – the music may not have been innovatory, but Miles’ touring band included the outstanding Kenny Garrett on alto sax. There are many live video versions of his take on Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time but this take from the 1989 Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the best sounding and most eloquent performances.

The final choice is an up-tempo number. Lettuce are a US soul/funk, occasionally jazzy US group that we have played previously on the show. Checker Wrecker comes from their forthcoming album and Resonate, and has that unique Washington DC sound. The official video features two GoGo music legends – Big Tony Fisher of Troublefunk and ‘Jungle Boogie’ Williams of Rare Essence. Surprisingly, there’s a link here with Miles Davis too – Ricky Wellman, drummer for legendary Go-Go band Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers is on that 1989 Montreux recording. You can catch both Wellman and Big Tony Fisher playing live with Chuck Brown here on the classic Bustin’ Loose.

  1. Ondrej Stveracek – To Nowhere and Back from Space Project
  2. J Z Replacement – Displacement from Disrespectful
  3. McCoy Tyner Ebony Queen from Sahara
  4. Miles Davis – Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry) from Filles de Kilimanjaro
  5. Lettuce – Checker Wrecker from Resonance

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 14 March 2020: McCoy Tyner tribute and J Z Replacement

Sadly there are occasions when we have to remember the lives and music of jazz artists. Recently, the late Jimmy Heath (who incidentally can be seen in the new – and excellent – Miles Dayis documentary, Birth of the Cool) was remembered on Cosmic Jazz and this week it was time for Tyner. Pianist McCoy Tyner was a hugely influential figure in the history of the music whose influence extended long beyond his tenure with John Coltrane.

McCoy Tyner (1938-2020) was, of course, a member of one of the greatest jazz quartets in history and an influential pianist in his own right. This classic quartet featured John Coltrane on tenor and soprano sax, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums and Tyner on piano – with their ultimate achievement being the masterpiece A Love Supreme – recorded over the course of one evening in December 1964 and released in January 1965.

McCoy Tyner met John Coltrane in 1957 at a club in Philadelphia, the city in which he was born, and he joined Coltrane’s new quartet in October 1960, staying with him until 1965, by which time he complained that the music had grown so loud he could not hear the piano. During this time, he made his own records for the Impulse! label including the superb Nights of Ballads & Blues which featured Tyner’s sensitive interpretation of Ellington’s Satin Doll. We began the show with Passion Dance from the The Real McCoy, his first solo album for the Blue Note label from 1967. The wonderful tenor playing on the track is from Joe Henderson, one of our CJ favourites and the album also features the beautiful Tyner original Contemplation.

We had to reflect Tyner’s time with the John Coltrane Quartet and rather than focus on A Love Supreme, we instead chose Slow Blues, a tune from the album Both Directions At Once – The Lost Album, recorded in 1963 and released until 2018. Tyner then went on to record his own albums from Impulse!, Blue Note and Milestone. This week’s CJ included two tunes from that Blue Note period. The Real McCoy features an impressive quartet with the aforementioned Joe Henderson on tenor, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, while Time For Tyner has Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Herbie Lewis on bass and Freddie Waits on drums. The later album (recorded in 1968) has both original compositions and the standards that Tyner often returned to and we chose the superb African Village. There’s a great Japanese jazz festival trio live version right here. There’s no information on the band but this was recorded in 2009 with Christian McBride on bass and an unknown drummer.

In all his music Tyner stayed with acoustic instruments only and never used electric keyboards or synthesisers.  This reflected his unique piano style – particularly on his original compositions – with the left hand pounding out the chords while his right hand explored runs up and down the keyboard. Tyner always made his presence felt but he was also prepared to allow for spaces in between as evidenced in his beautiful ballad playing. He told Nat Hentoff  “I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can’t predict what kinds of experiences I’m going to have, I can’t predict the directions in which my music will go, I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel”. John Coltrane said: “McCoy Tyner holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them. He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off the ground from time to time.” We shall return to this wonderful pianist in later shows.

By contrast, there is a first play for a band that sounds rather different. J Z Replacement are loud – verging at times on the frantic, with a bundle of experimental energy. It’s original music performed by hey are original and they include three excellent musicians who cleverly put together sounds that blend together as a whole despite all the chaos that is seemingly going on. They are two London-based musicians, Jamie Murray on drums who has played with the Sun Ra Arkestra and Zhenya Strigalev on sax who has played with Ambrose Akinmusire and Eric Harland. They are joined by in-demand LA bass player Tim Lefebvre. If you want some music that is edgy, contemporary and could even get you dancing round the room, check out their album Disrespectful, the title of which is probably very appropriate.

Ana Mazzotti was described as “a supermusician” by her distinguished fellow Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal. Sadly, she died in her thirties with only two albums as her heritage. The first was recorded in 1974 and involved Jose Robert Bertrami from Azymuth. It did not sell well and in 1977 she tried again with re-workings of the same tunes. Both albums have been now re-released by specialist UK Brazilian label Far Out. The show includes a tune from the 1977 version. Both albums are worth checking out – and it’s fascinating to compare the different versions of the same songs. Great arrangements too. Up next was a track from Cuban singer Dayme Arocena. At the end of 2019 she released Sonocardigram on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label ,from which we played Para el Amor: Cantar! Arocena was first associated with an artist we really like here on CJ – Canadian Jane Bunnett – singing in her Maqueque group in 2015 and then releasing her own debut EP Nueva Era later the same year. Sonocardiagram takes things a whole step further with Arocena supported by current Cuban masters including pianist and arranger Jorge Luis Lagarza Pérez, bassist Rafael Aldama Chiroles and drummers José Carlos Sánchez and Marcos Morales Valdés.

The show ended with yet another great artist that my colleague Neil has introduced to me. Muriel Grossman was born in Paris, grew up in Vienna and has lived for some time on an island that is noted for its music but maybe not jazz –  Ibiza. She plays spiritual/modal jazz that is deep, warm and engaging. There is no doubt she knows the music of Coltrane, McCoy Tyner et al. Her music is released on the Dreamland Records label and the title track of the album Golden Rule was featured this week. She’s another artist we shall return to in coming weeks. I need to find more of her music and any Cosmic Jazz follower would be well advised to do so too.

  1. McCoy Tyner – Passion Dance from The Real McCoy
  2. John Coltrane – Slow Blues from Both Directions at Once – The Lost Album
  3. McCoy Tyner – African Village from Time For Tyner
  4. J Z Replacement – Five Cymbals for Jamie from Disrespectful
  5. Ana Mazotti – Agora Ou Nunca Mais from Ana Mazotti
  6. Dayme Arocena – Para el Amor: Cantar! from Sonocardiogram
  7. Muriel Grossman – Golden Rule from Golden Rule

Week ending 15 February 2020: featuring Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble

Click the Listen Again/MixCloud tab to hear a programme of recent music – mostly issued in 2019 – and including more of the fantastic Polish music featured last week.

The show began with music from a group led by Michael Janisch, a US bass player now resident in London. Worlds Collide is an exciting, contemporary album, certainly not easy listening but well worth it and so recommended. The music reflects the cosmopolitan flavour of both the London scene and the city itself. It’s on the Whirlwind Recordings label – run by Janisch himself. Check out the label for more interesting releases.

Many of us first came across UK sax player Binker Golding through his collaborations with drummer Moses Boyd. Last year he released his own quartet’s album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible FeathersIt seems that the more it is heard and talked about, the more people realise just how good it is. February 2020’s Jazzwise magazine has an interview with Golding in which he talks about his music past and present – and it’s a fascinating read. The new album is in the acoustic, melodic jazz tradition – surprising given Golding’s past connections with rhythm driven music. Add musicians like keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones into the mix and expectations are of – well – more of that Nubya Garcia, Theon Cross, Ezra Collective style scene. Indeed, it would have been easy to plough this furrow, but in the Jazzwise interview Golding acknowledges I know what the zeitgeist is because I partially created it with Moses. True enough, and so Golding has taken a very different direction: the results sound more Shorter or Sonny than London jazz rapper Kano or the afrobeat influenced Kokoroko. Abstractions… is one of our Cosmic Jazz favourites from 2019 and we shall no doubt features more tracks through 2020. Strong melodies, inspired solos and a real quartet sound with individual voices filtered through a 1960s jazz soundscape. Add in the usual Gearbox Records superb mastering and you have a record you will return to again again. Very  highly recommended.

Last week the show had music for the first time from Polish trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble. More of this had to be played. The band is a collective of first-rate musicians playing music that is powerful, free and intense.  CJ last week had a taste of one of the cuts from this album – this week we played all of Psalm for William Parker in its impressive entirety along with  Polska 1 –  both from the new album Polskathe first release from the band since 2013. Again, this album is very highly recommended. Check it out via the always reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Also from Poland are the Tubis Trio. Led by pianist Maciej Tubis and with the classic format of piano,  double bass and drums, the album So Us is impressive. There are nods to Esbjorn Svensson’s EST. and this is undoubtedly a power trio: Maciej Tubis can certainly blow up a storm and bassist Pawel Puszczalo and drummer Przemyslaw Pacan often add their own fiery contributions. Out and About is a pacey but memorably melodic tune, with some impressive quick-fingered piano and Pacan’s solid drumming in the background.

There was more from three contemporary musicians and albums that we have loved. This included the drummer and sound collagist Makaya McCraven whose profile continues to rise both in his native US and here in the UK where he is a frequent collaborator with many of the current crop of British jazz luminaries. His new project is a re-imagining of Gil Scott Heron’s final album I’m New Here and we shall certainly feature this album in upcoming shows.

Hexagonal are a UK sextet who divide the trumpet/flugelhorn slot between Graeme Flowers and Quentin Collins. Their excellent release from 2018, McCoy and Mseleku, features the compositions of John Coltrane’s pianist McCoyTyner and South African multi- instrumentalist Bheki Mseleku who died in 2008. This excellent record also features Jason Yarde on alto and baritone saxes and has a fine rhythm section of Simon Thorpe on bass and Tristan Banks on drums. Thorpe and pianist and arranger John Donaldson both toured with Mseleku, while Jason Yarde worked with McCoy Tyner, and so there are closer links to the source than you might expect. We featured one of McCoy Tyner’s most infectious compositions and a real favourite of ours – Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit. Its rolling piano intro is instantly recognisable and – as Derek noticed – has a South African feel too. Compare with this live take from Tyner at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973, subsequently released on Milestone Records as Enlightenment. 

We ended the show this week with another play for Maisha, the UK collective led by drummer Jake Long. There are some familiar faces in this band – notably saxophonist Nubya Gracia and guitarist Shirley Tetteh – but there’s a much more evidently spiritual jazz flavour to this ensemble with a sound that’s clearly indebted to Alice Coltrane and others. But Maisha are more than mere copyists – their album There Is a Place has strong melodies, memorable solos and our featured tune Osiris welds together some diverse influences into a very satisfying whole. Like the Binker Golding album, this is one (especially on vinyl) that you will come back to time and again – it’s that good.

  1. Michael Janisch – Freak Out from World’s Collide
  2. Binker Golding – Forgot Santa Monica from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers
  3. Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble – Psalm for William Parker from Polska
  4. Piotr Damasiewicz and Power of the Horns Ensemble – Polska 1 from Polska
  5. Tubis Trio – Up and About from So Us
  6. Makaya McCraven – Above & Beyond from Highly Rare
  7. Hexagonal – Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit from McCoy & Mseleku
  8. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 February 2020: music from Guadeloupe and Poland

This was the first live Cosmic Jazz since early January and it provided an opportunity for Derek to connect with a region he has just visited and to catch up with some excellent and recent Polish music. All available on this site via the MixCloud tab.

Having recently been near to the island of Guadeloupe in the French Antilles and finding the radio dial full of stations from that island playing zouk and related music, it was a good opportunity to search out some jazz from Guadeloupe. That is not as difficult as it might sound – courtesy of a splendid compilation on the French label Heavenly Sweetness released in 2016 called Koute Jazz. It features musicians from Guadeloupe and also from Martinique, some of whom, by the time of recording, were based in Paris. There were two tunes played from the album. Firstly, Soprann aux Antilles from saxophonist and producer Camille Soprann Hildevert, a prolific artist and mainstay of the Guadeloupian music scene. Secondly, a tune with the name of the island Gwadloup from trumpeter Edmony Krater with Zepiss a group he formed when he arrived in Paris in 1983.  Krater saw the music as a way to strengthen the island’s identity and as having spiritual and political significance. Trumpeter Don Cherry was a big influence on Krater’s music.

As always with the Polish music we owe a big debt to Steve’s Jazz Sounds for connecting us with some of the latest sounds. Very good they are too. The Tubis Trio have featured before on the programme and this week’s show includes Flashback, the title tune from a previous album as well as the title tune of their latest album So Us. It’s the classic jazz trio format of double bass, drums, with leadership from pianist Maciej Tubis. Their sound is accessible but interesting: it definitely feels like European jazz and jazz writers have cited EST as an influence.

I am pretty sure that we have not previously played music on the show that made reference to the sixteenth century religious Reformation in Germany.  But this week we did. It came in the form of Solus Christus from the band Soundcheck and was one piece of a six-part suite dedicated to the German religious thinker Martin Luther, a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Soundcheck are led by sax player Maciej Kocinski and their first album since 2012 is more reflective and reserved than their earlier work – not surprising given the religious references. Apparently the music was originally part of Kocinski’s PhD thesis. Interesting.

Although all the Polish music featured this week is recommended, if you were to consider purchasing music from just one of the three Polish groups featured this week, the one we would select comes from trumpeter Piotr Damasiewisc & the Power of the Horns Ensemble from their album Polska. Again it is their first album for some time – in fact, since 2013 to be precise. Damasiewisc is influenced by two great Polish trumpeters, Piotr Wojtasik – whose music we love here on Cosmic Jazz – and the more widely recognised Tomasz Stanko. The band are a collective and the album acknowledges their 10th anniversary together. The group includes ECM artists Maciej Obara on sax and Dominik Wania on piano, whose music has previously featured on the show. This is deep, free, intense music and we featured two tracks from this outstanding album, including a second tune dedicated to the much admired bass player William Parker. Psalm for William Parker ended the show this week but we shall be back to this great new record in subsequent shows. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Steve’s Jazz Sounds: this is music is rarely reviewed in the UK press but really deserves much more exposure.

  1. Camille Soprann Hildvert – Soprann aux Antilles from Koute Jazz
  2. Edmony Krater & Zepiss – Gwadloup from Koute Jazz
  3. Tubis Trio – So Us from So Us
  4. Tubis Trio –  Flashback from Flashback
  5. Soundcheck – Solus Christus from Martin Luther Suite
  6. Piotr Damasiewisc & the Power of the Horns Ensemble – Polska II from Polska
  7.  Piotr Damaseiwisc & the Power of the Horns Ensemble – Psalm for William Parker from Polska

Derek is listening to…..

  1. Kassav – Zouk La Sel MediKaman Nou Ni
  2. C. J. Lewis – Sweets For My Sweet
  3. Mr. Killa – Soca Storm
  4. Busy Signal – Free Up
  5. Third World (feat Damien Marley) – Not The Only One

Week ending 14 December 2019: more ECM and 2019 favourites

Despite the best-laid plans, sometimes all the music I want to play does not fit into a show. This happened last week with our first ECM celebration and so we’ve carried over some tracks to this week’s show. Added to that is some new music from some of the best 2019 releases. Click on the Mixcloud tab to hear it all.

There have been two very significant jazz celebrations this year – eighty years of Blue Note Records and fifty years of ECM Records – and Cosmic Jazz this week opened with a pianist who has straddled both companies. Distinctive and innovative pianist Jason Moran records for Blue Note Records but he was on the show last week playing piano for Charles Lloyd on the ECM release Rabo de Nube. This week, he led his own trio with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums in Gangsterism Over 10 Years from the excellent Blue Note album Ten. Ten shows a remarkable range of styles and influences, ranging from Leonard Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free to one of Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano studies and is a great example of Moran’s diversity.

We then continued our celebration of music from Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. The late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko appeared on the show last week with a tune not from one of his many ECM albums – but we redressed the balance in this show with a track from his definitive 2006 release for the label, Lontano. Marcin Wasilewski is on piano, Slawamir Kurkiewicz is on double bass and Michal Miskiewicz on drums. Our second ECM tune was a more recent release from 2017, also produced by founder Manfred Eicher demonstrating his personal touch over so many of the label’s release over the years. In this, perhaps his involvement is matched only by the work of Blue Note’s Rudy Van Gelder. The selection came from trumpeter Avishai Cohen who is from the US. Shoot Me In The Leg is part of the album Cross My Palm With Silver which makes strong political statements about the state of affairs in the US.

Next came a quite dramatic change of direction – and perhaps a surprise for the programme. Grover Washington Jr. has never appeared before on Cosmic Jazz. Why? Possibly because some of his music can sound bland mall music – and yet he has played with some of the best, ranging from soul singers Jean Carne and Phyllis Hyman to Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Grady Tate. In the case of this week’s tune, his partner was blues guitar legend B.B. King. Washington was rightly noted for his superb tone on saxophone which is why he was a ‘go to’ for some many artists. Sacred Kind of Love is a 5CD release of his Columbia Recordings – acquired through renewal of my subscription to the excellent black music magazine Echoes.

The music covers the period following Washington’s greatest success with Kudu Records, which included the Mister Magic and Feels So Good albums in the mid 70s. The 1980 release of Winelight was Washington’s million-selling debut for Elektra Records. Containing the hit Just The Two Of Us featuring Bill Withers, it marked the dawning of what was to be called ‘smooth jazz.’ Washington’s later records may never have scaled the popular heights of those releases but there is still some excellent material in this later material for Columbia Records and – as a bargain CD box set – the value is undeniable.

Then it was to one of the best releases from 2019. Binker Golding’s Album Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers is one that we have really enjoyed on Cosmic Jazz. His tenor playing is bold and illuminating. The album is quite different from his duo work with drummer Moses Boyd and, on piano rather than Fender Rhodes, Joe Armon-Jones sounds quite different from his work on his own 2019 solo album Turn to Clear View. All of which provides evidence both of the strength, but also the versatility, of the emerging jazz from the younger members of the UK scene.

Another record that has emerged outta London is Worlds Collide by bass player Michael Janisch. The title is a reference to the different influences and contrasts in the music he plays and loves – he’s on electric and acoustic basses here – but also a statement on the world itself. Janisch was born in the USA but has been based in London since 2005. As well as playing in different contexts he has also founded and runs Whirlwind Records. Another London celebrates the diversity of the different worlds that divide in this city.

There has been an extended interest in some of the more obscure or even forgotten small label jazz releases from Japan in the 1960-80s and collections like the eighth in the Spiritual Jazz series (Jazzman Records) and the two volumes of J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan (BBE Records) have collected some inspiring music over the last few years. One of the best new collections is the second J Jazz volume compiled by BBE crate diggers Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and this week’s choice from that new 2CD album was the collaboration between Japanese pianist Makolo Terashita and veteran US tenor player Harold Land. There will be more from this inspiring collection in future shows.

  1. Jason Moran – Gangsterism Over 10 Years from Ten
  2. Tomasz Stanko – Lontano Pt 1 from Lontano
  3. Avishai Cohen – Shoot Me in the Leg from Cross My Palms With Silver
  4. B B King & Grover Washington Jr. – Caught a Touch of Your Love from Sacred Kind of Love: the Columbia Recordings
  5. Binker Golding –  Forget Santa Monica from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  6. Micheal Janisch – Another London from Worlds Collide
  7. Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land – Dragon Dance from J Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1983 Vol. 2

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 07 December 2019: 50 years of ECM Records

Over this year, here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records. Neil, however, has pointed out that there is another important celebration that we need to acknowledge – namely 50 years of ECM Records.  As a result, a significant proportion of this week’s programme consists selections from that rich catalogue.

To begin, though, I like to include references to places or music that I have seen and heard. Recently, I was in the beautiful city of Amersfoort in the Netherlands.  By accident we came across the amazing Awaze Ethiopisch Restaurant. Not only was the food excellent and different to what is available on most high streets and the service friendly and helpful, but there was Ethiopian music playing throughout. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to play an Anglo-Ethiopian collaboration with the father of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke playing with British group the Heliocentrics. This intriguing project is a collaboration that really works as drummer Malcolm Catto ensures that Astatke’s compositions are not watered down or compromised with unnecessary dance grooves. Instead, the music frequently combine his own vibraphone and conga playing with the distinctive sound of the lyre-like Ethiopian krar.

ECM (or Editions of Contemporary Music) was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in 1969 and, as producer, Eicher has overseen  thousands of recording sessions – many with Norwegian recording engineer Jan Eric Kongshaug, who sadly died early in November this year. ECM albums have often been stereotyped: cool, minimalist covers often with a black or grey background, fine photography and a clean non-serifed typeface. This often appears to continue through to both the music itself and Kongshaug’s characteristic production values. But the variety of the music on the label belies this simplistic assessment with a truly eclectic range of artists whose cultural, geographical and ethnic diversity demonstrates a musical vision that knows few boundaries. Over the next few months we shall be featuring some of our favourite artists with tracks that will show the breadth of Eicher’s musical vision.

First up was someone from the label who needs no introduction to Cosmic Jazz followers, namely, Charles Lloyd. Why do we keep returning to his live album from 2008, Rabo de Nube? The answer is simple: it is so good and includes such fine musicians performing at the peak of their powers. There is the leader Charles Lloyd on tenor, flute and Hungarian tarogato,  now in his eighties and still going strong, on tenor and flute, the wonderful and original Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass and Eric Harland on drums and percussion. Recorded live on 24 April 2007 at Theater Basel in Switzerland this is an essential album with one track in particular that we have featured many times on CJ – the stunning Booker’s Garden.  But it was time for a change and so we focused on the opening track Prometheus.

A cross-cultural exchange is provided by Tunisian-born oud player Anouar Brahem and his 2017 ECM record Blue Maqams. Brahem aimed to blend, as he had done previously, the sounds of the oud and the piano and to in his words attempt the impossible to associate this delicate instrumental combination with a real jazz rhythm section. For this section Brahem soon decided who he wanted – two jazz titans in UK-born Dave Holland on double bass and Jack DeJohnette from the US on drums. For the piano, it was Manfred Eicher who introduced him to the playing of British pianist Django Bates, with whom Eicher had recently made a record. Anouar Brahem had not come across Bates but on hearing his music  was soon to select him. The recorded outcome is an album that’s a perfect blend of Arabic and jazz sounds.

Next was a break from ECM with a tune from the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and an album he recorded for the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There are five superb tracks on this limited edition CD, featuring pianist David Virelles from was to become Stanko’s American quartet and guest Ravi Coltrane. But Stanko did, however, produce some of his finest work for ECM and we shall feature some of this output in upcoming shows. Stanko’s playing was always so clear and distinctive and I am pleased that I saw him once at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival playing as the sun set outside a medieval church in the centre of this ancient city.

At a subsequent Norfolk & Norwich Festival there was another memorable evening featuring an ECM artist.  The Norwegian drummer/percussionist Thomas Stronen has made over sixty albums but Time Is A Blind Guide must be up there as one of the very best. This is music of mesmerising delicacy, yet it has such strength and power. There’s an interesting range of instruments that includes UK musicians Kit Downes on piano and Lucy Railton on cello, as well as Haken Aase on violin, Ole Morton Vagan on double bass, Siv Oyunn Kjenstad and Steinar Mossige providing further percussion to support Stronen. This is one of our ECM favourites – highly recommended.

The show this week ended with Jan Garbarek, an ECM stalwart from the outset and one of the most prolific recording artists for the label. His 1987 album All Those Born With Wings is unusual in that it’s a completely solo performance with Garbarek playing all instruments. We shall be returning to Garbarek in future programmes as we explore Manfred Eicher’s musical vision, including releases on his New Music imprint that introduced listeners to many new contemporary composers including Steve Reich and Arvo Part.

One significant feature of the label is Eicher’s championing of vinyl and CD – until recently, the only way to hear an ECM recording was to acquire it in a hard copy format. But last year, pretty much the entire catalogue appeared on streaming services – a necessary counter to the unauthorised distribution of ECM titles on YouTube and file-sharing sites. Here on CJ, we’d suggest that the best way to listen to this most diverse of catalogues is still through either physical medium. Put on an ECM record or load the CD, wait for that characteristic five seconds before the music begins and revel in the crystalline sounds of an Erik Kongshaug production.

  1. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics – Anglo-Ethiopian Suite from Inspiration, Information
  2. Charles Lloyd – Prometheus from Rabo de Nube
  3. Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams from Blue Maqams
  4. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  5. Thomas Stronen – The Stone Carriers from Time Is A Blind Guide
  6. Jan Garbarek – All Those Born With Wings (First Piece) from All Those Born With Wings

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 November 2019: jazz in the 1970s

Full service is resumed! Cosmic Jazz is back on the Mixcloud tab once more. Tonight’s show was a pre-record and – as is so often the case in these circumstances – we take a journey back to some great tunes from the past.

A good place to start is the 1970s – often seen as a decade of watered down jazz subject to the corrupting influences of soul, funk and disco. The reality is far from this. Whilst some artists clearly ‘sold out’ and sought to popularise their music through a tokenistic application of these outside influences, other musicians created new sounds whilst remaining in the tradition. From that decade much music has been re-released, often on independent British labels. It’s not always the well-known names that are featured either. A case in point is keyboard player Walter Bishop Jr. Raised in Harlem, Bishop played with the likes of Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. From the early 60s he led his own band and recorded two albums for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s. After a spell teaching in Los Angeles he returned to New York and signed with Muse records for whom he made five albums between 1975-79. The Soul Village album of 1977 was one of these. Re-released in 2014 by the superb Soul Brother Records in the UK, Soul Turnaround was one of four tunes on the album that he had previously recorded on Black Jazz.

Saxophone elder Gary Bartz has raised his profile in recent years, thanks to some excellent recordings and an appearance at this year’s inaugural We Out Here festival where he shared the stage with British newcomers and CJ favourites Maisha. Back again in the UK this month, he headlined at the London Jazz Festival and is apparently currently in the studio with Maisha. We await the results with interest! In the 1970s Bartz was recording with Miles Davis – most notably on the Live Evil album. The full 6CD Cellar Door set has Bartz throughout and, whilst it’s not the most indispensable of the Davis box sets, it’s worth a listen. Separately at this time, Bartz was recording with his Ntu Troop band on Milestone Records – including two excellent Harlem Bush Music albums, now available on one BGP label compilation. Celebrated vocalist Andy Bey is featured on Celestial Blues, a tune he recorded again on his Experience and Judgment album. You can compare it here.

The Black Jazz label has its own story to tell. For a label that lasted only a little over five years, it has a sizeable footprint in the world of jazz. Founded by Oakland based pianist and producer Gene Russell, the Black Jazz imprint stood apart from bland middle of the road jazz styles and aligned firmly to the rise of black consciousness and the electric experimentations of Miles Davis and others.

More than that, Black Jazz records of the 1970s were all issued in a surround-sound Quadraphonic version and so the recording quality was often much higher than for other independent labels. Gene Russell died young in 1981 and left the catalogue in limbo but tracks were already being adopted by UK acid jazzers and hip-hop musicians in the early ’90s before the whole catalogue was reissued by Japanese speciality label Snow Dog Records between 2012-13. Label compilations from Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish (which we have sourced for this week’s CJ selection) have spread the word and you’ll find a great selection of ten excellent Black Jazz albums in this Vinyl Factory feature.

From the Peterson record Black Jazz Radio, we have chosen a Henry Franklin track and from Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature there is a tune from Rudolph Johnson. Both compilations are essential listening.

It is easy in jazz to leave out the greatest and try to spread the word of those that have been forgotten or overlooked, but here on Cosmic Jazz  we try to do both. There is always time for John Coltrane and we try to represent the many phases of his work. The album Stellar Regions was recorded in February 1967 and so is among Coltrane’s last recordings. Not released until 1995, it showcases some of the more lyrical music Coltrane was making in his later years. We chose the fire and fury of the alternate take of Sun Star with Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Our illustration is a take on the album cover by Danish artist K Pakula.

The show ended with more from a DJ compilation and music released originally on the Muse label. Colin Curtis has been based in the North-West of England but has travelled far beyond and has been playing what the title of his 2CD compilation calls Jazz Dance Fusion for many years. The final two tunes came from Disc One of this release and featured firstly guitarist Ron Eschete , with Carol Eschete on vocals and then percussionist Emmanuel K. Rahim and his band The Kahliqs.

  1. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
  3. Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
  4. Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  5. John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
  6. Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Derek is listening to… 

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 November 2019: in the tradition?

All is back to normal and this week’s Cosmic Jazz is available via the Mixcloud tab on this site. It is a good one too. It starts with one of our favourites, and a tune that unashamedly I have played before. Piotr Wojtasik is an experienced trumpeter from Poland who has released several albums and if you follow CJ you know where to get them – Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Please do check out this great site for jazz sounds from continental Europe and beyond that often even we here at CJ haven’t heard of. The Wojtasik track Stay in Time of Freedom provided a joyous and uplifting opening to our show this week with its use of two strong vocalists whose delivery matches the power of the lyrics.

To keep the uptempo mood going I veered from my planned selection to slip in another Cosmic Jazz favourite from the Japanese band Sleep Walker. Led by Masato Nakamura on saxophones and Hajime Yoshizawa on keyboards, Sleep Walker were a quartet with a high profile in the 2000s. Their music still sounds fresh and vital today.

From a little further back in our jazz history comes the music of The Tribe,  a legendary collective of jazz musicians based in Detroit and co-founded in 1971 by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin. They released their music independently and, like many of the African-American artists of the time, were ignored by major labels. The good news is that British label Strut has just released on all formats an excellent new compilation called Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014. Also appearing on these recordings are CJ favourites Harold McKinney (piano) and Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) whose own excellent albums have been re-released on UK label SoulJazz. If you have not encountered their music so far then this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with some excellent and accessible tunes. Further reading on The Tribe comes via this excellent New York Times article from 26 November.

Jamie Saft  is a wonderful pianist, keyboardist, composer and producer. Previous credits have included work with the Beastie Boys, the B-52s, John Zorn, John Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Donovan, Antony & the Johnsons and more. He has also scored award-winning films. In addition to edgy new sounds he has also produced some more straight ahead jazz with his quartet. These are exquisite, superbly recorded jazz albums, almost traditional in sound, but with a contemporary feel. Hidden Corners has a spiritual jazz vibe and is highly recommended.

We continued with more new music from Neil’s recent purchases, firstly from British solo multi-instrumentalist Emma Jean Thackeray who is definitely one to watch. Recording with Makaya McCraven has given her music that edgy contemporary sound and the track you heard has recently been issued as a 12in single. Trumpeter Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah has been around rather longer but his new and ninth album Ancestral Recall include more tracks that epitomise his concept of ‘stretch music’ – an attempt not to replace the jazz tradition but acknowledge the contemporary movements in the music that include hip hop beats but also hark back to the great traditions of jazz. This may not be surprising as aTunde Adjuah’s grandfather was the legendary New Orleans big chief Donald Harrison Snr and his uncle the saxophonist Donald Harrison Jnr.  The beautiful melody Songs She Never Heard uses the enhanced tonal range of Tunde Adjuah’s customised trumpet and the album as a whole may be the best realisation so far of his ‘stretch music’ concept.

Excellent jazz music is emerging from all parts of the UK. One of the leaders from the north west of England is saxophonist Nat Birchall and, what’s more, like the presenters of this programme, he shares a passion for both jazz and reggae. His latest offering is a tribute to one of his jazz heroes, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef – who is something of an insider hero to many, including us here at CJ. Birchall’s version of Love Theme from Spartacus is an excellent example of how to bring something new to a tune recorded by many jazz artists. Compare it with this beautiful solo version from pianist Bill Evans. Moreover, Nat Birchall can also be found on the tune from UK drummer Andy Hay on his tribute album to Lonnie Liston Smith. Hay has featured as the drummer in Birchall’s previous quintet, best heard on the albums Creation and Live at Larissa. The latter has just been reissued and you can order it from Birchall’s Bandcamp site.

The show ends with more great music from Sarathy Korwar. We heavily featured Korwar’s live UK recording My East is Your West and he takes his eclecticism a step further with his new recording More Arriving. Recorded over two and a half years in India and the UK, More Arriving draws on the nascent rap scenes of Mumbai and New Delhi, incorporating spoken word and Korwar’s own Indian classical and jazz instrumentation. With this album, Korwar expands his politicised narrative to cover the wider diaspora. “This is a modern brown record. The kind of record that a contemporary Indian living in the UK for the past 10 years would make,” he notes. “This is what Indian music sounds like to me right now.” Check out the complete album on Korwar’s Bandcamp site.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in Time of Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Sleep Walker – Nomadic Tribe from Sleep Walker
  3. Tribe – Hometown from Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990 – 2014
  4. Jamie Saft – Positive Way from Hidden Corners
  5. Emma-Jean Thackeray – Too Shy (12″ version) from Too Shy/Run ‘Dem
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat. Logan Richardson – Songs She Never Heard from Ancestral Recall
  7. The Nat Birchall Quartet – Love Theme from Spartacus from The Storyteller – a Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef
  8. Andy Hay – Lost Lonnie from Many Rivers
  9. Sarathy Korwar – City of Words from More Arriving

Neil is listening to…

 

 

 

Week ending 16 November 2019: classic Latin + more!

This week was a pre-recorded show which usually means some classic tunes from the past – and this week was no exception. We are still having some technical problems, so to access the show you should head to IO Radio Mixcloud and scroll down to the show dated 13 November 2019.

The show began in riotous and joyous style courtesy of Eddie Palmieri – pianist, New York born but of Puerto Rican heritage and part of the roster of great Latin artists who featured on the Fania Records label. Palmieri was a key figure in the music of East Harlem’s El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) district. He formed his own bands – La Perfecta and and La Perfecta II – and often played with others in the vibrant Latin scene in New York at the time. Now aged 85 he continues to record, releasing the Full Circle album in 2018. Check out the complete album here on Bandcamp.

Reeds player Carlos Garnett in 1974 was on a Journey to Enlightenment. I guess many people were at that time. It would seem that Caribbean Sun was one of the places for him to seek out for this enlightenment as he sings on the tune. Actually, it has to be said that whilst his reed playing is good, his vocals leave much to be desired. Forget that and listen to the music and long-time collaborator Hubert Eaves’ contribution on piano.

Argentinian sax player Gato Barbieri was someone else who’s unmistakable tone on tenor sax could be found both in some blistering jazz and some very soupy, saccharine middle of the road moments. It’s best to start with his music on the great Impulse! label and enjoy that fiery, explosive sound that’s balanced with a warm embrace – much like a good South American coffee! Our tune this week comes from the brilliant Chapter One: Latin America album and – like all four of the Chapter albums – is highly recommended. For earlier Barbieri really on form with a top notch band (Lonnie Liston Smith, John Abercrombie, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Roy Haynes) try this cut from the excellent Under Fire album. For a taste of Barbieri in later A&M mode (with records produced by Herb Alpert) try this discofied over the top take on Ravel’s Bolero… You’ll either love or hate it! Fun fact: Barbieri was the inspiration for the Muppets character Zoot in the house band Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem! Check out the characteristic fedora that features on many Barbieri album covers and is worn by the Muppet sax player Zoot.

Here on Cosmic Jazz, we continue to celebrate eighty years of wonderful music from the Blue Note Record label. In doing this we are trying to represent the variety of music that has been released on the label – and beside the US, Blue Note also made many visits to Brazil, releasing released three compilations of what they called Blue Brazil, with the sub-title of Blue Note in a Latin Groove, the third of which was released in 1980. Os Borges were a group from Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais Brazil.

A compilation series we have featured widely on the programme has been the Jazzman series Spiritual Jazz. Volume 8 went to Japan, from which you can hear Sadao Watanabe plying with Charlie Mariano, whose Ragam Sinthubairavi sounds as if they had been on a trip to India. Look out for Volume 10 which features artists from the Prestige label and includes the superb Dorian from the aforementioned Roy Haynes.

Another essential compilation for Cosmic Jazz lovers is Black Fire! New Spirits! with the sub – title Radical & Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82. It includes a wonderful piece from 1974 by saxophonist and composer Tyrone Washington. Once again, we find Hubert Eaves on piano. He recorded a solo album for Blue Note in 1967 and worked as a sideman with Horace Silver, Larry Young and Stanley Cowell, In 1973 and 1974 he released two more solo albums for small independent labels but soon after these he stopped playing music and turned to religion.

Finally we go In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from the album Back to You from tenor player Harold Land who features on another excellent Japanese Jazz compilation, J Jazz Volume 2: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-82. Harold Land is something of an enigma in jazz, staring with a hard bop tone but evolving into a much darker sound that (unlike some of his contemporaries) never went into fusion. Search out his Timeless label albums recorded with a stellar group including Cedar Walton on piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Buster Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. To hear much of this band in an earlier incarnation, listen to the  beautiful title track from the Peace-Maker album on Cadet (1967).

  1. Eddie Palmieri – Palo Pa Rumba from Palo Pa Rumba
  2. Carlos Garnett – Caribbean Sun from Journey to Enlightenment
  3. Gato Barbieri – Encontros from Chapter One: Latin America
  4. Os Borges – Em Familia from Blue Brazil 3
  5. Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano – Ragam Sinthubairavi from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  6. Tyrone Washington – Universal Spiritual Revolt from Black Fire! New Sprits!
  7. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In The Dark from Back to You

Week ending 09 November 2019: great sax players and more

This week’s show is available on Mixcloud but not in the usual place. A technical problem means that instead you’ll find it on the IO Radio Mixcloud stream. Just scroll down to the day it was recorded – 06/11/2019 – and click the tab.

The show begins with our Blue Note celebration of the week – this time from one of our very favourite tenor saxophonists, the magnificent Joe Henderson. The album Our Thing dates from 1963 and we played the title track. As the Reid Miles designed cover indicates, the band include Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Andrew Hill on piano, Eddie Khan on bass and Pete LaRoca on drums. Add in Alfred Lion on production, Rudy Van Gelder on recording duties at his famed Englewood Cliffs studio and a great Francis Wolff photo on the cover and you have all the ingredients for an epic Blue Note record. Label aficionados should note that the first ever UK pop up Blue Note store has opened in London’s Coal Drops Yard – celebrating the jazz resurgence and timed to coincide with the EFG London Jazz Festival. The full programme is as excellent and innovative as usual – and those wishing to get a flavour of Joe Henderson’s music could check out the UK’s Denys Baptiste as he celebrates the tenor saxophonist on 23 November at the 606 Club in the capital.

Last week there was a tune from the new Binker Golding album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible FeathersIt is an album we admire, so two further tunes appeared this week will help you judge for yourself. Exquisite She-Green is, if you have seen some of Goldings work with Moses Boyd, a remarkably restrained and calm piece. Fluorescent Black is, however, more up-tempo. The double bass of Daniel Casimir comes through impressively and Binker Golding provides a strong lead on tenor.

Also on the Binker Golding album playing piano is Joe Armon-Jones, another seemingly ever-present on the burgeoning jazz scene coming out of London. His second album has been released entitled Turn To Clear View, his playing and the musical styles are very different here. From the Golding acoustic piano to electric, from pure jazz to a fusion of genres. Interesting, challenging and at times uncomfortable music for today.

Fat-Suit from Scotland cross musical genres too with a wide variety of instruments and musicians. The tune The Crane and the Crow opens by demonstrating some of their rock influences. If that’s not your thing, however, stay with it because there follows some lovely, sensitive trumpet playing. The album Waifs and Strays was recorded live in Drygate Brewery Glasgow over four days and the expansive ambition of the project comes across in each tune.

Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate from Poland have featured regularly on the show over the last month or two with tunes from their album Don’t Hesitate.  This is another ambitious project. The tune Heart of Darkness – as the whole album –  is full of experimental, haunting sounds. It is music that is unpredictable and makes clever use of electronics, a sonic syndicate as their title suggests – thoroughly contemporary. If you like this music go to Steve’s Jazz Sounds where you can buy this, more Polish music and much else besides.

Coming in at the end of this week’s show is UK trumpeter Laura Jurd with a radical new album that’s miles away from what she has delivered previously.  Jumping In may not even be jazz – it comes across as closer to something that American composer Aaron Copland might have created.

  1. Joe Henderson – Our Thing from Our Thing
  2. Binker Golding – Exquisite She-Green from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  3. Binker Golding – Fluorescent Black from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Gnawa Sweet from Turn to Clear View
  5. Fat-Suit – The Crane & The Cow from Waifs and Strays
  6. Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate – Heart of Darkness from Don’t Hesitate
  7. Laura Jurd – Jumping In from Stepping Back, Jumping In

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…