Week ending 14 September 2019: it’s about that time…

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was a pre-record. I often take this opportunity to play jazz from the past – including taking up the chance to play some Cosmic Jazz favourites once again.

At least once a year here on CJ we find the time to play the full 23 minutes and 40 seconds of Harry Whitaker’s Black Renaissance group and their 1976  eponymous recording. It is quite simply right up there among our favourite tunes and when it finally got a release in the USA in 2002 via Luv N’ Haight/Ubiquity records, Gilles Peterson wrote in the sleeve notes “Black Renaissance is undoubtedly one of my all time favourite tunes, up there with Sun Ra’s Sleeping Beauty and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme”. The story of how the record was released in Japan without Whitaker receiving royalties and the loss of the master tapes when the house of a friend of his burned down is a sad one, but its eventual US release was a cause for celebration. It was recorded spontaneously on Martin Luther King Day 15 January 1976 in one take with an impressive line-up that included Harry Whitaker on piano, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Mtume on percussion, Billy Hart on drums and Azar Lawrence on sax. This record should be in everyone’s jazz collection.

Horace Parlan’s Home Is Africa was the Blue Note contribution for the week. The album Happy Frame of Mind was recorded for the label in 1963 but didn’t see the light of day until 1976 when it was released as a double record Booker Ervin set. Parlan was breaking away from the soul-inflected hard bop that had become his trademark and moving his music into more adventurous, post-bop territory. Aided by a first-rate quintet – trumpeter Johnny Coles, Booker Ervin on tenor sax, Grant Green on guitar and Billy Higgins on drums – this is a set on which the ensemble stretches out, notably on our choice of track this week. Home is Africa is actually a composition by the Sun Ra bass player Ronnie Boykins, and was re-released on the excellent 2008 2CD Blue Note compilation African Rhythms which features tracks from Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan and Jackie McLean.

Mario Bauza was a bandleader born in Cuba but like many of his contemporaries ended up in New York. His music had an exciting big band sound that combined the very best of jazz and Cuban music. His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra may reflect an era but the music still sounds fresh and uplifting today.

The ongoing Spiritual Jazz releases from Jazzman Records continues to be one that we enjoy and feature on Cosmic Jazz. Volume 8 was a compilation of music from Japan – all excellent tracks – and included the 1977 tune Spanish Flower from Tee & Company. This band featured Japanese luminaries Hiroshi Murakami on drums and Masayuki Takayanagi on guitar. It was another long and deep track for a week that required only four tunes to complete the show.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body Mind & Spirit
  2. Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from Happy Frame of Mind
  3. Mario Bauza & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Carnegie Hall 100 from The Tanga Suite
  4. Tee & Company – Spanish Flower from Spiritual Jazz 8

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