Category Archives: Features

Week ending 27 April 2019: spiritual sounds and more

There are contrasting moods in this week’s Cosmic Jazz show –  available via the MixCloud tab (left). The first half is on the deep, intense, even spiritual side while the second section of the show is more obviously funky – but still retaining that deep vibe we like so much.

I search my record shelves on a regular basis to find music that I have not played for some time and bring it to the show. Often I discover some great music that needs to be aired – and so it was this week. The disc selected came from Yuko Fujiyama, a pianist born in Japan, who moved to New York after encountering the music of Cecil Taylor. One night in New York in 1980 she heard someone playing a tape of Taylor’s music and this inspiration led to the free approach to improvisation characterised by this music. The album Reentry was recorded in 2000 at the Gilbert Recital Hall, Canton, New York. The track selected is titled Synaethesis and is the opening tune on the album, which gives a good idea of what the album is like. I cannot remember where or when I bought this record but I’m very pleased I did. I notice its Discogs listing gives the record five stars – I endorse that fully.

From the spiritual side came John Ellis and his album Evolution, Seeds and Streams, whose title provides a good feel for what the music is like. It was released in 2016 on the Manchester-based Gondwana label and was commissioned for the Manchester Jazz Festival. John Ellis is a pianist/keyboard player but the record includes some instruments and sounds that are not commonly found on a jazz record – kora, cello, vocal sculpture, birdsong and beatbox.

Last week the show finally caught up with the Polish sax player from Warsaw Michal Kobojek and his album The Outside. The music was so good that a second tune seemed appropriate this week. He not only leads his own group but also plays as a session musician and with other musicians, including vocalist Urszula Dudziak (who may be known to Cosmic Jazz listeners) and saxophonist Michal Urbaniak, who we have played on the show.

By this stage the mood of the programme was beginning to shift, although only moderately with another tune from Wayne Shorter’s award winning epic 2018 album EmanonThere  was a heavier even thumping feel, however, from Theon Cross who plays the tuba, another instrument that is not found on many jazz records. He’s one of the members of the thriving young London jazz scene and has just released his first album Fyah. As with many of his contemporaries, his music crosses boundaries – from early New Orleans jazz to grime and rap. On the tune Brockley from the excellent Gilles Peterson-curated compilation album We Out Here, Cross is joined by two other members of the scene, drummer Moses Boyd and sax player Nubya Garcia.

Hammond organ player Charles Earland may have been too funky, too soulful and too much loved by the Acid Jazz crowd for many jazz followers. They have missed some gems. In 2001 Soul Brother Records in the UK released a 2CD anthology of his music. It includes three tunes from Leaving This Planet – considered one of his finest albums. One of these tunes is a version of the Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay with no less than Hubbard himself playing on it, as well as sax player Joe Henderson and drummer Harvey Mason. This should be enough to confirm Earland’s jazz credentials.

There was more from what might be described as the jazz dance scene. Kathryn Moses is a Brazilian-influenced jazz vocalist who appears on a compilation put together by British DJ Kevin Beadle. UK record labels have done much to promote Brazilian music and the now Brighton-based label Mr. Bongo has been one of the leaders. Their superb seven CD Brazilian Beats series (available in a box set) includes on Volume 3 a tune from distinctive vocalist Seu Jorge. To end Cosmic Jazz this week we went to the title track from the excellent 1977 Soul Village album from Fender Rhodes pianist Walter Bishop Jr. featuring Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn.

  1. Yoko Fujiyama – Synaethesis from Re-entry
  2. John Ellis – Flight from Evolution, Seeds & Streams
  3. Machal Kobojek – Imago from The Outside
  4. Wayne Shorter – Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean from Emanon
  5. Theon Cross – Brockley from We Out Here
  6. Charles Earland – Red Clay from Anthology
  7. Kathryn Moses – Music in my Heart from Kevin Beadle presents Private Collection Vol 2
  8. Seu Jorge – Chega No Suingue from Brazilian Beats Vol. 3
  9. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Village from Soul Village

Derek is listening to …..

  1. Ruby Rushton – Moonlight Woman ( Studio Session)
  2. Nick Walters & the Paradox Ensemble – Dear Old Thing
  3. Alfa Mist – Keep On
  4. Bitty McLean – Walk Away from Love
  5. Steve Williamson – Celestial Blues



08 September 2016: CJ playout!


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.

16 April 2016: RSD2016

16 April was Record Store Day all round the world and – of course –  Cosmic Jazz joined in the festivities.  We visited two of our local record stores – Soundclash logoSoundclash Records in Norwich and Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds. Soundclash is one of the city’s oldest record shops: established in 1991, it’s got a great selection of both vinyl and CDs in a wide range of musical genres. Vinyl Hunter maybe new in town but it’s already building a loyal customer base.  Not only is it a specialist vinyl store (with some CDs) but there’s cafe space downstairs too and – thanks to the bakery upstairs there are excellent cakes and coffee. Vinyl vinyl hunter logoHunter also carries a range of quality turntables including Lenco and Rega models – and co-founder Rosie Hunter made clear that selling good quality decks on which to play both new and secondhand vinyl is just part of their comprehensive service for customers.

soundclash record store day 01Those early morning Soundclash queues are testimony to the appeal of Record Store Day and – like the Norwich store – Vinyl Hunter had a busy inaugural RSD2016 with over 60 customers buying in the first hour. Their crate digging approach is going global too – in August the Hunters will be visiting Brazil for the Olympic Games, but Rosie confirmed that there will be time for some vinyl hunting in some of the country’s best record stores!

UK vinyl sales continue to grow year on year with a 64% increase in 2015 sales over the previous year. What looked like a passing fad is clearly now a substantial resurgence. Independent vinyl shops are a viable business proposition – the longevity of Soundclavinyl hunter 01sh and the customer service ethos of Vinyl Hunter are both testimony to this. What HMV (the sole surviving major music retailer) never succeeded in doing was to rebrand themselves as a specialist, niche service – and that’s where two of our local record shops have the edge. Cosmic Jazz salutes both. For more vinyl news, start with The Vinyl Factory or sign up to any of the other great independent record store around the country.  The music choices below celebrate RSD exclusive cuts and more – enjoy!

On Record Store Day Neil listened to: 


Meanwhile, our Miles Ahead fest continues: Neil has chosen five Miles Davis tracks, each of which featured in Jez Nelson’s Sunday night Somethin’ Else prograjez nelson and don cheadlemme on Jazz FM. Much of this is Miles music that is rarely heard on the radio – and as actor/director Don Cheadle notes in his interview with Nelson, some of these tracks often centre on “meta-Miles” – Davis playing what’s not there. The music built up to the period in Miles’ life that’s at the heart of the movie – his enforced retirement from 1975 that then led to the final comeback years. The interview ended with Cheadle’s choice of Circle, from the album Miles Smiles.

On Somethin’ Else Neil listened to:

The greatest week in avantgarde jazz?

There’s a question mark at the end of this feature title – but it probably doesn’t need to be there. In one week in August 1969, a group of American musicians holed up just north of Paris produced over 12 albums worth of material. The writer Britt Robson has produced an absorbing feature for Red Bull Academy Daily and it’s so good it deserves to be read by our CJ listeners. You can check out the article here. It begins like this…

Thank God somebody bought Lester Bowie’s couch in the spring of 1969. And his chairs, bed and desk. Otherwise, the most glorious week in avant-garde jazz history would never have happened. “Lester was selling all the furniture in his house to take the band to Europe,” recalls saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell of his trumpeter-friend and cohort. “He put an ad in the [Chicago] Defender, ‘Musician sells out.’”

jazzactuel compilationMuch of the music was to appear of the BYG label, a short lived but influential avantgarde jazz imprint founded in Paris by Jean Georgakarakos, Jean-Luc Young and Fernand Boruso. You should still be able to find the 3CD collection called JazzActuel: a collection of avant garde/free jazz/psychedelia from the BYG/Actuel catalogue of 1969–1971. It was released by Charly Records in the UK.

[With grateful thanks to Britt Robson for his insightful writing. You can find more of his work on the Wondering Sound blog.]

Mark Murphy 1932-2015: an appreciation

mark murphy 01The first thing to say is that Mark Murphy was an icon. A living embodiment of Kerouac ‘hipster’ chic, Murphy truly lived the jazz life. No other jazz artist presented this so clearly through his music: Murphy recorded Kerouac stories, he wrote lyrics for modern jazz standards that incorporated bebop imagery and with his resonant baritone he nailed that mix of jazz phrasing and vocalese better than anyone. Modern singers from Kurt Elling to Gregory Porter owe him a huge debt. The shame is that in the wake of his death there aren’t the column inches to reflect that influence.

Mark Murphy was born in Syracuse, New York, joining his brother’s dance band as a teenage singer. Influences were already clear – Nat King Cole, Anita O’Day and Ella Fitzgerald. Murphy was always interested in acting (he graduated in music and drama) and would go back to the stage and television when he wasn’t recording.

In 1958 he briefly moved to Los Angeles and recorded for Capitolmark murphy rah
before returning to New York and recording the Rah! album on Riverside Records. This featured versions of Horace Silver’s Doodlin’ and the standard On Green Dolphin Street. But perhaps the most productive time for Murphy was the 1970s and his time with the Muse label. These consistently good recordings feature him at his eclectic best. Albums
like Bop for Kerouac, Beauty and the Beast and – above all – Stolen mark murphy stolen momentsMoments feature imaginative arrangements, original lyrics and
great productions. Stolen Moments has the inspirational title track, Murphy’s take on Herbie Hancock’s Sly and his soaring vocals on Dori Caymmi’s sensational Like a Love(r) (O Cantador) which close the album. Several of these eighteen Muse albums – including Stolen Moments – were nominated for Grammy awards.

Murphy has also appeared on records by the Japanese nu-jazz group United Future Organization where he wrote and rapped lyrics on songs composed with his young collaborators. This collaboration opened up further new audiences in the acid-jazz and hip-hop genres, most notably in his fabulous (literally) lyrics for Dingwalls, in which he name-checked the famous north London venue where jazz dancers showed how timeless his music was.

mark murphy love is what staysWith a new Verve contract, he recorded Once to Every Heart in 2005 and Love is What Stays in 2007. Both albums featured Murphy on a range of ballads and were produced by German trumpeter Till Bronner. But for a different take on 21C Murphy try this innovative Henrik Schwartz remix from 2012. Murphy’s last recording – fittingly a limited edition on vinyl only and through the UK-based Gearbox Records – was a tribute to another iconic singer, Murphy’s contemporary Shirley Horn. Beautiful Friendship: Remembering Shirley Horn was released in 2013.

Two British DJs (both much beloved by this site) – Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge – have produced their own heartfelt tributes to Murphy. Here’s Peterson’s Mark Murphy mix from 2008 and we end this celebration of Murphy’s music with these fitting words from Forge on Facebook: So waking up today I’m filled with sadness at Mark’s passing, last time I saw him was in Tokyo, I went to his gig with Shuya Okino, he seemed very frail but was still just as mesmerising in performance, still taking risks, in the moment, going where the music took him. We chatted afterwards and I remember thinking as we left that it would probably be the last time. I’ll always remember interviewing Mark after one of his shows at Dingwalls, and asking him about the lyrics to Red Clay… he told me about how he’d phoned Freddie Hubbard to ask him about where the title had come from, Freddie had told him about playing on the red clay growing up in Indianopolis. Mark’s lyrics are so wonderfully evocative, they seem to capture a whole world, joyful and playful and naturally hip. Maybe “hip” seems an odd word to use, but Mark was an original hipster, a product and devotee of the “Beat Generation” who lovingly crafted music around Jack Kerouac’s words on more than one occasion. Like those writers, his defiance of the humdrum, his pursuit of truth and beauty, his questing soul was always searching for the chance to take flight… Mark’s voice had wings that grew out of the original counter culture, made of poetry and jazz. We have lost a consummate singer, a superb lyricist who could create sublime poetry around great jazz melodies, a fearless improviser and a legendary character. R.I.P.

I also saw Murphy live, but here in the UK in a small jazz club in the heart of rural Suffolk – a lifetime away from New York or Tokyo. It was a never to be forgotten experience, but as soon as I’m back from Beijing I’ll be reliving that classic voice all over again when all those Murphy albums are once more on the turntable.

New recommended site – UK vibe

nat-birchall_ukvibe_01Cosmic Jazz
has always had a sidebar list of recommended sites – and it’s time to add a new one to the list. UK Vibe has just uploaded an excellent review of the new Nat Birchall release Invocations but the site is home to some great in-depth features too.

Particularly recommended is the extended (and I really mean extended) piece on Keith Jarrett at 70. Read it and check out the videos too. If you’re not yet convinced by Jarrett, have a look and listen to his live reading of the classic God Bless the Child  performed here with his Standards Trio – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums.

Joe Farrell – unsung hero?

joe farrellJoe Farrell should be much better known, but his fate was to be best known for a short string of CTI records in the 1970s. Let me explain… The decade of jazz-rock has not been kind to some artists who grew their hair, dabbled with electronics or solo pyrotechnics and who adopted overindulgent production values. Of course, there are those whose musical language was enhanced by by the era – Joe Zawinul and Miles Davis for example. Their polar opposite approaches to the changing musical landscape proved of lasting value and influence to jazz – and beyond.

Joe Farrell came straight out of the jazz tradition: apprenticeships with Maynard Ferguson and Charlie Mingus led in 1968 to a place in Elvin Jones’ regular band, latterly as part of a three horn line up with Dave Liebman and Frank Foster. Farrell recorded several under-rated albums with Jones but greater recognition came with his tenure in a first incarnation of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever andjoe farrell quartet his CTI solo albums, beginning with Joe Farrell Quartet in 1970 which features a definitive version of John McLaughlin’s Follow Your Heart. To some extent these solo records were overshadowed by Farrell’s sidesman work with other CTI artists – Airto Moreira, Ray Barreto, Lalo Schifrin and George Benson but each of them features Farrell’s powerful and imaginative soloing on tenor and soprano saxes together with flute and even oboe too.

airto_free1Drug addiction and finally bone cancer led to his early death in 1986 at the age of 48 but not before he’d cemented his reputation with recordings for jazz supergroup Fuse One, more Chick Corea, Billy Cobham’s excellent first solo album Spectrum and session outings with Aretha Franklin, Patti Austin, Hall and Oates and many others. His final recording was back with Airto and his wife Flora Purim on the album Three Way Mirror.

I’ve not come across a Farrell solo that isn’t of interest – nothing was ever perfunctory or sounds phoned in. Even on his mainstream CTI albums there are tracks that feature harder edges, squeaks and squalls unexpected in this catalogue.

Selected discography:

  • 1966: Chick Corea – Tones for Joan’s Bones (Blue Note)
  • 1969: Elvin Jones – Poly-currents (Blue Note)
  • 1970: Joe Farrell Quartet (CTI)
  • 1971: Outback (CTI)
  • 1972: Chick Corea – Return to Forever (Verve)
  • 1972: Airto Moreira – Free (CTI)
  • 1972: Moon Germs (CTI)
  • 1973: Penny Arcade (CTI)
  • 1973: Don Sebesky – Giant Box (1973)
  • 1973: Billy Cobham – Spectrum (Atlantic)
  • 1974: Upon This Rock (CTI)
  • 1976: Maynard Ferguson – Primal Scream (CBS)
  • 1979: Ray Barretto – La Cuna (CTI)
  • 1980: Fuse One (CTI)

And here’s Joe Farrell in 1968 with Elvin Jones on drums and Jimmy Garrison on bass:

Brainfeeder Records: is it jazz?

I’m back in the UK and so there’s a chance to record some Cosmic Jazz specials. More on those later – but first up we’ll have a close look at music that’s currently coming from California via the Brainfeeder label.

stan_getz_west_coast_jazzThere have long been contrasting scenes in jazz – and two obvious ones have been the two typified by the ‘cool’ west coast and ‘hot’ east coast scenes of the 1950s. Stan Getz and Chet Baker represented the chilled vibe of the west coast while John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy illustrated the more intense approach favoured by those musicians resident in New York. Well, today there’s another west coast vibe – and some say much of it is not even jazz.

I’m indebted to Natalie Weiner and her article on the Noisey website for prompting the rest of this post. You can check the article out here. Weiner focuses on the music coming from the SanLos angelesFrancisco based Brainfeeder which features such artists as Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Kamasi Washington – all of whom have featured on CJ. Indeed, we played Flying Lotus as long ago as 2008 when he released his sophomore album Los Angeles – named after his hometown. Was it jazz? Probably not – but, as always, that will depend on your definition.

What we are seeing in jazz over the the last five years or so is an
increasingly fertile amalgam of influences from two other musics – electronica and hip hop. This open genre-bending has, of course, always been a feature of jazz – but the music now goes much further than the rather tokenistic jazz and hip hop collaborations of the 1990s that saw the birth of such projects as rapper Guru’s collaborations with Blue Note past masters on the Jazzmatazz series.  It’s also more than pianist Robert Glasper’s authentic dives into contemporary nu soul with his Black Radio project or even Vijay Iyer’s reworkings of Detroit minimalist Robert Hood for jazz piano trio.

noise of troubleAll of this – and more – we have played on CJ. But when veteran jazz pianist and one man jazz iconoclast Herbie Hancock appears on the latest Flying Lotus release even more trad jazzheads should take note. It’s not the first time Hancock has done this of course – a recent reissue on CD is Last Exit’s The Noise of Trouble live album from 1986 which featured the pianist on the final track.

So back to Flying Lotus and some of the issues raised by Weiner in her Noisey feature. Is FlyLo jazz?  Can you make jazz music without playing an instrument? is an obvious starting question. Another would  be Does he improvise? But whether or not we have an answer to either questions, the answer really probably lies with the music.  As Kamasi Washington himself notes If it’s not called jazz, what would you call this? It can’t fit any term other than that.

Pulling the question into focus is the fact that Washington’s acclaimed album has clearly broken through. The audacity of releasing a 3CD first album and (rather immodestly) calling it simply The Epic has clearly worked. As Weiner notes, Debut albums from jazz musicians do not, traditionally, get reviewed by Rolling Stone or Pitchfork. The latter review notes that whilst there are no hip hop beats to be found on The Epic, conversely there’s a lot of jazz wovenpimp a butterfly through Kendrick Lamar’s masterly To Pimp a Butterfly – including from Washington himself. Again, the history of jazz artists gracing releases in other genres is a long and (sometimes) embarrassing one. But this is where we need to go back to the idea of a scene and look at Brainfeeder’s eclectic origins in LA’s underground beat music scene. Scenes around labels or venues usually mean that loyal and curious audiences will go with a diverse flow and spread the word. As long ago as 2011, in a Guardian newspaper feature on Brainfeeder the writer Paul McGinnis noted: The crowd is young and the most diverse group of people I have ever seen at a gig: black, white, Asian, Latino and all shades in-between; skate kids, rave kids, B-girls and preppy boys. By the end of the evening they number as many as 10,000. In the same year, Brainfeeder launched the debut of 21 year old pianist prodigy Austin Peralta (who sadly died the following year). Endless Planets was an all out jazz record that veered uncertainly in style from bop to electronica but was something of a new calling card for the label. Brainfeeder’s introduction to a straight-ahead kind of jazz taylor mcferrinband according to Flying Lotus – and an early indication of what was delivered with The Epic. Interestingly, one of the most coherent Brainfeeder releases is the first album from Taylor McFerrin, a subtle, almost ambient work from an inventive producer and vocalist whose drummer Marcus Gilmore (grandson of legendary drummer Roy Haynes) is part of Vijay Iyer’s trio.

Over the years here on CJ we’ve featured tracks from all the albums and artists mentioned in this feature – and we’ll continue to explore the boundaries of jazz – that exciting area where you make up your mind about what you hear. Is it jazz? Only you can decide. Check out the latest programme on Mixcloud and then listen out for a couple of upcoming specials from Neil, back from Beijing and ready to grab your ears and – yes – feed your brain.


Ornette Coleman 1930-2015: an appreciation

Ornette ColemanFrom onetime elevator operator to 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner is – by any stretch of the imagination – a big leap. But alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who died last week aged 85, was making big leaps right from the start. His radical approach to jazz sounded innovative in 1959 and that pitch-blurred squalling still sounds unique now. Many great horn players in jazz have a signature sound, but it’s pretty safe to say that no one sounded like Ornette – and over the last 55 years no one ever has.

Coleman was an iconoclast right to the end of his life. In 2009, he
curated the South Bank Meltdown Festival and was received rapturously by the audience who enjoyed his unique alto sax sound in harmolodic invention with post-punk singer Patti Smith, Senegalese griot Baaba Maal, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and a Moroccan drum choir. It was a typical Coleman kind of mix and the sort of musical genre mashup that had characterised his remarkable musical journey. I was lucky enough that summer to meet him in a chance encounter with his son Denardo in their London hotel. I could only shake his hand and mumble how much I admired his music and vision – but it was a memory I’ll cherish.

For many jazz fans (and musicians) Coleman’s signature sound is still too spiky, too untutored and just too ‘out there’ to be acceptable. It seems to have been pretty much like this from the start. Coleman was born in Fort Worth, Texas – something of a musical centre for several key jazz artists including Julius Hemphill, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Dewey Redman and Charles Moffett. Most would share a stage with the alto (and sometime tenor, trumpet and violin) player in later years.
Ornette Coleman - Change of the CenturyHis early years were characterised by rejection – he was thrown out of his high school band for improvising, beaten up (and his tenor saxophone destroyed) on his first tour with a rhythm and blues band and isolated in his New York apartment in the early 1960s. The early adoption of an unconventional white plastic sax only irritated further the many critics of his sound but, surprisingly, Atlantic Records had enough faith in his singular talent to sign him for a multi-record deal, resulting in the appropriately named The Shape of Jazz to Come album in 1959.

Coleman went on to plough his singular musical furrow – whether in conventional jazz trio and quartet form, with a full symphony orchestra, incorporating traditional musicians from China or with ornette coleman - live at the golden circlehis electric (and eclectic) free funk group Prime Time – until his death this month. However, as critic John Fordham noted, he remained one of the greatest geniuses of a simple song, the song of the blues. Coleman stripped down and simplified the conventional harmonic framework of jazz, remoulding the raw materials of improvisation and casting off the formal and technical bonds of the bebop style dominating jazz during his childhood. But his saxophone sound was steeped in the slurred notes and rough-hewn intonation of 19th-century singers and saloon-front guitarists at work before jazz was even born. His affecting tone swelled with the eloquence of the human voice.

Ornette Coleman Complete Science Fiction-Sessions-L074646356920There isn’t a better way of understanding the core of Coleman’s sound than this, but really the only way to appreciate Coleman is – of course – to listen to his music. There are some obvious places to start for the untutored listener. I’d recommend Ramblin’, from the 1960 album Change of the Century if only because of Charlie Haden’s sublime bass coda which would later be pinched by Ian Dury to form the backbone of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. Add to this the clarity of vision of his Live at the Golden Circle trio (try the opener from Volume 1, Spaces and Places) and then go to the amazing Complete Science Fiction album and choose the opening track What Reason Could I Give? with Indian vocalist Asha Puthli. To end this avant garde feast, dive into the free funk world of Coleman’s Prime Time band and swim around Ornette Coleman - Virgin Beautyin the harmolodic freedom of Singing in the Shower from the album Virgin Beauty where he’s joined by Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. The last track also has an electric bass line that in places owes something to where your journey began with Charlie Haden’s playing on Ramblin’… And that word ‘harmolodic’? Coleman invented it because he needed something that would symbolise the equal importance of harmony, melody and rhythm. Of course. It seems a good place to end.

[With grateful thanks to John Fordham’s excellent obituary – the Guardian 12 June 2015]

Maiden Voyage is 50!

maiden voyageOn April 12 of this year, Herbie Hancock will turn 75. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Hancock is easily one of the most recognisable and accomplished musicians of his generation. In the course of his career, he has performed and recorded with many of the greatest jazz artists of the era, and created music that has become timeless. In early 1965, Herbie Hancock occupied an enviable position in the jazz world. He was the featured pianist in the Miles Davis Quintet, one of the most popular groups at the time, and he had his own recording contract with Blue Note records, the most famous jazz label of the era.

In his memoir, Possibilities, Hancock remembers that during this busy period he was in Los Angeles recording an album with Davis (later released as E.S.P), and making preparations for his next solo project for Blue Note. He received a call from an advertising agency looking for something jazzy and sophisticated to be used in an ad for men’s cologne, and despite his busy schedule, Hancock readily accepted the assignment. He already had music in mind for the spot – a basic melody and rhythmic pattern that first came to him during a plane ride to the West Coast. This melody turned out to be perfect for the ad.

A few months later, Hancock was back in New York working on his next solo recording. The opening tune of the record would be fashioned from the same basic melody and rhythms he had used for the commercial. Once the session was completed, he knew he had something special, but still didn’t have names for any of the songs that had been recorded. According to the pianist, as he was playing tapes from the session for his sister and some friends, one of them said It reminds me of water. The first song sounds like a maiden voyage. Hancock loved the suggestion, and with its soft rolling chords and mesmerising rhythmic pattern, the description seemed perfect for the opening tune. It would eventually become one of his most popular compositions, as well as the title for one of the iconic albums of the decade: Maiden Voyage.

Eventually, all five original tunes on the album were given names connected to the theme of a sea voyage or journey. In order, they are Maiden Voyage, The Eye of the Hurricane, Little One, Survival Of The Fittest and Dolphin Dance. Recorded on March 17, 1965 for Blue Note records, Maiden Voyage features saxophonist George Coleman, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. In the 50 years since the release of this legendary album, it has lost none of its ability to captivate listeners. In fact, new generations of fans continue to be drawn to Hancock’s music, and to this day it remains one of the best-selling titles in the Blue Note catalogue.

If you don’t know the album then now is the time to check it out. You won’t regret a moment spent listening to this classic jazz release – as timeless now as on its first release.

[with thanks to]