All posts by Derek

Week ending 21 July 2018: the British scene is hot!

Cosmic Jazz explores the world of improvised music – as always, click on the Mixcloud arrow (left) to hear some great music and then check out our links to hear more and download or buy vinyl and CD. As we often do, we’re championing music from independent sources rather than the more usual global suppliers.

We began with the Jelle van Giel Group from Antwerp, Belgium and a track from their debut 2015 album Songs for Everyone. Van Giel on drums leads a septet with trumpeter Carlo Nardozza sometimes reminding us of Matthew Halsall – those same long legato lines over a modal rhythm base. The atmospheric guitar on this track is from Tim Finoulst. Check out this album and their second release The Journey at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Strongly recommended – have a listen to music from both albums here on Soundcloud. Guitar and trumpet also features in the second track this week – this time from Poland and Emil Miszk, one of the many young up and coming musicians making waves in European jazz at the moment. The guitarist in Miszk’s Sonic Syndicate octet is Michał Zienkowski.

The music from UK based harpist Alina Bzhezhinska may sound familiar – it’s her take on Alice Coltrane’s Blue Nile, coincidentally also played in an excellent version by the aforementioned Matthew Halsall. Again, you can find that version here on Soundcloud. Supporting Bzhezhinska on this debut album released earlier this year is the excellent Toni Kofi on soprano sax.

So then on to two stars of the current UK jazz renaissance, Binker and Moses. Whilst their name might suggest everything from a betting agency to a team of dodgy solicitors, Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are two of the most influential musicians on the scene. After winning the MOBO Best Jazz Act in 2015, the pair have now appeared on countless releases and are festival headline acts. And it’s no wonder when they can conjure up a sound like this – The Birth of Light is Moses Boyd’s opening drum solo from their most recent album Alive in the East?, recorded live in June 2017 at Total Refreshment Centre in East London with sax legend Evan Parker (among others) in support. It’s worth listening to the whole album as one piece – check it out and download here from Bandcamp.

Staying in the UK, up next is the excellent Jessica Lauren and a track from her 2018 release Almeria. Lauren is joined by more stalwarts from the UK scene – the baritone saxophone of Tamar ‘Collocutor’ Osborn and percussion from Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and drummer Cosimo Keita Cadore. And, of course, you know where this excellent new album can be found – right here on Bandcamp. Staying firmly grounded in East London but with a worldwide sensibility is Nick Woodmansey, a UK drummer recording as Emanative (photo above. His long-awaited album is another recent release – and it doesn’t disappoint. There are African, Indian and Middle Eastern influences and a galaxy of contributors – including Idris Ackamoor of US spiritual jazz legends The Pyramids, ex-Fela keyboard player (but Hackney-born) Dele Sosimi, key protagonist from Manchester’s jazz scene Nat Birchall, India-raised Ninja Tune artist Sarathy Korwar,  The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto and Flying Lotus collaborator Ahu. Woodmansey notes on the Bandcamp site (of course!) that I remember reading something Sun Ra said that has stuck with me. For most cultures and tribes music is not about the technical quality but it’s about expression, communication and the joy of playing. For me it’s about the vibe rather than technical perfection – if it sounds good, it is good. And, as jazz artists through the decades have demonstrated, this spirit is at the heart of the music. Use the Bandcamp link to listen to and buy this excellent example of all that’s best in new British jazz.

You can clearly hear that spirit in our final track this week from Singapore’s finest, The Steve McQueens, on a tune from their most recent Terrarium album. More atmospheric guitar here – this time from the superb Andrew Lim. Vocalist Ginny Yip is adept with the jazz standards as her own compositions as evidenced in a recent live performance.  In fact, she’s said that her favourite singer is Betty Carter – and you can hear it in her voice. Carter is perhaps not as well known as she should be – for a taste, check out Neil’s listening choices this week. The Steve McQueens will be premiering their new album here in Singapore next month – watch this space.

  1. Jelle van Giel Group – A New Beginning from Songs For Everyone
  2. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Hate No More from Sonic Syndicate
  3. Alina Bzhezhinska – Blue Nile from Inspiration
  4. Binker and Moses – The Birth of Light from Alive in the East
  5. Jessica Lauren – Kofi Nomad from Almeria
  6. Emanative feat. Nat Birchall and Liz Elensky – Reflection from Earth
  7. The Steve McQueens – Like Coltrane from Terrarium

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 14 July 2018: Brazil and beyond

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of music in this week’s show. Cuba, USA, Brazil, Poland, Japan, France and the UK are all represented.

Our first tune is a family affair. Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill, along with pioneers Mario Bauza and Machito, were leaders in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz music. Bebo was a composer and pianist and Chico a composer and bandleader and now their sons have worked together to perform in concert and then to record as a tribute to their fathers. In this 2CD set even a third generation – their respective children – feature on the second CD. Ecucaion was composed by Bebo Valdes and has both Arturo and Chucho on piano. The CD notes describe it as demonstrating the elegant compositional style of Bebo with a rich soaring melody, sophisticated arrangement and lush harmonies. It is hard to disagree.

Our CJ music stayed Latin but shifted to Brazil. Wilson Simonal was a singer from Rio de Janeiro and Nana, recorded in 1964, is one of those Brazilian tunes that you wish had been embellished and lengthened. The instrumental break is exciting but I find myself wishing the musicians had been given the freedom to continue.  Although short and very sweet it’s a wonderful tune, and one that has you humming along and tapping your feet. Keyboard player/composer/arranger  Marcos Valle came next. Throughout his long career he has had a wide range of influences – bossa, soul, pop, electronica – but always with a Brazilian spirit. His music has been recorded by several Brazilian artists including Wilson Simonal. His excellent 2001 release Escape on the British Far Out label has some electronica moments but is a strong and recommended release that really captures Valle’s compositional qualities. Our Brazilian sequence this week ended with a jazzy piece recorded in 1968 by alto sax player and clarinetist Paula Moura who appeared on Cannonball Adderley’s 1962 Bossa Nova release and recorded music through to his death in 2010. This is his take on Milton Nascimento’s classic Tardes – try this version with Wayne Shorter from the excellent Native Dancer album.

The show continues to feature what appears to be the endless stream of exciting, young musicians from Poland. Emil Miszk is a trumpeter who leads the wonderfully named eight-piece Sonic Syndicate. The tune Chorale (Ballad No. 31) has a beautiful soaring chorale effect with Miszk’s trumpet at the head taking the lead. It was quite a change from the music of Brazil but its rapturous sounds soon take you to other interesting places. We followed this with more Polish music from the Confusion Project trio. The album Primal is divided into chapters and also takes you on a journey – this time to follow your instincts to discover primordiality!  Deep, soul-searching music.

There was a Polish-British connection with the piece from Alina Bzhezinska, a harpist brought up in Poland but now based in London, where she teaches harp at Goldsmith’s College. Bzhezinska is accompanied on her debut album Inspiration by British musicians – the fine and seemingly these days ever present saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer John Prime – on this version of another Coltrane favourite, his original composition After the Rain. This beautiful tune has been recorded by many jazz artists – compare with this respectful tribute from guitarist John McLaughlin (which features original Coltrane quartet drummer Elvin Jones vocalising over his kit).

Traditional British folk music is not something one would usually associate with jazz, Japan or spirituality but there’s a long traditional in jazz of improvising from traditional melodies – think of John Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves, for example – and these three elements certainly come together in a track from the excellent new(ish) Jazzman compilation Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan. The quartet Four Units deliver their take on that traditional folk club favourite Scarborough Fair – and very good it is too.

We ended Cosmic Jazz this week with Kamasi Washington and another track from his latest Heaven and Earth release. It’s very encouraging to see both this jazz album and the John Coltrane reissue Both Directions at Once placed high in worldwide music charts. The jazz renaissance continues apace!

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Ecuacion from Familia: Tribute to Bebo + Chico
  2. Wilson Simonal – Nana from Blue Brazil 2
  3. Marcos Valle – O India E o Brasil from Escape
  4. Paulo Moura Hepteto – Das Tardes Mas SOS from Mensagem/Bossa Jazz
  5. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Confusion Project – Upstream from Primal
  7. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration
  8. Four Units – Scarborough Fair from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  9. Kamasi Washington – Can You Hear Him from Heaven and Earth

Derek is listening to …..

Neil is listening to…


Week ending 07 June 2018: Kamasi Washington – then and now

Musician and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

This week Cosmic Jazz provided a spiritual and religious experience both in the title of the tunes and the feel of the music,  featuring deep, reflective music for both body and soul.

If you ever wondered what Kamasi Washington was playing before he became such a jazz superstar you can find out from a record released in 2008. In 2005, the birthday of Thelonious Monk (10 October), conductor and saxophonist Jesse Sharp welcomed a group of Los Angeles musicians to the Californian Institute of the Arts in Leimert Park to a musical gathering that reflected spirit of Harold Tapscott’s celebrated Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra.  It was a large group of musicians, both young and old, some of whom had played with Tapscott himself and included some names well-known to Cosmic Jazz – Dwight Trible, Azar Lawrence, Phil Ranelin – along with a young Kamasi Washington and his current pianist Brandon Coleman. The outcome was a superb record titled The Gathering which included a total of twenty-four musicians laying down some inspirational jazz. Released ten years ago,  it was the opening track that began this week’s show. Peyote Song III was written by Jesse Sharp in the 1970s and inspired by an, er, ‘mystical session’ with native Americans in New Mexico.

Sharp encouraged this gathering of musicians to take pride in their history and culture – “it keeps the spirit of the ancestors alive,” he affirmed. The younger ones were paired with older musicians “to preserve tradition and at the same time create something new.” Brandon Coleman and Kamasi Washington were among those younger ones but the spirit that imbued that historic session is undoubtedly present in the music you can hear in Washington’s The Epic set from 2016 and now his new release Heaven and Earth. We featured The Space Traveller’s Lullaby from the Heaven disc.

Alice Coltrane and her husband John have often been described as leaders and pioneers  of what might be called spiritual jazz. This was particularly through their interest and exploration of Indian music and religion. So it seemed appropriate in this week’s show to include an Alice Coltrane track from her Transcendence record – music merging Indian scales with jazz that ends up sounding like a service of joyous devotion.

Angelus Domini literally translates as the angel of the lord and is the Roman Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation. Traditionally this was held at 6 am and 6 pm and the angelus bell called people to prayer. Angelus Domini, therefore, invokes religious imagery but is also the title of a tune from the Polish Oles brothers, who play drums and double bass together with the German vibraphone player Christopher Dell. The chosen track comes from their record of jazz interpretations of music from the Polish contemporary composer Henryk Gorecki, who died in 2010. Most famous for his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Gorecki achieved huge popular success with audiences all round the world following the release of a recording of the symphony which featured soprano Dawn Upshaw.  You can hear the Lento e Largo movement here performed by Isabel Bayrakdaraian with the Sinfonietta Cracovia, conducted by John Axelrod. Listening to Angelus Domini is a similarly moving experience as befits the title and the intentions of the original.  All the music on this new release (called Gorecki Ahead) draws you into a meditative and reflective mood with its depth and meaning. Seek it out at Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

We ended the show this week with two groups informing us that The Creator Has a Master Plan. Firstly, French band Palm Unit whose record pays homage to French pianist Jef Gilson, born Jean-François Quiévreux and his Palm record label.  Gilson’s music was influenced by bebop, free jazz and West African sounds together with the unique music of Madagascar where Gilson spent several years at the end of the 1960s. He’s undoubtedly a musician who should be better known for as a talent spotter, Gilson may well have been the equal of Miles Davis, In the 60s, he introduced the jazz world to Henri Texier (who joined his orchestra when he was only sixteen), Jean-Luc Ponty, Michel Portal and Eddy Louiss along with many other celebrated French instrumentalists. Gilson was the man young American musicians in Paris turned to for help and collaboration. Lloyd Miller, Nathan Davis, Woody Shaw, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Coleman, Sahib Shihab, Hal Singer, Byard Lancaster and David Murray all recorded or toured with Gilson during their time in France. For more on Jef Gilson check out this feature on Bandcamp.

In 1965, during the Antibes/Juan Les Pins festival, it was Gilson who opened for John Coltrane and advised him backstage to perform the full suite of A Love Supreme. It was the only time Coltrane would play it onstage with his original quartet.

This new Palm Unit recording – Chant Inca – includes uKanDanZ’s saxophonist Lionel Martin, keyboardist Fred Escoffier from Le Sacre du Tympan, drummer Philippe ‘Pipon’ Garcia (who played with the Erik Truffaz Quartet), and special guest Del Rabenja, who played alongside Gilson in Madagascar on the valiha harp. We ended the show with another version of this Pharoah Sanders classic from The Brooklyn Funk Essentials. This  was more up-tempo, possibly less devotional in sound but brought a fitting and joyous end to the show.  To compare these two versions with Sanders, check out the 32 minute original from the album Karma recorded in 1969 and – to complete your listening pleasure – you might also like Carlos Santana exploring his jazz roots with his take from the Lotus live album (complete 3SACD version).  Both recordings have Leon Thomas on vocals.

  1. The Gathering – Peyote Song III from Leimert Park: Roots and Branches of Los Angeles Jazz
  2. Kamasi Washington – The Space Travellers Lullaby from Heaven of Heaven and Earth
  3. Alice Coltrane – Bhaja Govindam from Transcendence
  4. Oles Brothers and Christopher Dell – Angelus Domini from Gorecki Ahead
  5. Palm Unit – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Chant Inca, Hommage a Jef Gilson
  6. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Cool and Steady and Easy

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 June 2018: new music from Poland and Japan

Listen via the MixCloud tab to hear music from two of the countries that feature regularly here on Cosmic Jazz – Poland and Japan. Thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds for great new sounds from Poland and to Jazzman Records for the latest in their Spiritual Jazz series – Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – which we sampled at the end of this week’s show.

CJ began though, with one of those numbers that appeared on my iPod and made me determined to play it on the show. This was from another album available at Steve’s (he stocks much more than Polish music) from Belgian drummer Jelle Van Giel. Tiffany’s Dodo is one of those tunes you want to hum to yourself – it is tuneful, melodic and uplifting, brassy and yet carefully restrained. Once  heard it gets to you, in  the best possible way.

The 1980-90s jazz dance scene in London was enlivened by a number of groups from outside the UK – most notably United Future Organization (UFO). Their take on  Frank Foster’s classic Loud Minority was one of those hot jazz dance/nu-jazz numbers from back in the day – released as a single in 1992 and on album in 1993. I can even remember it being played in a village hall up country in South-West France as music to which local young people presented a dance performance. It still sounds fresh and is definitely still danceable. A key member of that group and producer of that album  (along with Frenchman Raphael Sebbag) was Toshio Matsuura. He left the group in 2002 but now has his own material out, which continues the tradition of a jazz basis with more than a nod to the dance-floor, hence the album title (see below). Neil notes: I first heard this track on the radio and thought it was strangely familiar – and yes, it is Matsuura’s take on Bugge Wesseltoft’s classic Change. The album also features classics like Rotary Connection’s Black Gold Of The Sun (feat. Daymé Arocena), Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma epic Do The Astral Plane and an excellent take on Carl Craig’s At Les. Perhaps best of all is that the band assembled for this recording are all members of the new London jazz scene – Yussef Dayes, Yazz Ahmed and Nubya Garcia – all under the direction of drummer and arranger Tom Skinner.

Next up on the show was an interesting and varied Polish sequence. including another tune from the excellent Lukasz Juzko Quartet. The music has the same effect as the Jelle Van Giel tune above. Juzko’s tenor sax is well to the fore, as are the gospel and soul influences, music that is warm and comforting and good for body and soul.

Kostov Panta Konrad is a Bulgarian pianist with a Grammy award-winning rhythm section. The tune Dizzy Con Carne Roots – great title! – is an original composition but also on the album are jazz interpretations of classical pieces from Albinoni, Chopin and Gershwin. Quite a mix!

There was another link to jazz interpretations of classical music. The Oles brothers (one a drummer, the other on double bass) have combined with German vibraphone player Christopher Dell firstly to re-interpret the music of Polish jazz musician Krysztof Komeda on Komeda Ahead, but now on Gorecki Ahead to re-interpret the music of Polish classical composer Henryk Gorecki. Very interesting it is too. On Old Polish Music Dell hammers out a great, pounding vibraphone lead with superb,  back-up from the Oles Brothers rhythm section.

Szymon Lukowski is an award-winning sax player, accompanied by Austrian guitarist Hannes Piepler – collaboration by musicians from across European borders being another feature of this week’s show. The quintet is completed with vibes, as above, marimba and bass – an innovative combination. Seventh Sense from the album Hourglass has a pleasing tone, with percussive drumming in the background.

The final contribution from Poland, or perhaps Poland and more, came from sax player Maciej Sihkala and his Septet. This is another live recording from Gdansk, to follow that of the previous week. The title A Bit Like Theolonius says it all.

Finally, it was back to Japan. One of the long-time Cosmic Jazz favourites has been the tune Watarase from pianist Fumio Itabashi. I have a 2CD album of different versions of this Japanese folk tune – most performed by Itabashi in different groups. The final version on this excellent compilation is included on the latest Spiritual Jazz compilation, Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – another re-issue from this jazz-obsessed country. May the trend continue.

  1. Jelle Van Giel Group – Tiffany’s Dodo from Songs For Everyone
  2. United Future Organization – Loud Minority from Loud Minority
  3. Toshio Matsuura – Change from LovePlayDance: Scenes From the Floor
  4. Lukasz Juzko Quintet – One or Few from First Breath
  5. Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – The Dizzy Con Carne Roots from The Conversations
  6. Oles Brothers & Christopher Dell – Old Polish Music from Gorecki Ahead
  7. Szymon Lukowski Quintet – Seventh Sense from Hourglass
  8. Maciej Sikala Septet – A Bit Like Theolonius from Live in Club Zak
  9. Takeo Moriyama – Watarase  from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:


Week ending 02 June 2018: jazz from UK and Poland

This week there was only one way to start the show. In the previous week I had been to three shows which represented the very best of the new wave of jazz and jazz-related music in the UK – the sounds of young London and truly jazzre:freshed. Our photo shows UK tuba player Theon Cross performing with Moses Boyd at London’s Field Day Festival – more next week.

The 2018 Norfolk & Norwich Festival included three ambitious nights of late-night music in the Adnams Spiegeltent erected in a city centre park. On the first night there was the sax and drums combination of Binker & Moses who respectively blew and drummed with tough intensity and relentless energy to the amazement and appreciation of the crowd. The next evening saw the young keyboard player Ashley Henry with his trio, and joined later by vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett. The repertoire included original compositions, a re-working of a tune from rapper Nas and one from indie band Enemy. Ashley Henry is an exciting and developing talent with a debut album forthcoming. The third night brought a performance from the six-piece Maisha led by drummer Jake Long. There was added excitement by the inclusion in the band of my pianist/keyboard of the moment Sarah Tandy. She plays with seeming nonchalance, with constant surprise and invention and with total involvement in the group. Another highlight was the deep interplay between Jake Long on drums and Tim Doyle on Percussion. Maisha played non-stop with no break for introductions or song titles until the end of the set. What a welcome change from the tedium of many jazz nights of the past.

There was more from Timo Lassy’s 2012 album In with Lassya joyful and uplifting work. The Finnish saxophonist has come long way since his days with the Five Corners Quintet and the tune It Could Be better has a soulful, gospel feel with pleasing contributions on the Hammond organ from Georgios Kontrafouris and Timo Lassy himself on tenor sax. As with Lassy’s great new album Moves, this one is recommended.

Gospel is a major inspiration for Polish tenor sax player Lukasz Juzko on his new album Breath from the Noise. He is one of the latest exciting East European discoveries we have come across from Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Juzko is from the Gdansk Academy of Music and included in the quartet is the pianist Michal Wroblewski, who we have come across already on Cosmic Jazz. There will be more from this a record in future on Cosmic Jazz.

Also with a Gdansk connection is the live album Copy & Insert from pianist Leszek Kulakowski and his Quintet. The Quintet includes another Polish musician familiar to Cosmic Jazz in Jerzy Malek on trumpet. Kulakowski himself has collaborated with a number of players both from Poland and the US, including Tomasz Stanko and Eddie Henderson. This album features American saxophonist Andy Middleton and was recorded in Gdansk at the XXIII Komeda Jazz Festival, commemorating the Polish jazz icon Krzysztof Komeda.

The Kulakowski track is entitled Japanese Tune and this prompted the inclusion of another tune from the J-Jazz album of great deep, modal jazz from Japan from 1969-1984. It came from guitarist Kigoshi Sugimoto. The track has a great bass line running through with contemporary sounding drums in the background.  There’s a revival of interestin this golden age of Japanese jazz at the moment with a number of compilations for listeners to look out for. We’ve featured a number of tracks from the great J-Jazz compilation and  in upcoming shows we’ll move on the Jazzman label’s contribution to this genre – Spiritual Jazz Volume 8: Japan, another masterwork of crate digging.

This week’s show ended with another piece from the newly-released Mark Springer album Diving. The music was recorded live at a series of concerts and the tunes were composed on the spot in response to the ambience, audience and the settings in both the UK and Italy. The selection this week was from a UK concert. Springer might be unknown to some listeners but he was a key player in a much earlier British jazz movement in the early 1980s when he led the group Rip, Rig + Panic. Their first album God was one of my introductions to contemporary jazz and the band went on to complete two more albums before disbanding in 1983. The first album featured Neneh Cherry on vocals and the second her father, Don Cherry on trumpet.

  1. Binker and Moses – The Valley of the Ultra Blacks from Journey to the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry – Deja Vu from Ashley Henry’s 5ive
  3. Maisha – Welcome to a New Welcome from Welcome to a New Welcome
  4. Timo Lassy – It Could Be Better from In With Lassy
  5. Lukasz Juzko Quartet – Breath from the Noise from First Breath
  6. Leszek Kulakowski Quartet – Japanese Tune from Copy & Insert
  7. Kigoshi Sugimoto – Long Neal from J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984.
  8. Mark Springer – Winstone Leys Concert Hall II from Diving

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 26 May 2018: deep jazz from Japan and more

Over the years we have played a lot of jazz from the 1970s on Cosmic Jazz. In retrospect, there’s every indication that this was something of a golden age for the music. Many of the albums we’ve featured have been re-released and tunes have appeared on the numerous compilations that have emerged over the last decade, Some of these had previously been accessible only to a limited audience and so a wealth of treasures have been opened up to a new and wider audience. We have not always played much Japanese jazz from that period but this week’s featured release from British based BBE Records redresses the balance. Check out the music by clicking the MixCloud tab where you can hear this week’s show.

The album in question is called J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984It is deep, it is modal and much of it has a spiritual quality and we featured three tracks from it. The first was from Takeo Moriyama, a musician who played the piano as a child but became a drummer as an adult. The tune Kaze was played again because the previous week’s show provided only a brief excerpt from it. Terumasa Hino is one of the most celebrated of Japanese jazz musicians – a trumpet/cornet/flugelhorn player who settled in New York in 1975. He played with a number of prominent US jazz musicians and among these was bass player Reggie Workman who not only had a tune in his praise but also played on it. As with all of the tunes this week we love this one. There’s always been a strong affinity between Japanese jazz-related music and the influence of Brazil music and a veteran musician of twenty-four albums, bass player Eiji Nakayama, is represented on the album by the track Aya’s Samba. J-Jazz is one of those albums on which every track is superb and so is a very definite CJ recommendation. Buy or download and enjoy this inspiring music.

There was, in fact, much in the programme that sounded spiritual.  Diving is a new album from pianist Mark Springer, released in May this year. Springer is a contemporary composer/musician whose work ranges from solo piano to chamber works for piano to a forthcoming opera. The album features music recorded in solo piano concerts in Italy and the UK and spontaneously recorded in front of a live audience. At these concerts Springer compares himself to a swimmer diving into different pools and that he is trying to challenge my audience’s perception of what a piano concert is and the surprises that can lead to a completely new work composed in that moment. The outcome is impressive – what an experience for the audience. There will be more from this new release next week.

Quin Kirchner is featured via his track The Ritual which from single hearing you will recognise as an appropriate title. Saxophonist Nate LePine blows like a young Coltrane on this one and across this double album Kirchner has assembled a superb group to perform a mix of original compositions and jazz covers (including tracks from Charles Mingus and Sun Ra). He’s a drummer/percussionist from Chicago who spent time in New Orleans before returning to the windy city. Kirchner is perhaps most noted for his time with Nomo – check out their postrock/afrobeat/Sun Ra sound on this track. The Other Side of Time is his first solo release and it has – rightly – garnered a number of very favourable reviews. Another excellent artist that my colleague Neil has unearthed and made available to CJ.

There was more current music from Polish sax player Marcin Stefaniak with his trio. It is cool, contemplative, contemporary jazz – yet another of those many Polish jazz musicians whose work is recommended to our followers. There is a rich, varied and constantly evolving scene in Poland that is not always reflected in the jazz press here in the UK – on CJ we redress the balance where we can.

The one tune on the show that might struggle to gain the description as spiritual in feel came from Kaidi Tatham, UK multi-instrumentalist/DJ/producer and core member of Bugz in the Attic. Tatham was a influential presence in the West London broken beats/nu-jazz scene and he continues to fuse jazz with own twisted funk, boogie and electronica. He has done much to bring a jazz sensibility to club audiences and we applaud this here on Cosmic Jazz. For a sample of his current musical style, listeners are recommended to download Kaidi’s 5ive from the jazzre:freshed site.

  1. Takeo Moriyama – Kaze from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  2. Mark Springer – Castello Di Potentino II from Diving
  3. Quin Kirchner – The Ritual from The Other Side of Time
  4. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Wheelers from Unveiling
  5. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times
  6. Terumasa Hino – Ode to Workman from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  7. Eiji Nakayama Aya’s Samba from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984

Derek is listening to …

  1. Binker & Moses – At the Feet of the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry Trio – @ jazz re:freshed
  3. Maisha – The Night Trance
  4. Common – Be
  5. The Ruts DC – In A Rut

Week ending 21 May 2018: tunes from the past and present

There is plenty of music from the past available on the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab this week, but some important current tunes too. As usual we feature artists from different countries and continents – just how we like it on the show.

There’s often so much music to cram into an hour long show that we have to end with just a glimpse of the last tune. That happened last week (and again this week), so we usually make amends and catch up. As a result, the opener this week was the complete version of Natal – Tema Das Flutas from Brazilian musician Hermeto Pascoal and Grupo Vice Versa. It comes from an album of previously unreleased material from the 1970s now available through the highly rated UK-based Far Out label.

There was further acknowledgement of a recommended BBC TV series Latin Music USA with Mambo Rincon from Mario Bauza, often called “The Legendary Mambo King”. Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra could fairly claim to have invented Latin jazz. Bauza was born in Cuba in 1911, where he met the great Machito (later to become his brother in law) and the two remained friends and collaborators until Machito’s death in 1984. In 1930 Bauza moved to New York and became involved with bands there (including Cab Calloway’s) where, as the programme explained a band member was very disparaging about his Cuban music. Undeterred he joined Machito’s Latin Orchestra in 1941 as a trumpeter, music director, song composer and arranger. Jazz became an essential element of all their music. The sleeve notes for the Machito album Tanga claim that Latin Jazz began in May 1943. At a Monday evening rehearsal, Bauza got the band to play a jazz melody, Bauza then began blowing jazz riffs over the melody and then asked his alto player to ad-lib. At the end of two hours Mario Bauza had successfully merged jazz with Cuban music and Latin Jazz was born.

I have been enjoying the compilation from DJ Colin Curtis Jazz Dance Fusion. This week there were two tracks from CD 1. The first is one of those essential tunes from Marvin Gaye that with its jazz inflections invited a jazz cover. Michelle Handricks, daughter of jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, provided just that to superb effect; a wonderful interpretation.  Charles Earland is well known among  jazz dancers for his driving Hammond organ numbers. On Murilly, which apparently tells the story of a girl he once knew, there is not only his organ playing to admire but also his vocal skills, which it has to be said are pretty good. It is a great number and swings forcefully from start to finish.

There was room for some contemporary music beginning with more of the Polish music available from Steve’s Jazz Sounds  Firstly, from back in 2002 came music from trumpet player Jerzy Malek, who actually plays flugelhorn on Out of the Window. Then there was more from the exciting, young pianist Kazia Pietrzko and her Trio, much admired by Neil and me. Her music is dynamic, unpredictable and as the album title suggests forthright. It would be good to see her playing in the UK, especially with  all the wonderful young musicians on the UK jazz scene at the moment. Incidentally if you want to find an exciting young British pianist check Sarah Tandy, whose work with Camilla George we have featured on Cosmic Jazz, and who has her own album coming out later in the year.

I am very excited because next week I am going to hear some of those British musicians at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. On 24 May they have Binker & Moses, on 25 May Ashley Henry and on 26 May Maisha – a very impressive line-up. This week I played a track from Maisha’s free download EP – check it out on jazzre:refreshed. The group is led by drummer Jake Long and it includes British sax player Nubya Garcia – an award winner at the recent Jazz FM awards.

I am afraid it was another of those endings to this week’s show. Firstly there was some unwanted interference and then the tune from the J-Jazz compilation had to be cut short. Perhaps once again I have to make amends next week!

  1. Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa – Natal (Tema Das Flutas) from Viajando Como Som
  2. Mario Bauza – Mambo Rincon from Tanga
  3. Michelle Hendricks – What’s Going On from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  4. Charles Earland – Murilly from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  5. Jerzy Malek – Out of the Window from Gift
  6. Kazia Pietrzko Trio – Zielore Oczy Grafitowe from Forthright Stories
  7. Maisha – Welcome to a New Welcome from Maisha EP (jazzre:freshed)
  8. Takeo Moriyama – Kaze from J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969 – 1984

Derek is listening to:

  1. Binker & Moses – Black Ave Maria
  2. Ashley Henry, The RE Ensemble – The World Is Yours
  3. Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra – Oyele Que Te Conviene
  4. Luciano – Its Me Again Jah
  5. Mark Springer – You Are Here

Week Ending 12 May 2018: Timo Lassy past and present

Last week there were two tunes from the excellent new Timo Lassy album MovesIt is an album we like here on Cosmic Jazz and so there is another tune this week. The album features a variety of collaborators, one of whom – the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass – are evident on this week’s tune Lashes. The other collaborators include Finnish Jazz sax star Eero Koivistoinen, New York based singer Joyce Elaine Yuille and Finnish rapper Paleface – all alongside Lassy’s regular five-piece band.

The new album provided an appropriate occasion to re-present some of Lassy’s past work. So, next came a tune from his 2012 album In With Lassy. This was an album in which he aimed to pay homage to jazz as the art of the now in trying to capture the essence of a ‘cooking session’ in which the tape runs free and if all goes right you capture the moment. The tune Teddy the Sweeper cooks very nicely. Finally, Lassy was a founder member of the Finnish Jazz  group The Five Corners Quintet. Their 2005 album Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By included three tunes with a very distinguished guest vocalist, the late Mark Murphy. We featured the tune Before We Say Goodbye with Murphy on suitably cool vocals and providing a superb link to what came next on the show.

The 2018 compilation Jazz Dance Fusion – music from the Muse record label put together by veteran Manchester-based DJ Colin Curtis – includes two numbers from Mark Murphy. Empty Faces (or Vera Cruz) is a tune of great beauty, a Brazilian classic written by Milton Nascimento and recorded originally by Murphy on the Muse album Sings, released in 1975. It’s one of Murphy’s best Muse albums of this period with striking interpretations of On the Red Clay, Naima and Maiden Voyage. The album features a top notch band too – Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mike Brecker on tenor, Don Grolnick on keys and David Sanborn on alto. Compare with Nascimento’s original version from his album Courage here.

On the show last week I mentioned the BBC series Latin Music USA. I promised this week to include one of the musicians that appeared on the New York Latino programme. For me, so much of the music has strong jazz influences: the big brass orchestration has a strong jazz feel and both the singers and the musicians constantly improvised. One of the most ‘political’ of them was Ruben Blades – a Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor, musician, activist, and politician – whose best work was often in collaboration with the fine trombone player Willie Colon. The tune Ganas first appeared on Blades’ 1983 Fania album El Que la Hace la Paga, the last of his many collaborations with Colon from this period. Blades is a political activist and his Buscando America album from the following year is still a timely reminder of the situation for many Hispanic people in the USA. The translated lyrics of the epic title tune include the following lines: You’ve been abducted, America/your mouth has been gagged/and today it’s our turn/ to bring you freedom

This was followed by another excellent tune from Swedish sax player Fredrik Kronkvist from his new Afro-Cuban Supreme album, a record inspired by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s idea of bringing together different people, music and rhythms from different countries and continents. It is an eclectic mix of Afro-Cuban rhythms and Coltrane-inspired jazz and reflects the spirit of a recent feature documentary, The Jazz Ambassadors, that tells the story of the jazz artists who found themselves apologists for American propaganda in the 1950s.

It all began in 1956 when Adam Clayton Powell Jr, an African American congressman from Harlem, suggested that America send its greatest jazz musicians overseas as cultural emissaries. The State Department warmed to the idea, believing that touring mixed-race jazz groups could help deflect attention from the spiralling civil rights abuses and present a uniquely American art form that the Russians couldn’t compete with. Powell convinced his friend Dizzy Gillespie to become America’s first jazz ambassador, though the irony of the request was not lost of Gillespie. When the State Department asked him to come in for a pre-tour briefing, Gillespie responded I’ve had 300 years of briefing. I know what they’ve done to us. He went on to explain: I sort’ve liked the idea of representing America, but I wasn’t going over there to apologise for the racist policies of America. Dizzy, like all the jazz musicians who would tour on behalf of the State Department, was torn between the feelings of patriotism and his progressive politics, of hoping that America would win the cold war, and wishing that his country would actually embrace its founding ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Nicholas Payton is one of several young American jazz musicians who are making political statements, particularly on the condition of Black America past and present. Payton’s Afro-Caribbean Mixtape is a very powerful statement and The Egyptian Second Line (released as a single prior to the album) is – says the trumpeter – in the spirit of reclaiming that which colonisation sought to destroy. Payton is from New Orleans and ‘the second line’ is the group of celebrants who tag on to ‘the first line’ of official mourners in the funeral processions that are still part of life and death in the Crescent City. The Egyptian Second Line is not a track for jazz traditionalists: indeed, Payton’s trumpet feature does not come until towards the end of a number that lasts 14:56 – but it’s well worth the wait.

We ended the show this week with more commentary – this time from singer Jazzmeia Horn and her interpretation of Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s People Make the World Go Round – before providing a teaser from Brazilian iconoclast Hermeto Pascoal.

  1. Timo Lassy – Lashes from Moves
  2. Timo Lassy – Teddy the Sweeper from In With Lassy
  3. The Five Corners Quintet feat Mark Muphy – Before We Say Goodbye from Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By
  4. Mark Murphy – Empty Faces from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Funk Dance
  5. Ruben Blades – Ganas from El Que la Hace la Paga
  6. Fredrik Kronkvist – Yemaya from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  7. Nicholas Payton – The Egyptian Second Line from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  8. Jazzmeia Horn – People Make the World Go Round from A Social Call
  9. Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo Vice Versa – Natal (Tema das Flutas) from Viajando Com O Som

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 05 May 2018: music for jazz dancers

CJ programmes of late have featured some deep, introspective and serious music. The music available on the Mixcloud tab this week is still serious stuff but the tempo is raised and there is definitely some music that jazz dancers will enjoy.

To begin with, though, it was the last in our sequence of tracks from Andrew Hill. This was planned for every week in April but as one week was missed out it was extended into the first week of May. Of course, we’ll play more Andrew Hill in the future – he’s too important to leave for long. Smokestack was recorded in 1963 – his second album for Blue Note Records, although the fourth to be released. Hill was a frequent visitor to the studios and the records were not always released in sequence. His individualistic approach is evident in the selection of musicians for this one: there are two bass players – Richard Davis and Eddie Khan (with Davies the more forceful of the two) and the great Roy Haynes on drums. As ever, the music is challenging and original.

Finnish tenor sax player Timo Lassy has a new album released entitled Moves. It features his regular five piece band as well as the Ricky Tick Big Band Brass, another prominent Finnish sax player Eero Koivistoinen, New York based singer Joyce Elaine Yuille and Finnish rapper Paleface. Lassy was a founder member of the Five Corners Quintet – much loved by jazz dancers – but for a decade has led his own band. This is his sixth solo album. Gilles Peterson has described his music as quality swinging jazz with a difference; a helpful and apt description. There is a maturity and depth to this album, it is music that swings but it is much more than that image can sometimes imply. This is good jazz produced by some serious players. Check this for yourself from the two tunes in this week’s show.

BBC TV in the UK has paid more attention than of late to Latin history and culture. There has been a couple of long programmes on Cuba and a series of three programmes on BBC4 which present the story of Latin Music USA. Perhaps next week’s show can acknowledge the latter, but for this week I was inspired to include a Cuban tune. Son, the basis of so much Cuban dance music, has a strong jazz element, with fine musicianship. The song Dundunbanza by Sierra Maestra includes trumpet breaks by Jesus Alemany that soar and soar straight to the heights – irresistible. You can find the album on the always recommended World Circuit label.

Colin Curtis is a DJ based in the north of the UK. Starting in Manchester 40 years ago, he became increasingly attracted to jazz sounds which he began to play alongside his soul and funk selections. At venues in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester, the jazz room became  an important feature leading to club nights devoted to jazz dance. To celebrate forty years on the scene, Curtis has released an album of tunes from Muse Records. These are from albums that appeared in the crates of jazz dance DJs as they went in search of those killer tracks that would get the jazz dance floor moving. This week’s show includes two tracks from the album. Morning Song by alto saxophonist Eric Kloss is a driving, melodic, samba infused tune. New York Afternoon by Richie Cole, another alto sax player with Eddie Jefferson on vocals, is described by Colin Curtis as a jazz dance anthem that received rapturous reception in the clubs. Cole wrote the lyrics with the Fifth Dimension in mind and then Manhattan Transfer were going to record it but never did.

While in jazz dance mode it seemed to be time to play again some prime exponents of the genre from Japan, where some exciting, at times eccentric, bands emerged from the 1990s. Their music reached the club scene in the UK where UK jazz DJs both played the music and in at least one case worked with the four musicians of Sleepwalker, who along with Quasimode – another band of four musicians – were leaders on the scene. Both are featured this week. Quasimode’s tune Down in the Village is a faithful take on the Tubby Hayes classic recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s in 1962.

Inevitably in such a programme the final selection took us to Brazil. Sabrina Malheiros is the daughter of Alex Malheiros – bass player with Azymuth, a band that has no doubt featured in many a Colin Curtis club night. The tune Clareia swings nicely and melodically and is the title track of an album released in 2017 on the UK’s Far Out label. As with all of Maleiros’ albums for the label the music was written in collaboration with with her father and producer Daniel Maunick – son of Bluey Maunick, the founder of British jazzfunk legends Incognito.

  1. Andrew Hill – Smokestack from Smokestack
  2. Timo Lassy – Moves from Moves
  3. Timo Lassy – Adriatic from Moves
  4. Sierra Maestra – Dundunbanza from Dundunbanza
  5. Richie Cole – New York Afternoon from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  6. Eric Kloss – Morning Song from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Quasimode – Down in the Village from Oneself Likeness
  8. Sleepwalker – Time Voyager from Sleepwalker
  9. Sabrina Malheiros – Clareia from Clareia

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 April 2018: serious stories; serious music

The advantage of a show like Cosmic Jazz is that we have no restrictions. We have a jazz/jazz related formula but in terms of which music we play within that formula it can be of the present, it can be of the past – and we have no hesitation in playing tunes that are lengthy. This week’s show includes two tunes over ten minutes long, and two others with deep and serious stories to tell. All available, as usual, via the MixCloud tab on this site.

The Andrew Hill celebration continued with the title track from an essential album. Compulsion!!!!! (yes, that’s five exclamation marks) is a recognition of the African-American musical experience and the African roots of jazz and includes two percussionists. Listen, says Andrew Hill on the album’s sleevenotes, to what is called the ‘avant-garde’ and you can hear African kinds of rhythms. You can hear field cries. You can hear the basic roots of jazz. Hill’s Blue Note group on this 1966 recording is a seven-piece featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, longtime Sun Ra stalwart John Gilmore on tenor sax, Cecil McBee on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. Compulsion is one of Hill’s best and well worth checking out.

Also digging into the roots is Nicholas Payton with his Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Payton Payton is a trumpeter from New Orleans. He likes to tell a story and included in this long tune are references to other past musicians from New Orleans. It is another one of those contemporary records that stretches the boundaries: jazz is certainly in there but so is hip-hop and beats and the list of musicians on the album includes a turntablist. The tune on the show this week is simply left me in awe and wonder.

Someone else with a story to tell is Luis Nabiola, a Cuban-born sax player who moved to Costa Rica and then across continents to Poland. His album has the title Global Friendship which probably reflects his life experience of playing jazz in different places and with different musicians. His fellow musicians are Polish, the music is essentially jazz – but those Cuban roots are evident. Recommended and available from the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

The longest tune title I have ever encountered (see below) must have a story to tell and sure enough it does. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has a record of works with a political statement and in America’s National Parks he celebrates the parks and identifies area that deserve to be included under this category. More deep, culturally significant contemporary music – and proof once more that instrumental music can address issues and make statements.

CJ this week ended with two tunes from compilations. Firstly, from an album of music never previously released in Europe. The superb, modal, spiritual music of J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984 celebrates one of the most creative eras in modern Japanese jazz and is available on the UK-based BBE label. It’s a celebration of the kind of music you can hear in the jazu kissa bars of Tokyo (see Cosmic Jazz w/e 07 April for more information) and then from an album released to celebrate an exhibition at the Tate Modern Gallery in London on American art in the age of Black Power.

  1. Andrew Hill – Compulsion from Compulsion!!!!!
  2. Nicholas Payton – #BAMboula from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  3. Luis Nabiola – Halito from Global Friendship
  4. Wadada Leo Smith – Sequoia/King’s Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliff Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems from America’s National Parks
  5. Fumio Karashima – Little Island from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  6. Sarah Webster Fabio – Sweet Song from Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…