All posts by Neil

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…

30 April 2017: International Jazz Day

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

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

Neil is listening to …

18 January 2016: extra – more best of 2016!

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil is listening to:

21 December 2016: best of 2016 part 1

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

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

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

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

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

23 November: outside and inside

Bobby Wellins

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

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

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

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

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

21 September 2016: keeping jazz in the family

ravi-coltrane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joe-henderson

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

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

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Neil is listening to…

14 September 2016: give the drummer some…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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08 September 2016: CJ playout!

vinyl-hunter

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

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

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