Category Archives: Playlist

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…

Christmas and New Year: new Polish jazz feature

We have always played a lot of Polish jazz on Cosmic Jazz. There is a seemingly never ending supply of new jazz coming out of the country, much of it on debut albums by young and emerging artists. In Steve’s Jazz Sounds we have an unique source in the UK where this exciting music can be obtained. Click our MixCloud tab on this page, listen to the music and you will want to hear more.

The show began with another tune from a long-established artist and one who is up there among our favourites. Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has played with many leading artists from Poland and other European countries but also with US jazz musicians like Kenny Garrett, Dave Liebman and Billy Hart. His new album for 2018 is To Whom it May Concern – and it’s as good as ever. The track we chose to feature this week has the modal, spiritual qualities that we admire so much.

Sobiechowski is a composer and pianist who leads a quintet and is described as an experienced member of the young Polish jazz scene. In 2014 he received a six-month scholarship to study at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. The album Vital Music draws upon influences from both classical music and European jazz. The title of our choice this week – Global Warming – seemed to be particularly appropriate as the show was recorded while the international conference on climate change was taking place in Poland.

Dominik Kisiel is another young pianist and composer. The music on his album Exploration is all original and explores a soundscape which projects energy and cosmic energy”.

Lucasz Borowicki and his sextet believe in “improvised playfulness” and the music certainly has plenty of free improvisation and unexpected twists and turns. Our tune (An Indiscreet Case of Squareness) and the title of the album (Morbidezza of Decadence) certainly suggest something playful, different and unexpected. You will not be disappointed – it is! The leader is a Polish guitarist now based in Odense, Denmark.

Jacek Kochan is a drummer/composer whom we have played on the show before. He has also played with Dave Liebman as well as US artists Greg Osby, Eddie Henderson and Joey Calderoso. Tomasz Chyla leads a quintet and he is a violin player, the likes of which are still not easy to find in jazz.

There was some more exciting, improvised music from saxophone player/composer/arranger Irek Wojtczak whose album Play it Again is highly recommended. As well as being a working jazz musician he is also a tutor at the Gdansk Academy of Music and is yet another of these Polish musicians who have played with distinguished US musicians. In his case, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist David Murray.

The show ends with a tune from the P.E. Quartet, another group of young, but experienced musicians who have been long-time friends. The band comprises tenor sax, guitar, double bass and drums.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Only Very Few People from To Whom it May Concern
  2. Mateusz Sobiechowski Quintet – Global Warming from Vital Music
  3. Dominik Kisiel Exploration Quartet – Exploration from Exploration
  4. Lucasz Borowicki Sextet – An Indiscreet Case of Squareness from Morbidezza of Decadence
  5. Jacek Kochan – Central Station from Ajee
  6. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Full Circle from Circles
  7. Irek Wojtczak – Weselny from Play it Again
  8. P.E. Quartet – Niewazne from Cokolwick

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 15 December 2018: from Poland to the UK

This week’s Cosmic Jazz starts in Poland with one of the long-established masters and then we test drive one of the many groups to make their debut in 2018. From that point on, it’s a UK-based show featuring some of the the many young British artists who have made such names for themselves in 2018.

As the programme went out live while the UN Climate Change Conference took place in Poland, it was fitting to start the show there. Polish Trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has been on the music scene for thirty years and we love his music here on Cosmic Jazz. His latest record To Whom It May Concern (as with many Polish records the album and song titles are in English) sees him collaborate with musicians that he has played with over the years. It’s an international gathering – there is the Hungarian sax player Victor Toth, veteran pianist Bobby Few  from the US and Dutch bassist Joris Teepe. The album was recorded in France and is Wojtasik’s twelfth so far. We look forward to more.

Steve of Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the place you need to go to find all this excellent music – recommends the debut album from Follow Dices. Called Eternal Colors, Steve has made it one of his albums of the year and so naturally we had to play a track. The band are another of the many musicians emerging onto record from Poland with an unusual violin, double bass, drums and piano quartet. It’s jazz but with clear influences from Polish folklore. The result is an effect not dissimilar to the Nordic feeling that many ECM records have and a a translation from the Follow Dices’ site describe the music as sharing an intimate story in the mountain landscape, away from everyday life and the hustle and bustle. It may sound pretentious, but is actually an apt description. Check it out for yourself.

It was then over to Neil and some of the music that has been on his radar in 2018. We featured two tunes from US-born Sarathy Korwar, a percussionist making waves in the London jazz scene. His 2018 album Your East is My West is a live recording that is undoubtedly one of our top 20 records from this annus mirabilis for jazz . Korwar’s first album Day To Day was released on Ninja Tune and featured field recordings of Sidi musicians – descendants of African migrants in India. We loved it – but this new 2CD recording from the Church of Sound in London features a double quintet (much like the great Joe Harriott’s IndoJazz Fusion classic album) and includes covers of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Joe Henderson, John McLaughlin and Abdullah Ibrahim. We featured two tracks – an excellent take on McLaughlin’s Mind Ecology and a very different twist on the classic Pharoah Sanders tune The Creator Has a Master Plan. You can check out the original version of Mind Ecology from McLaughlin’s Shakti group here.

Korwar is currently mixing his sophomore album – an exploration of deep jazz, hip hop, electronics and his South Asian roots. It’s been recorded in London and Mumbai and features Mumbai rap artists – we can’t wait!

Our remaining choices come from that gene pool of great UK jazz artists who appear on each other’s albums. For example, bassist Daniel Casimir who was first up first with a track from his own solo release appears on the new album from Camilla George. His band includes guitarist Shirley Tetteh, who is also on the Camilla George album. We ended this sequence with a new 12inch from Joe Armon-Jones who has taken two tracks from his Starting Today album from this year and dubbed them out. It’s certainly a fluid and exciting scene in jazz right now.

  1. Piotr Wopjtasik – Backatcha from To Whom It May Concern
  2. Follow Dices – Eternal Colors from Eternal Colors
  3. Sarathy Korwar – Mind Ecology from Your East is My West
  4. Sarathy Korwar – The Creator has a Master Plan from Your East is My West
  5. Daniel Casimir – Escapee from Escapee
  6. Camilla George – Tappin’ the Turtle from The People Could Fly
  7. Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today in Dub from 12inch single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 08 December 2018: chilled new beatz!

This week marks the return of Neil back from Singapore and live on the show with more of his carefully considered and impressive selections. Hit that MixCloud tab to hear some exciting new jazz and jazz-related music. Expect to be surprised!

The first tune this week though was Derek’s choice – more from Polish drummer/composer Jacek Kochan and his new release Ajee. He has resided in Poland, the US, Canada before returning to Poland. While in North America he played with an impressive range of musicians, including Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Joey Calderazzo and Eddie Henderson. His new album has that unpredictable, even wild edge at times. It’s an album that demands to be noticed. As always with much of the excellent new music from Poland, we are indebted to Steve’s Jazz Sounds as our source.

From that point it was all Neil with some of the music he has been listening to in the last few weeks. Overall a chilled, forward looking vibe with Matthew Halsall up first. If there is a current jazz musician that you can instantly associate with the word cosmic, it’s Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall.  He’s had a long association with our Cosmic Jazz show and we’ve promoted his music for many years now. The reissue of his 12in single Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile is a homage to cosmic icon Alice Coltrane and very good it is too.

British keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones released his first album Starting Today earlier this year. We have played the tune Mollison Dub from it and there is now an extended 12in further dubbed out vocal version with Asheber. Armon-Jones records for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, an important source for the new British jazz. Also on the label are Glasgow’s Auntie Flo whose Cape Town Jam appears on this week’s show. Brian d’Souza is a central figure in the new strand of club music fusing electronic and world influences alongside the likes of Daphni, Four Tet, Romare, Sinkane and more. The new album Radio Highlife was released earlier this year. This may not be jazz but this club-based music is undoubtedly informed by jazz and other music from around the world.

EABS are in some ways a Polish equivalent of the new British wave. They are a septet of young musicians whose reach goes beyond that of traditional jazz audiences. They experiment, they cross musical genres and their sounds come not only from traditional instruments but also turntables. They are innovative, contemporary and interesting. The music this week comes from their excellent cassette tape/download release Puzzle Mixtape which features the widest range of collaborators EABS have yet deployed including a whole bunch of US artists – Jesse Boykins II, MED, Jeru The Damaja and Ben LaMar Gay. We selected Paulina and Natalia Przybysz (former Sistars).

Makaya McCraven is definitely still one of the musicians of the moment. He produces tunes that by jazz standards are short but have no need to be longer. He collaborates with musicians both in the US and the UK and this week’s choice comes from his excellent 2018 release Universal Beings.  Like all of his music, the basis is live recordings that are then remixed via Ableton, with McCraven doing what he calls fixing the music – editing, looping, pitching, layering, and ultimately producing the tracks. Universal Beings is an album recorded at four separate sessions in New York, Chicago, London and Los Angeles, and featuring an A-list of new jazz players from those hotbed cities – Brandee Younger, Tomeka Reid, Dezron Douglas, Joel Ross, Shabaka Hutchings, Junius Paul, Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry, Josh Johnson, Jeff Parker, Anna Butters, Carlos Niño and Miguel-Atwood Ferguson. It’s an impressive line up and the music is equally rewarding. We highly recommend this and McCraven’s other releases. For more information and a chance to listen to the music, checkout McCraven’s Bandcamp pages here.

The show this week featured several singles and EPs, as opposed to album tracks. The last three tunes were more examples of this. We began with Chip Wickham, a UK flautist and saxophonist who has toured with Matthew Halsall and others, and then Miles Davis from the lost Rubberband sessions EP released for this year’s Record Store Day in April. Finally, from East London, self-taught pianist and some time grime and hip-hop artist Alfa Mist working with Yussef Dayes and featuring some superb guitar work from Mansur Brown. There will be more from Brown’s own first solo album in upcoming shows.

  1. Jacek Kochan – Chinese Boomerang from Ajee
  2. Matthew Halsall – Blue Nile from Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile 12in single
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub vocal version (feat. Asheber) from 12in single
  4. Auntie Flo – Cape Town Jam from Radio Highlife
  5. EABS – Kawalek O Zyciu from EABS Puzzle Mixtape
  6. Makaya McCraven – Wise Man, Wiser Woman from Universal Beings
  7. Chip Wickham – Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) from Shamal Wind Remixed EP
  8. Miles Davis – Rubberband of Life from the Rubberband EP
  9. Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist feat. Mansur Brown – Love Is the Message from single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 01 December 2018: including UK artists Evelyn Laurie, Me & My Friends, Camilla George, Nat Birchall and Maisha

This week sees an emphasis on contemporary UK based artists with additional contributions from the US and Poland.  All exciting stuff available at the touch of the MixCloud tab (left).

Me and My Friends are a group who cross many boundaries – and that’s clearly evident on their new album High as the Sun to be released on 06 December via Split Shift Records. Their tune You Read My Mind provided a jaunty, lively opening to the show with its catchy riff on jazzy Ghanaian highlife. On this new album, the band reference other styles as well – Jamaican roots, soul, Afro-beat and the Ethiopique jazz of Mulatu Astatke. It was an uplifting and joyous way to start the show.

The sense of uplift continued with another tune from an artist based in Scotland. Evelyn Laurie has paid her dues over many years as an artist performing professionally around Scotland. Now she has put together her own self-produced album. She too has a love of many genres of music as seen in the interesting collection of songs from other artists to whom she’s given her own unique interpretations on the album  A Little Bit Of Me. The tune selected this week, though – I Love Your Smile – ione of her own compositions.

As usual, there were some music selections from Neil in Singapore, including this week the new release from UK alto sax player Camilla George titled The People Could Fly.  It’s a project based thematically around the Nigerian folk tales that George’s mother would read to her as a child. Of these, her favourite was one called The People Could Fly. In a recent interview, Camilla George commented: The cover illustration showed men and women flying over the cotton fields. The idea behind it was that some Africans were magical and had the ability to fly, but through long enslavement lost that ability to fly away. This image is bitter-sweet for me as it is a fantasy tale of suffering and is a powerful testament to the millions of slaves who never had the opportunity to fly away.” The new album is certainly a development from her first release Isang and extends her former quartet to include additional players. Many in the band are making quite a name for themselves in their own right,  Drummer Winston Clifford is pretty much a veteran of the scene but names such as Daniel Casimir on bass, Femi Koleoso on drums, Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals and Sarah Tandy on piano/Rhodes should be familiar to regular listeners of Cosmic Jazz.

Up next on the show was a spiritual interlude featuring Nat Birchall’s Eastern (or perhaps Western depending on where you live) influenced A Prayer from the  excellent Cosmic Language album and Sarathy Korwar’s take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic Hajj from his superb new release Your East is My West. If you don’t known Ibrahim’s iconic original, check it out here. The late Hamiet Bluiett is on oboe and baritone saxophone, with the under-rated Carlos Ward on alto and the distinctive sounds of Don Cherry on his pocket trumpet.

We followed this with some interesting music from Poland.  Drummer Jacek Kochan is a veteran of the scene. Born in Poland, in the early 1980s he went to the US and then Canada before returning to Poland in 1995. There is an impressive list of US musicians with whom he has played and the tune Drop from the album Ajee is a free, unpredictable, exciting piece. Lukask Kokoszko leads a quartet of musicians from Krakow and Katowice in Poland that won the Grand Prix in an International Jazz Improvisation Competition.

Finally, another tune from current Cosmic Jazz favourites Maisha and their first full album There is a Place. Maisha are led by drummer Jake Long and on this recording the band also features – yes – Shirley Tetteh on guitar and Nubya Garcia on sax. This UK Jazz scene is certainly bringing out some versatile, world class jazz musicians.

  1. Me & My Friends – You Read My Mind from High as the Sun
  2. Evelyn Laurie – I Love Your Smile from A Little Bit Of Me
  3. Camilla George – The People Could Fly from The People Could Fly
  4. Camilla George – Carrying on the Runnings from The People Could Fly
  5. Nat Birchall – The Prayer For from Cosmic Language
  6. Sarathy Korwar – Hajj from Your East is my West
  7. Jacek Kochan – Drop from Ajee
  8. Lukask Kokoszko Quartet – Soulmate from New Challenge
  9. Maisha – Kaa from There is a Place

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to: 

  1. Gnonnas Pedro – Kandevie
  2. Africando feat Gnonnas Pedro – Azo N’Kplon
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland
  4. Yasmine Kyd – Mandalay
  5. James Francies – Sway

Week ending 24 November 2018: Coltrane’s heritage

Available to you this week at the touch of the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab – music from Poland, Cuba, the US and UK.

Poland is the first stop. We have said it before, but it is worth repeating that there is a wealth of new music coming out of Poland and much of it getting recognised beyond the borders of the country. Stockists such as Steve’s Jazz Sounds have done much to make easy access to the music possible. Many of the bands are young too and their influences are many and diverse – like many of the current jazz musicians we feature here on CJ. There are two examples this week. The Tubis Trio are led by pianist Maciej Tubis and Flashback (great album cover!) is their second release. The title tune comes complete with its own flashback moments... Monosies are a quintet led by guitarist/composer Lukasz Komala and Stories of the Gray City is their debut album. Do these tunes present further examples of what is often referred to as Polish melancholy? I am not sure – we leave that judgement to you.

From Cuba came more music this week from pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his new trio album Un Dia Cualquiera – which translates as Just another day. In some ways the music is firmly in the tradition of the piano/bass/drums trio tradition, but with this record the Cuban flourishes are integral to Lopez-Nussa’s sound. The music references back to a number of Cuban styles, including Yoruba chants, rumba, descarga and – on our choice this week – an old bolero-style classic from 1946. But don’t think that all this roots referencing has created a traditional album – far from it. It’s a joyous contemporary celebration of a deep musical heritage that is an ongoing musical exploration

Ok, so we all know John Coltrane was a genius – it’s a naive truism in jazz – and, of course, his influence is still with us through many of the younger generation of jazz soloists. But, listening again to the 2018 Impulse! release Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album, made me stop and simply say, yes – this music really does take us to another place. But what is it about Coltrane’s music that’s so influential?  Well, a good place to start might be with this Earworm analysis of Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps, surely an influence on pretty much every contemporary jazz musician. Why? Well, you don’t need to be a musician to understand the significance of the circle of fifths – a musical principle that guided ‘trane’s musical explorations – but the video will give you renewed sense of John Coltrane’s musical mastery. The image here is Coltrane’s own hand-drawn annotated circle of fifths – and check out Derek’s Coltrane listening choice below which features a graphic based on this musical principle.

All of this suggested it was a good time to play Coltrane again and follow this with a contemporary musician who has clearly been influenced by him. Coltrane’s classic quartet released the tune Tunji in 1962 as part of the album just called Coltrane. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s simply a masterpiece and you owe it to yourself to check out the complete version of this Impulse! album as it contains five alternate versions of the tune.

One of our CJ favourites, Manchester-based saxophonist Nat Birchall has just released his version of Tunji as a single. You don’t get the piano and bass features of the Coltrane version – rather Nat Birchall blows his sax all the way through on what is a much shorter version. But it stands up well – a praiseworthy achievement. Respect is due, as they say. You can still get the 7inch single or download Tunji along with Mode for Miles (also from the Coltrane album) from the ever-reliable Bandcamp site here. It’s also well worth seeking out all of Birchall’s work from his earliest albums like Akhenaten through to his most recent release Cosmic Language on the Jazzman label.

While in the groove of playing those influenced by Coltrane it seemed appropriate to feature something more from Kamasi Washington and his most recent release Heaven and Earth album. Washington has been championed in Cosmic Jazz for a good few years now, and his 2018 3CD release doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of lengthy, sometimes overblown tracks but the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane and others is undoubtedly there and Washington is a powerful force in the jazz new wave. Heaven and Earth is highly recommended as is The Epic from 2016 and – a really good place to start for Washington novices – the Harmony of Difference EP.

We ended the show with a tune by UK DJ/producer/musician Kaidi Tatham, formerly of the influential Bugz in the Attic collective. As producers and remixers to many in the London broken beat scene, the Bugz released a couple of excellent compilations of their work – both worth looking out for. Tatham is now a prolific artist and producer in his own right having worked with Amy Winehouse, Slum Village, Mulatu Astatke, Soul II Soul, Amp Fiddler, Macy Gray, King Britt and DJ Spinna, Like the two Tunji selections, I See What You See was one of Neil’s selections and – at last – it got an airing. It’s an example of one of those many tunes we play on the show, without apology, which stretch beyond the boundaries of what some might call jazz. We love it. Tatham’s newest EP (released in October 2018) can be found here – again on Bandcamp.

  1. Tubis Trio – Flashback from Flashback
  2. Monosies – Passages from Stories of the Gray City
  3. Harold Lopez-Nusa – Contigo en la Distancia from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane
  5. Nat Birchall – Tunji from single release
  6. Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol from Heaven and Earth
  7. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…