All posts by Neil

30 April 2017: International Jazz Day

Yes, today is International Jazz Day – your chance to see a jazz artist live, talk openly about jazz (!) and spin, download or stream some jazz music of your choice.

What will Cosmic Jazz be doing on IJD 2017? Well, I shall be flying to Brisbane, Australia and using the seven hours in the air to check out some of the music I’ve listed below. Why not join me?

Neil is listening to …

18 January 2016: extra – more best of 2016!

This week’s music selection included more of Neil’s best of the year round up – both new albums and some great reissues. First up was one of the self-penned tracks from teenage pianist Joey Alexander. Derivative and with definite echoes of Michel Petrucciani, but a fine display of Alexander’s fluency on the keys. This 2016 sophomore album is a fine development from his first release and includes an excellent take on Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage that features the soprano sax of Chris Potter.

Next was a rare reflective, percussion-driven excursion from Wayne Shorter that’s not easy to come by. One of his last releases for the Blue Note label, 1970’s Moto Grosso Feio found Shorter experimenting with Brazilian textures and sound motifs from his future collaborator Milton Nascimento. We played the title track which is is a slow burner that then hits a groove that’s really rather irresistible. Lost tracks from pianist Bill Evans were next in a fine 2016 release from the Resonance label that is the only recorded example of a studio recording in which Evans plays with CJ favourite drummer Jack DeJohnette. Completing the trio is bassist Eddie Gomez. During the show, Derek refers to a novel which is based on the time in Bill Evans’ career when his young and immensely gifted bass player Scott Le Faro was killed in a car crash. The novel was Intermission by Welsh writer Owen Martell – and is well worth tracking down.

We love alto player Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley here on CJ and it was good to have a chance to play one of those 1970s live tracks produced by David Axelrod and featuring George Duke on Fender Rhodes. We played Capricorn from the album Music, You All. In complete contrast came a great new 2016 release from composer Darcy James Argue titled Real Enemies. The music is indeed a reflection of these times when false news appears to have taken over some of our media channels. Trust No One features a soundclip of onetime Senator Frank Church discussing the ill effects of CIA narratives planted in foreign media and is worth quoting in full: I thought that it was a matter of real concern that planted stories intended to serve a national purpose abroad came home and were circulated here because this would mean that the CIA could manipulate the news in the United Staes by channelling it through some foreign country. Hmm…. Argue has also incorporated a series of quotes from the prescient 1964 essay The paranoid style in American politics by Richard Hofstadter. Check out the excellent Pitchfork Real Enemies review here. This is certainly music for these troubled political times.

The young British duo Yussef Kamaal featured next on the show with a track from their debut release Black Thought. This isn’t revolutionary jazz by any means but there’s some tight drum and keyboard work from Henry Wu and the overall effect is 70s Herbie with an update. Last on the show were two vocal outings. The first was a Joni Mitchell-style composition from US bass player Esperanza Spalding’s 2016 release and the second an example of more young homegrown talent – but this time from Neil’s current home of Singapore. The Steve McQueens are a jazz funk band with quirky vocals from Eugenia Yip. Their most recent release was produced by Bluey from Incognito and recorded in London.

  1. Joey Alexander – City Lights from Countdown
  2. Wayne Shorter – Moto Grosso Feio from Moto Grosso Feio
  3. Bill Evans – You Go to My Head from Some Other Time
  4. Cannonball Adderley – Capricorn from Music, You All
  5. Darcy James Argue – Trust No One from Real Enemies
  6. Fred Hersch Trio – Blackwing Palomino from Sunday Night at the Vanguard
  7. Yussef Kamaal – Lowrider from Black Focus
  8. Esperanza Spalding – Noble Nobles from Emily’s D + Evolution
  9. The Steve McQueens – Summer Star from Seamonster

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Neil is listening to:

21 December 2016: best of 2016 part 1

It’s that time of year again when we check out the best of what we’ve heard here at Cosmic Jazz over the last twelve months. This has been another great year for jazz – clearly following up the impact of Kamasi Washington’s 2015 The Epic. I’ve lost count of the number of recent Twitter features that promote the strength of this new relationship between contemporary jazz and a hip hop sensibility. Much of this began with saxophonist Terrace Martin’s appearance on 2015’s jazz-inflected Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Donny McCaslin’s contribution to David Bowie’s BlackStar. Of course, this has happened before but that shouldn’t stop us using this resurgence to promote new jazz.

So here we are with the first round of our Best of 2016 – but we actually began with a reissue from our label of the year, Strut. After two excellent Sun Ra anthologies in previous years (one curated by Gilles Peterson), Strut excelled themselves with The Singles, a 3CD chronological collection of – yes – all of the singles released by Sun Ra and related groups. Sun Ra released numerous 45 RPM singles over his long career, and this is a definitive collection of the singles released by Sun Ra across his illustrious career from 1952 to 1991. As with his LPs, most 45s were only pressed in small runs and have since become extremely rare and sought after. Some have only been discovered in physical form in recent years; some were planned and penciled but allegedly never made it to vinyl and some appeared as one-off magazine singles and posthumous releases. We selected the earliest track of all, Ra’s first recording of his spoken word track I Am an Instrument, followed by the seasonal It’s Christmas Time before diving into more Strut goodness from the resurrected Pyramids and their excellent album We All Be Africans.

New British jazz came from new duo Yussef Kamal followed by Bill Laurance, keyboard player with Snarky Puppy who came featured later in the show. More British jazz followed – first, from trumpeter Laura Jurd and her new group Dinosaur and then piano trio GoGo Penguin, now signed to Blue Note. We had more trio action from Brad Mehldau with his superb take on Lennon/McCartney’s And I Love Her followed by a track from German guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel’s excellent ECM release Rising Grace.

We ended the show with Jazzwise’s magazine’s choice of best new release of 2016 – a track from the excellent Tim Garland album One. We missed this album on its arrival in May, but Garland’s band should have alerted us to what was in store. Garland is Wayne Shorter-like in a number of ways: he’s an elegant composer as well as having a unique and different voice on both tenor and soprano saxophones. One sees him in the company of Jason Rebello on keys, Ant Law on guitar and  Asaf Sirkis on drums with percussion from Egyptian Hossam Ramzy on three tracks.

  1. Sun Ra – I Am an Instrument from The Singles 1952-91
  2. The Qualities – It’s Christmas Time from The Singles 1952-91
  3. Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids – Rhapsody in Berlin from We All Be Africans
  4. Yussef Kamal – Black Focus from Black Focus
  5. Bill Laurance – SOTI from Aftersun
  6. Dinosaur – Living, Breathing from Dinosaur
  7. Snarky Puppy – Tarova from Culcha Vulcha
  8. Go Go Penguin – Weird Cat from Man Made Object
  9. Brad Mehldau – And I Love Her from Blues and Ballads
  10. Wolfgang Muthspiel – Wolfgang’s Waltz from Rising Grace
  11. Tim Garland – Colours of Night from One

23 November: outside and inside

Bobby Wellins

This week Cosmic Jazz acknowledges the death of tenor player Bobby Wellins and his immeasurable contribution to the British jazz scene. There have been many jazz solos over the years that have achieved legendary status – whether Coleman Hawkins on Body and Soul, Art Tatum on Tea for Two or, of course, Charlie Parker on Koko – but Bobby Wellins is definitely up there too with the perfection that stan-tracey-under-milk-woodis his solo on Starless and Bible Black. No matter how many times you hear this, it’s impossible not to be moved by what Wellins creates in just over three minutes. We featured the title track from Stan Tracey’s suite based on the Dylan Thomas classic text. Why not explore the Andrew Sinclair/Richard Burton film version or add to this something really different: an extended loop take on the original that captures the monochrome Wellins’ atmosphere using a moody video image.

Also dhafer-youssefon this week’s show was another track from one of 2016’s top releases – the new album from vocalist and oud player Dhafer Youssef, an old favourite from Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele and more from the exciting electric piano trio led by drummer Thomas Grimmonprez,

Derek also featured sax players Carlos Garnett and Fredrik Kronkvist and drummer Otis Brown. The show ended with another brazilian-beats-4nod to Brazil – this time, a rarity out of Japan that appears on the excellent compilation Brazilian Beats 4. This consistently excellent compilation series can now be bought in a budget priced box set from the always reliable Mr Bongo record label.

So why our title this week? Well, jazz musicians usually choose to play either inside (within) a tune’s harmonic structure or outside (beyond the chord changes). There’s examples of both in our music this week – but let’s check out a master of the ‘outside’ – Thelonius Monk in this rare live performance of Rhythm a Ning, featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums.

  1. Dhafer Youssef – Al-Akhtal Rhapsody Part 1 from Diwan of Beauty and Odd
  2. Carlos Garnett – Let Us Go (to Higher Heights) from Journey to Enlightenment
  3. Colin Steele – The Journey Home from The Journey Home
  4. Thomas Grimmonprez – Spicy Chocolate from Kaleidoscope
  5. Otis Brown III feat. Bilal – The Thought Of You Pt III from The Thought Of You
  6. Stan Tracey – Under Milk Wood from Under Milk Wood
  7. Fredrik Kronkvist – Straight To The Point from Ignition
  8. Sonia Rosa and Yuji Ohno – Casa Forte (album version) from Brazilian Beats 4

21 September 2016: keeping jazz in the family

ravi-coltrane

This week’s CJ features music chosen by Neil before his departure to Singapore. We started the show with a very different version of a tune familiar to Cosmic Jazz listeners. This week saw the 90th anniversary of John Coltrane’s birth (23 September) and so we featured two classic ‘trane compositions – Alabama and Tunji. We have played the impassioned Alabama before on the show – and told the essential backstory. If you don’t know, then check out this radio feature on Alabama which suggests that (just as with the suite A Love Supreme) Coltrane based the cadences and rhythms of the tune on the spoken word – in this case, Martin Luther King’s funeral eulogy on the four girls killed in the Montgomery firebombing. Our other two versions will be much less familiar to CJ fans.

In Movemdejohnette-in-movementent, the new ECM album from Jack DeJohnette is a stunner. It’s a collaboration between DeJohnette and the sons of two musicians who featured in the classic Coltrane quartet – Ravi Coltrane (pictured above) and Matthew Garrison, bass playing son of Jimmy Garrison – so it seems appropriate that they should cover Alabama. In fact, all three of the album cover tunes are inspired – how about EWF’s Serpentine Fire?! The whole thing is suffused with subtle electronics from Garrison and sounds like a reinvigoration for DeJohnette who – at 74 – is arguably
on his best ever form.

The late Bernie Worrell was not just the keyboard player behind George Clinton’s funk groups Parliament and Funkadelic but an bernie worrell elevationadventurous jazz pianist in his own right. He committed only one solo piano album to disc and Elevation: the Upper Air was stunning result. There are no keyboard histrionics here – just quiet reflective versions of some tunes old and new that could now be called standards. One of them is our second look at Alabama. Other surprising inclusions on this gentle album are Carlos Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. It won’t be easy to find this album but it’s worth tracking down – and the excellent sound quality (thanks to producer Bill Laswell) is a bonus.

arthur-blythe-illusionsIn between these two impassioned performances was alto player Arthur Blythe. With a tone all his own, Blythe is one of the most underrated alto players in jazz. When he emerged in New York aged 37, he was already fully formed as a player. For me, Blythe has the same quality of sound as trumpeter Lester Bowie – a free-influenced player who is also capable of playing older styles in an utterly personal and borderline iconoclastic way. This new four album, two CD reissue on enterprising British label BGP is highly recommended. All four albums were the result of Blythe’s contract with Columbia Records – until they dropped him in favour of rising star Wynton Marsalis. The rest – as they say – is history… I bought Blythe’s Lenox Avenue Breakdown album when it when it first appeared in 1979 – but I didn’t get Illusions, this later one.  I should have done. My Son Ra is from is a blast from start to finish. Bob Stewart’s tuba is there still and James Blood Ulmer is on guitar too. This is another tribute title – it’s for his son Raschid.  

I just had to follow this with some authentic John Coltrane and so chose Tunji from Coltrane (the Deluxe Edition). This version is one of the several alternative versions on the extra disc and is taken rather faster than the one which appears on the initial album release. The title is a tribute to percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, of course – and he appears here in an updated performance of his classic Drums of Passion, this time adding modern beats with the help of Airto Moreira and Mickey Hart.

massive-attack-blue-linesEarlier this month, I was inspired by watching a rather good BBC4 television documentary on Massive Attack and their origins in the Bristol music scene of the late 1980s. It was a fascinating portrait, largely told through the eyes of the Wild Bunch collective founder Milo Johnson. Watch the full documentary Unfinished: The Making of Massive Attack along with these photographs of Bristol in the 1980s by Beezer. As Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines played over the end credits, I thought that this would make an excellent CJ opening track. Of course, it’s a great song but I think this version tops the excellent William DeVaughn original. By the way, Vince Montana of the Salsoul Orchestra played vibes on that original version. Here he is with the extended sextet version of the classic Heavy Vibes from a 1982 edition of Soul Train. Love the dancing…

Pianist Ahmad Jamal appears to be having a late career revival at the moment – but the reality is that he’s never gone away. Stolen Moments from The Awakening (1970) on the Impulse! label is a surely a tune that you can’t get wrong – and Jamal doesn’t disappoint, twisting and turning round the tune once he gets going with that really chordal percussive stye of his. About half way through he just runs off on another journey but is soon back with the theme – this version is just a delight. You can catch Jamal on fine live form at Marciac, France here with a radical version of Blue Moon

Wayne Shorter is one of the greatest living jazz artists. Now in hiswayne-shorter-odyssey-of-iska 80s, he is still at the top of his game – for example, delighting audiences at this year’s September Monterey Jazz Festival. Here he is on his very last outing for the label with the tune Joy from Odyssey of Iska. It’s quite difficult to get hold of this one on either vinyl or CD but look out for the album and its equally elusive predecessor Mato Grosso Feio. Both albums feature that Shorter’s unique elipical compositions and his radically different playing style on tenor and soprano saxes – the former gruff and rasping, the latter lean and clear. Odyssey of Iska features two drummers and two percussionists, along with vibes too, and yet the whole feels very light and airy. Interesting. A footnote: Iska was named after Shorter’s young daughter.

joe-henderson

Shorter began on the iconic Blue Note label and so did his contemporary Joe Henderson, one of CJ’s long time heroes. Even if you dip your musical toes into something more obscure from the extensive Henderson back catalogue (like Terra Firma from Black is the Color) you won’t go wrong. Easily dateable from the drums and the little bits of synth, this outing on Milestone is still pure deep Henderson – overdubbed on both tenor and soprano saxes along with flute too. Yes, there’s some wah wah style guitar and some synthesizer decorations,  but there’s some punchy electric bass too (unusually) from Ron Carter. That’s CJ this week – keeping it in the family.

  1. DeJohnette/Coltrane/Garrison – Alabama from In Movement
  2. Arthur Blythe – My Son Ra from Illusions
  3. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Bernie Worrell – Alabama from Elevation: the Upper Air
  5. Massive Attack – Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines
  6. Ahmad Jamal – Stolen Moments from The Awakening
  7. Wayne Shorter – Joy from Odyssey of Iska
  8. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color

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Neil is listening to…

14 September 2016: give the drummer some…

shela simmenesThis week’s CJ was scheduled for earlier this year – but thanks to Derek you can now hear these great tunes. As always, click on the link to the left to listen. We began with two vocalists – Sheila Simmenes and the excellent Love Exit Orchestra from Norway and legendary Shirley Horn. The track Don’t Get Me Wrong features singer Sheila Simmenes. We love her voice and the subtle interplay with the LEO band. Check out music from their new album Darling on the LEO site. Shirley Horn’s final studio album was May the Musicroy haynes hip ensemble End and we featured the lead off track, Forget Me.  Horn’s slow smoky vocals with her under-rated piano playing make for memorable listening. In the middle was evergreen drummer Roy Haynes, one of the greatest drummers in jazz. He has played with everyone from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis and is still leading his Fountain of Youth band at the age of 91. We chose the track Equipoise from his Hip Ensemble album of 1971, newly reissued on Boplicity.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is another musical outsider who has plolee scratch perry time boom x de devil deadughed his own furrow on the fringes of reggae and dub since beginning in the 1950s as a record seller. From his hundreds of recordings, we chose a track from one of his most consistent later albums, the excellent Time Boom X De Devil Dead, produced in collaboration with Adrian Sherwood for the On-U Sound label. If you’re new to the crazy world of Perry, watch this Channel 4 interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy for more craziness.

It was time for some latin jazz with Joe Bataan – probably the only Filipino African American to record for the influential Fania label. Bataan is also credited with inventing the term ‘salsoul’ to describe the uniqnu yorica!ue musical marriage of latin and street soul that surfaced in New York in the 1970s. For an introduction to this music, we recommend the excellent Soul Jazz compilation Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City – now available in a new expanded edition. We chose Bataan’s track Latin Strut, originally on his excellent but hard to find Salsoul album. You might be familiar with a more well known version called Super Strut by Brazilian musician and arranger Deodato.

We’ve played Stravinsky arrangements on Cosmic Jazz before but nothing quite like this: Dance of the Adolescents from Alan alan lee an australian jazz anthologyLee. There are few Australian originals in jazz, though this little known vibes player must surely be one of the best. Through a long (and sometimes troubled career) Alan Lee has ploughed a uniquely emotional furrow. In this excellent Jazzman anthology, the range of his work is clear. Lee has said What I want is the fire! Whether it’s John Coltrane’s Blues Minor from Africa Brass or Backwater Blues by Leadbelly, I want the emotion, the gut wrenching pain, the cry from within! and we get that in some many of the tracks on this highly recommended collection. We followed this with another reissue from the excellent Boplicity series which has culled the Mainsharold land chomatream catalogue for some jazz which is – well – not always mainstream. And there’s no better example of this than the track we featured from Harold Land’s album Choma (Burn). It’s easy to think of Land as a straightahead small bandleader (check out the classic album The Fox) but he’s not on the featured Black Caucus where, with the help of extraordinary vibesman Bobby Hutcherson, the music fizzles and sparks with authority.

Snarky Puppy’s British keyboard player Bill Laurance labill laurance aftersuntest solo release is Aftersun, and we played the beautiful track Madeleine. Laurance has stripped his group down to a trio with additional percussion and the result is a more succinct sound than his previous releases Swift and Flint. The wide range of Snarky Puppy-type influences are still there and with the same strong melodies and stylish arrangements. It could be Laurance’s best yet.

j dillaLong time CJ favourites The United Future Organization from Japan were up next with a funky reworking of Jon Hendricks’ great I Bet You Thought I’d Never Find You. Hendricks is the inventor of vocalese (adding lyrics to jazz improvisations) and he was a sprightly 72 when he recorded this with UFO for their 1994 album. J Dilla’s hip hop beats are a huge influence on many younger jazz artists, perhaps none more than Robert Glasper who has featured explicit tributes to the late producer on several of his albums. Here’s his J Dillalude from 2007 and – even better – a punchy live version from the Robert Glasper Experiment at the XOYO club. We ended the show with Herbie Hancock and his take on Prince’s Thieves in Layout 1the Temple from The New Standards. This excellent release from 1996 features a top notch band with Hancock, who sticks to acoustic piano, Michael Brecker on tenor and surprisingly effective soprano, guitarist John Scofield, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and percussionist Don Alias (with an occasional horn or string section dubbed in post-production). The results are not uniformly excellent (the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood is a poor choice) but most cuts work really well and Hancock is on fiery form throughout.

  1. Love Exit Orchestra – Don’t Get Me Wrong (single)
  2. Roy Haynes – Equipoise from Hip Ensemble
  3. Shirley Horn – Forget Me from May the Music Never End
  4. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – S.D.I from Time Boom X De Devil Dead
  5. Joe Bataan – Latin Strut from NuYorica! Culture Clash in New York City
  6. Alan Lee – Dance of the Adolescents from An Australian Jazz Anthology
  7. Harold Land – Black Caucus from Choma (Burn)
  8. Bill Laurance – Madeleine from Aftersun
  9. UFO (feat. Jon Henricks) – I Bet You Thought I’d Never Find You from United Future Organization
  10. J Dilla – So Far to Go from The Shining Instrumentals
  11. Herbie Hancock – Thieves in the Temple from The New Standards

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08 September 2016: CJ playout!

vinyl-hunter

Cosmic Jazz‘s local specialist vinyl store (yes, we have one!) is the excellent Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds. There’s a great selection of new and used records, all the equipment you need to set up your first vinyl sound system along with excellent coffee and cakes too. It’s a haven of great sounds – and their Rough Trade-style practice of writing informative sleeve notes on all new vinyl is a good example of their attention to detail.

img_7877Following their return from Brazil, owner Rosie Hunter and son Will arrived back with an armful of rare Brazilian grooves and at CJ we thought that this was a good opportunity to spin some of our own treasured discs instore. Thanks to Vinyl Hunter‘s two Technics PL 1210s and sound system (along with a CD deck) customers enjoyed three hours of quality samba, bossa nova, drum and bass and more.

img_7883On 10 September, Vinyl Hunter will celebrate their first anniversary. It’s worth a visit to Bury St Edmunds to support this excellent new music outlet. If you’re not already into vinyl, now’s the time to start – let Ross and Will guide you and you’ll emerge with great sounds and the beginning of a lifelong music habit.

07 September 2016: Rudy van Gelder special

Rudy Van Gelder used his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.
Rudy Van Gelder used his parents’ living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was all about one man – Rudy van Gelder, whose death was announced late last month. Van Gelder was, without doubt, one of the most important figures in the history of jazz music – but he wasn’t a musician. As an engineer, he helped to define the sound of recorded jazz from his two iconic recording studios – first in Hackensack at his parents’s home and then at his own custom built studio (and home) at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

herbie-hancock-maiden-voyageVan Gelder always said that he was not a record producer but a recording engineer. He had the final say in what Englewood Cliffs records sounded like, and he was, in the view of countless producers, musicians and listeners, better at that than anyone. Van Gelder engineered albums for four key labels – Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse and CTI – and was responsible for so many jazz classics, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Horace Silver’s Song For My Father.

In 1988, van Gelder told the New York Times that he believed he had been associated with more records, technically, than anybody else in mccoy-tyner-horizonthe history of the record business – and any look at the list of records engineered at Englewood Cliffs endorses this. So, here at CJ, we’ve tried to condense some of the Englewood Cliffs experience into an hour of classic jazz recordings. We began with the title track from Horizon, one of the best of McCoy Tyner’s many recordings for Milestone. This record is a stonecold classic – find it and buy it if you can. The inspired choice of John Blake on violin and saxophonist George Adams complement Tyner perfectly as he weaves through a series of superb compositions, of which Horizon is the most exceptional. Up next was a more familiar recording – Oliver Nelson’s Impulse! label classic Stolen Moments from his 1961 album The Blues and the Abstract Truth. This standard has now been recorded by dozens of artists including a celebrated vocal version by Mark Murphy that we have featured previously on CJ.

John Coltrane was much recorded at Englewood Cliffs, from the early days with Prestige to his long tenure at Impulse! Records. We chose a classic from 1962 – the studio recording of Impressions. This track is pure Coltrane – although it uses the same chord sequence as john-coltrane-coltraneMiles Davis’s So What, it couldn’t be more different. Impressions is modal piece featuring what had become known by the time of this recording as Coltrane’s sheets of sound. Listen to the free-flowing drumming of Elvin Jones and how he is tuned to the pulse and energy of Coltrane’s saxophone tones. For us at CJ, this is one of those timeless Coltrane recordings that belong with Blue Train, Ole and A Love Supreme. Seek out the deluxe version of the Impulse! album just called Coltrane and you’ll find the recording we featured.

There are some great records that feature recipes – one of my favourites is Don Cherry’s Rappin’ Recipe on his little known album Home Boy, Sister Out. Check out the track Alphabet City here. We larry-coryell-barefoot-boywedged in the comic double act of trumpeter Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill with their 1966 recipe Spanish Rice before the arrival of Gabor Szabo’s Gypsy Queen, a track recorded by Santana on their excellent Abraxas album. But it’s a tune that has a jazz pedigree as well – I’ve always enjoyed the version by guitarist Larry Coryell.

Rudy van Gelder was reluctant to reveal too many specifics about sam-rivers-fuchsia-swing-songhis recording techniques. But he was clear about his goal: to get electronics to accurately capture the human spirit, and to make the records he engineered sound as warm and as realistic as possible. The
placing of microphones was crucial in this process and the result was that many of his recordings (particularly those from the late 1950s and early 1960s have a presence that often places the musicians in the room with the listener. That’s true of many of the recordings we featured in this week’s show and even on an MP3 file you can hear this. Listen closely to Sam Rivers’ tenor saxophone on Beatrice for a taste of this. Van Gelder wanted what he called
 a sense of space in the overall sound picture. He used specific microphones located in places that allowed the sonny-rollins-alfiemusicians to sound as though they were playing from different locations in the room, which in reality they were. This created a feeling of dimension and depth that few other recordings have. Whether it’s Sonny Rollins’s sax on Alfie’s Theme or Tommy Flanagan’s claves on Samba Para Bean you can hear it all so clearly.

WVANGR03
WVANGR03

As a former optometrist, van Gelder was particularly fussy about the small details of recording. He said I was the guy doing everything — setting up the chairs, running the floor cables, setting the microphones, working the console. I didn’t want to handle all of my fine, expensive equipment with dirty hands. It shows. Even more, van Gelder was involved in every aspect of making his records, from preparation rudy-van-gelder-run-off-grooveto mastering (the final stage in the process) in which the music on tape was transferred to disc for record-plant pressing. I always wanted to be in control of the entire recording chain, he said. Why not? It had my name on it. This – of course – was true: if you look at the run off groove on any Rudy van Gelder vinyl recording you will see his initials.

  1. McCoy Tyner – Horizon from Horizon
  2. Oliver Nelson – Stolen Moments from Stolen Moments
  3. John Coltrane – Impressions from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill – Spanish Rice from Spanish Rice
  5. Gabor Szabo – Gypsy Queen from Spellbinder
  6. Jackie McLean – Francisco from Capuchin Swing
  7. Horace Silver – Home Cookin’ from The Stylings of Silver
  8. Sonny Rollins – Alfie’s Theme from Alfie
  9. Sam Rivers – Beatrice from Fuchsia Swing Song
  10. Coleman Hawkins – Samba Para Bean from Desafinado

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Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to…

31 August 2016: old masters and young lions

 

arthur blythe
This week’s Cosmic Jazz kicked off with saxophonist Arthur Blythe during perhaps the most fertile period of creativity for this always distinctive alto player. He’s performing here with a terrific band that features Bob Stewart on tuba and CJ favourite Jack de Johnette on drums. Has Blythe ever been better than this? The band sound as if they have been playing together for years but this was their first time together on Columbia and – along with Blythe’s timarthur blythe lenox avenue breakdowne with the Italian Black Saint label – it would produce some of his best music. You can find four of these CBS albums, including this one (Lenox Avenue Breakdown) on one new BGP reissue. The late and great Richard Cook identifies this as an essential recording, noting that it’s a superlative piece of imaginative instrumentation. Perhaps the other stand out track on this excellent album is Odessa – listen to it here. The BGP reissue is available now and is highly recommended by CJ of course. We followed this with more newly reissued music, this time from Spain and saxophonist Pedro Iturralde in a flamenco-meets-jazz project that works. The guitarist here is a young Paco de Lucia in gilles peterson mpsone of his first professional recordings. The prolific Peterson has a new compilation of music from the German MPS label. that – as usual with Gilles – features music that most of us are unlikely to have encountered before. Like ECM’s Manfred Eicher, MPS was founded by jazz enthusiast Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer – usually just known as HBGS. In his Black Forest home studio, the label recorded hundreds of jazz artists from around the world including Oscar Peterson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lee Konitz, George Duke and Charlie Mariano.

jacob collier in my roomYoung multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier is one of the brightest new stars in the jazz firmament and he’s just released his first album, In My Room. Pretty much everything was recorded in his home music room, but we chose to play the final live track Don’t You Know that features group of the moment Snarky Puppy. This track can also be found on the latest Snarky Family Dinner album in which they have a featured vocalist on each number – check out the excellent official video here and listen to Jacob Collier talking about his very impressive debut here. He comments on his adolescent Stevie Wonder crush, citing Talking Book as a favourite album and noting that this was recorded by a 21 year old – the age Collier is right now. It’s no wonder that he’s quincy jones back on the blockcurrently being mentored by Quincy Jones whose music we featured next in his stunning recreation of Weather Report’s celebrated Birdland from the album Back on the Block. This is a slice of pure 1980s jazz –  there’s even syndrums in there! This record was the last studio recording for both Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Elder jazz statesman Jones has been in the news recently – you can listen to the complete UK Prom celebration of his music with the Metropole Orkest which features Jacob Collier and others.

Up next was Bobby Hutcherson with a terrific track that we played in its entirety (all 18 minutes) – juswayne shortert because we didn’t want to break the spell of this superb music. Here was Hutcherson with a top 1970s band featuring Harold Land on tenor and William Henderson on Fender Rhodes – all backed by the fatback drums of Woody Sonship Theus. We also celebrated Wayne Shorter’s 83rd birthday with a track from his rare final Blue Note album, Odyssey of Iska. If you find this record anywhere on vinyl, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. Scots vocalist Laura Mvula featured on the excellent Silence is the Way from the Robert Glasper/Miles Davis azymuth brazilian soulEverything’s Beautiful album and the show ended with a return to Brazil and Azymuth’s O Lance from their Far Out album Brazilian Soul. Catch them here performing a Brownswood Basement session in 2013. We’ve enjoyed the music in our two Brazil specials and we’ll continue to feature the uniquely diverse musical styles from this extraordinary country. Look out for news too of an upcoming CJ Live! outing focusing on Brazilian music.

  1. Arthur Blythe – Down San Diego Way from Lenox Avenue Breakdown
  2. Pedro Iturralde Quintet – Cancion Del Fuego Fatuo from Music Sunshine Peterson
  3. Jacob Collier – Don’t You Know from In My Room
  4. Quincy Jones – Birdland from Back on the Block
  5. Bobby Hutcherson – Hey Harold from Head On
  6. Wayne Shorter – Calm from Odyssey of Iska
  7. Robert Glasper (feat. Laura Mvula) – Silence is the Way from Everything’s Beautiful
  8. Azymuth – O Lance from Brazilian Soul

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Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to:

 

24 August 2016: new jazz vocalists and three tributes

bobby hutcherson

This week’s Cosmic Jazz has tributes to two jazz superstars, some new releases and more music from Brazil. We began with a cut from rapper Oddisee, available as part of his Odd Summer release on Bandcamp and then took at short look at the career of Blue Note vibesman Bobby Hutcherson with Yuyo and Love Song, both from his superb Montara album of 1975. Hutcherson is the subject of a recommended more extended tribute from Gilles Peterson. It’s available in two parts and you can access Part 1 here and Part 2bobby hutcherson montara here. As we noted on the show, Hutcherson had a uniquely long tenure with Blue Note – one only matched by pianist Horace Silver – recording over 45 albums as leader in his long career from 1963 right through to 2014. Fittingly, his last studio album Enjoy the View was a return to the Blue Note label.

Next up were two tracks from the new Robert Glasper/Miles Davis collaboration. Davis is now in that small but select pantheon of artists who will continue to release new best selling albums after his miles davis everything's beautifuldeath and Everything’s Beautiful is no exception. It debuted at No.1 on the Billboard jazz chart and even entered into their top 200 releases. Whatever purists think of the music, there’s no doubt that this can kind of activity can promote contemporary jazz and, of course, it helps if you can call on top drawer names like Stevie Wonder, Laura Mvula and Erykah Badu to help you out. We featured the excellent Maiysha (So Long) which adds lyrics to what was probably the weakest track on the Miles Davis Get Up With It album from 1974. Compare Glasper’s imaginative reworking with the original Maiysha track here. A taste of the Haitus Koyote collaboration from Everything’s Beautiful followed and then two examples of contemporary jazz badbadnotgood ivvocals. The first came from Toronto’s Badbadnotgood trio and their new release – simply titled IV. Time Moves Slow features vocalist Sam Herring from American synth-pop band Future Islands. Here though, his vocal is a beautifully restrained take that would have suited legendary southern soul performers like James Carr or Dan Penn. What better to follow this that the consummate restraint of Abbey Lincoln singing Should’ve Been from her excellent 2007 release Abbey Sings Abbey?

sonzeira tam tam tamCJ returned to Brazil for the second half of this week’s show with music from the new Sonzeira release from Gilles Peterson.  Like the Everything’s Beautiful project, this album features radical reworkings of the music from a long lost Brazilian classic album – Jose Prates Tam Tam Tam! from 1958. Peterson’s search for the £1000 album even featured on the UK’s Channel 4 news and in Record Collector magazine. It was eventually re-released on Trunk Records last year with Peterson’s release available on his own Brownswood Records earlier this month.

Up next was another exclusive – a rare track from a still unreleased album. Brazilian vocalist Joyce is a longtime friend of Cosmic Jazz joyceand we have featured her music since we began the show nearly ten years ago. Her 1980 album Feminina was re-released to critical acclaim by Mr Bongo many years ago and this version of the title track is from an unreleased American album. The plan was to launch Joyce’s career in the US with this an album featuring the cream of American jazz musicians – all arranged by Claus Ogerman who oversaw George Benson’s Breezin’ and In Flight albums. This sensational extended version of Feminina has superb solos from Joe Farrell on flute and Mike Manieri on vibes.

celia vaz ebb and flowStaying in Brazil but with a more contemporary twist, next was Celia Vaz and APE from their excellent album Ebb and Flow. This really successful mix of Brazilian grooves and electronica should be better known: APE are English producers Paul Conboy and Adrian Corker and this release works on every level. We ended the show with two tributes to jazz greats we have recently lost. The first was Belgian harmonica player Toots Thielemans who featured in bass player Jaco Pastorius’s Word of Mouth big band project on the beautiful tune bernie worrell elevationThree Views of a Secret, also recorded by Weather Report for their album Night Passage. The late Bernie Worrell was known for his work with Parliament and Funkadelic but jazz was his musical backbone. Many of his solo albums are worth exploring – but especially his solo piano outing Elevation which begins with this moving version of another Miles Davis tune, In a Silent Way.

  1. Oddisee – Viva Brasil from Odd Summer
  2. Bobby Hutcherson – Yuyo from Montara
  3. Bobby Hutcherson – Love Song from Montara
  4. Robert Glasper (feat. Erykah Badu) – Maiysha (So Long) from Everything’s Beautiful
  5. Haitus Koyote – Little Church from Everything’s Beautiful
  6. Badbadnotgood (feat. Sam Herring) – Time Moves Slow from IV
  7. Abbey Lincoln – Should’ve Been from Abbey Sings Abbey
  8. Sonzeira – O Que Voce Sabe from Tam Tam Tam!
  9. Sonzeira – Aves de Lema from Tam Tam Tam!
  10. Joyce – Feminina from unreleased album Natureza
  11. Celia Vaz and APE – Nas Aguas do Rio from Ebb and Flow
  12. Celia Vaz and APE – Obrigado Donato from Ebb and Flow
  13. Jaco Pastorius – Three Views of a Secret from Word of Mouth
  14. Bernie Worrell – In a Silent Way from Elevation (The Upper Air)

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Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…