All posts by Derek

Five from five: CJ favourites 01

This week, Derek has chosen five tunes from five countries that are essential listening for any lover of Cosmic Jazz. First up is a bonafide classic from the USA – and one that will be no surprise if you have followed us here on the show over the years. Black Renaissance is the ultimate jam session and a cult record that has achieved legendary status. With a group led by the then 26 year old pianist Harry Whitaker, the two track album was recorded in New York in 1976. It is free, expressive, wild at and noted for an early proto-rap element too. The record features Woody Shaw, Azar Lawrence, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and Mtume amongst others. Listen here – and and then listen for ever…

No surprises either with our second choice. We love the work of Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik and this track has the bonus of two vocalists – Anna Maria Mbayo and Magdalena Zawartko – as well as a large ensemble of instrumentalists. Stay in Time of Freedom is an uplifting and celebratory ode to freedom and both deep spiritual rejoicing and some likely physical movement will be your inevitable response. The full album Tribute to Akwarium is worthy of your attention too – find it at Steve’s Jazz Sounds along with other great Wojtasik music (and enjoy Steve’s excellent updated site too!).

Our third selection is from revered label Blue Note, but it’s not one of the classic Rudy van Gelder engineered masterpieces from the 1960s. Instead, we head to France and the music of Erik Truffaz. Born in Switzerland, this trumpeter is an innovative minimalist with a desire to search for new contexts for his spaced-out clean sound. The album Bending New Corners contains three tunes featuring a rap from guest Nya, including the masterpiece that is Siegfried. For an idea of where Truffaz is right now, listen to the rich, dark textures of the album Being Human, recorded in collaboration with Mexican electronica artist Murcof – check it out here on Bandcamp.

Our fourth choice is the extraordinary tune Watarase by Japanese pianist and composer Fumio Itabashi. The song is a variation on a traditional Japanese folk melody and is named after the Watarase river in Japan’s Kanto region and showcases Itabashi’s Don Pullen-influenced style. This solo piano album includes three other Itabashi originals and his takes on Someday My Prince Will Come and I Can’t Get Started. Watarase has been reworked by Itabashi over the years, sometimes featuring a full band or vocal accompaniment, though it has never sounded quite as thoughtful or serene as it does here. For the full effect of its mindblowing power though you need to get hold of the double CD album that contains eight versions of this one tune, including this live one with the Kanagawa Symphony Orchestra and vocalist Yuki Kaneko. Be amazed, be truly amazed…

Derek’s final selection is from Jamaica and stretches the boundaries of jazz – but that’s just how we like it on Cosmic Jazz. Jackie Mittoo was a keyboard virtuoso, musical director at the legendary Studio One and a founding member of The Skatalites. An undoubted reggae great but, like many of his Jamaican contemporaries, with considerable jazz influences too. Hear them on Ghetto Organ – a tune derived from a blues standard by Willie Cobbs that can be found on the excellent Macka Fat album.

Three new Polish jazz releases

Here on Cosmic Jazz we welcome new music from all over the world but – thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds – we seem to have a special affinity with new jazz from Poland. We have marvelled before at the amount of excellent new music that emerges from this east European country but it’s really a reflection of a long jazz tradition. O.N.E. Quintet are a group of young musicians with a debut album called – unsurprisingly – One. There are seven tunes on this release: three by sax player Monica Muc, two by pianist Paulina Almanska, one traditional tune and one composition by Krzysztof Komeda – one of the founding fathers of jazz in Poland.

The quintet includes violinist Dominika Rusinowski, who is prominent on the up-tempo number Drozina. So often, Polish jazz appears to attract a melancholy tag – in much the same way as music on the German label ECM. But this is very much not the case with O.N.E Quintet – the sounds are warm and embracing, but there is still the opportunity for soloists to take off. Checkout, for example, sax player Monica Muc here on As Close As Light.

Another debut album – but this time from a squad no less – is Elements, the latest release from the Wojciech Jachna Squad. Jachna is a trumpet player who has been active on the Polish scene for a decade now and has appeared on many albums, mixing the mainstream with the avant-garde. This album is neither. The guitarist Malek Malinowski helps give the album a deep, intense, electric sound. On the tune Checkers 11 the guitar seems to ping off all over the placeuntilthe more becalming and lyrical sounds of Jachna’s trumpet appear. It’s an album full of dark mystery, accentuated by Jachna’s trumpet. Listen to the tune Philosopher’s Waltz and – if you are a philosopher (practising or aspiring) you can dance your own version of a waltz.

The new release Nada is led by guitarist Daniel Popialkiewicz. He’s a composer, lecturer and graduate of the Academy of Music at Katowice with a doctoral dissertation titled Articulation techniques of rock guitarists based on jazz music. Alongside him on these new tracks are Paweł Tomaszewski on piano and keyboards, Robert Kubiszyn on bass and Paweł Dobrowolski on drums.

This is the third album by Polish Jazz guitarist/composer Daniel Popiałkiewicz, recorded in a quartet setting with a stellar lineup consisting of keyboardist Paweł Tomaszewski, bassist Robert Kubiszyn and drummer Paweł Dobrowolski. The ten original compositions on the album are all by Popiałkiewicz and the music is melodic, quirky, and unpredictable. We wonder whether the guitarist is familiar with East London too, given the title of the tune Lea Bridge Road. For more Polish jazz – and music from many other European destinations – head to Steve’s Jazz Sounds and explore.

Record store lockdown: UK and Singapore

These are difficult times for record stores around the world. On Cosmic Jazz we have always supported independent shops and suppliers. For them, Record Store Day is an important event in the calendar but this year the scheduled date of 18 April passed by with online orders only. Although a new date of 20 June has been scheduled, it’s unlikely that this will be able to be celebrated worldwide. For this post, Derek and Neil have selected three suppliers – for Derek that means two record stores in East Anglia, UK and one online record supplier while for Neil it’s three record stores in Singapore.

Steve’s Jazz Sounds has been a great supporter of the show over many years. It’s an online order source for many types of jazz but has a particular specialism in East European and Scandinavian jazz. Here you will discover many exciting artists you may never have heard of before and you will soon learn that excellent jazz is produced in countries all over Europe and beyond. We’ve found that out for ourselves and have made many discoveries resulting in artists that we now feature regularly on the show. Steve also runs an online soul music store too – not unsurprisingly called Steve’s Soul Sounds – with a similarly eclectic mix of music.

Derek has been a regular visitor to Soundclash in Norwich, a thriving independent record store. Currently closed as a result of the Coronanvirus outbreak, online orders can still be made through the website. Soundclash stocks a wide selection of left field music and vinyl is a speciality. The owner Paul has run the shop since 1991, working in another independent store before then. He has a wide knowledge of the music and is great at tracking down records not in store. Check out the queues outside the shop from a previous Record Store Day!

We last featured Vinyl Hunter on Cosmic Jazz in 2016 not long after the store had opened. Established by Rosie Hunter, it’s a family run record store and cafe. Following the success of the original store in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, Vinyl Hunter now has three outlets with a further store at the family home near Colchester and an urban specialist store in Tottenham, North London. All the staff are enthusiasts who love the music and it was, for example, quite a surprise to find such a rich selection of Brazilian vinyl in the Bury St. Edmunds store. Again, the shops are closed for now but online orders is the way to go. Vinyl Hunter also stock a range of turntables and vinyl systems, including from UK turntable specialists, Rega – based locally in Essex.

Meanwhile, in Singapore the interest in vinyl probably never went away. When he arrived here in 2016, Neil was involved in supporting a new listening cocktail bar called LongPlay. Located in the hippest corner of the city, LongPlay was the vision of a local hotelier and record collector and boasted an excellent sound system. Sadly ahead of its time, it became an (excellent) Japanese restaurant last year. But there are dozens of thriving record shops in the city and Neil has visited most of them. Some are dedicated to ‘previously loved’ discs while others focus on new vinyl and may well stock turntables or include a cafe too.

Neil’s favourite place to spend an afternoon is The Jazz Loft – a specialist jazz floor in the excellent Retrocrates vinyl store. Owner Cliff Yeo opened up The Jazz Loft in 2018 and this section specialises in jazz vinyl both old and new. If you’re looking for the best selection of classic jazz labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Muse and more then this is the place to come. Cliff is incredibly knowledgeable about jazz and makes regular forays to Japan’s independent record stores to replenish his stocks. There’s a current focus on the Blue Note Tone Poet and Blue Note 80 series of reissues, which we have promoted in Cosmic Jazz recently.

Like some other good record stores in Singapore, Cliff can provide new vinylistas with a complete turntable set up, again focusing on the excellent Rega turntables. The atmosphere is chilled and designed to focus on the music. You literally kick off your shoes (no outer footwear is allowed in the store) and enjoy the great music on a good playback system. Of course, like all the record stores we are focusing on in this feature, the Coronavirus outbreak has ensured that The Jazz Loft is currently closed but if you visit their Facebook page, you’ll currently get a daily update on what Cliff is playing at home along with a little of his jazz knowledge too.

One of the most high profile record stores in Singapore is the Analog Vault, located in the Esplanade concert hall complex. The Vault has a superb playback system – including a Linn LP12 turntable and Audio Note amplification and speakers and so you’d expect a good range of audiophile labels on display. Established by Singapore businesswoman Sharon Seet in 2015, the store also has occasional DJ sets and hifi promotions. If you’ve got a vinyl addiction, then the Bencoolen and Coleman Street areas of the city make good places to start your crate digging but, if you’re after a good coffee and an excellent choice of new hiphop wax, then head for Choice Cuts, the brainchild of DJ collective Matteblacc. It’s just up the road from The Jazz Loft and there’s also a good selection of contemporary jazz, Brazilian and African vinyl too. DJ Drem also cooks up some fine DJ sets, exhibitions and live bands.

London and other European cities have seen the recent rise of the jazz kissu – a longtime feature of life in Tokyo. We have featured these specialist jazz bars previously on Cosmic Jazz (see here) and have also included a recent Japanese jazz playlist, but you can also check out the excellent Tokyo Jazz Joints site for more on this deep aspect of Japanese culture. If you’re looking to find a good jazz kissu in London then try Brilliant Corners or Spiritland, which has recently expanded to include an outlet on the South Bank arts complex. For similar music bars around the world, check out those listed in this feature in the UK’s Independent newspaper.

Week ending 04 April 2020: virtual vibes

Cosmic Jazz stays virtual again this week – but we are exploring options and hope to bring you news soon. So this week it’s three tunes each – and a load of links to sustain your musical enjoying if you’re in lockdown anywhere around the world.

Derek started the show with some great bass lines from Andy González, a ubiquitous and distinguished New York musician who died recently. We have featured his music before on Cosmic Jazz – and that of his late trumpet playing brother Jerry González, both members of the great Fort Apache and Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklórico Y Experímental Nuevayorquíno bands. Andy González died recently and we included a track from an excellent compilation as a tribute.  On this occasion he was the special guest of The Afro-Rican Ensemble on a version of Tangathe seminal Latin Jazz tune composed by Cuban-born New York Latin great Mario Bauza. See if you can find the compilation Viva Cubop Jazz: the Afro-Cuban Way released in 1999 on San Francisco-based Ubiquity Records – strongly recommended if you like Latin jazz. Two more compilations followed in the series. For more from the brothers González, listen to this great track from the Fort Apache band – Eighty One, recorded live at the Zurich International Jazz Festival in 1988. The album  from which it comes – Obatala – is highly recommended and yes, this is the Ron Carter/Miles Davis tune that’s featured on the album ESP. The record has one more ambitious Latin reworking of another great Miles Davis Quintet track – in this case, Nefertiti. If you’re not familiar with the beautiful original version – the title track on the great 1965 outing by the second Miles Davis Quintet – here it is.

Michal Martyniuk is a very accomplished pianist and composer who produces music of great maturity.  He was born in Poland but while he was young his parents moved to New Zealand. For the last ten years he has lived in New Zealand and travelled back and forth playing and recording with a number of fine musicians in both countries. His new album Resonate opens with Jazz Dance and we feature a live version of the track recorded at the Java Jazz Festival in 2017. The personnel on the album includes both Polish and NZ musicians: Jakub Skowroński on tenor, Kuba Mizeracki on guitar, Bartek Chojnacki on bass and Kuba Gudz on drums. The extra NZ recorded tracks feature Cameron McArthur on bass and Ron Samsom on drums. As always, check out the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds for this album and much more new European jazz.

Noemi Nuti is a new name to me but this vocalist has just released her second album Venus Eye on the Ubuntu record label. Nuti was born in New York but is based in London, and is not only a singer but also harp player and composer. She has worked with pianist Andrew McCormack and has toured and supported other artists, including Brazilian Cosmic Jazz favourite Marcos Valle. On Venus Eye she is accompanied by five other musicians including Tom Herbert on bass and Gareth Lochrane on flute. Her cover of the Tori Amos song Cornflake Girl includes some great scat singing – here it is in a studio version (with some excellent piano from Chris Eldred). Why not compare with the original here if you’re not familiar with Tori Amos.

Neil’s three choices this week all celebrate the upcoming 80th birthday of Herbie Hancock on 12 April. There will be more Herbie music in future shows. There’s a lot of Hancock’s music that is well known to jazz listeners – whether the Blue Note magnificence of Maiden Voyage, the archetypal funk blueprint of Chameleon or the electro-jazz of Rockit – but Neil’s selections are all from the more obscure end of the Hancock spectrum. We begin with the improbable Hank Williams cover album from (now) Blue Note supremo Don Was. Forever’s a Long, Long Time features Herbie Hancock on piano – vocals are by Sweet Pea Atkinson.

Hancock also lent his distinctive piano skills to saxophonist Sam Rivers’ Blue Note album Contours. Check out the great solo on Point of Many Returns right here. The track also features Freddie Hubbard on trumpet along with Ron Carter on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. Recently reissued as part of the superb Blue Note Tone Poet series of audiophile albums, it’s worth getting hold of these superb pressings and gatefold ‘tip on’ record covers (where the artwork is stuck on to the thicker record cover.) The label’s boss Don Was brought the ‘Tone Poet’ Joe Harley (from Music Matters) on board to curate and supervise an ongoing series of reissues from the label. All records in the Tone Poet series are 180 gram new vinyl with silent surfaces and (in my experience) they often look and sound like the best versions currently available – other thank crazily expensive original editions (expect to pay £150.00 for the Rivers’ album, for example) . The Jazz Loft – my local (and excellent) jazz record store here in Singapore – has a great selection of both the Tone Poet and Blue Note 80 series of vinyl reissues and you should be able to find examples of these albums in any good independent jazz record store.

Now this is not exactly a lost album but you may find it hard to get a copy of drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath’s Kawaida. If you can lay your hands on a copy you won’t regret it. Heath is more experimental than usual on this fine 1970 release for the O’Be label and he enlists a fine group to accompany him on these largely modal afrocentric influenced tunes. We could have chosen any of the tracks but went for the lengthy opener Baraka. The record includes great performances from Jimmy Heath on tenor, soprano and flute, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Buster Williams on bass, Ed Blackwell on percussion and Mtume (who composed all tracks bar one) on congas. For more from this great album, have a listen to Dunia – very much a vehicle for Don Cherry’s characteristic pocket trumpet sound.

  1. The Afro-Rican Ensemble – Tanga from Viva Cu-Bop! (Jazz the Afro-Cuban Way)
  2. Michal Martiniuk Quartet –  Jazz Dance from Resonate
  3. Noemi Nuti – Cornflake Girl from Venus Eye
  4. Orquestra Was – Forever’s a Long Long Time from Forever’s a Long, Long Time
  5. Sam Rivers – Point of Many Returns from Contours
  6. Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath – Baraka from Kawaida

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 March 2020: virtual sounds and memories

It’s virtual Cosmic Jazz again this week with our blog and music choices. Open CJ twice and you can read from one and listen on the  other!

Through jazz I discovered the music that I love were the words of Cameroonian sax player Manu Dibango. Sadly, he has died at the age of 86 from Covid-19. From a start with the seminal Congolese rumba group, African Jazz Dibango went on to release 44 albums over a lengthy career than included collaborations with the Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry and Sly and Robbie. What an eclectic mix! There are claims that his most famous tune Soul Makossa heralded the start of disco, and it was certainly a favourite at David Mancuso’s Loft from 1972 onwards. That ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-sa refrain was replicated in Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and within a few months of the song’s release over 20 different cover versions were available. Wikipedia lists almost 50 different songs with this take on ‘makossa’  – the Cameroonian dance style popularised by the Soul Makossa. Derek’s party choice, though, is the later Big Blow which is one for my box when playing out. Released in 1976, it still sounds as good and as danceable today – click on that link and get yourself moving. For Neil, it has to be 1984’s Abele Dance – one of his favourite 12in singles. Ironically, he was playing it at home in the UK in December and thinking back to live DJ sets where it surprised and delighted dancers in equal measure. Dibango’s infectious chuckles and expressions featured on many of his tracks – and they’re capable of generating big smiles everywhere they’re heard.

There is, however,  another great version of the Makossa tune – and that’s Reggae Makossa. There’s the same uplifting, swinging, jazzy sax but this time with a reggae beat, recorded in Kingston, Jamaica and New York and mixed in London. Manu leads with the vibes on this tune but Jamaican reggae rhythm kings Sly & Robbie are in there along with the Brecker Brothers on horn duties, Gwen Guthrie on vocals and a host of other distinguished musicians. It comes from the compilation album Choc ‘n’ Soul – tracks recorded by Dibango between 1978-89 and here’s the title track for you. You can find the album on the French label Fremeaux and Associes.

On a different front, but perhaps not entirely, comes more new music from Poland – sax player Wojciech Staroniewicz. He has been playing for over twenty years, starting with the Big Band Gdansk. His new album has an interesting title –  A’FreAK-aN Project – and it’s good.  The gently rocking/sax-led sound on this live take of the tune Moja Ballada suggests they might have admired Manu Dibango – check out the whole album. Tomasz Wendt is another Polish saxophonist from Gdansk but from a  much younger generation. The son of a jazz saxophonist, and a graduate of Wroclaw Academy of Music, Wendt has played with several artists we have featured on the show, including the magnificent Piotr Wojtasik. Wendt has a new album out called Chapter B – and we’ve featured the title tune in this week’s virtual show. Of course, at this time of near-worldwide lockdown, we urge you to support all the independent record stores you can. To find Staroniewicz, Wendt and other great European jazz, just check out the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

The current coronavirus situation has led me to listen to records in my collection that I have not heard for some time – and certainly or maybe not as often as I should. Today it was the Viva Cubop series, of which I have three CDs. Cubop was set up in 1995 as the Latin jazz arm of Ubiquity records and from the the second album I chose a marimba and vibes player (definitely the instrument of the week!). Dave Pike emerged in the late ’50s and recorded with – among many artists – Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Paul Bley, Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock and Clark Terry. San Dunga is crisp, fast-moving and definitely something to get you moving – and, if you find Manhattan Latin, the original album from which it comes – try not to be put off by that latin exotica cover…

Enjoy the music and stay safe.

  1. Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa from Soul Makossa
  2. Manu Dibango – Big Blow from Big Blow
  3. Mauy Dibango – Abele Dance (12in single)
  4. Manu Dibango – Reggae Makossa from Choc ‘n’ Soul
  5. Wojciech Staroniewicz – Moja Ballada from A’FreAK-aN
  6. Tomasz Wendt – Chapter B from Chapter B
  7. Dave Pike – San Dunga from Manhattan Latin

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 March 2020: CJ goes virtual…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 February 2020: music from Guadeloupe and Poland

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to…..

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

Week ending 14 December 2019: more ECM and 2019 favourites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…