All posts by Neil

Week ending 11 January 2020: surprising ECM sounds

Welcome to the new year! This was a rare solo show from Neil (before he heads back to Singapore) but it was a chance for more music from the ever-surprising ECM label, celebrating 50 years of great music. The photo above shows label founder Manfred Eicher and his longtime recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug (who died in 2019) at the mixing desk, probably in the Rainbow Studios, Oslo. We chose this second set of ECM tracks to showcase the full range of ECM recordings – and what better way to begin than with the twin guitar talents of Bill Frisell and John Scofield on a superb album led by bass player Marc Johnson. We could have played any track from Bass Desires (which went on to become the name of the band for their second album for the label) but we chose Samurai Hee-Haw. Worth listening out for is a superb version of Coltrane’s Resolution. Making up this fine quartet is the drummer Peter Erskine – one-time member of Weather Report. Both Frisell and Scofield ‘rock out’ much more than we might expect but that’s perhaps because this music was recorded in 1986 when both guitarists were exploring the outer edges of the genre.

Pat Metheny was a real stalwart of the early years of the ECM label and – along with Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek – one of their most popular artists. His first album for the label also introduced many jazz listeners to the bass playing talents of Jaco Pastorius, but we chose the ever popular Phase Dance, a track from the self-titled Pat Metheny Group, his second ECM album. Metheny’s live take on Are You Going With Me is perhaps the most famous tune from this period – but have you heard this lovely vocal version from Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek which possibly outplays the original?

Joey Alexander’s Think Of One (which I mistakenly attributed to Wynton Marsalis) is, in fact a Thelonious Monk composition – although it is the title track of the very first Marsalis album I bought way back on its release in 1983. The Marsalis version is more restrained and reverential than the more freewheeling approach taken by Joey Alexander. You can hear the Marsalis take right here. Alexander’s take captures the spirit of Monk’s always quirky compositions – and the superb support from drummer This track and six others come from an album of out-takes from Alexander’s first two studio recordings, My Favourite Things and Countdown that’s only available as a download – what a pity! There is no sense in which these are second rate recordings and it’s so worth checking out this EP length collection on here on Bandcamp. I’d love to play this one on vinyl though… Alexander (now aged 16 by the way) has a new release for 2020 titled Warna. You can hear the track Down Time here on Alexander’s website and the complete release should be out soon.

Keith Jarrett’s Dancing has also long been a personal favourite of mine. It’s from the album Changeless which is more riff-bound than many of the great recordings from Jarrett’s Standards Trio that are now available on the label. Untypically, this album features just four original Trio compositions rather than the selection of the great American standards one would expect. It’s still a delight to hear as Jarrett builds four strong melodies out of nothing but his characteristic piano vamps, accompanied by the ever inventive Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

We faded into the percussion and piano that introduced another classic ECM track – but one that is worlds away from the Jarrett repertoire and certainly much less well known. Trombonist Julian Priester was both a member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi group, but on this ECM release from 1974 he is accompanied  by some other stellar players, including Hadley Caliman, Bill Connors, Ngudu Chancler and Eric Gravatt. Anchored by a sensationally simple bass riff from bassist Ron McClure Love Love is almost 20 minutes of wildly inventive pure 70s style group improvisation.  It’s closer in spirit to late 1970s Miles Davis than  almost anything else from the period.

English bassist Dave Holland’s album Extensions is another magnificent ECM record. We played the opening tune Nemesis (unfortunately, in two parts…) but could have featured any of the tracks from this superb Holland album.  The guitarist in this quartet is the normally restrained Kevin Eubanks, but here he’s on fire – and is more than ably supported by Steve Coleman on saxophones.

We stayed with the label for a very different kind of music – a beautifully restrained record from tabla master Zakir Hussain, and one of a few albums in which he is the leader. He’s accompanied here by guitarist John McLaughlin and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The album Making Music also includes contributions from Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri flute.

The show ended with a very different kind of ECM sound from Swiss keyboard player Nik Bartsch and his Ronin group. All his albums feature music that is heavily programmed rather than improvised and has more in common with minimalist composers like Steve Reich than jazz structures. The distinguishing characteristics of Bartsch’s music are consistent across all his ECM releases: the modular constructions, the polymetric pulses, the complex interlocking patterns and repetitive motifs. This version of Modul 42 comes from a 2CD live album recorded in Europe.

  1. Bass Desires – Samurai Hee-Haw from Bass Desires
  2. Pat Metheny – Phase Dance from Pat Metheny Group
  3. Joey Alexander – Think Of One from In A Sentimental Mood
  4. Keith Jarrett – Dancing from Changeless
  5. Dave Holland Quartet – Nemesis from Extensions
  6. Zakir Hussain – Sunjog – from Making Music
  7. Ronin – Modul 42 from Live

Neil is listening to…


Cosmic Jazz live – Derek plays out!

From time to time, Cosmic Jazz goes live and we’ve recently enjoyed playing sets at the excellent Vinyl Hunter record store in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Now there’s a new venue – and it’s another record store – and but this time in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Hex Records is a new venture and Cosmic Jazz was pleased to play out here recently. Here’s some of the music Derek featured in his set…

Derek was playing…

Week ending 21 December 2019: a full on ECMfest

ECM Records is 50 years old – and Cosmic Jazz needs no excuse for a celebration of this incredible label’s output over the years. In the last few shows, Derek has been featuring some of ECM’s huge and diverse repertoire but this is the first show devoted to the label. As noted in previous shows, ECM has a unique profile in jazz characterised by distinctive art direction, the wizardry of recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug and probably the most diverse roster of jazz and jazz related artists in the history of the music.

We began with Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and the title track from his essential 1997 album Khmer, recently released for the first time on vinyl. You can hear Molvaer talking about the album right here. Molvaer’s breathy tone on trumpet suits the ambient sounds of samplers and percussion that suffuse the album.  He’s stated that the album was an attempt to incorporate all the influences on his music – from Brian Eno, to Steve Reich and to the drum and bass sounds of the time.

Up next was another ECM stalwart, Paul Motian. I first came across his album Conception Vessel as long ago as 1972 – one of the very first ECM releases that featured Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden. Tonight’s show featured a track from one of his later albums for the label and one with an unusual line up – two saxophonist and three guitarists for starters. The album is also unusual in that it celebrates the compositions of Charlie Mingus, hence the inclusion of the classic Goodbye Porkpie Hat – itself an elegy for saxophonist Lester Young who had died just two months before Mingus recorded the track in 1959.

Rios Negroes has been a longtime favourite track of mine. Lester Bowie somehow manages to capture the history of jazz in just one track. Whether with the Art Ensemble of Chicago or in his solo work he blazed a trail that – uniquely – looked backwards as well as forwards. Back to Bubber Miley and the Cotton Club but also into the future of jazz in the 21st century. In just seven minutes across the track Bowie takes a first solo that slurs and smears, crackles and blares in a mix of early jazz and contemporary sounds. Bowie was a southerner born in St Louis and early in his career he played with blues and r and b artists including Little Milton and Rufus Thomas. On Fela Kuti’s No Agreement album he makes a distinctive contribution that works perfectly against the afrobeat sounds. The band on The Great Pretender is the most sympathetic he ever had. The late Phillip Wilson on drums is perfect and Hamiett Bluiett provides some lovely bottom end baritone.

Chick Corea is one of jazz music’s great survivors – and at 78 he’s still making great music with both his electric band and his piano trio. Corea has recorded for ECM from the very beginning – his two solo piano improvisation albums were recorded in 1971. Our selection is from one of the two excellent trio records Corea recorded for the label in the 1980s alongside Miroslav Vitous on bass and the legendary Roy Haynes on drums. This track is actually a solo outing for Haynes – but there will be more from this and Corea’s more recent trio recordings in upcoming shows.

Our second appearance from Lester Bowie is from the group he co-led for many years until his death in 1999 – the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Their Odwalla Theme was a signature composition by the band and often featured in live shows. More idiosyncratic music came from one of the first groups that represented a unique take on what we might (incorrectly) call ‘world music’. Here at CJ we firmly believe that all music is world music with the global presence of jazz blazing a trail for all kinds of musical collaborations. Codona was named after its three members – Collin Walcott, Don Cherry and Nana Vasconcelos. They used world music traditions authentically, in the sense that each individual in the group had decades of study and immersion in a wide range of music from all four corners of the earth. None of their sounds were watered down or fusion-like. Instead, they played free like the deep jazz artists they were. Codona were all about listening to each other but with humour and playfulness so that the music feels artless and totally improvised. Our choice came from the first of three albums and melded together two Ornette Coleman tunes with one by Stevie Wonder – and all in under four minutes. And what an album cover too!

ECM might be a European label but much of their earlier recordings emanated from the USA – including pianist Steve Kuhn, recording here with his extended trio of Steve Swallow on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Sue Evans on percussion. The opening track on the album sounds utterly contemporary – it could have ben recorded yesterday rather than 45 years ago.  Whilst Kuhn only recorded two albums for ECM, Jan Garbarek has appeared on hundreds. We could have chosen any of his recordings as a leader, his work with Keith Jarrett in his European quartet or any of his many collaborations. Like John Coltrane on tenor, Wayne Shorter on soprano or Art Pepper on alto, Garbarek has a unique tone – especially on his curved (rather than straight) soprano saxophone. It’s heard clearly on the track we played from his live 2CD release Dresden. Recorded in 2007, Garbarek’s band for this record is Rainer Bruninghaus on keys, Yuri Daniel on bass and Manu Katche on drums. Paper Nut is a Shankar composition and Garbarek takes the lead melody on his saxophone rather than Shankar’s distinctive electric violin.

Our final two tracks are real outliers for the label. Leo Smith, now Pulitzer Prize winner Wadada Leo Smith and one of the most prolific jazz musicians of the moment, recorded just this one album for ECM and early in his career too. On Tastalun, Smith is joined by – yes – Lester Bowie and Kenny Wheeler, both also on trumpet.  We ended the show with musical maverick Jon Hassell who has been ploughing his own unique furrow for many years. Hassell’s music is on the cusp of ambient and jazz with strong Arabic and Asian influences. It’s all brought together on his 1986 Power Spot album. Our third track from a trumpeter, the title tune Power Spot showcases Hassell’s unique processed trumpet sound alongside lots of electronics and guitar treatments from Michael Brook.

  1. Nils Petter Molvaer – Khmer from Khmer
  2. Paul Motian Band – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from Garden of Eden
  3. Lester Bowie – Rios Negroes from The Great Pretender
  4. Chick Corea – Hittin’ It from Live in Europe
  5. Art Ensemble of Chicago – Odwalla Theme from Coming Home Jamaica
  6. Codona – Colemanwonder from Codona 1
  7. Steve Kuhn – Trance from Trance
  8. Jan Garbarek – Paper Nut from Dresden
  9. Leo Smith – Tastalun from Divine Love
  10. Jon Hassell – Power Spot from Power Spot

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 July 2019: jazz old and new

This week’s CJ paid another visit to some of the more obscure corners of jazz and featured another selection of great tunes, both old and new. We began with more from guitarist Jack Wilkins’ Windows album but this time a take on Wayne Shorter’s Pinocchio, a track that initially featured on Miles Davis’ Nefertiti from 1968 and then again ten years later with Weather Report on the Mr Gone album. Drummer Makaya McCraven is no stranger to Cosmic Jazz but we haven’t featured much from his most recent album, recorded live in London in 2017 and featuring Soweto Kinch on saxophone, Theon Cross on tuba, Joe Armon-Jones on Fender Rhodes, Nubya Garcia on saxophone and Kamaal Williams on keys – the cream of new British jazz talent.

Two great tracks next, with the first from a favourite alto sax player, Art Pepper. The raw, lived-in sound of his later recordings reflect a life of hardship and addiction which began with alcoholic absent parents – a 14 year old runaway mother and an absent merchant seaman father. It’s perhaps not surprising that the young Pepper quickly picked up a serious heroin habit that saw him for extended periods in jail in the 1950s and 60s. The title of one of his best albums Straight Life was also the title of his biography, written by his devoted wife Laurie. The title track is a classic late Pepper composition, recorded many times throughout his later career. Our recording is not easy to get hold of and comes from one of the many recordings compiled by Laurie Pepper following his death in 1982. The band is one of Pepper’s best – pianist George Cables, bassist David Williams and drummer Carl Burnett. This live concert was recorded in Japan in 1981, the year before Pepper’s death and is a superb performance throughout with ace versions of Body and Soul, Besame Mucho and Mr Beautiful. So many of these later Pepper albums are stunning and one of the very best is a 4CD set of the complete Ronnie Scott residency in 1980. If you can find it on vinyl you’ll need £140 or so although it’s still available on CD for £55… The recording quality is great and Pepper is superb throoughout.

Flautist James Newton should be much better know. His album The African Flower is a unique take on seven Duke Ellington songs and again features an all star band – violinist John Blake, alto player Arthur Blythe, cornetist Olu Dara and more. The 11 minutes of Virgin Jungle is a highlight. Good luck with finding this one!

Our fifth track was from another under-recorded jazz artist, the alto player Azar Lawrence. His 2014 album, The Seeker, is a really good demonstration of his spiritual jazz credentials and is one of several albums released since 2007 in something of a musical renaissance. Up next was a bona fide classic and now pretty much a contemporary jazz standard. Chick Corea’s Spain is – like Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez – an ode to the country and, indeed, the tune opens with a direct quote from Rodrigo. The song has gone on to be recorded by many greats including Art Farmer, Rare Silk, Stevie Wonder and Al Jarreau. And finally, another great track from a pioneering contemporary label, Soundway Records – African Vibration’s Hinde in a remixed version by Julien Dyne. Glorious!

  1. Jack Wilkins – Pinocchio from Windows
  2. Makaya McCraven – Run ‘Dem from Where We Come From
  3. Art Pepper – Straight Life from The Complete Abashiri Concert
  4. James Newton – Virgin Jungle from The African Flower
  5. Azar Lawrence – Venus Rising from The Seeker
  6. Chick Corea – Spain from Light as a Feather
  7. African Vibration – Hinde (Julien Dyne rework)

Derek is listening to    

  1. Lacksley Castell – Mr. Government Man
  2. Misty in Roors – Oh Wicked Man
  3. Sonny Rollins – Way Out West
  4. Ben Comeau Ensemble – A Song of Innocence & Experience – Dark Sacred Nights
  5. Ruby Rushton – Moonlight Woman (Studio Session)

Week ending 21 July 2019: obscure jazz rarities

More jazz from Neil this week but, instead of the more typical new music, we have a bunch of classic vinyl tracks – some of which have not be reissued in any format and others which are simply hard to find. You can hear the show this week by clicking on this direct Mixcloud link.

In the week celebrating the first manned moon landing 50 years ago we thought it right that we should begin in a cosmic vein with the man from Saturn (or so he claimed) – Sun Ra. In fact, the track we featured was titled Neptune but, hey, it’s still galactic music. You can now find this on the Discipline 27-II album from 1973 which has been a previous Record Store Day release. It’s also been sampled in one of the tracks Neil has chosen for his listening choices this week (see below), and interestingly that sample was by the French band Motorbass, featuring the late Philippe Zdar who died tragically last month.

Up next was a classic from Herbie Hancock. Nobu is a keyboard tour-de-force taken from a live solo album which was initially released only in Japan. Another Record Store Day Exclusive – this time from 2019 – there were only 3000 copies of Dedication pressed worldwide. It’s a solo Hancock release recorded live in Tokyo and features versions of Hancock classics Maiden Voyage, Dolphin Dance and Cantaloupe Island.

Onwards with more obscure music but this time  from the legends that are the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The track Charlie M is from their ECM album Full Force, and is a heartfelt tribute to bandleader and bass player Charles Mingus. It’s probably the standout track on a highly recommended album that displays the full talents of all original members of this extraordinary band. The AEC are about to release a new album with their two surviving members – Roscoe Mitchell and Famoudou Don Moye.  Look out for it.

We went full on electric jazz with the next two tracks: first guitarist James ‘Blood’ Ulmer and a cut from his Freelancing album, the first of three he recorded for Columbia. These three albums could form a core collection of Ulmer’s work on their own and are all worth tracking down. It’s a great group that Ulmer’s working with here – David Murray on tenor sax, Calvin Weston on drums and Amin Ali on bass. You’ll also hear Oliver Lake, Olu Dara and Ronnie Drayton.  The next track increased the guitar quotient to four -and they were just part of a fourteen piece band that has Wadada Leo Smith’s trumpet at the heart of it. The full track is a 20 minute + piece and you heard an edit that captures the sheer power of this music. It’s a power-drenched, locked-down funk track that is less like Don Cherry and more like the 1970s experiments of Miles Davis on his Agharta and Pangea recordings. If you like this music then it will be worth checking out Wadada Leo Smith’s recreations of that Miles Davis era on three albums he recorded with guitarist Henry Kaiser in the Yo Miles! project. These really do extend that unique Milesian soundworld – try this version of Will which features the superb guitarist Nels Cline.

Music in a more reflective mood came with one of the jazz world’s great bass players, Buster Williams. Known for a long association with Herbie Hancock, Williams has sporadically recorded albums as a  leader too, perhaps the most notable being his first – Pinnacle in 1975, from which the track Batuki is taken. Alongside Williams is Onaje Allan Gumbs on keyboards, Sonny Fortune on soprano sax, Woody Shaw on trumpet and Billy Hart on drums. It’s a great lineup and an excellent album.

Don Pullen is a personal jazz hero of mine. With an utterly distinctive piano style that veers between the dramatically free and the lyrically inventive you can’t mistake his style. Our choice came from the 1989 Blue Note record New Beginnings, one from late in Pullen’s career and a great introduction to his music. It’s a powerful trio record with Gary Peacock on bass and Tony Williams on drums and the CD features this bonus track, Silence = Death.

We ended this week’s show with a beautiful track that was clearly familiar to us from another version. Contemplation is actually a McCoy Tyner composition from his album The Real McCoy, but you heard an excellent version from two undersung jazz players – Mal Waldron and Marion Brown from their long out of print album Songs of Love and Regret. Compare it with Tyner’s original composition right here.

  1. Art Ensemble of Chicago – Charlie M from Full Force
  2. Herbie Hancock – Nobu from Dedication
  3. James ‘Blood’ Ulmer – Where Did All The Girls Go? from Freelancing
  4. Wadada Leo Smith – Don Cherry’s Electric Sonic Garden (edit) from Heart’s Reflections
  5. Buster Williams – Batuki from Pinnacle
  6. Don Pullen – Warriors from New Beginnings
  7. Mal Waldron/Marion Brown – Contemplation from Song of Love and Regret

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 14 July 2019: all new music show!

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured all new music from Neil, back from Singapore for a few weeks. Check out the sounds by clicking the Mixcloud tab (left). Most of the tracks played have been released in the last few weeks, with our featured album the latest from Brazilian icon Marcos Valle. We began with one of the many standout tracks from his new album Sempre (translated as Ever in Portuguese): Odisseia begins with a drum break lifted from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and then goes on to reflect the full gamut of his recent revival with one of our favourite labels, Far Out Records. Production on this album is from Daniel Maunick, son of Bluey from the UK’s finest funk band, Incognito, and that Azymuth-like sound reflects the presence of their long-serving bassman, Alex Malheiros.

Up next was another brand new release – this time from prolific pianist and man with the longest beard in jazz, Jamie Saft. His new album has a definite spiritual jazz vibe and Saft is ably abetted by an outstanding quartet of deeply exploratory musicians: Saft, longtime collaborator Bradley Jones on bass, the wide-ranging drummer/percussion master Hamid Drake, and legendary saxophonist David Liebman, whose most famous tenure was with Miles Davis in the 1970s. This is a fine album and it’s a great introduction to Saft’s extensive catalogue.

UK keys player Joe Armon-Jones is making big waves at the moment with an eagerly-awaited second album coming up on the horizon. Perhaps as a taster, he’s just released a download and 10 inch single called Icy Roads (Stacked) and – as the cover art suggests – it has more than a nod to Thrust-era Herbie Hancock. We like the confidence that exudes from this track – the Rhodes piano is well to the fore (just as on Valle’s Odisseia) – and we’re looking forward to the new album. Armon-Jones is currrently on tour in the UK and will be at Gilles Peterson’s new We Out Here festival in Cambridgeshire from 15 August.

Recently re-issued on vinyl is the excellent album Windows from Jack Wilkins, first released on the Mainstream label in 1973. Wilkins is an undersung guitarist who could easily have been as successful as – for example – Gabor Szabo – but although he has released a number of albums and appeared as a sideman on many recordings, most people won’t have heard of him. Windows has now be re-issued by Wewantsounds label and it’s well worth a listen. It’s a mix of covers (including our featured track, Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay) and originals, with Red Clay being noted for its use as a sample – most notably on the superb Midnight Marauders album from A Tribe Called Quest.

Phil Ranelin is noted as the trombone playing leader of The Tribe, a Detroit avant garde jazz ensemble devoted to raising black consciousness, alongside this co-founding Tribe Records and releasing several albums as a leader in the 1970s. The Tribe project ended but interest in Ranelin has resurfaced in recent years and he’s now back in the UK and working with one of our longtime CJ friends, UK drummer and producer emanative. The track we featured is – like the Armon-Jones tune – a download and 7 inch single and currently available on Bandcamp before the launch of the new album. Like other emanative projects, all proceeds will go to Gilles Peterson’s Steve Reid Foundation, of which Nick Woodmansey (emanative) is a trustee.

Time Grove are one of the many interesting bands we have come across through Bandcamp. Hailing from Tel Aviv, Time Grove are a collective guided by pianist Nitai Hershkovits alongside one third of Buttering Trio, and newly signed Stones Throw recording artist, Rejoicer. Their sound is varied track to track – delicate yet powerful; sonorous yet uplifting. The full line-up also features reed player Eyal Talmudi, drummers Roy Chen, Amir Bresler and Sol Monk, keyboard master Bemet, trumpeter Sefi Zisling, and guitarist Yonatan Albalak. Find out more on their Bandcamp page right here.

It was back to Marcos Valle for another tune from the new album. This time featuring Valle’s distinctive vocals and some lovely summery guitar, Alma (or Soul) is a further indication that this album is perfect summer listening – even if you’re not on a Rio beach with a caipirinha.

Our penultimate track is something of a curiosity, but one that’s worth listening to. It’s from pianist Randy Weston who we’ve featured on the show in recent week. Uhuru Afrika is an album  recorded in 1960 and originally released on the Roulette label and it features lyrics and liner notes by the poet Langston Hughes. It was banned in South Africa in 1964 (as was the more celebrated Freedom Now Suite from Max Roach) and it’s one of the finest (and earliest) combinations of African rhythms with jazz in a 24-piece big band that includes 14 horns, one guitar, two bassists, three drummers, and three percussionists. Martha Flowers and Brock Peters took vocals on our featured track African Lady, with Melba Liston responsible for the charts. The orchestra featured Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Yusef Lateef, Shahib Shihab, Kenny Burrell, Max Roach and Babatundi Olatunji. The album has been made available once more on vinyl and you can find it here on Cornbread Records.

We ended CJ this week with an intriguing piece from Gamelan Semara Ratih, probably the finest gamelan orchestra in Ubud, Bali. The story behind this music is worth exploring: Lapanbelas is Bahasa Indonesian for ’18’ and this music is a gamelan interpretation of the Steve Reich composition Music for Eighteen Musicians, which was introduced to Semara Ratih by Evan Ziporyn, a New York musician studying in Bali. The music is now performed on a bi-weekly basis by the group at their regular concerts in Ubud. You can download the full track right here on Bandcamp.

  1. Marcos Valle – Odisseia from Sempre
  2. Jamie Saft Quartet – Hidden Corners from Hidden Corners
  3. Jack Wilkins – Red Clay from Windows
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Icy Roads (Stacked) from 10in single
  5. Phil Ranelin and emanative – Vibes from the Tribe from 7in single
  6. Time Grove – Second Attention from More Than One Thing
  7. Marcos Valle – Alma from Sempre
  8. Randy Weston – African Lady from Uhuru Afrika
  9. Lapanbelas (18) – Gamelan Semara Ratih from Lapanbelas (download)

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 02 March 2019: Sarah Tandy special!

This week’s Cosmic Jazz is unusual. We’ve been appreciating the piano and keyboard playing of young British pianist Sarah Tandy for some time now – usually through the many bands she has been associated with along with some live recordings on Youtube. But now comes her first self-penned album – released this week on Jazz Re:freshed. It’s called Infection In the Sentence and we featured three tracks in the show alongside other music with Sarah on keys.

Now one of the most in-demand players on the London scene, Sarah has performed on keys for Jazz Jamaica, Nu Civilisation Orchestra, Maisha, Where Pathways Meet, Camilla George, Nubya Garcia, Nerija, Daniel Casimir, Binker Golding, Clark Tracey and many more. She is also a member of Ronnie Scott’s House Band, the W3 Collective and will be launching the new album at the club in 04 March.

Image © Benjamin Amure. 2015

On Infection in the Sentence (the title is drawn from a poem by Emily Dickinson), there’s both technical virtuosity and rhapsodic playing that showcases a fearless approach to music making. She says: The music developed gradually through many years playing on London’s underground music scene, and immersing myself in the myriad musical languages surrounding me. In the album I’m seeking to find a continuum between the jazz music which I grew up listening to, and the multi-faceted, genre-melting sounds of present day London.

Tandy grew up in West London in a strong musical family, learning to play piano at an early age. She eventually went on to study classical piano at a conservatoire and was subsequently a finalist in BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition. Later studying for an English literature degree at Cambridge University, Tandy explored the very different musical world of jazz and began to find out where she wanted to be as a musician. Immersing herself in the music of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner, Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau and many others, Tandy explored the full range of the new London jazz experience. Then a residency at the Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston forged new connections with drummer Femi Koleoso (Ezra Collective), bass player Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko and Jorja Smith) and saxophonist Binker Golding (Binker & Moses) – all musicians we have featured here on Cosmic Jazz. It was her first real insight into the way jazz in London was heading and the types of people that were engaging in the music. These musicians became the nucleus of the band that was to record Infection In the Sentence. I feel like most of what I have ever learnt about music and life has been from the musicians I play with. And the beauty of music is that it transcends boundaries and reaches that place where we are the same, she says.

Tandy has gone on to perform at the Love Supreme Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival and she’s performed twice with her trio at the Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival supporting Robert Glasper. There’s going to be a lot more from this stunning new pianist on the jazz scene and we’ll be following it all on Cosmic Jazz.

We followed the three tracks from Infection In the Sentence with three more keyboard players – beginning with Jessica Lauren and a track from her most recent album, Almeria. McCoy Tyner’s 1968 Impulse! album Time for Tyner gave us Little Madimba and we ended the show with female keyboard pioneer Patrice Rushen and Shortie’s Portion with its all-star line up of Joe Henderson, Hadley Caliman and Ndugu.

  1. Camilla George Quartet – Mama Wata from Isang
  2. Maisha – Eaglehurst/The Palace from There Is a Place
  3. Camilla George – Tappin’ the Turtle from The People Could Fly
  4. Sarah Tandy – Bradbury Street from Infection In the Sentence
  5. Sarah Tandy – Nursery Rhyme from Infection In the Sentence
  6. Sarah Tandy – Under the Skin from Infection In the Sentence
  7. Jessica Lauren – Beija Flor from Almeria
  8. McCoy Tyner – Little Madimba from Time for Tyner
  9. Patrice Rushen – Shortie’s Portion from Prelusion

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 February 2019: American favourites and local stars

Just six tunes in this week’s Cosmic Jazz, but what power they present! Cosmic Jazz often focuses on new European jazz – including recent releases from Poland and the UK jazz scene – but this week is a mostly American show, beginning with an Art Blakey stormer from 1973, featuring Woody Shaw on trumpet and Cedar Walton on piano.

Like many jazz artists in the 1970s, saxophonist Harold Land updated his sound to include more funky elements like the Fender Rhodes electric piano – but his music never suffered as a result. Black Caucus is tough, driving music – all enhanced by powerful playing from Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and marimba and Harold Land Jnr. on keyboards.

In contrast, Keith Jarrett was noted for something of a crusade against electricity, starting with his wonderful ECM solo piano recordings and continuing with his Standards Trio. Together for 35 years, Jarrett, Peacock and deJohnette recorded Autumn Leaves several times, both live and in the studio. Many of the stand-out versions include an extended Jarrett vamp as a coda – and this take is no exception. Recorded live in 1998 after Jarrett was recovering from a two year silence as result of chronic fatigue syndrome (hence the antediluvian album title) the music is as gloriously invigorating as you could expect. Jarrett is newly energised – and  nowhere morethan on this 13 minute version of the Kosma and Mercer classic. If you like this, then search out either of the two other epic versions recorded by Jarrett – the first monster 26 minute version on the 6CD Live at the Blue Note set and the second on the Trio’s Up For It (recorded live at Juan les Pins). For fun, watch this visual transcription as the Trio plays Japan in 1996.

Stanley Cowell’s Trying To Find a Way from 1978’s New World album has a bit of an all star line up – Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Pat Patrick (long time member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra) on reeds, Cecil McBee on bass and the great Roy Haynes on drums. The whole set is a delight and the album includes a beautiful take on Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday.

Saxophonist John Stubblefield doesn’t have a very high profile in jazz and there are few records under his own name. This one (Confessin’) for the Italian Soul Note label is certainly worth exploring, especially as it includes fine piano from Mulgrew Miller. If you can find it, check out the whole album or treat yourself to this excellent compilation of Black Saint and Soul Note tracks from the If… label, compiled by the always reliable Jean Claude.

We ended this week’s CJ with music from young British lions (and a lioness). The Ezra Collective has been at the forefront of the contemporary jazz scene in the UK and their take on I Have a God with Zara McFarlane on vocals was a great way to close the show. After two excellent EPs, their first full length album You Can’t Steal My Joy releases on 26 April. Watch this space!

  1. Art Blakey – Anthenagin from Anthenagin
  2. Harold Land – Black Caucus from Choma (Burn)
  3. Keith Jarrett Trio – Autumn Leaves from After the Fall
  4. Stanley Cowell – Trying to Find a Way from New World
  5. John Stubblefield – Confessin’ from Confessin’/You Need This!: Black Saint and Soul Note (1975-1985)
  6. Ezra Collective feat. Zara McFarlane – I Have a God from Chapter 7

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 02 February 2019: trumpeters and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz started with two of our recent favourites  – both from UK artists making waves around the world. We began with a stand out track from Maisha’s first album released at the end of 2018. Maisha are a London group led by drummer Jake Long and featuring some of the leading lights in the current UK jazz scene including Shirley Tetteh on guitar and Nubya Garcia on saxes. Like many of this new crop of jazz artists, their influences well extend beyond jazz and into hiphop, afrobeat and more. With more than a nod to the spiritual jazz tradition of pioneers like Pharoah Sanders, Maisha are one of the most mature of this new crop of artists.

Sarathy Korwar’s first album featured music inspired by the Sidi folk music tradition in India and was an accomplished introduction to his ambitious musical plans. However, the two CDs of Your East is My West takes Korwar’s music to another level altogether. The record features two quintets, one of UK musicians and the other of Indian instrumentalists – much like Joe Harriott’s influential Indo Jazz Fusions record from the 1960s. That influential release had an impact on a generation of British jazz artists and perhaps this new release (also from late 2018) will do the same. Rather than original compositions though, Korwar has chosen to interpret some contemporary jazz classics (like Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan) along with some rather less well known compositions including John McLaughlin’s Mind Ecology, recorded with his Shakti group.

The American acoustic bass player William Parker recorded initially with Cecil Taylor but was long a mainstay of David S Ware’s groups. Since the late 1990s he’s recorded prolifically with his own groups and the 2002 album Raining On the Moon is an excellent example of his quartet at work. His music has often featured vocalist Leena Conquest – listen to her work here on Parker’s superb tribute to the songs of Curtis Mayfield here on the expansive track If There’s a Hell Below We’re All Going To Go. Compare it with the Curtis original right here.

Cosmic Jazz has long enjoyed the music of trumpeter Erik Truffaz (photo above). Back in the day we promoted his Blue Note albums which often featured the subtle rapping of vocalist Nya. You can hear that on one of our favourites, Siegfried from Bending New Corners (1999) which includes some sublime piano from Patrick Muller. More recently, Truffaz has recorded in a wide variety of locations and with vocalists, local musicians and electronic artists – as in the atmospheric Good News From the Desert, a highlight from his Rendezvous 3CD set (2009). Three albums, recorded with different artists in three different cities – Paris, Benares and Mexico City – resulted in some of the most adventurous music of Truffaz’s career to date. The chilled Pacheco from the recent album Doni Doni doesn’t sound like a tribute to Cuban maestro Johnny Pacheco – but see what you think.

Up next was another trumpeter, Israeli-born New York based Avishai Cohen – not to be confused with the identically named bass player, also Israeli-born and also based in NY. Cohen has said that he’s been much influenced by Miles Davis (as was Erik Truffaz) and his 2017 ECM album Cross My Palm With Silver has a quiet reflective tone that endorses this.

Next up were two favourites from the past, beginning with a standout track from Donald Byrd’s first record with Mizell Brothers production, the excellent Black Byrd. We played the always funky Mr Thomas (with 1970s rhythm guitar, flute solo and horn section to the fore) and then came a bonafide CJ standout that we come back to time and again. It’s drummer Francisco Mora Catlett’s Vital Force from his World Trade Music album. We certainly played it as long ago as 23 September 2010 and I’m sure we’ll feature it again!

Finally, we ended this week’s show on a Brazilian vibe with a track from pianist and singer Elaine Elias. It comes from her 2017 release Dance of Time and – in this 100th year of the samba – features a range of classic and contemporary sambas. The album is also notable for the line up – Elias’s trumpeter ex-husband Randy Brecker and Steps Ahead vibraphone partner Mike Mainieri are there, along with Brazilian guitar legend Toquinho. The last of these should be much more well known worldwide: if you don’t know his music then check out this duet with Gilberto Gil on Tarde em Itapoa.

  1. Maisha – Azure from There is a Place
  2. Sarathy Korwar – Mind Ecology from Your East is My West
  3. William Parker – Hunk Pappa Blues from Raining on the Moon
  4. Erik Truffaz Quartet – Pacheco from Doni Doni
  5. Avishai Cohen – 50 Years and Counting from Cross My Palm with Silver
  6. Donald Byrd – Thomas from Black Byrd
  7. Francisco Mora Catlett – Vital Force from World Trade Music
  8. Eliane Elias – Copacabana from Dance of Time

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 26 January 2019: world sounds past and present

This week’s Cosmic Jazz is a typical CJ mix – we include jazz from 1957, new British and Polish jazz, one of our favourite current rap artists and a classic Latin fusion track.

The show started with  the remarkable Yusef Lateef. Until his recent death at the age of 93, Lateef was – like Don Cherry – a world music pioneer and the atmospheric Morning features Lateef on the arghul, an arabic single reed instrument with an attached drone. It’s remarkable, timeless music and will still sound as revolutionary in another 50 years. It’s similar in effect to Sun Ra’s equally incredible Ancient Aiethiopia from his 1959 album Jazz in Silhouette. Camilla George is one of the new UK saxophonists making waves and now, with her sophomore album The People Could Fly, she moves up another gear. Tappin’ the Land Turtle features vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett and the album features guitarist Shirley Tetteh, drummer Winston Clifford and one of our favourite pianists Sarah Tandy. Vocalist Omar makes an appearance on one track too.

Evelyn Laurie is a Scottish singer whose new self-produced is a conventional but charming delight. Evelyn has explored a range of different musical styles, including her own folk music compositions. A new UK group Me and My Friends ambitiously feature cello at the forefront of their self-penned songs and with African influences (especially on the chosen track You Read My Mind) they press some CJ buttons for sure.

The man with the longest beard in jazz, Jamie Saft, is an unusual keyboard player – equally at home with the avantgarde (for example, his work with John Zorn) and jazz standards. Lelabel from one of Zorn’s many Masada Songbook project albums delicately combines both – check it out here. Blue Dream features his quartet (including celebrated drummer Nasheet Waits) and includes both original compositions and three of those jazz standards.

Michal Martyniuk is a one the seemingly endless new artists to emerge from Poland. Nothing To Prove is his debut album and features Jakub Skowronski on saxophones, Kuba Mizeracki on guitar, Bartek Chojnacki on double bass and Kuba Gubz on drums.

And so to one of our favourite rappers of the moment, Akua Naru, from New Haven, Connecticut. Nag Champa is a great track we have featured previously on the show. It comes from her first album The Journey Aflame and for more from this excellent release check out more here on Bandcamp. And what is nag champa? It’s a Indian perfume – usually a mix of magnolia and sandalwood…

The show ended with two tunes we’ve featured in our Cosmic Jazz live shows –Joe Bataan’s spirited take on Gil Scott Heron’s classic The Bottle and a chilled house remix of Gil Felix’s Que Alegria from Sao Benitez. Joe Bataan took Scott Heron’s highlight from the Winter in America album and gave it a Puerto Rican workover that reflecting his upbringing in East Harlem as a the child of a Filipino father and African American mother. And that searing alto sax? It’s David Sanborn of course – and here’s another of his searing solos, this time from one of his many 1980s Reprise albums recorded with Marcus Miller. The track is Pyramid from the album Close Up.  Bataan himself continues to record – you can hear him on this recent release from boogaloo revival group Spanglish Fly.

  1. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Jazz Mood
  2. Camilla George feat. Cherise Adams-Burnett – Tappin’ the Land Turtle from The People Could Fly
  3. Evelyn Laurie – Close Your Eyes from A Little Bit Of Me
  4. Me and My Friends – You Read My Mind from Look Up
  5. Jamie Saft Quartet – Walls from Blue Dream
  6. Michal Martyniuk – Back from Krakow from Nothing to Prove
  7. Akua Naru – Nag Champa from The Journey Aflame
  8. Joe Bataan – The Bottle (La Botellita) from Afrofilipino/single
  9. Gil Felix – Que Alegria (Sao Benitez mix) from Brazilian Beats

Neil is listening to…