All posts by Derek

Week ending 17 August 2019: Komeda connections

The programme this week links the interests of Polish and British musicians as well as going back to some classic Blue Note tracks in a significant anniversary year. All these wonderful jazz sounds are available via the MixCloud tab (left).

As promised the previous week, there was another play for the joyous, uplifting tune from one of my favourite musicians –  trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. The vocalists create a soulful and gospel feel and their pleas to Stay in the Time Freedom  provide a message that is as inspiring as the music. If you have not discovered the music of Piotr Wojtasik, you need to check him out.

One of the greats of Polish jazz was Krzysztof Komeda, a pianist and composer who became well known outside Poland for his compositions for films. He has inspired many Polish musicians who followed him but also, it would appear, British musicians as well. The show has two examples of Komeda connections. First came veteran Polish sax player Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski. He played with Komeda’s band and has a recent album with Komeda in the long title (in Polish understandably) and from that CJ included a title with Komeda in it. Probably more surprising is that my current favourite British release from Ruby Rushton. in an album of otherwise original compositions. includes a tune composed by Komeda. They have dedicated it as a Requiem for Komeda. It is an outstanding interpretation, intense, soulful and spiritual. I love this new Ruby Rushton album, and so included one more track on this week’s show.

There was another play for the Petera Sextet – this time for the title tune from their album Flashover. Dariusz Petera is a pianist and composer with a sextet that includes a cellist. He aims to give space and time for all the musicians to express themselves and that was apparent in the title tune.

2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the iconic jazz label Blue Note. It is time to celebrate this and there will be more in future shows. This week had two examples. Firstly, came a 1960 recording from alto player Jackie McClean Appointment in Ghana recorded in 1960. The sound is celebratory and that reflects the purpose, namely to pay tribute to Ghana, the first of the newly independent African states. The tune was first released on Jackie’s album Jackie’s Bag but also featured on an excellent 2008 Blue Note compilation African Rhythms.

The second Blue Note tune was an original McCoy Tyner compostion, found on the superb 1967 album The Real McCoy. It has quite a line-up: Tyner on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Joe Henderson on tenor and Elvin Jones on drums. We love the much less well known version of this tune by Mal Waldron and Marion Brown and so we ended the show with a repeat play of this rarity.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in the Time Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Jan Plaszyn Wroblewski Sextet – Komeda in Wazyk Circus from Komeda Moja Slodka Europejska Ojezyzna
  3. Ruby Rushton – Pingwin (Requiem for Komeda) from Ironside
  4. Ruby Rushton – Eleven Grapes from Ironside
  5. Perera Sextet – Flashover from Flashover
  6. Jackie McClean – Appointment in Ghana from Jackie’s Bag
  7. McCoy Tyner – Contemplation from The Real McCoy
  8. Mal Waldron and Marion Brown – Contemplation from Songs of Love & Regret


Week ending 10 August 2019: new jazz from Poland and more

There is plenty of new music on the show this week from the usual places: Poland, the UK and the USA. All good stuff too and well worth a listen via the Mixcloud tab on this page.

My favourite current record has to be the album Ironside by UK band Ruby Rushton. I seem to remember hearing that Ruby Rushton is named after a grandparent of the band’s leader Edward Cawthorne (aka Tenderlonious). He is a flute and soprano sax player and is supported on this new album by Nick Walters on trumpet (who has his own excellent album Awakening out now). We’ll play as soon as we can. Joining Walters and Tenderlonious are Dan Shepherd on keyboards and Tim Carnegie on drums. The album is one of those that fits together seamlessly: as they used to say, ‘all killer, no filler’.  Tenderlonious has shown some restraint in his song titles here: only our chosen tune this week – Lara’s Theme (Alternate Take) – uses a well known title (but it’s not composed by Maurice Jarre). On the excellent On Flute EP, Tenderlonious had titles like Autumn Leaves (not Kosma/Mercer),  Song for My Father (not Horace Silver) and In a Sentimental Mood (not Duke Ellington)! This album is highly recommended to all lovers of the music we play on the show. We will play more.

The next album featured on the show I am not so sure about. UK group Nerija have just had their first album  Blume released. It has received considerable fanfare e.g. record of the day on BBC6 Music, much praise on the cool twitter scene and from the cognoscenti on the new jazz scene. The music is good, but in my opinion, not as good as some of the praise would indicate. There is some thing that really irritates, though, as one who has forked out a considerable sum for the supposedly double vinyl. There are two records of  “limited crystal clear heavyweight vinyl” (an unnecessary sop to cool consumerism if ever there was one) yet there are only three sides of music. I feel cheated. Rather have more more music than the aforementioned vinyl.

There was some self-indulgence in terms of playing more tunes that I really like. There have been several tunes played on the show from Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. If you have never heard him check out the music and Steve’s Jazz Sounds has many of his records available. The tune this week Stay in Time of Freedom was different from much of his music in that it includes vocals from Anna Maria Mbayo and Magdalena Zawartko. It is such a joy with its uplifting tune and vocals, thinking of playing it again next week!

The other was another airing from The Elder Statesman and Montreux Sunrise,  a tune released as a  download and 7″ single (with two sides I should add!) The group from New  Zealand are led by Lord Echo on piano and the tune has a warm feel that makes you move in a gentle and joyful way. It was one of those tunes which when we played it while DJing at a street fair earlier in the summer, soon brought an enquiry as to who was playing. It sounded great in the street.

There was another short funky/soulful/jazzy piece from the US band with one of the most eccentric names – Lettuce, available on their recently released album Elevate.

There was new jazz from Poland.  There was a first play on the show for t he Petera Sextet from their debut album Flashover. They are led by the young pianist/composer Dariusz Petera who studied in Warsaw. His compositions and improvisations are aimed to bring out the best of the five other members of the group playing cello, trumpet, saxophone, double bass and drums. Lovely music it is too and we shall play more of that as well. There was also another tune from the quartet led by alto player Wojciech Lichtanski; the title tune of their album Iga.

  1. Ruby Rushton – Lara’s Theme (Alternate Take) from Ironside
  2. Nerija – Equanimous from Blume
  3. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in Time of Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  4. The Elder Statesman – Montreux Sunrise from single
  5. Lettuce – Ready to Live from Elevate
  6. Petera Sextet – Nordic Jente from Flashover
  7. Wojciech Lichtanski – Iga from Iga

Week ending 03 August 2019: many places, different musics

For the last few weeks Neil has been making the Cosmic Jazz selections, but this week it was back to Derek – although Neil was very much a presence as many of the tunes were his choices. This week’s show visited different parts of the world, past and present and the music reflected that diversity. Give it a listen via the Mixcloud tab (left).

We began by catching up on more jazz from continental Europe recently made available from the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Our first stop was Poland, with superb music from yet another alumni of the Katowice Academy of Music. Wojciech Lichtanski is an alto player who leads a jazz quartet and a very interesting one too. As a teenager Lichtanski won classical competitions and the music is clearly both composed and improvised. There are strong melodies, but also unexpected contrasts with interesting pauses and changes of direction. Lichtanski has played with one of our favourite musicians from Poland Piotr Wojtasik – surely credit enough? – and he’s also appeared at the Delhi Jazz Festival.

Mark Lotz is a veteran German alto/flute player resident in the Netherlands. He leads a trio with two Polish musicians on acoustic  bass and drums and their debut album, from which Raaste Men is taken, was an impromptu recording made while he gave a masterclass in Wroclaw, Poland. The record was then mixed back in the Netherlands. Raaste Men appears to be translated as ‘people screamed’ – but perhaps a Dutch speaking listener can clarify for us…

I have often heard people refer to “African music”. My response is the same as if they were talking about the music of any continent. How on earth (literally) could we encapsulate the music of Europe or Asia into any one style? We need to know much more – what sort of music, which part of that huge continent does it come from, and when was it recorded? The truth is – of course – that there are as many styles of music on the African continent as there are on any of our inhabited continents.So, not surprisingly, there is very little in common between the two tunes from the African continent played on this week’s show. This is Bolga Part I & II is actually a collaboration between the Bolga All-Stars from Bolgatanga, Ghana and the Polyversal Souls from Germany – but very much reflects the music of  the Bolgatanga area in the north of Ghana. The second is from the veteran and  outstanding pianist from South Africa, Abdullah Ibrahim. His music has long combined the traditional sounds of the South African townships with jazz and gospel. He has made albums over a period of sixty years but now has a new album released, four years since the last one. The Balance has ten tunes, nine of which are Abdullah Ibrahim originals. This has to be one of the significant releases of 2019. The August 2019 edition of Jazzwise Magazine has a feature on Abdullah ibrahim and this new album.

From South Africa, we crossed continents to Brazil and to Marcos Valle from his new album SempreYou could easily be mistaken into thinking that the next tune was also from Brazil given the name of the artists but while Azymuth are the group from Brazil, Azimuth were a trio from the UK formed in the 1970s with Kenny Wheeler on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Taylor on piano and synths and Norma Winstone using her often wordless vocals to ethereal effect. Azimuth recorded three albums for ECM Records, now collected into a box set and highly recommended by us here on CJ. The Tunnel has vocals that float to another plane, appropriate as that tune is also on a compilation assembled by DJ, producer and – yes – neuroscientist Sam Shepherd (or Floating Points) for the latest in the Late Night Tales compilations. The album is full of unusual choices that reflects and eclecticism someway beyond our own here on Cosmic Jazz – recommended nonetheless.

The show ended with two tunes from jazz greats. From time to time, we like to include tunes from essential albums on the show. Few are more essential to any jazz collection than Saxophone Colossus from Sonny Rollins. Recorded as long ago as 22 June 1956 it still sounds as fresh as ever with Rollins on tenor, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Max Roach on drums. In the past I have played the Caribbean-influenced St. Thomas but this week it was Strode Rode. To end the show we went back to that excellent selection of Black Saint and Soul Note records and the title track from Archie Shepp’s Down Home New York album from 1984.

  1. Wojciech Lichtanski – First Questions from Iga
  2. Mark Lotz Trio – Raaste Men from The Wroclaw Sessions
  3. Bolga All-Stars & the Polyversal Souls – This is Bolga! Parts I & II
  4. Abdullah Ibrahim – Jabula from The Balance
  5. Marcos Valle – E Voce from Sempre
  6. Azimuth – The Tunnel from Late Night Tales – Floating Points
  7. Sonny Rollins – Strode Rode from Saxophone Colossus
  8. Archie Shepp – Down Home New York from You Need This: An Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note 1975-1985

Week ending 07 July 2019: jazz from Poland and more

This week’s pre-recorded show  was a mix of old and new, local and global. Some great sounds – and definitely worth checking out via the Mixcloud tab.

If I want to hear a piece of music that is deep, serene, calm and beautiful I would be hard pushed to find anything to surpass Peace Piece by pianist Bill Evans. The title made an  important statement for the time it was released in 1958. A  German CD re-release includes an excellent re-working of Peace Piece entitled Some Other Time and it was this wonderful tune that opened the show.

Sensitive piano playing was well to the fore in the RGG tune Tenderness from their album Memento. RGG are a young group, whose achievements have been recognised in their homeland Poland and this album has been up there as one of the current Cosmic Jazz favourites for several weeks.

The piano feature was completed by Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his trio. Their album Un Dia Cualquiera was recorded in Boston USA for Mack Avenue, a US label, but Cuba remains their base.

The Piotr Schmidt Quartet are also from Poland. The leader is a trumpeter with a PhD in music from Katowice. The tune 21 Grams comes from a tribute album to Tomasz Stanko, one of the greatest and probably most well-known Polish trumpeter both inside and outside Poland..

The Janczarski-McCraven Quintet is a Polish/US fusion band. Boris Janczarski is a Polish sax player who first graduated in law in France and then, under the guidance of another great Polish jazz musicianPiotr Wojtasik, became a jazz artist. Steven McCraven is a drummer from the USA and the father of drummer Makaya McCraven – currently winning many admirers in the US and the UK and a firm Cosmic Jazz favourite.

There is always room for US  jazz greats on the show and none more so than the spiritually uplifting Cannonball Adderley. There is room also for promising newcomers such as bass player Ameen Saleem and the more established but still contemporary Lettuce, whose single Krewe has been another programme favourite. To end there was a glimpse of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who combine both the traditional and the contemporary in US music – literally in the personnel (Kelan Philip Cohran & his six sons) and the style of music.

  1. Bill Evans – Some Other Time from Everybody Likes Bill Evans
  2. RGG – Tenderness from Memento
  3. Harold Lopes-Nussa – Contiga en la Distancia  from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. Piotr Schmidt Quartet – 21 Grams from Tribute to Tomasz Stanko
  5. Janczarski & McCraven – Travelling West from Travelling East-West
  6. Cannonball Adderley – Space Spiritual from Walk Tall
  7. Ameen Saleem – Possibilities from Groove Lab
  8. Lettuce – Krewe  single from album Elevate
  9. Kelan Philip Cohran & the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Apsara from Kelan Philip Cohran & the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Derek is listening to…..

Neil is listening to…




Week ending 29 June 2019: the jazz diaspora

On 22 June 1948 the Empire Windrush ship, carrying some 500 settlers from Jamaica, docked at Tilbury, near London.  It was the first of several boats and planes to arrive in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s bringing settlers to the UK from Caribbean islands. During the weekend before CJ this this week there were commemorations across the UK for and by what became known as ‘the Windrush generation’. There there were wider expressions of support for the survivors but also much justified anger anger at the way in which that generation have been treated recently as a result of the UK Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to start the show with a tune from Anthony Joseph – a Caribbean wordsmith – from an album he recorded in Trinidad, with arrangements by UK sax player Jason Yarde, whose family also came from the Caribbean.

I am always one to be struck by tunes or albums with titles that provoke, amuse, make you think or conjure up specific images. The latter certainly applies to the title of an album from a septet led by Polish trombone/flugelhorn player Szymon Klekowicki. A Day in the Bus conjures up images of musicians travelling together to their next show and then travelling back afterwards. No doubt sometimes it’s fun and sometimes not – the music, though, sounds pretty joyful. Klekowichi is a graduate from the Katowice School of  Music, one of several that we have encountered on the show. He has collaborated with US pianist Jason Moran and UK pianist Jamie Cullum. His tune was followed by another Polish group – HotS – an interesting name and way of spelling with a live album that has titles based on numbers.

The surprise/discovery/uplift of the week came from a tune sent in by Neil. The Polyversal Souls are Berlin-based but they have collaborated with the Bolga All-Stars  who come from a town with over 66,000 residents in the Upper East Region of Ghana. This is Bolga Parts I & II is released as a 7″ single and download. It is a delight. The tune offers praise to the musicians coming out of Bolgatanga and combines musicians and singers from Bolgatanga with musicians from The Polyversal Souls – Berlin to Bolgatanga or Bolgatanga to Berlin?  Whatever, this is also the jazz diaspora at work. The track is a must-listen and a must-buy – check it out on Bandcamp right here.

The July 2019 edition of Jazzwise is now available with a sample CD from the excellent Rare Noise Records. There is also a July 2019 edition available of  Echoes, the other music magazine that I consult. Jazz writer and broadcaster Kevin le Gendre can be found in both as deputy editor and jazz specialist for Echoes and as columnist and reviewer for Jazzwise. The latest edition of Echoes has found a new record of the month category, namely Non-Genre Specific Album of the Month. Moreover, the reviewer – not Kevin le Gendre – has awarded it the rare accolade of a five-star rating. The album in question is by Esperanza Spalding and from the tune on the show, the Echoes categorisation seems an appropriate one. Not sure about the five-star rating but it certainly grows on you. Spalding says this about the genesis of this new project: “First, an idea struck: 12 Little Spells… I wanted to release one more song-ey album/tour project to tide us over before I disappear into the belly of developing the next full thing… Then, all the sudden, this 12 Little Spells idea just started taking shape in my imagination all quick-like… And made various parts of my body tingle: hands, legs, solar-plexus, ears, feet, arms…” The album is available only on from Esperanza Spalding’s website here.

There was more from multi-talented composer/musician/DJ/producer Mark de Clive-Lowe. There were two tunes to reflect the different sides of his work. Firstly, a new tune from his excellent album Heritage I, which integrates his Japanese ancestry with his DJ skills in an essentially live recording – the new jazz diaspora? We followed this with an impressive remix he did of a 1960s tune by US drummer Chico Hamilton. Both Heritage I and II albums are highly recommended and we shall continue to play selections from both in upcoming shows.

Finally, it was back to a track recorded in 1969 by flautist Herbie Mann, supported by vibes player Roy Ayers, from his days as  a jazz man as opposed to a soul/fusion player. The always under-rated Sonny Sharrock featured on guitar along with undoubtedly the most recorded bass player in jazz, Ron Carter on bass. The guitarist is relatively restrained here but for a more immersive Sharrock experience, listeners would do well to check out an album that has recently emerged once more on vinyl – the powerful Ask the Ages. The record features Pharoah Sanders on sax, Charnett Moffett on bass and Elvin Jones on drums and was the last album recorded before Sharrock’s death at the age of 53. The track Many Mansions will give some idea of the ferocity of Sharrock’s style – the spiritual jazz style waltz suggesting that this is truly a fuzztone guitar version of Coltrane’s late style (and the presence of Pharoah Sanders only accentuates this).

  1. Anthony Joseph – People of the Sun from People of the Sun
  2. Szymon Klecowicki Septet – Time Dilation from A Day in the Bus
  3. HotS – 30 from Live in Troika
  4. The Polyversal Souls feat. The Bolga All-Stars – This is Bolga Parts 1 & 2 from single
  5. Esperanza Spalding – Dancing the Animal (Mind) from 12 Little Spells
  6. Mark de Clive-Lowe – Memories of Nanzanji from Heritage I
  7. Chico Hamilton (Mark de Clive-Lowe remix) – El Toro from Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked
  8. Herbie Mann – In Tangier/Paradise Beach from Stone Flute

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 22 June 2019: ‘trane tracks

The choice of artist for the star of the show this week was simple. All morning I had been playing John Coltrane records. Every time I do, I am entranced and left in awe of what this great man achieved so many years ago and what an influence he has had on other musicians since. In 2018, lost tracks were discovered and collected onto the album Both Directions At Once and it seemed appropriate to return to this must-have music, recorded on 06 March, 1963, and featuring Coltrane’s classic quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. The seven tracks include five Coltrane originals (including one of his most popular compositions, Impressions) and two standards, Nature Boy and Vilia. We love this record on Cosmic Jazz but almost anything by Coltrane is an essential listening experience. Perhaps the more significant matter is where these recordings stand in Coltrane’s œuvre, and how they illuminates his art and the trajectory of his too-brief career. Coltrane died, at the age of forty, in 1967 but not before leaving a legacy of music that moves between the melodic and the monumental – all with his unique tone on both tenor and soprano saxophones. Our view is that this lost album presents Coltrane in transition, and so is somewhat restrained compared with the live performances recorded around the same time. However, this makes it a great place to start a Coltrane journey. If you do not possess it in your collection, click the Mixcloud tab to hear the track One Up, One Down and find out why you need this record – best chosen on vinyl and in the two disc set which features seven interesting out-takes.

So often selections revolve round ‘shuffle’ tunes that I have come across recently. This week, vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant appeared with a tune I have not played on the show before – Growlin’ Dan. Salvant certainly does some growlin’ of her own on the tune to make the point of what Dan must have been like. What a strong and versatile voice! It also seemed appropriate to play one of her records to respect Lawrence Leathers, the drummer on this excellent album who sadly died recently.

There have been references on the show recently from jazz to the continent of Africa – for example, Randy Weston on last week’s show. There was more this week. Firstly, from Max Roach and his essential 1960 album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. A prominent part in the tune All Africa is played by the Nigerian conga player Michael Olatunji who in the introduction answers Abbey Lincoln’s voice  as she chants the names of African tribes. Throughout the tune he is the leading drum voice.

The second came from pianist and composer Horace Parlan. The title of the number makes the purpose plain to see – Home is Africa, It was recorded for Blue Note Records in 1963, originally on an album entitled Happy Frame of Mind, but I have it on a Blue Note compilation called African Rhythms.

Eastern European jazz has different priorities but still stretches out across continents both for its musical influences and for some of the personnel in the bands. The latter is illustrated by the pianist Adam Jarznik Quintet, whose newly released record On the Way Home features guitarist Mike Moreno. Jarznik himself was trained at the Katowice School of Music. From the Czech Republic came sax player Ondrej Strevacek whose album Sketches is one of three currently available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds . The title tune features some strong piano and sax playing, a powerful number.

The debate from last week regarding Cinematic Orchestra was offered more evidence by the inclusion of the title track from the recently released album To Believe. Look at the informed and perceptive comments from Neil in the notes to last week’s show to find  his guidance on how to listen to this album and how his perception of it was changed.

To end there was a sample of Jane Bunnett, whose excellent Cuba – North American collaboration preceded the Buena Vista Social Club with an outcome that in my opinion was superior.

  1. John Coltrane – One Up, One Down from Both Directions At Once
  2. Cecile McClorin Salvant – Growlin’ Dan from For One to Love
  3. Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  4. Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from Happy Frame of Mind/African Rhythms
  5. Adam Jarznik Quintet – On the Way Home from On the Way Home
  6. Ondrej Stveracek – Sketches from Sketches
  7. Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe from To Believe
  8. Jane Bunnett – Spirits of Havana from Spirits of Havana

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 15 June 2019: from ‘death jazz’ to orchestral grandeur

Sometimes, Cosmic Jazz features themes that focus on an artist, or style of jazz or a particular instrument. Not this week. There’s no theme – just the usual eclectic mix of music and it’s all available via that Mixcloud tab you can see (left).

So – no good reason to  play the first selection – other than that I felt like hearing  Soil and “Pimp” Sessions again. You might think that this band has gone rather quiet in recent years: they certainly don’t have the profile they did in the 2000s when they were a fixture on the club jazz scene worldwide. But they are still active, with a release in 2018 called Dapper. The band is now a more compact trio, but in their heyday they were a five piece band – with President a.ka. Shacho billed as ‘agitator’ on album credits. The music may have some derivative elements but there is no doubt that what they called their ‘death jazz’ style was an influential sound – original, eccentric, entertaining and fun-loving. I was lucky enough to catch them live some years back at the Jazz Cafe – it was quite an experience.

The next tune, particularly the opening bars, had a feel that fitted nicely coming after Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. It was almost back to one of last week’s themes of less familiar jazz instruments – in this case the trombone. Rosie Turton is another of the ever-increasing excellent young jazz musicians coming out of London. Like so many of her fellow performers she can be found playing outside the group she leads. In fact, she is a member of Nerija – which seemed a pretty sound reason for playing the track that was on last week’s show. And you can now checkout the group’s first full length release here on Bandcamp. We’ll be featuring tracks from this new album in upcoming shows.

We are used to playing young jazz musicians from Poland, but this week it was the turn of two long-established Polish musicians – both of whom are musicians, composers and university lecturers in jazz. Leszek Zadlo, a saxophonist, leads a quartet and Exile from Paradise Part 2 comes from an album of great significance to Polish jazz.  Krzysztof Komeda was one of the greats of Polish jazz. The Leszek Zadlo Quartet’s album Komeda, Wygnanie Z Raju is an arrangement of Komeda’s music that had been lost and has been discovered recently. “Melancholic sounding lyricism” is one description that has been given to the record – but, I wonder, is the word melancholy over-used with regard to Polish jazz? I think so.

The other Polish ‘veteran’ was Marcin Gawdzis and his Quartet.  He is a trumpeter and his album Mind Recovery has been described as “Mainstream jazz with the usual Polish twist, adding elements of Slavic melody and lyricism”. Again, a possible point for discussion – and note the repeat from the Leszek Zadlo review of that word “lyricism”.

Then onward to a tune which will no doubt  provoke some divergent views – not least between myself and Neil. The Cinematic Orchestra have a noteworthy legacy of music behind them and the release of a long-awaited new album should be welcomed. Neil likes it and sent the music across. While playing A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life I found myself not sure, becoming interested then ultimately feeling disappointed. Have I got it wrong and what might I be missing? I leave it to to Neil to explain… Well, (writes Neil), I too was initially rather disappointed with To Believe, this new album from the Cinematic Orchestra. It came across as both a reiteration of key elements from their last release some 12 years ago, but also something of a departure. After several listens I changed my mind. The first point to make here is that this is a group of songs that have been put together in a memorably satisfying way. There is a delicacy in each track that is best experienced listening through headphones or a rather good hifi system – and our choice for this week’s show is typical of that attention to detail. Roots Manuva’s vocals on A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life reprise but also extend his All Things to All Men from 12 years ago and end up creating an epic composition that lives in the memory.

Perhaps the best song on the album is actually the only one without vocals – but it’s still a lyrical exploration of contemporary minimalism. Lessons is what the Guardian review calls “nine minutes of murmuring conversation between the players, dominated by Luke Flowers’ gently military drums” and it is, indeed, just this and like much of Cinematic’s work, a soundtrack to an imaginary film. This is an album to spend time with – ideally listening to the whole piece from beginning to end and revelling in the grandeur of a superb mix of the orchestral and electronic.

To end the show this week there was an excerpt from an artist we both admire. Randy Weston was one of the greats whose interest extended beyond jazz to the rhythms from African countries. This is well exemplified in the music of Blue Moses and the title of the album from which the track is taken.

  1. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – A Wheel Within a Wheel from Pimp Sessions
  2. Rosie Turton – Butterfly from Rosie’s 5ive
  3. Nerija – Pinkham from Nerija EP
  4. Leszek Zadlo Quartet Exile from Paradise Part 2 from Komeda, Wygnamie Z Raju
  5. Marcin Gawdzis Quartet – Mind Recovery from Mind Recovery
  6. Cinematic Orchestra – A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life from To Believe
  7. Randy Weston – Blue Moses from The Spirits of our Ancestors (Disc 2)

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 June 2019: jazz instrumentation

Piano, double bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet are probably the most common instruments to be found on jazz records. Maybe also guitar would push close for inclusion in such a list. But other instruments have found their way into jazz over the years and a click on the MixCloud tab (left) will provide some examples.

First up is the violin. Yes, we may be able to name some violin players in jazz – but probably not that many.  The show began with an interesting and distinctive player. On The Blessing Song from his 1972 Impulse! album Pneuma, Michael White manages to move the violin far away from – for example –  its string quartet context.  Instead, here it’s a beat-driven, up-front instrument which, along with the constant percussion and piano, enables the tune to swing along to an irresistible rhythm that you have to move to. There are also choir-like voices invoking the Lord in the background – always a hit with me. This is the perfect tune to open a show or to listen to any time.

The vibraphone. Again, we could all name some jazz vibes players, but the vibes are not the easiest of instruments to carry along to the average gig and this may be a factor that explains its comparative rarity. One of the finest vibraphonist in jazz has to be Bobby Hutcherson and we find him on McCoy Tyner’s 1968 Blue Note recording Time for Tyner from which Little Madimba appears. With Hutcherson and Tyner on this exemplary Blue Note recording from the famed Rudy van Gelder studios are Herbie Lewis on bass and Freddie Waits on drums.

Brazilian musician Hermeto Pascoal can be found playing a range of instruments even more unfamiliar to most jazz audiences. He makes guest appearances on Palmares Fantasy, a recent album release by UK sax player Sean Khan. On one tune Pascoal is credited as playing a glass of water… Indeed, his view is that anything can be an instrument – a carpets, a chair, a pint of beer, body parts. A pig famously features on his celebrated 1977 album Slaves Mass but on Waltz for Hermeto he simply plays the melodica. Incidentally, also on this tune are other instruments not common in jazz – viola, cello and (again) violin.

The piano/double bass/drums trio is most certainly a common jazz line-up and there are many, many fine examples to be found. One of our current favourites is RGG a trio of young Polish musicians.  They have rightly been included in a list of distinguished Polish jazz and their music is deep, spiritual and moving. On the  tune Gloria tibi Domine (Praise to the Lord?) listen out for some lovely subtle touches from drummer Maciej Garbowski.

The Quantum Trio features another unusual jazz trio format – sax, piano and drums. Polish musicians sax player Michal Jan Ciesielsji and piano player Kamil Zawislak met their drummer Luis Mora Marus in Rotterdam. He  had reached the Netherlands via Brazil and before that his country of birth, Chile. What is not unusual for anything in the way of Polish jazz is that their music can be found and got hold of at the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Neil has sent some of the music he has been listening to. Nerija are a large UK-based band, The musicians include many of the young players that have made such an impact on the London jazz scene recently – including Cassie Kinoshi, Shirley Tetteh, Rosie Turton and Nubya Garcia. Currently available is their first EP – check it out here on Bandcamp – but look out, too, for live performances from these musicians either in Nerija, other groups or as leaders of their own band.

Mark de Clive-Lowe is a musician/producer who has two new releases, both exploring his heritage. Appropriately titled Heritage I and Heritage II these new albums may be the best music he’s produced so far. De Clive-Lowe was born in New Zealand with Japanese and New Zealand parents but has since moved, first to London and then Los Angeles. The Japanese folk song, O Edo Nihonbashi, comes from the second of these albums, both of them recorded largely live at LA’s Blue Whale club.  Heritage II opens with a meditative solo piano introduction that refers back to the more reflective heritage-based music on Heritage I before giving way to Dilla-inspired beats and basslines. Interestingly, there is no overdubbing or post-production on either album – De Clive-Lowe juggles grand piano, synths, drum machines, samplers and more to create layer upon layer of fascinating music. It’s one of those tunes that had me wondering as it started – but by the end I was enveloped in a cacophony of noise and interesting sounds. I’d recommend starting with Heritage I and exploring de Clive-Lowe’s take on Japanese culture, including an original that sounds like a traditional folk tune – the beautiful Memories of Nanzenji. Check out, too, this traditional interpretation of O Edo Ninonbashi. Both of these new albums are available on Bandcamp here and come highly recommended.

Neil also sent along one of our shared club favourites from ‘back in the day’ – the Snowboy acoustic mix of Keni Burke’s classic Risin’ to the Top. I have this along with four other versions on  12″ vinyl. It is jazzy rather than jazz but I love it. Keni Burke was a member of the Five Stairsteps group – described as the ‘First Family of Soul’ before the Jacksons assumed the title. Their biggest hit was O-o-h Child (sic), a track recently covered in a jazz context by both Kamasi Washington and vocalist Dwight Trible on his album Cosmic.

We chose to finish with another of our favourite artists – alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, who ended the show with his tribute to drummer ‘Philly Joe’ Jones. The track is from Garrett’s fourth and most recent release on the Mack Avenue label – titled Do Your Dance, it really is just that. Garrett works his way through a set of original songs that exploit dance rhythms in subtle, unexpected ways. While there are dance beats from swing, funk, Latin, and more throughout the album, the concept is probably more to do with simply ‘doing your own thing’ – a trait that runs deep in Garrett’s music. Philly is more of a swinging post-bop outing than a reflection of the smooth grooves of Gamble and Huff’s classic Philly soul (although the eclectic Garrett could probably do that too). Elsewhere on the album is the interesting Wheatgrass Shot (Straight to the Head) featuring rapper Donald “Mista Enz” Brown which, as one reviewer commented, “sounds like the Roots making an ECM album” and the buoyant Calypso Chant which owes more than a little to Sonny Rollins and his classic St. Thomas.

  1. Michael White – The Blessing Song from Pneuma
  2. McCoy Tyner – Little Madimba from Time for Tyner
  3. Sean Khan feat. Hermeto Pascoal – Waltz for Hermeto from Palmares Fantasy
  4. RGG – Gloria tibe Domine from Memento (Polish Jazz Vol. 81)
  5. Quantum Trio – Streams from Red Fog
  6. Nerija – Pinkham from Nerija EP
  7. Mark de Clive-Lowe – O Edo Nihonbashi from Heritage II
  8. Keni Burke – Risin’ to the Top (Snowboy’s Acoustic Mix) from Badmeaningood Vol. 3
  9. Kenny Garrett – Philly from Do Your Dance

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 01 June 2019: re-visiting Sarah Tandy and more

Things do not always go to plan on Cosmic Jazz. You are supposed to walk into the studio and find on the screen in front of you a computer wall with bricks that contain the tunes sent in for upload. The wall was there, the bricks were there – but none of the tunes  that I sent in… So the plans (which included some new Polish jazz, a touch of Brazil and more Sarah Tandy) had to be abandoned for a more spontaneous show. Luckily, the tracks that were left enabled me include the latter two. The new Polish music will feature in next week’s show.

It had to be a show planned in the moment. I saw that tunes from Sarah Tandy’s excellent album Infection in the Sentence were available and I needed little excuse to play them again. It has been encouraging to note the praise she has been receiving on Twitter, in reviews and on radio. All thoroughly deserved – there is not a weak track on this album and there is plenty of scope to catch her dexterous and inventive piano/keyboard playing, but she leaves plenty of scope for the other musicians too. Snake in the Grass is a twisting, curving tune with a fitting title, Nursery Rhyme is a beautiful and gentle piece and Bradbury Street is inspired by the location for Sarah’s first jazz residency after leaving Cambridge University and returning to London.

Akua Naru may not be a jazz artist but she has a jazz sensibility and plays with jazz musicians. We first came across her because we heard Sarah Tandy say in a radio interview that she had supported her. On her album The Miner’s Canary no less a jazz artist than Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah makes a guest appearance, as well as Cody Chestnutt. Besides, we love her music, so no more excuses required.

There was another play for one of my tunes of the moment, Krewe by US six-piece Lettuce. They were formed in 1992 by Berklee students. The publicity for their new album Elevate describes them as crossing funk/jazz/soul/psych/hip hop/art rock/ambient/avant-garde/experimental – something for everyone you might say! They run the band on democratic principles with no leaders. Lettuce sound a lot of fun and must be great live.

The Brazilian touches started with Sabrina Malheiros from her album Clareiaanother excellent release on the UK label Far Out. The album includes support on bass from her father Alex of the legendary Azymuth and is produced by Daniel Maunick from London.

Also from London and in touch with Brazilian sounds is keyboard player Jessica Lauren. Her 2018 album Almeria is recommended and among several strong tunes Simba Jike is a stand out. Listen for the marimba playing from Mally Harpaz, the percussion from Phillip Harper and the bass of ‘Level’ Neville Malcolm. This tune is a solid and uplifting groove – do not be fooled by the quiet start.

Light as a Feather was the second album from Chick Corea’s Return to Forever group. Recorded in London in 1972, but with musicians from the US and Brazil, the album consolidated the debut record on ECM from the previous year and is a highlight of Corea’s extensive canon. The line up is impressive – Flora Purim provided the lovely (often wordless) vocals and husband Airto Moreira the percussion. They are both still going strong and due in London soon. From the US (with Cuban heritage) the always underrated Joe Farrell provided tenor sax. Most listeners will recall the tenor sax on The Average White Band’s iconic Pick up the Pieces – that’s Joe Farrell. This incarnation of the RTF band also features the bass playing of Stanley Clarke, who was to stick with Corea’s band through all its many variations.

Rachelle Ferrell featured a few weeks back and I wondered what she was up to now. I learn from the June 2019 edition of the UK Black music mag Echoes that she will appear on the forthcoming album by nu-soul singer Rahsaan Patterson. Probably not jazz, but that voice is worth the listen any time.

  1. Sarah Tandy – Snake in the Grass from Infection in the Sentence
  2. Sarah Tandy – Nursery Rhyme from Infection in the Sentence
  3. Sarah Tandy Bradbury Street from Infection in the Sentence
  4. Akua Naru – Nag Champa from Live & Aflame Sessions
  5. Lettuce – Krewe from Elevate
  6. Sabrina Malheiros – Renascera from Clareia
  7. Jessica Lauren – Simba Jike from Almeria
  8. Chick Corea – You’re Everything from Light as a Feather
  9. Rachelle Ferrell – Autumn Leaves from First Instrument

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 May 2019: no show!

Please note that Cosmic Jazz for 23 May has not appeared on IO Radio. The 23 May tab this week contains no jazz! But, there is still last week’s show + a bumper crop of ten tunes Neil is listening to at the moment – check out the Youtube clips below. More Cosmic Jazz next week.

Neil is listening to…