All posts by Neil

Week ending 02 March 2019: Sarah Tandy special!

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

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

Image © Benjamin Amure. 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 February 2019: American favourites and local stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 02 February 2019: trumpeters and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 26 January 2019: world sounds past and present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

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…