All posts by Neil

Week ending 19 January 2019: jazz vocalists old and new

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured tracks from some of the Jazzwise best of 2018 releases along with a focus on female vocalists, including the recently departed Nancy Wilson. We began with a little cracker of a track though – Harold Land’s In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark originally from his 1972 album Damisi, but now available on of one of two recent Mainstream Records compilations. This gem has Land on tenor sax, Oscar Brashear on trumpet, Buster Williams on bass and Ngudu on drums. Then we travelled in a more mellow direction – but rather controversially in that neither Derek nor I are convinced by the current approach being taken by one of our jazz heroes, Charles Lloyd. His Vanished Gardens may have secured the overall top spot in Jazzwise this year but we’re not so sure. It’s certainly a bold move: Lloyd is accompanied by vocalist Lucinda Williams on several of the tracks and Greg Liesz on pedal steel joins with guitarist Bill Frisell. The group have certainly integrated their sound since a first collaboration in 2016 but this melange of Lloyd’s post-Coltrane accents and Frisell’s Americana tendencies is still something of a curiosity. We shall keep listening…

Next up were vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant and Nancy Wilson. The former has a new album in which she is accompanied only by pianist Sullivan Fortner. Like Lloyd’s new direction, this is a bold move, but the quality of McLorin Salvant’s arrangements and the vocal risks she takes make her new album Windows an unalloyed success. Elsewhere on the record is a stunningly original take on West Side Story’s Somewhere and an equally adventurous reading of Dori Caymmi’s Obsession. We ended our show this week with a second track, Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks – made famous in this version by Stan Getz. McLorin Salvant presents it in the version with lyrics by Norma Winstone and there’s additional tenor sax from Melissa Aldana. For another interesting twist on this almost-standard, try this take on John McLaughlin’s underrated album The Promise. But perhaps the best interpretation (not unexpectedly) is that of pianist Bill Evans on the posthumous album You Must Believe in Spring.

Singer Nancy Wilson sadly died in December 2018. She recorded over 70 albums and won three Grammy awards, but she is still less well known than she should be. We presented two cuts from her celebrated 1962 collaboration with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet which featured a great take on the standard A Sleeping Bee.  Heretical it might be, but I love this more Broadway version from Barbra Streisand too!

Benin singer Angelique Kidjo performed her exciting new project in in London and elsewhere  in 2017 before releasing it on record last year. It’s her take on Remain in Light, Talking Heads’ seminal album from 1980, which showed the NY artpunk band stretching out with the help of producer Brian Eno and a bunch of additional musicians. We played the opening cut on both versions of the album – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On). If you don’t know the Talking Heads original, here it is… It’s a bonafide classic and a worthy listen for anyone who likes great music in any genre. What Kidjo has done is – to some extent –  reclaimed the African influences of the original, enhancing them with New York afrobeat band Antibalas and, on a couple of tracks, recruiting Tony Allen himself, the magisterial creator of afrobeat rhythms. It seemed appropriate then to follow this with a track from the septuagenarian drummer’s latest collaboration – this time with Detroit techno master Jeff Mills. Most of their new EP works really well and our featured track Seed is a good example.

We’ve enjoyed a lot of Indian-inflected music over the last year, and none more so that the superb live recording created by Sarathy Korwar that we’ve featured over the last few weeks. But back in the day, many jazz artists were exploring similar territory. A relatively rare 1974 release on ECM Records, Dave Liebman’s Drum Ode featured tabla from Badal Roy and Collin Walcott. We played Satya Dhwani (True Sound).

Another well received new release from 2018 was pianist Brad Mehldau’s new album Seymour Reads the Constitution!, the title apparently a reference to a Mehldau dream. The quality of performance is typically universally high with Mehldau’s usual trio collaborators Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard in fine form.

We ended the show with more from our featured vocalists Nancy Wilson and Cecile McLorin Salvant along with a new original composition from that Charles Lloyd and the Vanished Gardens album.

  1. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from Damisi/Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems
  2. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Monk’s Mood from Vanished Gardens
  3. Cecile McLorin Salvant – Visions from Windows
  4. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – A Sleeping Bee from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  5. Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) from Remain in Light
  6. Tony Allen/ Jeff Mills – The Seed from Tomorrow Comes the Harvest
  7. Dave Liebman – Satya Dhwani (True Sound) from Drum Ode
  8. Brad Mehldau – Almost Like Being In Love from Seymour Reads the Constitution
  9. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – The Masquerade is Over from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  10. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Blues for Langston and La Rue from Vanished Gardens
  11. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Peacocks from Windows

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 12 January 2019: Ali to Akinmusire

Neil returned to Singapore this week and so the show featured his music choices, including some brand new releases. First up was the duo of drummer Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe with their free jazz album from 1973, recently re-released and sampled on a new Soul Jazz compilation (see below). Ali was the drummer in John Coltrane’s last recordings and this rare release was clearly a re-examination of the landmark 1967 Coltrane album Interstellar Space in which Coltrane and Ali recorded extended duo tracks. Frank Lowe was an up and coming tenor saxophonist who had already recorded with Alice Coltrane on her World Galaxy album in 1972.  Whilst Lowe and Ali don’t rise to the free improvisational heights of the Coltrane recording, it’s an interesting experiment.

We then glided into a track from one of 2018’s best albums, Arve Henriksen’s The Height of the Reeds, which started as a commissioned work for the city of Hull, designated as Britain´s cultural capital 2017. Norwegian Henriksen, working with longtime fellow sound architects Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang, explored the longstanding seafaring relationship between Hull and Scandinavia using his muted trumpet to great atmospheric effect. The music was originally the companion to a sound walk that over 15,000 listeners accessed via headphones while walking across the Humber Bridge.

This year, Blue Note Records is 80 years old and one of its pioneer artists, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, is celebrating with a 3CD release on the label. But the package is even more ambitious in that it  includes a space-themed graphic novel written by Shorter and the screenwriter Monica Sly and with a powerful graphic treatment from Randy DuBurke.

In the 1960s, Shorter recorded seven albums in three years with the Miles Davis Quintet, several featuring his own enigmatic compositions. But Shorter’s current ensemble, with Brian Blade on drums, Danilo Pérez on piano, and John Patitucci on bass often focuses on deconstructing older compositions, including tunes that are now part of the jazz standard repertoire. The new release is called Emanon (or ‘Nowhere’ backwards) and includes two discs of live material from Shorter’s Barbican Hall concert in November 2016. I saw the band a year earlier and would judge that concert as one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen. Emanon combines a four-part suite recorded with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with the other two discs of the quartet playing those pieces and others live in London. The best of the music is undoubtedly these two live discs in which Shorter revisits The Three Marias from his Atlantis album and Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean from the quartet’s 2005 album, Beyond the Sound Barrier. Drummer Brian Blade’s role is reminiscent of the great Tony Williams from some of those Blue Note albums – first he flickers the sticks all over his kit and then injects more explosive cymbal work. Shorter slithers around on both tenor and soprano saxophones, combining that distinctive gruff tenor tones with the clear piping sound he introduced on the soprano in his years with Weather Report.

Shorter turned 85 in November but he has unfortunately recently had to cancel his appearance at a four night SFJazz Center event. We wish this most gifted of jazz artists well and hope that his proposed opera with Esperanza Spalding sees the light soon.

The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band was one of the most noteworthy European bands of its day. Between 1961 and 1972 they recorded fifteen albums, with the first being Jazz is Universal which featured the track Charon’s Ferry. A new release from keyboard player, DJ and producer Mark de Clive-Lowe is always welcome, even if it’s a compilation of some of his most recent projects. Leaving This Planet (2.0) was originally released in as a 5 track EP early 2011, but it’s now reissued via Bandcamp as a full length compilation of MdCL productions, collaborations, one-offs, B-sides and remixes. The new album Heritage will be released in early 2019.

One of our favourite new Polish bands (and there are many – see last week’s show for more) is EABS, or Electro-Acoustic Beats Sessions. Originating from Wroclaw in south west Poland, their musical influences come from far and wide. The band deconstructs hiphop and funk rhythms to create authentically new music, and the Puzzle Mixtape from 2014 fuses these varied influences into a sound that’s most like the recent work of self-proclaimed beat scientist Makaya McCraven, whose work is often featured on this show. Burgundy Whip features MED, a Californian rapper more at home with Madlib and Quasimoto. The Puzzle Mixtape is full of more exciting collaborations – check it out here on Bandcamp.

There’s always space for some great reggae on Cosmic Jazz and Protoje is a good example of where reggae is right now. With a high profile (including memorable collaborations with Chronixx) his two most recent releases are well worth exploring.

New York loft scene guitarist Marc Ribot is a veteran collaborator too. In the past, he’s worked with artists as varied as John Zorn, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello and his 2018 project is called Songs of Resistance 1942-2018. It’s a clear response to the election of Donald Trump and How to Walk in Freedom – one of the more jazz-influenced cuts on this most varied album – has some beautiful flute from Roy Nathanson. For something very different try Ribot’s work with his band The Young Philadelphians as they recast classic funk tracks into something very different – here’s their ragged live take on Van McCoy’s classic The Hustle.

Kitty Bey has recently been covered on Toshio Matsuura’s recent album but this week we went back to the original version from Byron Morris and his group Unity which features on a new Soul Jazz Records compilation along with the Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe piece that kicked off the show this week. This second Soul of A Nation album complements the first one, released to coincide with the London Tate Modern exhibition Soul of a Nation – Art in the Age of Black Power. This international exhibition is now at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and then travels to Los Angeles in 2019.

The new album features a number of important and ground-breaking African-American artists – The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Don Cherry, Funkadelic, Gil Scott-Heron and more – alongside a host of lesser-known artists all of whom in the early 1970s were exploring new Afrocentric poly-rhythmical styles of music – radical jazz, street funk and proto-rap – while at the same time exploring the Black Power and civil-rights inspired notions of self-definition, self-respect and self-empowerment in their own lives. It’s a worthy successor to the first album and – as often with Soul Jazz Records – includes an excellent illustrated booklet.

Butcher Brown may be a young band from Richmond, Virginia but their roots go deep into a wide range of jazz styles. For their Afrokuti release from August last year, they bridged jazz and afrobeat to good effect, especially on the track we chose – Tales From the Shrine.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has just released what is probably his most ambitious album yet. Working in the Mivos String Quartet with a rapper has to be a challenge but, on the opening track of Origami Harvest, Musire makes it work perfectly. By the end of this long track, Akinmusire, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and pianist Sam Harris, come together with rapper Kool A.D.’s sound.

  1. Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe – Exchange (Part II) from Duo Exchange/Soul of a Nation compilation
  2. Arve Henriksen – Pink Cherry Trees from The Height of the Reeds
  3. Wayne Shorter Quartet – Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean from Emanon
  4. Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – Charon’s Ferry from
  5. Mark de Clive-Lowe – Eight from Leaving This Planet (2.0)
  6. EABS (feat. MED) – Burgundy Whip from The Puzzle Mixtape
  7. Protoje – A Matter of Time from A Matter of Time
  8. Marc Ribot – How To Walk in Freedom from Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
  9. Byron Morris and Unity – Kitty Bey from Blow Thru Your Mind/Soul of a Nation compilation
  10. Butcher Brown – Tales From the Shrine from Afrokuti: a Tribute to Fela
  11. Ambrose Akinmusire – a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie from Origami Harvest

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 June 2018: cosmic sounds and spiritual vibes

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured five new releases and one old favourite. Check them all out by clicking on the tab left. First up was the opening track from Nat Birchall’s latest jazz release, suitably titled Cosmic Language. Birchall is an expert on Jamaican dub (check this out via his Sound Soul and Spirit website right here) but we should now add Indian ragas to his musical influences. Man from Varanasi replaces piano with the Indian harmonium, a small pump organ. The idea for the album came from a one-off performance at the Maharishi Golden Dome meditation centre in West Lancashire. Birchall brought along his own harmonium, an instrument he hadn’t previously used in his music. From this came the music that makes this latest release on the Jazzman label rather different from Birchall’s previous output.

Man from Varanasi is dedicated to Bismillah Khan, one of Birchall’s Indian influences, and sees him taking cues from the Indian raga tradition which underpinned Khan’s music. Like another clear influence, Birchall’s music travels along the path of Alice and John Coltrane in exploring jazz that is informed by Indian religious music and – like much of the music we feature on this show – Birchall explains that, for him, The whole act of making music is a spiritual experience. It’s during performance and when playing music that I look for a kind of truth. It’s with music where I find myself feel closest to attaining that ‘enlightened’ kind of feeling. On rare occasions I’ve actually felt as though I was listening to the music being played rather than being involved in making it, almost like an out-of-body experience. 

It’s worth adding that Birchall has moved even further way from jazz  with his second release this year. Sounds Almighty is an instrumental roots reggae dub LP featuring legendary Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon who has played with Bob Marley and The Wailers, Burning Spear, Yabby You and many more. All original tunes on the album were recorded old school style on vintage analogue equipment and mixed by dub master Al Breadwinner at the Bakery Studio in Manchester. The vinyl edition is limited to 500 copies.

It was inevitable given his current status in the contemporary jazz world that Kamasi Washington had to be included in this week’s show following the recent release of his Heaven and Earth record. Anyone who loved Washington’s first release, the suitably titled 3CD set The Epic, will go for this record too. It has all the familiar elements – the full-blown orchestra, that choir and Washington’s rasping sax sounds. But this new one is more than just a rerun of The Epic. First thing is a surprise addition – on both vinyl and CD versions there’s a third disc hiding in the packaging. It wasn’t in the pre-release review copies and so we’ve focused on it in this week’s show. This third disc is called The Choice and includes some notable covers, including Ooh Child, originally recorded by Chicago soul group The Five Stairsteps.

There is also a cosmic feel to Chip Wickham’s The Mirage – and a connection to Nat Birchall in that it features another Manchester musician, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, in whose band Birchall used to play. In fact, I have witnessed them playing together.

We followed this with two tunes that went back to the roots of rather contrasting locations and sounds. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials were part of a heathy 1990s New York club scene that fused jazz, rap, and funk and their 1995 album Cool and Steady and Easy introduced their great take on Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan. Behind the collective of over 20 musicians was legendary producer Arthur Baker, whose great 12″ house single It’s Your Time I am listening to as I write [notes Derek]. Brooklyn Funk Essentials are due in London soon – it should be quite a party.

Rooted in a different way is Joachim Mencel, a Polish pianist who also plays the hurdy gurdy and fuses Polish and Slavic folk music with modern jazz. Each tune on his latest album Artisena is named after a Polish traditional dance and whilst Mencel’s music has an authentic traditional sound, it is definitely modern jazz. One has to treat fusions with caution but this one – like Nat Birchall’s – really does work. With Mencel are Weronika Plutecka (violin), Syzon Mika (guitar), Pawel Wszolek (double bass) and Syzmon Madej (drums). As with much of the excellent Polish jazz we play on the show, this album comes direct from Steve’s Jazz Sounds – check out their superb stock.

To end the show we focused on a new/old release. The list of ‘bootleg’ sets uncovered by Columbia Records from the Miles Davis vaults continues to surprise. The 4CD set Volume 6 features Davis with Coltrane in his final concerts with the band and we included one of the most famous tunes in all jazz, Davis’s composition So What, recorded live in Paris. The tensions on this final tour created some stunning performances from both artists and whilst many of the tunes may be familiar to listeners, these new versions will surprise. It’s difficult to guess what will be next in this seemingly inexhaustible series but I’m personally waiting for the craziness of Miles in Japan on his last tour before retirement in 1975. Some of this fractured, angry music has been released already but there is undoubtedly more. You can see and hear music from the Osaka show right here.

  1. Nat Birchall – Man from Varanasi from Cosmic Language
  2. Kamasi Washington – My Family from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  3. Kamasi Washington – Ooh Child from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  4. Chip Wickham feat. Matthew Halsall – The Mirage from Shamal Wind
  5. Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Take the L Train (To Brooklyn) from Cool and Steady and Easy
  6. Joachim Mencel Quintet – Kojawiak F – Moll from Artisena
  7. Miles Davis and John Coltrane – So What (Olympia Paris, France, March 21 1960 Final Concert) from The Bootleg Series Vol. 6

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 23 June 2018: leftfield jazz and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was big on new leftfield sounds – and some of them may not even be jazz. As always, you decide. We began with Quin Kirchner and his six piece band. Drums and Tines Part 2 comes from his surprising new release that shuttles between big band jazz of the kind that could have come from Charlie Mingus at his peak to more outre stuff like our opening track, which reflects Kirchner’s background as a drummer with – among others – Nomo, who employ centrestage the kind of African kalimba (or thumb piano) sounds you heard here. This excellent album – a full 90 minutes of invention – is titled The Other Side of Time. We recommend that you check out and buy the whole thing here on Bandcamp.

More from Kirchner to follow – his straightahead reading of Sun Ra’s Brainville, a composition from an early album (1957) called Sun Song – and then, to complete our leftfield start, Ornette Coleman and the title track from his album Broken Shadows (1971). With Coleman on alto sax was Don Cherry on trumpet, Dewey Redman on tenor,  Charlie Haden on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.

Next up was a chance to head back to the current BritJazz scene with the rather unexpected lilting choice from Kokoroko, a UK ensemble with an all-female horn section led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey. Abusey Junction ends the Brownswood collection We Out Here which we’ve showcased heavily over the last couple of months. The solo guitarist is Oscar Jerome. The show continued with a last listen (for now) to these new British sounds with a track from Nubya Garcia and her 12inch single release When We Are with its powerful drumming from Femi Koleoso. The vinyl is (of course) now sold out, but you can still download digitally from the Bandcamp site here.

Staying very much on the left side we next checked out a remix project. Santuri’s Embaire Umeme from the Mugwisa International Xylophone Group has been reconstructed by Soundthread’s Sam Jones from village recordings in Uganda. He described the process: Having captured the instrument in its natural habitat we set about finding the appropriate producers to then re-articulate the sessions. For my construct I was keen to keep the essence of the instrument and its players as true as possible. Borrowing from the cyclical nature true to its original played style, adding minimal classic old synths, tape delays, guitar stabs and some vocals.

The newest album from Californian trio Bitchin’ Bajas includes a Sun Ra cover and so we had to air it here on Cosmic Jazz. The band creates sprawling soundscapes that mix psychedelia, drone music, kosmiche and cosmic jazz and their take on Ra’s Angels and Demons at Play is a fascinating take on Ra’s 1960 track from the album of the same name. It dramatically slows down the melody and creates something unique. It seemed appropriate to follow this with a cut from French DJ Blundetto’s latest on the ever-creative Heavenly Sweetness label. Max Guiguet is a programme planner on the excellent Radio Nova and World Of… is his third release and features soulful reggae vibes with guest vocalists including Biga Ranx, New York MC Jahdan Blakamoore and newcomers John Milk and Marina P.

We ended the show this week with a return to more mainstream jazz from altoist Art Pepper. Much of Pepper’s work from the 1950s is well known but this take on Red Car is from the end of Pepper’s troubled career in jazz. By the spring of 1981 Pepper was riding what would be the last creative wave of his checkered career. Just over a year later he was to die of a stroke. Incarcerated several times as a result of his heroin addiction, Pepper enjoyed a prolific period through the mid1970s to the turn of the decade, and – in this reviewer’s opinion – was playing some of the most creative, spiky music of his career. The story behind the track is that Pepper decided he wanted a new car, and Les Koenig (owner of the record label Contemporary Records) advanced him the money for a bright red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Pepper’s widow Laurie Pepper has been curating her husband’s many live releases from these years and this 12 minute version of Red Car comes from one of his last albums, recorded live in Japan in 1981. The quartet features Pepper on alto sax, George Cables on piano, David Williams on drums and Carl Burnett on drums. What a way to finish!

  1. Quin Kirchner – Drums and Tines Part 2 from The Other Side of Time
  2. Quin Kirchner – Brainville from The Other Side of Time
  3. Ornette Coleman – Broken Shadows from Broken Shadows
  4. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
  5. Nubya Garcia – When We Are 12inch single
  6. Mugwisa International Xylophone Group – Santuri’s Embaire Umeme EP
  7. Bitchin’ Bajas – Angels and Demons at Play from Bajas Fresh
  8. Blundetto – Hands for Silver from World Of…
  9. Art Pepper – Red Car from The Complete Abashiri Concert, 1981

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 June: BritJazz sounds

Gilles Peterson @ FieldDay 01 June 2018 [Neil MacRae}
Music this week with a BritJazz flavour – something at the moment we can’t get enough of here on CJ. Six of our nine tracks this week are part of the new British jazz revolution. To check out the sounds, click the MixCloud tab on the left. Starting with the flute-driven vibe of BB Davis’ Mysteries of the Revolution band, we eased into drummer de nos jours Moses Boyd and one of the many bands he plays with in the rotating door of British jazz artists. With Theon Cross on tuba and Binker Golding on sax, we featured Axis Blue from the Time and Space EP, available here on the ever-reliable Bandcamp.

33 year old Shabaka Hutchings could be the token leader of this scene and Sons of Kemet is one of his most interesting bands. Now with an album on the Impulse! label, Hutchings has made perhaps his strongest recording yet. It’s certainly his most polemical – and that’s a good thing. We’ve commented before on how contemporary jazz – particularly in the US and UK – now reflects and responds to the social justice issues that have sat alongside the music since the beginning of jazz. It was then into one of the newest of the current crop of UK jazz releases and a tune from keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones’s new album Starting Today on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Records.

It’s not easy to capture that effortless Brazilian vibe but UK pianist Jessica Lauren has done it with Chicourlette, a track from her brand new release Almeria. We both loved this summery tune and it’s certainly going onto repeat play over the UK summer. To complement that we followed up with the latest from Larry Heard (or Mr Fingers) – truly the godfather of Chicago house, and so listeners might reasonably expect to question his inclusion in Cosmic Jazz. But just listen to the chilled summery vibe of Sao Paulo from his excellent new album Cerebral Hemispheres and you may be converted.

GoGo Penguin were one of the star turns at the Singapore Jazz Festival this year, and Strid from the new album A Humdrum Star a centrepiece of their set. It was great to see an acoustic bass player (Nick Blacka) leading the band and the excellent Strid showcases his imaginative bowed and plucked style.

Herbie Hancock is, of course, a longtime favourite on CJ and this week we featured a track from his excellent album, Mr Hands. Why? Well, it was the tune that Gilles Peterson chose to end his excellent Friday set at the Field Day Festival in London a couple of weeks ago (check out the photo above) and, with Peterson’s mixing tweakery, Just Around the Corner was brought up to date for a wildly enthusiastic audience. A delight to see! And that led us to the end of this week’s show with a return to BB Davis’s Big Buddah for more BritJazz.  BB Davis plays the Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like flute, Dan Biro is on keys and and the late and great Mark Smith is on bass. For more, check out the track below in my music choices for this week. You can bet there will be more from the endlessly exciting UK jazz scene on next week’s show.

  1. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 1) from Mysteries of the Revolution
  2. Moses Boyd’s Exodus – Axis Blue – from Time and Space EP
  3. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
  5. Jessica Lauren – Chicourlette from Almeria
  6. Mr Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres
  7. GoGo Penguin – Strid from A Humdrum Star
  8. Joey Alexander – Space from Eclipse
  9. Herbie Hancock – Just Around the Corner from Mr Hands
  10. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 2) from Mysteries of the Revolution

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 03 March 2018: snow not show…

Some of our worldwide listeners used to adverse weather conditions may be wondering why a little snow often seems to bring the UK to a grinding halt. Well, this year there seems to be more of it than there’s been for a while and so this week even Cosmic Jazz had to take a break because of the white stuff.

So as a treat for you to enjoy while having your hot chocolate with marshmallows, here’s some of Neil’s listening choices for this week – and some thoughts about each. Reminded of that wonderful snowy album cover, I listened again to the ever inventive Ornette Coleman Trio live from The Golden Circle in Stockholm, Sweden. This 1965 release is a great starting for anyone seeking to understand what Coleman does. He’s playful and mischievous on alto and David Izenson on bass and Charles Moffat on drums gel together almost psychically.

Next up is a nod to the buzz around the current British jazz scene. I could have chosen one of a dozen groups that are making waves in the UK and around the world but it’s Nubya Garcia’s latest release that I’ve gone for. Garcia’s appearance at last year’s SingJazz Festival (here in Singapore) would have opened many listeners in Asia to her sound and presence and she was a must to appear on Gilles Peterson’s latest Brownswood compilation – tracks from this new album on next week’s show. Garcia latest When We Are will be released on Bandcamp here from 08 March (the vinyl is already sold out!) and it will feature a couple of remixes too. For an idea about how all these great artists work together take a look at Kimberley Croft’s UK jazz family tree here at @ktcita. It’s an ongoing work but will give new listeners an insight into what’s happening on this developing scene.

The Tarkovsky Quartet are a product of an ECM recording which brought together cellist Anja Lechner and pianist François Couturier. Inspired by the work of Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, they went on to form the Tarkovsky Quartet, adding the  limpid soprano saxophone of Jean-Marc Larche together with accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier. Nuit Blanche is the title track of their new album on ECM.

The Tony Higgins complied J-Jazz compilation on BBE Records is getting a lot of attention at the moment and you can listen to the modal sounds of Tohru Aizawa via the link below. The privately pressed Tachibana album is something of a jazz holy grail – if you find one, keep it! Sacrament features Aizawa on piano and Kyochiro Morimura on saxes. Tony Higgins writes about the album on the excellent Vinyl Factory website.

Finally, a nod to jazz on audiophile hifi setups. Although there’s no substitute for the real thing, even Youtube can give an insight into the clarity and detail of a good vinyl record set up. Here’s Bob Wood’s home hifi playing one of the best versions of Corea’s new jazz standard Spain. Corea is blisteringly good on Fender Rhodes here. You’ll find more via Wood’s informative blogspot Music and Vinyl. Just make sure you’re listening in HD on a decent pair of headphones and you’ll be in for a surprise.

Neil is listening to…

Week Ending 23 December 2017:

This week’s round up of great jazz included a brief tribute to the originator of vocalise, the late Jon Hendricks. He idolised Brazilian composer Joao Gilberto and apparently at their first meeting, before speaking a word to each other, they just scatted some familiar tunes. The album that emerged from this meeting, Salud! Joao Gilberto Originator of the Bossa Nova, shows a total empathy with the bossa nova movement: Hendricks’ English wordplay is faithful to the original Portuguese meanings and he pretty much plays it straight throughout. He swings through our choice, You and I (Voce E Eu) and the whole album is highly recommended.

But we began the show with a new track from Singapore’s finest, The Steve McQueens. Terrarium is up there with their 2015 album Seamonster and Hephaestus shows off the qualities of Ginny Bloop’s swooping, darting voice. But the album is also about the interplay between Joshua Wan on keys, Jase Sng on bass and the prolific and versatile Aaron James Lee on drums. There’s a different sound now too – Fabian Lim on saxes and Andrew Lim on guitar left the band in 2017 leaving the melodic weight on keys. Judge for yourself and then check out this album promo.

Up next was an obscure track from the third volume in Kevin Beadle’s Private Collection of personal favourites. Belair was a west coast band of the 70s led by Michael Belair and Tucker Crosby on guitars with Frederic Wetterau on flute and saxes and Private Collection is full of similar entertaining rarities. The seemingly endless supply of new Polish jazz netted two more tracks, including the bass-less Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio featuring Gruszecki on trumpet and flugelhorn, Zbigniew Lewandowski on drums and Kajetan Galas on Hammond B3 organ.

US producer, keyboard player and singer Daniel Crawford seems to be under the jazz radar and yet his music exhibits strong jazz sensibilities. We like his 2016 album Awakening – and a further twist on the Fela classic Water Get No Enemy would seem a good place to start checking out his music. For more Fela, check out the Neil is listening to… tracks (below) for this week and try this sensational live performance by Erykah Badu, recent curator of a new Fela compilation. Next up was Norwich’s finest, Mammal Hands with Black Sails, taken from their 2016 release Shadow Work. There’s a split CJ jury on this one – with some suggestions that the increased amount of electronica has masked the vibrancy of both the band’s compositions and performances. Judge for yourself with more from the band – here’s a live take on Kandaiki from their 2014 Animalia album.

Here at CJ we’ve played many releases from the London-based Soul Jazz label and over the last two years we have played several tracks from the 2014 Black Fire! New Spirits! album – but, until this week, not the Doug Hammond Spaces and Things. We ended the show with two great baritone voices, Gil Scott-Heron  and Gregory Porter. They’re linked through Gregory Porter’s BBC4 series Popular Voices – an interesting three part series on a 100 years of some of the greatest vocalists in modern music. The range was wide, but it was good to see some classic footage of jazz artists including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Gil Scot-Heron, whose classic Winter in America was featured this week. Our final track was from Porter himself who is not only a fine singer but an often exceptional lyricist – as shown here with Painted on Canvas.

  1. The Steve McQueens – Hephaestus from Terrarium
  2. Belair – Samba For a Cold Warrior from Kev Beadle’s Private Collection
  3. Piotr Bodniak Essential Group – It Starts Now from Into the Life
  4. Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio – Mr. Cogito from Something About
  5. Jon Hendricks – You and I (Voce E Eu) from Salud! Joao Gilberto Originator of the Bossa Nova/A Trip To Brazil Vol 2. Bossa and Beyond
  6. Daniel Crawford – Water No Get Enemy from The Awakening
  7. Mammal Hands – Black Sail from Shadow Work
  8. Doug Hammond – Spaces and Things from Black Fire! New Spirits!
  9. Brian Jackson/Gil Scott-Heron – Winter in America from The First Minute of a New Day/Anthology
  10. Gregory Porter – Painted On Canvas from Be Good

Neil is listening to…

03 August 2017: drum ode

Marcus Gilmore (left) and Roy Haynes perform together in Washington, D.C., in 2009. Haynes’ daughter is Gilmore’s mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmic Jazz this week began with a brief ode to the power of percussion, taken from Dave Liebman’s Drum Ode album on ECM, before starting with the drumming of Peter Erskine on the newly released Jaco Pastorius 1982 New York concert. The 2CD release is a indication that the innovative bass player’s real passion was not Weather Report but his own Word of Mouth big band. There are stunning performances on this new Resonance Records release called Truth, Liberty and Soul – from Othello Molineaux on steel drums, Bob Mintzer on saxophones, Lew Soloff on trumpet and special guest Toots Thielemans on harmonica.

Up next was a first play on CJ for the new Charles Lloyd album. Recorded live, it’s by what is billed as his new Quartet, although, confusingly,  this contains all the members of his old ECM quartet – namely pianist Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. Harland delivers some thunderous drumming to start this take on Lloyd’s classic tune Dream Weaver, and the whole thing builds into an unmissable 17 minute take. The whole album is a real return to form for Lloyd and is highly recommended.

Alice Coltrane was much more than the wife of the late John Coltrane. We have continued to feature her own extraordinary music ever since we started the Cosmic Jazz show over 10 years ago and this week we focused on a superb new release from David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label titled World Spirituality Classics Vol. 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. We could only play a shortened version of Om Rama but will return to this superb release in coming weeks.

Pianist Randy Weston is one the greats – and the 2CD album Spirit of Our Ancestors features both Pharoah Sanders and Dizzy Gillespie. Here, though, you heard Weston on his own composition African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant – a nod to his upbringing in New York and his longtime exploration of African rhythms and the heritage of jazz. If you can find it, this is yet another record to add to your list. Weston is on fine form throughout and the arrangements (by Melba Liston who did the same for his excellent Tanjah release of 1973) are perfect. Weston, now 91, is a contemporary of our second pianist Ahmad Jamal, himself a mere 87. This new version of the standard Autumn Leaves comes from Ahmad Jamal’s new album, Marseille. Jamal is on something of a roll at the moment and Marseille is a fine example of his work. Randy Weston released African Nubian Suite this year too. It’s a concert recording from 2012 and features poet Jayne Cortez – once married to Ornette Coleman. Arrangements are once more by Melba Liston.

Drums to the fore once again with the new album from Jack deJohnette’s new band Hudson. Recorded in upstate New York, this features guitarist John Scofield. It’s a great record with versions of songs with an almost classic Americana feel – Lay Lady Lay, Up On Cripple Creek and Woodstock are hardly jazz standards. We chose a deJohnette original composition Song for World Forgiveness. Vocalist Carmen Lundy is something of a Cosmic Jazz hero – we love her voice and recent recordings suggest that she’s still at the peak of her vocal powers. Our choice is taken from her 2CD live album recorded in the Madrid Theatre, Los Angeles which blends One More River to Cross and Langston Hughes’ poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers. The intro is played by Steve Turre on his conch shells. It’s a great performance.

We ended the show this week with a second track called African Village – this one from McCoy Tyner on Blue Note from the album Time for Tyner recorded in 1968. The late Bobby Hutcherson is featured on vibes and – as often with Tyner – one track is a a solo piano piece. On Time for Tyner, it’s the standard I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.

What’s on next week on CJ? Well, we’ll certainly treat ourselves to some more Brazilian music and more new jazz releases. In the meantime, check out our listening choices below the playlist.

  1. Dave Liebman – Goli Dance from Drum Ode
  2. Jaco Pastorius – Reza/Giant Steps from Truth, Liberty and Soul
  3. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  4. Alice Coltrane – Om Rama from World Spirituality Vol. 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  5. Randy Weston – African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant 1 from The Spirit of Our Ancestors
  6. Ahmad Jamal – Autumn Leaves from Marseille
  7. Hudson – Song for World Forgiveness from Hudson
  8. Carmen Lundy – One More River to Cross from Jazz and the New Songbook: Live at the Madrid
  9. McCoy Tyner – African Village from Time for Tyner

Thanks to the men who play the drums.

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Neil is listening to…

26 July 2017: new music from around the world

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s show featured more music chosen by Neil – including a new Cameroon compilation on Analog Africa, music from Cuba, Mali and New Zealand – and, of course, jazz too…

We began with bass player Bill Laswell (above) and one of his reconstruction/transmission projects in which he takes existing recordings and then gives them his unique treatment. Here it was with some Cuban studio, home and street recordings. The album is called Imaginary Cuba and is well worth a listen if you can find it.

Up next was a track from Pop Makossa, a collection on the German label Analog Africa. It’s always exciting when you settle down to listen to new music along with the usually comprehensive booklet we expect from the label. We featured Nen Lambo by Bill Loko, a song that caused something of a dance sensation in Paris when it was released in 1980. It’s easy to hear why – this irrepressible synth disco masterpiece would work on any dancefloor around the world. The CD booklet recounts how the authors tracked down Loko in a Paris cafe after searching for him for over a year. Loko didn’t anticipate the resulting sudden rush of fame and he escaped to Australia for several years before returning to the Cameroon capital Doula. We’ll feature other tracks from this excellent compilation in future weeks on Cosmic Jazz.

We played a teasingly short taster of Jack de Johnette’s new project, Hudson. This is something of a power quartet with deJohnette on drums and piano, Mike Medeski on keys and organ, Larry Grenadier on bass and John Scofield on guitar. Hudson is named after the upstate New York location of the recording and the CD has something of a jazz Americana feel as the group interpret rock classic like Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay and the Band’s Up on Cripple Creek. These are interspersed with original compositions, including the album closer – the native Indian chant of Great Spirit Peace Chant. Check out the brief promo video on deJohnette’s site here.

The next track may be titled Makossa No.3 but it bears little relation really to the authentic sound of Cameroon. But as makossa simply means dance in the Doula language we can forgive Mike Fabulous, the musical mind behind New Zealand’s Lord Echo project. This excellent album is full of the kind of catchy riffs that you think you’ve heard before but are all created by the DJ, producer and engineer who once fronted The Black Seeds – the reggae band from Wellington, NZ that isn’t Fat Freddy’s Drop.

It’s no exaggeration to say that – along with his longtime bandleader Fela Kuti – drummer Tony Allen was responsible for creating the worldwide phenomenon of afrobeat. His characteristic rhythms are in evidence on Yere Faga, one of the tracks on Oumou Sangare’s excellent new album Mogoya. Sangare is special: not only one of Mali’s most successful singers, she is also a hotelier, (the Wassoulou Hotel in Bamoko), a car manufacturer and taxi company owner and longtime advocate of women’s rights. And her songs aren’t afraid to tackle big issues either – Yere Faga deals with suicide and Sangare sings a message of hope – Don’t kill yourself because of suffering/Life on this earth isn’t easy…

Here on Cosmic Jazz we really like Bandcamp, the online site where musicians rub electronic shoulders with their audience. It’s a great way to listen to and then buy your music – and it enables you to directly support the artists involved. It’s where I discovered the music of Alfa Mist and his release Antiphon. The standout track on this mashup of hiphop beats, jazz drumming and conscious lyrics is the opener, Right On. To track down this release, simply head for this Bandcamp page. Another recommendation to explore.

Yaz Ahmed is a young British trumpeter whose very assured new album La Saboteuse has been attracting much attention in recent months. Ahmed has a musical pedigree: her grandfather Terry Brown played with the original John Dankworth Seven in the 1950s. After studying at the Guildhall in London, Ahmed released her debut in 2011. The new release incorporates some electronica alongside some Arabic modes – check out the track we featured, The Space Between the Fish and the Moon. To play the whole album check out her Bandcamp page – and then buy!

Mark de Clive-Lowe was our second Kiwi of the evening – he’s a DJ and live performer whose recent Blue Note Remixed project is one of the finer examples of the turntablist’s art. Armed with a crateful of classics from Blue Note Records’ genre-defining years, de Clive-Lowe has created a live-remix mixtape weaving from jazz to hip hop classics, to underground house and broken beat. Recorded and improvised live in one take, MdCL deploys his drum machine, sample pads, Rhodes and keyboards on-the-fly bringing unique perspective to moments created decades earlier by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, and Donald Byrd and more. We featured a section from the second half of the disc – how many Blue Note classic samples did you spot? You can download or order the vinyl here at Bandcamp.

We ended the show with something of a contemporary jazz classic – Sonny Sharrock’s Many Mansions. This comes from Ask the Ages – an album I’ve wanted for many years. Recently reissued, it features a stellar quartet of Sharrock on guitar, Pharoah Sanders on tenor, Charnett Moffett on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Recorded in 1994, this was Sharrock’s last album and – in my opinion – a jazz masterpiece. Traditionalists may baulk at this when they hear Sharrock’s guitar-shredding style, but Many Mansions is really a modal classic with saxophone and guitar trading sonic blows to build up to a truly awesome climax. Highly recommended.

  1. Bill Laswell – Habana Transmission 1 #/Avisale a la Vencina Dub from Imaginary Cuba
  2. Bill Loko – Nen Lambo from Pop Makossa
  3. Hudson – Great Spirit Peace Chant from Hudson
  4. Lord Echo – Makossa No. 3 from Harmonies
  5. Oumou Sangare – Yere Faga from Mogoya
  6. Alfa Mist – Keep On from Antiphon
  7. Yaz Ahmed – The Space Between the Fish and the Moon from La Saboteuse
  8. Mark de Clive-Lowe – extract from Blue Note Remixed Vol. 1
  9. Sonny Sharrock – Many Mansions from Ask the Ages

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Neil is listening to…

19 July 2017: an all Coltrane show

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 July saw a significant anniversary in jazz – it was exactly 50 years since the death of saxophonist John Coltrane, and so here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating his life and work over the last three weeks. Tonight is our final look at Coltrane’s music – but this time through the interpretation of others.

We began the show with a track featuring the classic Coltrane quartet – Coltrane on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Tunji comes from the 1962 album Coltrane and is dedicated to Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian percussionist who influenced Coltrane’s music.

CJ then celebrated the influence of Coltrane’s music on other musicians, beginning with one of our most underated British saxophonists Alan Skidmore on a 2CD set recorded live at the Boxford Fleece, here in Suffolk. We chose Skidmore’s take on Resolution, the second part of Coltrane’s most famous composition, A Love Supreme and followed this with a take on Countdown, first recorded by Coltrane on the Giant Steps album of 1960 – a virtual template of jazz standards including the title track, Naima and Mr P.C. The artist was the young Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander, whom we have featured on the show previously. Alexander is something of a phenomenon, having recorded his first album at the age of 11 – titled, My Favourite Things, it featured both this and his treatment of Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

We had to play at least one Pharoah Sanders tune and I chose a live version of Naima, recorded on the Crescent with Love album from 1994. Sanders was, of course, a member of Coltrane’s expanded groups of the mid and late 1960s. He first worked with Coltrane in 1965 on the Ascension album, perhaps the most free of Coltrane’s releases. His albums from the 1970s onwards featured Alice Coltrane. Now 76, Sanders continues to record although mainly as a featured artist on other’s recordings.

Dwight Trible’s rich, deep baritone voice has featured on several recent recordings – including his Living Water album of 2006 which featured a vocal version of one of Coltrane’s most beautiful tunes, Wise One. The track we featured – Dear Lord – is very much in the same tradition. It comes from Trible’s new release on Manchester based Gondwana Records and features Matthew Halsall on trumpet.  We will feature more from this excellent album in future programmes. British tenor player Denys Baptiste is one of a number of jazz musicians who have released albums celebrating the music of John Coltrane in recent months, and Late Trane appears on the excellent Edition Records – our label of the year for 2016. Baptiste is joined by Nikki Yeoh on piano and keys, Gary Crosby on bass and with special guest Steve Williamson on tenor on some tracks, including the beautiful After the Rain.

Nat Birchall’s excellent website indicates his debt to his first love – Jamaican dub. This is significant as Birchall makes clear he was an enthusiastic listener before becoming a musician – sound has always been the first and most important thing about music to me, he says. In this he shares much with John Coltrane who released an album simply called Coltrane’s Sound. Writer Ben Ratcliff refers to Coltrane’s continual search for a sound in his thought-provoking book Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, identifying the restless searching that puzzled so many of those around him. As Ratliff explains in his introduction, the book is about jazz as sound. I mean ‘sound’ as it has long functioned among jazz players, as a mystical term of art: an in, every musician finally needs a sound, a full and sensible embodiment of his artistic personality, such that it can be heard, at best, in a single note.  It’s easy to conclude that we have still not caught up with Coltrane’s journey, even fifty years after his death – something that’s not true now of his contemporary, Miles Davis, whose most out-there music (for example, On the Corner, released in 1972) is now appreciated as a ground-breaking work that has influenced so much modern music from Steve Reich to techno and trance. Much like those who worked with Davis at this time,  Coltrane’s own sidemen in the mid sixties had little idea of what Coltrane was up to. Elvin Jones simply shrugged and said Beats the shit outta me and for many listeners this is still what is often thought of Coltrane’s experiments in sound.

We ended the show with something of a contemporary favourite. Several remixers have tried to put their own stamp on Coltrane’s iconic A Love Supreme – but none have succeeded like Berlin duo Skinnerbox. It’s not easily available anymore as a download, but you can listen to the edited dub version here on Soundcloud. Highly recommended.

Finally, to expand your thinking about John Coltrane and his influence, read this feature from Jazzwise magazine by one of our favourite writers, Kevin le Gendre. Incidentally, he would never make Neil’s elementary mistake on the show of referring to Coltrane as an alto saxophonist – although it is true that ‘trane played alto on some of his earliest recordings as well as his final Japanese tour in 1965…

  1. John Coltrane Quartet – Tunji (alternate take) from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  2. Alan Skidmore Quartet – Resolution from Impressions of John Coltrane
  3. Joey Alexander – Countdown from Countdown
  4. Pharoah Sanders – Naima from Crescent with Love
  5. Dwight Trible – Dear Lord from Inspirations
  6. Denys Baptiste – After the Rain from Late Trane
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Skinnerbox – A Love Supreme Remix download

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Neil is listening to…