Sometimes the show is full of music music that is rousing, awakening and even loud. By contrast this week there is much that is more gentle, more acoustic, but certainly not easy listening.
Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate from Poland Have provided the show with some rousing moments, including one show opener that was free, loud and very complex. This week it was a tune from their quieter side, but it was definitely not a ballad and certainly hotted up towards the end and the tune has an important title for our times – Hate No More.
The loudest the show got and it was in this case pretty heavy, came courtesy of Fat-Suit from Scotland. On their own they are a large band with horns, fiddles, guitars, keyboards, drums & percussion but on their fourth album Waifs & Strays they are augmented by a 10-piece string section, extra brass and guest soloists. The huge ensemble has what they call a “signature blend of modern jazz, folk, electronica, pop/rock and everything in between”. It is powerful stuff, a collective of multi-disciplined musicians.
We have tried on Cosmic Jazz to act as a showcase for British jazz. This has included some of the newly-emerged bands of younger musicians such as Fat-Suit above and many of the musicians that have appeared in the last few years from the London scene. We have not forgotten, however some of the older pioneers of the British jazz scene and there are few musicians that have been more important than pianist/composer Mike Westbrook, now in his eighties and still performing. His band was one of the very first live jazz acts that I saw and contributed to my love of jazz ever since. Metropolis was released in 1971 with a host of the top UK jazz musicians of the time such as Kenny Wheeler, Henry Lowther, Norma Winstone, Alan Skidmore, John Marshall. It was written with the assistance of an Arts Council bursary and in nine parts traces the sounds of the Metropolis (London). It ends in part nine with the calm of the night and a solo from Barbadian-born trumpeter Harry Beckett, whose trumpet provides what is the most beautiful, delicate, moving piece of music with Mike Westbrook’s piano adding subtle touches in the background. The album as a whole is essential listening but the ending provides beauty beyond words.
Another pianist capable of the most delicate touches and one that we have just come across is Richard Michael. He has been a jazz performer and educator in Scotland for many years. His name, though, has reached beyond Scotland and he has garnered praise from fellow jazz pianists. Jason Rebello described him as “A wonderful pianist, brimming with vitality. His playing encompasses the roots of jazz, also bringing a unique Scottish Flavour”. Julian Joseph commented that “When Richard and I duetted together his authority and openness allowed us to get straight to the music”. Richard Michael’s solo piano album Contemplation was recorded as a 70th birthday present to himself, a fitting birthday tribute.
There was another contribution to the Blue Note celebrations and definitely quite a unique contribution to the catalogue. Vocalist Cassandra Wilson came up in 1993 with an acoustic paired-down bluesy-influenced album called Blue Light Till Dawn. The instruments used on the album include clarinet, classical guitar, pedal steel guitar, percussion and bass but on the tune You Don’t Know What Love Is the vocals of Cassandra Wilson are accompanied only by Brandon Ross on steel string guitar and Charlie Burnham on violin. It is down to an acoustic minimum but still strong and soulful in impact.
A vocalist currently making an impact is Jazzmeia Horn. Having heard her talk about her influences recently on the BBC’s J to Z radio show, you can tell she is someone who knows what she likes and how to convey what the music means to her. On her new album Love & Liberation you can hear her expressive range and she is backed by some fine musicians.
Mariama is another artist we have just come across. She was born in Sierra Leone, raised in Germany and is now based in Paris. Her album Love, Sweat & Tears includes her version of the jazz standard Nature Boy that was a big it for Nat King Cole in 1948. It is a version that brings a very fresh take and includes kora among the instruments backing her vocals. It is interesting to note that a co-director of the album is Michael Schlindwein who has worked with the jazz-influenced hip-hop artist Akua Naru, who is much admired at Cosmic Jazz.
Jamie Saft is a keyboard player/producer/engineer in the downtown New York scene whose impact has reached beyond jazz. The likes of John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Iggy Pop, Marc Ribot, Bill Laswell, Wadada Leo Smith and the b52s are among those with whom he has been associated. It was only in 2018 that e released his first solo album. His recent album Blue Dream on Rare Noise Records uses a traditional jazz quartet and includes three jazz standards. Do not be put off by this, The group includes exciting and innovative musicians: Bill McHenry on sax, Bradley Jones on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums and Jamie Saft on piano. The sound is definitely contemporary.
The show ends with an excerpt from the Sun Ra Arkestra led by Marshall Allen
- Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate – Hate No More from Don’t Hesitate
- Fat-Suit – Keo from Waifs & Strays
- Mike Westbrook – Metropolis IX from Metropolis
- Cassandra Wilson – You Don’t Know What Love Is from Blue Light Till Dawn
- Jazzmeia Horn – Free Your Mind from Love & Liberation
- Mariama – Nature Boy from Love, Sweat & Tears
- Richard Michael – The Lark & the Clear Air from Contemplation
- Jamie Saft – Blue Dream from Blue Dream
- The Sun Ra Arkestra – Song for the Sun from Song for t he Sun