All posts by Derek

Week ending 13 April 2019: that spiritual jazz groove

The show has been in a restrained and spiritual mood of late. This is just the groove into which it has gone rather than any preconceived plan but it has provided some moving and uplifting music via the Mix Cloud tab (left). There is more of the same this week.

Recently, I heard Yusef Lateef’s Morning on another jazz show and although we have played it before on Cosmic Jazz I needed to play it again. It provided such a powerful opening to the show. A truly spiritual, cosmic and poetic experience with Lateef playing the customary range of interesting instruments – saxophone, flute, arghul (a traditional instrument used in Egypt and Palestine) and scraper – and recorded as long ago as 1957 Truly a world music pioneer.

The mood continued with another musician who uses an instrument from the Islamic tradition. Dhafer Youssef was born in Tunisia, found jazz at an early age and left his homeland for Europe. His 2016 album Diwan of beauty and odd recorded in Paris in 2016 is highly recommended and has been well reviewed. It includes some interesting US musicians well known to Cosmic Jazz including Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Mark Guillana on drums and Aaron Parks on piano.

There have been several examples of restrained and gentle trumpet playing on the show recently. Erik Truffaz is a trumpeter who often sounds understated but, nevertheless, manages to make considerable impact. His Blue Note album Bending New Corners was an introduction to his music for many outside France and Belgium. It was one of those albums where a standout track – in this case, Siegfried – could hide the rest of the music on the album. Minaret, which continued the show’s Islamic references, shows why the whole album deserves full attention.

The saxophonist Nat Birchall, who was born and remains based in the North-West of England, would appear to share similar tastes to those of us on Cosmic Jazz. He loves jazz, he has clearly listened to modal and spiritual jazz, but he also loves reggae. So do we. Sounds Almighty is his acknowledgement of this love and provides some authentic dub sounds. The album includes legendary Jamaican  trombonist Vin Gordon and was recorded on analogue equipment in Manchester.

Shabaka Hutchings  is one of the London-based musicians who has emerged so strongly in recent years that he is now almost a ubiquitous feature of the jazz scene in the UK and beyond. The music he makes is different, unique and challenging but it is not one sound or approach. Shabaka is involved with (at least) three groups, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming – all providing different outlets for his music. Moreover, all his groups are now signed to the essential and historic jazz label Impulse! This week we wanted to feature the exciting new album from The Comet is Coming, perhaps the most radical sounding of the three groups.

But that was not the last appearance of Hutchings on the show. He is also the featured soloist on DJ Khalab’s Black Noise 2084, an EP which includes drummer Moses Boyd on another track – a musician well known to this show. Khalab is actually Raffaele Costantino, one of Italy’s most renowned radio hosts, DJs and producers. His first album was made with Malian percussionist Baba Sissoko but last year he released Black Noise 2084, a six track EP.  Both of these tracks were selections from Neil and previously unknown to me, but very, very interesting.

Between these two tunes was a powerful interlude. The trumpeter Keyon Harrold released his album The Mugician in 2018. It is a strong album. He is from Ferguson, Missouri in the USA and it was in this town that an 18-year-old African American Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in 2014. M B Lament is Keyon Harrold’s comment and tribute. There is some moving trumpet playing and interaction between drummer and bass player right to the final notes at the end of the tune.

Shayna Steele is a singer who has featured with many other well-known musicians – the most interesting to jazz lovers would be her work with Snarky Puppy. Her own music crosses jazz, soul and funk territory. The Art Blakey tune appears on a 2018 UK compilation put together by UK DJ Eddie Piller and actor Martin Freeman in 2018. In 1987 – along with fellow DJ Gilles Peterson – Piller founded Acid Jazz Records, releasing many of the UK artists on the jazz scne at that time – the James Taylor Quartet, Brand New Heavies, Galliano and Jamiroquai. This new compilation reflects the influences of that scene and a second compilation is due shortly. We ended this week’s show with one of our favourite vocalists, Carmen Lundy, and a track from her excellent Soul to Soul album.

  1. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Jazz Mood
  2. Dhafer Youssef – Of Beauty & Odd from Diwan of beauty & odd
  3. Erik Truffaz – Minaret from Bending New Corners
  4. Nat Birchall – Wisdom Dub from Sounds Almighty
  5. The Comet is Coming – Astral Flying from Trust in the Life Force of the Deep Mystery
  6. Keyon Harrold – M B Lament from The Mugician
  7. D J Khalab (feat Shabaka Hutchings & Tommaso Cappellato) – Dense from Black Noise 2084
  8. Shayna Steele – Be from Watch Me Fly
  9. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Kozo’s Waltz from A Night in Tunisia/Jazz on the Corner
  10. Carmen Lundy – Daybreak from Soul to Soul

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 06 April 2019: more from Scandinavia + James Francies

Sometimes you play a tune on the show and it is so good that you have to play it again as soon as you can. Click the MixCloud tab this week and you’ll notice that we start with two wonderful tunes that ended last week’s show.

There are no apologies for this because the tunes in question are two beautiful, tranquil and awe-inspiring pieces from two groups led by young women jazz musicians. The first was Nursery Rhyme, from British pianist Sarah Tandy and her debut album Infection in the Sentence, currently receiving a huge amount of attention worldwide. Tandy is a remarkable talent and this debut album showcases both her writing and playing. The second tune was from Norwegian sax player Hanna Paulsberg, leading a Norwegian band with a guest Swedish trumpeter, Marcus Broo, who contributes a delicate and enchanting solo – as indeed does Sheila Maurice-Grey on the Sarah Tandy track. Paulsberg is the daughter of jazz drummer Hakon Paulsberg and a member of the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. She’s released four solo albums of which Daughter of the Sun is the most recent.

The Hanna Paulsberg Concept track is available via a free Norwegian sampler CD available with the April 2019 issue Jazzwise magazine and it was another article that inspired the next selection. This month the magazine has a feature on Norwegian sax player Jan Garbarek, which featured a selection of some of his best albums, including an excursion into an early music/jazz fusion outing with the Hilliard Ensemble choral group. The Garbarek tune selected for this week was particularly timely because it includes Danish percussionist/bandleader Marilyn Mazur, whose favourably reviewed new album Shamania features a group of female Scandinavian musicians. Garbarek’s Red Wind is the lead off track from one of his most contemplative albums, Visible World from 1995. Some of Garbarek’s most frequent collaborators appear on the record – Rainer Bruninghaus on keys, Eberhard Weber on bass and Manu Katche on drums.

The Scandinavian connections did not stop there as two tunes from the supergroup RYMDEN were featured on the show. The band is led by Bugge Wesseltoft on piano and keyboards, along with ex-EST members Don Berglund on bass and Magnus Ostrum on drums/percussion.  The disc is released on Wesseltoft’s Jazzman label. At times the music is dramatic, even loud, at other times it has a peaceful tranquility with Wesseltoft’s piano to the fore. The two tunes selected represented both sides of the record – the powerful The Odyssey and the more contemplative Homegrown. I have to admit to a preference for the latter.

Pianist/keyboard player James Francies was the next to receive the two tune feature – this time from his debut album Flight. Interesting it is too. The first tune is a surprise – a very different and original version of the Chaka Khan tune Ain’t Nobody with guest vocalist Kate Kelsey-Sugg. The second includes his regular bass player Burniss Travis II and also showcases Jeremy Dutton on drums. There’s also a feature for up and coming vibes player Joel Ross (who has his own Blue Note album coming out soon) along with outstanding sax player Chris Potter, whose recent album Circuits – released on the British label Edition – features Francies on keyboards.

There was a dip into the not-so-distant past to include Ludovic Navarre – aka St. Germain. A longtime master of cool fusion jazz/house sounds, Navarre’s self titled most recent release (from 2015) merged club styles and Malian musicians on balafon and kora. Hanky Panky is the jazziest of all the tracks on the album and with impeccable production values and some great music, this most recent St Germain album has been a Cosmic Jazz favourite since its release.

The show ended with a track from the James Brandon Lewis Trio’s No Filter. We love Brandon Lewis’s take on the sax, bass drums trio format and we’re going to feature his brand new album An UnRuly Manifesto in upcoming shows.

  1. Sarah Tandy – Nursery Rhyme from Infection in the Sentence
  2. Hanna Paulsberg Concept –Scent of Soil from Daughter of the Sun
  3. Jan Garbarek – Red Wind from Visible World
  4. RYMDEN – The Odyssey from Reflections & Odysseys
  5. RYMDEN – Homegrown from Reflections & Odysseys
  6. James Francies – Ain’t Nobody from Flight
  7. James Francies A Lover and a Fighter from Flight
  8. St. Germain – Hanky Panky from St. Germain
  9. James Brandon Lewis Trio – Say What from No Filter

Derek is listening to…..

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 March 2019: Scandijazz and more

The lead off tune for this week’s Cosmic Jazz was inspired simply by finding a record on my shelves and deciding it was time to play on the show. Check the show via the MixCloud (click on the tab left) to see if you  agree.

The record in question was Abbey Lincoln + Archie Shepp. Recorded in 1980 while Lincoln was on a European tour, the band included Archie Shepp on saxes, Hilton Ruiz on piano and Roy Burrowes, Shepp’s trumpeter from the Attica Blues Band. Look out for it with the original arresting cover drawing by German free jazz bass player Peter Kowald. The selected tune was Sophisticated Lady, a Duke Ellington number. The album also features an excellent take on Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady and Lincoln’s own much recorded composition, Throw It Away. One of my favourite versions of this song can be found on the excellent Abbey Sings Abbey record – check it out here. I wanted to follow up and link with a contemporary vocalist, who also works with superb musicians and performs tunes from past catalogues. The choice went to award-winning singer Jazzmeia Horn with a tune taken from her 2017 album A Social Call – a record that announced her arrival on the world jazz stage, exudes sophistication and remains a personal and Cosmic Jazz favourite. And note how well her smoky voice works following Abbey Lincoln’s distinctive dark tones.

CJ has recently featured, in the main,  music that is uptempo, edgy and even loud. There was a quieter and more tranquil mood this week. A good example came from Pawel Kaczmarczyk and his Audiofeeling Trio. A pianist, described as one of Poland’s ‘young guns’ (although there seem to be quite a few of them) and as EST with Polish melancholy. With an earlier album dedicated to the memory of Esborn Svensson, this is perhaps not surprising but more obvious we think is inspiration from US pianist Brad Mehldau. Accompanied by bassist Maciej and drummer Dawid Fortuna, Kaczmarczyk brings a deep lyricism to tracks including his take on to Massive Attack’s Teardrop. Personal is indeed just that, and a record well worth investigating. Also from Poland came Schmidt Electric. A band led by trumpeter Piotr Schmidt, who has a PhD in music, lectures in jazz, has produced and/or performed on at least nine albums and from whom we heard a tune from his 2015 album with the great title Tear the Roof Off. If you’re new to Cosmic Jazz you may wonder where you can get this and other European jazz: the answer is easy – just explore the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds

The next part of the show has a strong Norwegian connection. The April 2019 edition of Jazzwise comes with a CD of jazz from Norway at Jazzahead 2019. Compiled by Music Norway it includes musicians representing Norway at the Jazzahead in Bremen, Germany – held this year between 13-29 April. The tune on the show, Scent of Soil, is a delight – subtle and gentle, with mysterious and surprising sounds.  It comes from the album Daughter of the Sun by the Hanna Paulsberg Concept with Swedish trumpeter Marcus Broo an invited guest. It left me wanting to hear more – what is on the rest of the album I wonder? For more of Hanna Paulsberg’s sound, watch her band playing Catalan Boy from the 2015 album Eastern Smiles.

The Norwegian link continued with an old favourite from drummer/percussionist Thomas Stronen with a band that included British musicians Kit Downes on piano and Lucy Railton on cello alongside Norwegian colleagues. The music on Time is a Blind Guide four years after release, still sounds as deep and as poignant as ever – highly recommended.

Our final Norwegian connection was from a new band with very deep Scandinavian roots – indeed, the band could be described as a supergroup, given that Norwegian pianist/keyboard player and record label owner, Bugge Wesseltoft invited the two surviving members of Sweden’s EST (Esborn Svensson Trio) – Dan Berglund on bass and Magnus Ostrom on drums/percussion – to join him in a new trio. RYMDEN is the name of the group and Reflections & Odysseys their first release on Wessletoft’s own Jazzland label. The music is atmospheric and at times dramatic – and with a touch of that familiar EST melancholy too! Three powerful musicians making very powerful statements.

Finally – and to complete the becalmed ambience of the music this week – came the beautiful and delicately played Nursery Rhyme from Sarah Tandy’s excellent debut album Infection in the Sentence. This album has received universal rave reviews and is highly recommended by Cosmic Jazz. Tandy’s supporting band members are Binker Golding on saxes, Sheila Maurice Grey on trumpet, Mutale Chashi on bass and Femi Koleoso on drums  You can buy the album here on Bandcamp – it’s available on vinyl, CD and download formats.

  1. Abbey Lincoln + Archie Shepp – Sophisticated Lady from Painted Lady
  2. Jazzmeia Horn – East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) from A Social Call
  3. Pawel Kaczmarczyk Audiofeeling Trio – Something Personal from Something Personal
  4. Schmidt Electric – Still Without from Tear the Roof Off
  5. Hannas Paulsberg Concept with Marcus Broo – Scent of Soil from Norway at Jazzahead/Daughter of the Sun
  6. Thomas Stronen – As We Wait For Time from Time is a Blind Guide
  7. RYMDEN – The Celestial Dog and the Funeral Ship from Reflections & Odysseys
  8. Sarah Tandy – Nursery Rhyme from Infection in the Sentence

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 March 2019: Cosmic Jazz goes to Japan

Our CJ playlist can be influenced by several things – music we have seen live, new releases, sudden whims, events at the time or music we have heard recently. This week, part of the show was influenced by a recent BBC Radio 3 Sunday feature programme on Jazz Japan – and you can catch it on BBC Sounds here.

The programme was presented by Japan-based musician and journalist Katherine Whatley and included commentary, interviews and snippets of music. Jazz was banned as ‘enemy music’ during the second world war, and yet was wholeheartedly embraced during the immediate post war period and the US-led allied occupation. In fact, the market for jazz within Japan was once so great that the country has variously been credited with having the highest proportion of jazz fans in the world, and almost single handedly propping up the jazz record industry in periods when sales were low.

As an American growing up in Tokyo, a student of traditional Japanese music, and a huge jazz fan herself, jazz was a subject close to presenter Katherine Whatley’s heart. She looked  beyond the enthusiastic collecting (and extensive reissuing) of American jazz records towards the unique contribution that Japanese musicians have made to the jazz scene, and found that the music had become an inextricable part of Japanese culture.

For many years, US groups visited the country to great acclaim.  A quote from Art Blakey on the sleeve notes of his Kyoto album says it all: We’ve played a lot of countries but never has the whole band been in tears when we left. My wife Mary cried all the way to Hawaii. Jazz cafes or jazz  kissaten appeared in Tokyo. On recent years, they have been in decline but some are still surviving – and we have featured them in previous CJ posts (check out 07 April 2018 here). Writers Philip Arneill and James Catchpole  in their Tokyo Jazz Joints have produced a visual history that is well worth exploring. Alongside this, has come several recent Japanese jazz compilations that let you explore that distinctive Japanese approach to jazz. Check out the recent Jazzman 2CD collection for a great introduction.

The programme noted that key features of Japanese jazz included the use of space in the music and the influence of traditional Japanese music. As a fine example of this the show included a Japanese jazz classic Watarase from pianist Fumio Itabashi. It was a very special version of the tune as well – he has recorded several takes of it. This tune is designated as a Symphonic poem, thirteen minutes plus of it, complete with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra featuring the voice of Yuri Kaneko. It is a grand affair, a moving and spiritual number building to a crescendo where the voice of Yuri Kaneko soars towards the heavens. It is simply one of those very special records and one that – if you can find it in the 2CD version – you will listen to over and again.

Another feature that has developed on the Japanese jazz scene is a club culture. This has forged links with musicians, clubs and DJs in the UK, US and beyond (see Mark de Clive-Lowe below). If you see these bands live it can be a joyous, chaotic and fun-loving experience. None more so than Soil & Pimp Sessions – formed in Tokyo in 2001 – who are notorious for their energetic live performances and who describe their music as death jazz. The other Japanese band we featured this week from that jazz dance scene was Kyoto Jazz Massive. They too were quoted in the BBC programme. Kyoto Jazz Massive produce crossover jazz and electronic sounds and as remixers they have worked with the likes of Bebel Gilberto and Monday Michiru, recorded for the German jazz/dance/electronic label Compost Records and were popularised by British DJ Gilles Peterson.

Mark de Clive-Lowe is a musician/producer/DJ who was born in New Zealand to a Japanese mother. He moved from New Zealand to the UK and then to California. He acknowledges the Tokyo jazz club scene as a major influence on his music. Leaving This Planet was released originally in 2011 as an EP but  was re-worked and reissued as  a digital album Leaving This Planet 2.0 in December 2018. His new album (Heritage) is a direct tribute to the Japanese influences in his music and it may be his best yet. Released earlier this month, we will be featuring it on Cosmic Jazz over coming weeks. You can find it here on Bandcamp and again on Neil’s playlist for this week.

I think there could be mutual admiration between musicians from the Japanese jazz dance club scene and some of the young  jazz musicians that have emerged recently from London.  As evidence, the show included the title tune from Starting Today, the first album from pianist/keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones and Bradbury Street from Sarah Tandy – another piano/keyboard player we have been featuring on the show. This cut is named after the street in Dalston, London where Tandy had a residency as she was starting out with some of those musicians now featured on her album.

We ended the show this week with a short piece from Makaya McCraven, whose new album features some of these new UKK jazz artists and followed this with a tribute to Fela Kuti from Butcher Brown who leads a five-piece band (very small compared to Fela’s…) from Richmond, Virginia. It is not easy to follow the master and some tributes I have heard fall far short, but this one works.

  1. Joe Armon – Jones – Starting Today from Starting Today
  2. Fumio Itabashi with Kanagawa Phiharmonic Orchestra feat. Yuki Kaneko – Symphonic Poem Watarase from Watarase (disc 2)
  3. Soil & Pimp Sessions – Waltz for Goddess from Pimp Master
  4. Kyoto Jazz Massive – M.E. Outroduction from Spirit of the Sun
  5. Sarah Tandy – Bradbury Street from Infection in the Sentence
  6. Mark de Clive-Lowe – Eight from Leaving this Planet 2.0
  7. Makaya McCraven – Above and Beyond from Highly Rare
  8. Butcher Brown – Tales from the Shrine from A Tribute to Fela EP

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 March 2019: three more from Sarah Tandy

You can hear this week’s show by clicking the Mix Cloud tab. Do not be put off by a short interruption early on from music that’s nothing to do with Cosmic Jazz. That was a slight technical aberration which luckily I was able to sort quickly. Apologies for this – and particular apologies to Sarah Tandy whose music was playing at the time. Stick with the show and check out lots of fantastic jazz, old and new.

Sometimes you hear on record, or see live, a musician who makes you sit up and take notice. This happened to me when I heard the Camilla George Quartet album Isang. It was confirmed when I saw the band live at the Cambridge Jazz Festival and even more so when I saw Maisha in a Spiegeltent at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.  The musician in question was piano/keyboard player Sarah Tandy. When you see her live, you won’t see any apparent fanfare or attention-seeking gestures, yet she weaves the most incredible, intricate and unpredictable musical patterns, whether it is via delicate moments on the piano or more funky beats on the keyboard. It is great news that she now has her own music released on her debut Infection in the Sentence album. Not surprisingly, there were more tunes from it on this week’s show – we played the final three tracks from the album to complement the first three tracks in a previous show. We can confidently predict Infection in the Sentence (btw – a quote from an Emily Dickinson poem) will be one of the jazz/jazz-related music albums of the year in 2019. If you like what we have played on Cosmic Jazz you need to own this album. Find it here on Bandcamp.

To fulfil a recent commitment on the show to re-visit the past and also because it made an interesting contrast, it was back to the UK in the 1960s. If Sarah Tandy is part of what is happening in the current British jazz scene, the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet were part of what was significant and important on the British jazz scene in the 1960s. Dusk Fire still stands proud today as a moving, intense and spiritual piece composed by pianist Michael Garrick. Along with Ian Carr (trumpet/flugelhorn), Don Rendell (sax, clarinet and flute), Trevor Tompkins (drums) and Dave Green (bass) the quintet is a testament to what is now the long-standing worth of UK jazz.

There were more contrasts between past and present from the 1970s to 2018. There seem in recent years to have been a succession of ‘undiscovered’ or neglected releases from the 1970s. Last year one such was a re-issue of The Lightmen and their record Free As You Wanna Be. The band was led by Houston drummer Bubbha Thomas. As a musician, journalist and radio presenter he was active in the civil rights movement in Houston.  His 15-minute clusters of jazz on his radio show went down well with his listeners but not the station managers. He was fired. Bubbha’s response was to detail his plight in a pamphlet, the front cover of which asked Why do racists fear jazz?

The contrast was to the current international jazz superstar Kamasi Washington. He was in London recently and one of my sons was there for the Brixton show. He was ecstatic about the performance. I could not make it so the next best thing was to include a tune on the show from The Choice, the hidden third CD of his 2018 release Heaven and Earth. The warmth and power of the music radiates through with every note.

There was no particular reason for the next few selections, except that the music is good. Carmen Lundy is a Cosmic Jazz regular but I it’s been a while since we played  Monica Vasconcelos. Brazilian-born but a UK resident, she performs contemporary and classical Brazilian tunes with a jazzy feel and sings with a delicate but joyous voice. Mudanca is a tune written by her and keyboardist Steve Lodder from her album Nois. Seek out this and her other releases for more Brazilian magic.

The final tune came from Poland via a sax player, arranger, composer, educator and player in ensembles of Polish and US musicians, namely Irek Wojtczak. Kiej Jo Ide W Pole is from his album Play it Again. The title of the album is in English, but interestingly, the titles of the tunes are not. So often on many of the Polish music we play, the tunes and album titles are both in English. Do the musicians and/or the record labels feel they have to do this? It would be interesting to know.

  1. Sarh Tandy – Timelord from Infection in the Sentence
  2. Sarah Tandy – Light/Weight from Infection in the Sentence
  3. Sarah Tandy – Snake in the Grass from Infection in the Sentence
  4. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Dusk Fire from Dusk Fire
  5. The Lightmen – Talk Visit from Free As You Wanna Be
  6. Kamasi Washington – My Family from The Choice/ Heaven & Earth
  7. Monica Vasconcelos – Mudanca from Nois
  8. Carmen Lundy – Soul to Soul from Soul to Soul
  9. Irel Wojtcask – Kiej Jo Ide W Pole from Play it Again

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

 

 

Week ending 23 February 2019: Wayne and Sarah

More excellent music available on Cosmic Jazz this week at a touch of that MixCloud tab. In recent shows we have played almost exclusively new music, or newly re-released music, but it was one of the re-releases that suggested maybe we need to go back into the past more often…

The show began with the summery sounds of the ever-youthful Marcos Valle and a stand out track from his Far Out Records come back album Nova Bossa Nova. Now re-released on vinyl 20 years after its original emergence, it still sounds as cool and fresh as it did in 1998. Valle is a Brazilian keyboard player, vocalist and composer who mixes bossa nova (with an emphasis on the nova) with jazzy keyboard sounds. is an essential album for your collection – Valle’s new tunes (like this one, Bar Ingles) sounding as good as the retreads of some of his favourites from the 1970s. The ‘half drop’ on this track when the music fades at the six minute point and then leaps back into life is truly life-affirming. Bar Ingles is one of those tunes that never fails to spread the feel good factor. The perfect opener to any show. And for those of you who haven’t seen Valle in concert, make sure you catch him if you can. His 2017 show at London’s Jazz Cafe was a real highlight of over 30 years of live gigs.

Still keeping that Brazilian vibe, UK keys player Jessica Lauren was up next. Simba Jike is a track from her most recent album – and very good it is too. It’s contemporary jazz with a a range of Brazilian influences. Almeria features a range of instrumentalists on percussion, woodwinds, marimba, flugelhorn, bass and drums with Tamar Osborn a standout on baritone sax. Next up, drummer and band leader Nick Woodmansey, aka Emanative, digs in deep on his track from the excellent double vinyl album Earth, released last year. Reflection features one of our homegrown heroes Nat Birchall, along with vocalist and frequent Emanative collaborator Liz Elensky. Also appearing on this excellent track is  Lauren was followed by a musician she has collaborated with – Emanative and another selection from his album Earth.

Here at Cosmic Jazz we love the lightness of touch demonstrated by UK group Me and My Friends on their track You Read My Mind. There’s a Ghanaian highlife influence here with Emma Coleman’s cello at the heart of this infectious track – it’s short, sweet and one you will keep on humming to yourself. It’s a tune we premiered here on CJ and it’s now been picked by none other than Gilles Peterson on his UK BBC6 show…

It’s Cannonball Adderley style but our next track this week was from Kenny Clark and Francy Boland’s brilliant 1963 classic Jazz is Universal. As Derek noted in the show, this was a jazz dance favourite back in the day and the kind of track that would get the Jazzcotech crew on the floor.  The band was created in 1961 by the US drummer Kenny Clarke and the Belgian pianist/composer Francy Boland. Many notable musicians passed through the ranks, including on this album the great Sahib Shihab, Zoot Sims and Jimmy Deuchar. Playing the track was a reminder of the jazz heritage that’s so important to us – there will always be more than contemporary jazz releases on CJ. Our show has no set format, we are bound to no-one and these freedoms will always be an encouragement to play great music from the past.

Some of those seminal artists from the jazz canon are still very much with us. Once such is saxophonist Wayne Shorter, one of the great jazz composers. Several of his tunes have entered the realm of jazz classics – we think of Footprints, Infant EyesTom Thumb and Adam’s Apple from his Blue Note years; Nefertiti and ESP for Miles Davis and Palladium and Plaza Real for Weather Report. Here he is from last year’s stunning 3CD + comic strip cartoon book release, Emanon, with a superb reworking of Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean (originally found on 2005’s Beyond the Sound Barrier album). Listen to how that spare, lyrical soprano tone matches perfectly with Danilo Perez’s latin piano. And it’s worth here trying to put into words what it is that Shorter is doing. The first thing is that, unlike some players, he has two completely different sounds on tenor and soprano saxes – but both are (perhaps uniquely) easily identifiable as Wayne Shorter’s sound. Tenor is gruff and thick while soprano is clear and liquid. If there’s a strong melody, he like’s to improvise around that – little ostinatos, lots of big intervals and spiralling chunks of sound. Shorter is one of the giants of jazz and will always be worth exploring.

There are violin players in jazz but they are not too common. A new name to many will be the Polish violinist Tomasz Chyla who leads a quintet. He is yet another of the young musicians on the burgeoning Polish scene and Circlesongs is his second album. The music is inspired by a variety of musical traditions – including choral music, with which Chyla is strongly associated. The track Stanko can only be a tribute to the great Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko who died last year.

This was followed by another young Polish artist Irek Wojitczack is a saxophone player, composer, arranger and a tutor at the Academy of Music in Gdansk. It is not right that European musicians should be judged by their association with more universally famous US musicians but it is irresistible to note that he has played with Dave Douglas and toured with David Murray. The sound of this young quintet has more than a touch of ECM artist Tord Gustavsen – see what you think.

This week’s show ended with more Polish jazz – this time from one of our favourites, Piotr Wojtasik, a CJ regular who was introduced to us by the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. The trumpeter’s latest album To Whom It May Concern is another quality release. There will undoubtedly be more from this album in week’s to come.

Finally, regular CJ readers will note that there’s an unusual degree of linkage in our listening choices this week. That’s because we were thrilled to get a copy of Sarah Tandy’s new album, Infection in the Sentence (out on 08 March) along with some thoughts on artists and tracks that have been important to her. We’ll be doing a feature on Sarah next week on the show – but, for now, enjoy below a taster of the new release and (in Neil’s choices) three of her favourite tracks.

  1. Marcos Valle – Bar Ingles from Nova Bossa Nova
  2. Jessica Lauren – Simba Jike from Almeria
  3. Emanative – Reflection from Earth
  4. Me and My Friends – You Read My Mind from Look Up
  5. Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – Charon’s Ferry from Jazz is Universal
  6. Wayne Shorter – Adventures Around the Golden Mean from Emanon
  7. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Stanko from Circlesongs
  8. Irek Wojitczack – Weselny from Play It Again
  9. Piotr Wojtasik – Backatcha from To Whom it May Concern

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 February 2019: jazz and rap today

Cosmic Jazz was back live this week with Derek for the first time since mid-December 2018. There is nothing wrong with pre-recorded shows –  but a live show does add a certain unpredictability and je ne sais quoi. There was also some music to catch up on too – records released last year to which we have not done justice.

It was Neil who first introduced CJ listeners to Emanative, aka drummer Nick Woodmansey. He’s certainly part of the thriving new London jazz scene, but Nick has been around longer than many of the current crop of feted young lions. But like so many of those new artists, he has always listened to and produced more than just jazz. It shows in his music and last year’s much lauded release Earth reflected this. We played the track Iyaami which begins with a long balafon solo before guest Dele Sosimi (formerly of Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80 and then of Femi Kuti’s Positive Force), delivers a lyric about the universality of all mothers – including Mother Earth. The album constantly sifts its axis from Indian classical to space jazz to vocal reflections on the state of the planet. It’s an ambitious recording and all the better for it. Highly recommended, especially on the double vinyl version!

John Ellis – a pianist, composer, and producer from the north west of England was another one of Neil’s choices. He was new to me, but many of his past and present associations are not. Ellis was a founder member of the Cinematic Orchestra and his 2016 record Evolution: Seeds & Streams is released on the Gondwana label, run by Cosmic Jazz favourite Matthew Halsall, who was also executive producer on this record. It’s really interesting music – I loved the tune. Opening track Flight uses an analogue synth pattern as a base before building building into something restrained, flowing and rhythmic. Layering birdsong, piano, bass and kora with an excellent Ellis piano solo. Again, this album comes recommended by CJ. The Cinematic Orchestra themselves have a long awaited new album out on 15 March. We’ll catch up with it in upcoming shows.

Jazz is constantly evolving – and one the most lasting influences is clearly that of rap. We can probably trace this back to the early 1990s and the work of Gil Scott Heron, rap groups like Gang Starr and The Digable Planets sampling jazz records and real time collaboration projects like Guru’s first Jazzamataz album. Since then, rap and jazz have learned how to live together in numerous collaborations, and it seems to be an increasing trend to find the appearance of rappers in the work of artists we feature. We saw it last year, for example, in the work of Keyon Harrold and in Nicholas Peyton’s Twi-Life and way back in 1999 we were listening to trumpeter Erik Truffaz and his collaborations with rapper Nya (see CJ w/e 02 February for more on this). So we featured two further examples of rap and jazz working together this week. Firstly from EABS, the exciting band of young Polish musicians who are not afraid to incorporate aspects of the music they grew up listening to and who make what is a sound for our times. More surprisingly, perhaps, was to find a rapper on the latest record from the exquisite trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the man who makes tunes with the longest titles in jazz. Origami Harvest is Akinmusire’s most adventurous work to date, a collaboration with the Mivos string quartet and rapper Kool AD. This album is also one that’s not afraid to bring politics into the music too – on Americana the Mivos Quartet’s Philip Glass-style minimalism mutates slowly while Kool AD spins out conversational lines about America’s savage histories, brutal legacies, illusory democracies, feudal tendencies. As this alliance matures and grows we can expect to see much more rap in jazz in 2019. On Cosmic Jazz we are open to it all.

Finally, there was time for something perhaps more conventional than the rest of the show. But no apologies because, quite simply, Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik is right up there among the programme’s favourites and among the most-played. His music combines uplift, depth,  joy and more besides. To Whom It May Concern is his 2018 release but go to Steve’s Jazz Sounds and you will find many more albums to enjoy.

  1. Emanative – Iyaami from Earth
  2. John Ellis – Flight from Evolution, Seeds and Streams
  3. EABS – Step into the Light from Repetitions (Letters to Krzystof Komeda)
  4. Ambrose Akinmusire – A Blooming Bloodfruit in a Hoodie from Origami Harvest
  5. Piotr Wojtasik – Out of Scale from To Whom It May Concern

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Christmas and New Year: new Polish jazz feature

We have always played a lot of Polish jazz on Cosmic Jazz. There is a seemingly never ending supply of new jazz coming out of the country, much of it on debut albums by young and emerging artists. In Steve’s Jazz Sounds we have an unique source in the UK where this exciting music can be obtained. Click our MixCloud tab on this page, listen to the music and you will want to hear more.

The show began with another tune from a long-established artist and one who is up there among our favourites. Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has played with many leading artists from Poland and other European countries but also with US jazz musicians like Kenny Garrett, Dave Liebman and Billy Hart. His new album for 2018 is To Whom it May Concern – and it’s as good as ever. The track we chose to feature this week has the modal, spiritual qualities that we admire so much.

Sobiechowski is a composer and pianist who leads a quintet and is described as an experienced member of the young Polish jazz scene. In 2014 he received a six-month scholarship to study at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. The album Vital Music draws upon influences from both classical music and European jazz. The title of our choice this week – Global Warming – seemed to be particularly appropriate as the show was recorded while the international conference on climate change was taking place in Poland.

Dominik Kisiel is another young pianist and composer. The music on his album Exploration is all original and explores a soundscape which projects energy and cosmic energy”.

Lucasz Borowicki and his sextet believe in “improvised playfulness” and the music certainly has plenty of free improvisation and unexpected twists and turns. Our tune (An Indiscreet Case of Squareness) and the title of the album (Morbidezza of Decadence) certainly suggest something playful, different and unexpected. You will not be disappointed – it is! The leader is a Polish guitarist now based in Odense, Denmark.

Jacek Kochan is a drummer/composer whom we have played on the show before. He has also played with Dave Liebman as well as US artists Greg Osby, Eddie Henderson and Joey Calderoso. Tomasz Chyla leads a quintet and he is a violin player, the likes of which are still not easy to find in jazz.

There was some more exciting, improvised music from saxophone player/composer/arranger Irek Wojtczak whose album Play it Again is highly recommended. As well as being a working jazz musician he is also a tutor at the Gdansk Academy of Music and is yet another of these Polish musicians who have played with distinguished US musicians. In his case, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist David Murray.

The show ends with a tune from the P.E. Quartet, another group of young, but experienced musicians who have been long-time friends. The band comprises tenor sax, guitar, double bass and drums.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Only Very Few People from To Whom it May Concern
  2. Mateusz Sobiechowski Quintet – Global Warming from Vital Music
  3. Dominik Kisiel Exploration Quartet – Exploration from Exploration
  4. Lucasz Borowicki Sextet – An Indiscreet Case of Squareness from Morbidezza of Decadence
  5. Jacek Kochan – Central Station from Ajee
  6. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Full Circle from Circles
  7. Irek Wojtczak – Weselny from Play it Again
  8. P.E. Quartet – Niewazne from Cokolwick

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 15 December 2018: from Poland to the UK

This week’s Cosmic Jazz starts in Poland with one of the long-established masters and then we test drive one of the many groups to make their debut in 2018. From that point on, it’s a UK-based show featuring some of the the many young British artists who have made such names for themselves in 2018.

As the programme went out live while the UN Climate Change Conference took place in Poland, it was fitting to start the show there. Polish Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has been on the music scene for thirty years and we love his music here on Cosmic Jazz. His latest record To Whom It May Concern (as with many Polish records the album and song titles are in English) sees him collaborate with musicians that he has played with over the years. It’s an international gathering – there is the Hungarian sax player Victor Toth, veteran pianist Bobby Few  from the US and Dutch bassist Joris Teepe. The album was recorded in France and is Wojtasik’s twelfth so far. We look forward to more.

Steve of Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the place you need to go to find all this excellent music – recommends the debut album from Follow Dices. Called Eternal Colors, Steve has made it one of his albums of the year and so naturally we had to play a track. The band are another of the many musicians emerging onto record from Poland with an unusual violin, double bass, drums and piano quartet. It’s jazz but with clear influences from Polish folklore. The result is an effect not dissimilar to the Nordic feeling that many ECM records have and a a translation from the Follow Dices’ site describe the music as sharing an intimate story in the mountain landscape, away from everyday life and the hustle and bustle. It may sound pretentious, but is actually an apt description. Check it out for yourself.

It was then over to Neil and some of the music that has been on his radar in 2018. We featured two tunes from US-born Sarathy Korwar, a percussionist making waves in the London jazz scene. His 2018 album Your East is My West is a live recording that is undoubtedly one of our top 20 records from this annus mirabilis for jazz . Korwar’s first album Day To Day was released on Ninja Tune and featured field recordings of Sidi musicians – descendants of African migrants in India. We loved it – but this new 2CD recording from the Church of Sound in London features a double quintet (much like the great Joe Harriott’s IndoJazz Fusion classic album) and includes covers of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, John McLaughlin and Abdullah Ibrahim. We featured two tracks – an excellent take on McLaughlin’s Mind Ecology and a very different twist on the classic Pharoah Sanders tune The Creator Has a Master Plan. You can check out the original version of Mind Ecology from McLaughlin’s Shakti group here.

Korwar is currently mixing his sophomore album – an exploration of deep jazz, hip hop, electronics and his South Asian roots. It’s been recorded in London and Mumbai and features Mumbai rap artists – we can’t wait!

Our remaining choices come from that gene pool of great UK jazz artists who appear on each other’s albums. For example, bassist Daniel Casimir who was first up first with a track from his own solo release appears on the new album from Camilla George. His band includes guitarist Shirley Tetteh, who is also on the Camilla George album. We ended this sequence with a new 12inch from Joe Armon-Jones who has taken two tracks from his Starting Today album from this year and dubbed them out. It’s certainly a fluid and exciting scene in jazz right now.

  1. Piotr Wopjtasik – Backatcha from To Whom It May Concern
  2. Follow Dices – Eternal Colors from Eternal Colors
  3. Sarathy Korwar – Mind Ecology from Your East is My West
  4. Sarathy Korwar – The Creator has a Master Plan from Your East is My West
  5. Daniel Casimir – Escapee from Escapee
  6. Camilla George – Tappin’ the Turtle from The People Could Fly
  7. Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today in Dub from 12inch single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 December 2018: chilled new beatz!

This week marks the return of Neil back from Singapore and live on the show with more of his carefully considered and impressive selections. Hit that MixCloud tab to hear some exciting new jazz and jazz-related music. Expect to be surprised!

The first tune this week though was Derek’s choice – more from Polish drummer/composer Jacek Kochan and his new release Ajee. He has resided in Poland, the US, Canada before returning to Poland. While in North America he played with an impressive range of musicians, including Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Joey Calderazzo and Eddie Henderson. His new album has that unpredictable, even wild edge at times. It’s an album that demands to be noticed. As always with much of the excellent new music from Poland, we are indebted to Steve’s Jazz Sounds as our source.

From that point it was all Neil with some of the music he has been listening to in the last few weeks. Overall a chilled, forward looking vibe with Matthew Halsall up first. If there is a current jazz musician that you can instantly associate with the word cosmic, it’s Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall.  He’s had a long association with our Cosmic Jazz show and we’ve promoted his music for many years now. The reissue of his 12in single Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile is a homage to cosmic icon Alice Coltrane and very good it is too.

British keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones released his first album Starting Today earlier this year. We have played the tune Mollison Dub from it and there is now an extended 12in further dubbed out vocal version with Asheber. Armon-Jones records for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, an important source for the new British jazz. Also on the label are Glasgow’s Auntie Flo whose Cape Town Jam appears on this week’s show. Brian d’Souza is a central figure in the new strand of club music fusing electronic and world influences alongside the likes of Daphni, Four Tet, Romare, Sinkane and more. The new album Radio Highlife was released earlier this year. This may not be jazz but this club-based music is undoubtedly informed by jazz and other music from around the world.

EABS are in some ways a Polish equivalent of the new British wave. They are a septet of young musicians whose reach goes beyond that of traditional jazz audiences. They experiment, they cross musical genres and their sounds come not only from traditional instruments but also turntables. They are innovative, contemporary and interesting. The music this week comes from their excellent cassette tape/download release Puzzle Mixtape which features the widest range of collaborators EABS have yet deployed including a whole bunch of US artists – Jesse Boykins II, MED, Jeru The Damaja and Ben LaMar Gay. We selected Paulina and Natalia Przybysz (former Sistars).

Makaya McCraven is definitely still one of the musicians of the moment. He produces tunes that by jazz standards are short but have no need to be longer. He collaborates with musicians both in the US and the UK and this week’s choice comes from his excellent 2018 release Universal Beings.  Like all of his music, the basis is live recordings that are then remixed via Ableton, with McCraven doing what he calls fixing the music – editing, looping, pitching, layering, and ultimately producing the tracks. Universal Beings is an album recorded at four separate sessions in New York, Chicago, London and Los Angeles, and featuring an A-list of new jazz players from those hotbed cities – Brandee Younger, Tomeka Reid, Dezron Douglas, Joel Ross, Shabaka Hutchings, Junius Paul, Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry, Josh Johnson, Jeff Parker, Anna Butters, Carlos Niño and Miguel-Atwood Ferguson. It’s an impressive line up and the music is equally rewarding. We highly recommend this and McCraven’s other releases. For more information and a chance to listen to the music, checkout McCraven’s Bandcamp pages here.

The show this week featured several singles and EPs, as opposed to album tracks. The last three tunes were more examples of this. We began with Chip Wickham, a UK flautist and saxophonist who has toured with Matthew Halsall and others, and then Miles Davis from the lost Rubberband sessions EP released for this year’s Record Store Day in April. Finally, from East London, self-taught pianist and some time grime and hip-hop artist Alfa Mist working with Yussef Dayes and featuring some superb guitar work from Mansur Brown. There will be more from Brown’s own first solo album in upcoming shows.

  1. Jacek Kochan – Chinese Boomerang from Ajee
  2. Matthew Halsall – Blue Nile from Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile 12in single
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub vocal version (feat. Asheber) from 12in single
  4. Auntie Flo – Cape Town Jam from Radio Highlife
  5. EABS – Kawalek O Zyciu from EABS Puzzle Mixtape
  6. Makaya McCraven – Wise Man, Wiser Woman from Universal Beings
  7. Chip Wickham – Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) from Shamal Wind Remixed EP
  8. Miles Davis – Rubberband of Life from the Rubberband EP
  9. Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist feat. Mansur Brown – Love Is the Message from single

Neil is listening to…