Every week I enjoy playing and listening to the music on the show, but some weeks I reflect on what comes across as an exceptional selection and I leave the studio overjoyed. This week, despite the odd technical problem, was one of those occasions and I cycled home with renewed vigour. See if you can see why by listening via the MixCloud tab.
One area we like to support on Cosmic Jazz is the small independents, whether they be labels, distributors or record suppliers. We regularly champion the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds – purveyors of the very best in Polish and other continental jazz. We continue to be surprised at the music emerging from these European countries – but not because of the consistently high quality of what we hear. It’s more that much of this excellent music is so rarely reviewed in the pages of jazz magazines or websites. The music of the Pawel Palcowski Quintet is one such example. Palcowski is one of the many musicians we come across who graduated from the Academy of Music in Katowice where he is now a lecturer. He is a trumpeter whose music evokes the jazz of the 1950s and 1960s but through original compositions. Our choice provided a different opening compared to many recent shows, but the music sounded great.
We continue to celebrate eighty years of Blue Note Records 1939-2019. The different choices each week should have given even regular listeners an experience of the huge range of music released on the label but this week’s choice was firmly in the classic Blue Note mould. Jackie McLean may not have received the plaudits of other great saxophonists on Blue Note, but anyone who knows his music will rate him highly. With his distinctly piercing tone, this alto sax player moved from a classic hard bop style into more modal tones, but he also played an important role in bringing younger musicians to the label, including Bobby Hutcherson, Andrew Hill and Tony Williams – quite a list! The 1960 tune Appointment in Ghana paid tribute to the newly emerging independent African states and, indeed, African and Black consciousness was to become an essential aspect of the music for many Blue Note artists through the 1960s and 70s.
Another independent we like to support is Birnam CD based in Dunkeld, Scotland. Their role includes CD duplication, vinyl pressing, design, distribution and promotion. Through them we have come across a number of fine Scots musicians – and there were two more this week. The two tunes provided great contrasts – but that’s just what CJ is all about. Richard Michael’s album Contemplation and we featured his take on Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps. Apparently Michael sees the album as a 70th birthday to himself – “here’s the music I love, played with respect to the great jazz musicians who have inspired me over the years”. Richard himself as a performing pianist with a lovely, flowing piano style and a long-established teacher has, in turn, inspired many people himself. Among those who have offered tributes to him are the pianists Jason Rebello and Julian Joseph and guitarist Martin Taylor.
The second Birnam promotion is at a different point of the jazz spectrum. Fat Suit see themselves as taking influence from the Brownswood recordings, the UK underground jazz scene and the broad soundscapes of Scottish folk. Waifs & Strays is the band’s fourth album. It is a big band in itself plus special guests, including guests who have played with in one case Alfa Mist and in the other Billy Cobham. On this week’s tune Caretaker check the pounding bass and the rousing trumpet. Fine contemporary sounds to awaken body and soul.
As Fat Suit see Brownswood Recordings as an influence it seemed fitting to play something next from Brownswood. Havana Cultura, a collective of young Cuban musicians produced by Gilles Peterson and including Roberto Fonseca and Harold Lopez-Nussa who we have featured on the show and are now with their own groups, may not have been what Fat Suit most had in mind in terms of Brownswood recordings. Nevertheless, I am sure they would enjoy, or probably have enjoyed, Havana Cultura to soak up these sounds of young Cuba.
By now and for the rest of the show we were into a Latin thing. The title of the Havana Cultura tune was Pa’ Gozar (to be enjoyed). It was followed by another contrasting version certainly to be enjoyed and moved to from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. This is the sound of Spanish Harlem, a wonderful big band sound with Latin rhythms and jazzy solos, led and arranged by pianist and arranger Oscar Hernandez. It is New York Latinos playing their interpretation of music of the barrio – salsa with a bold, jazzy, brassy sound to be danced to and most certainly “enjoyed”.
There is a New York connection to the next tune as the bandleader lives there now, although sax player Fredrik Kronkvist was born in Sweden. Here he is playing from an album of Afro-Cuban music, the tune written and made famous by another Latin ‘convert’, the great jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. It’s a fantastic interpretation too, giving respect to the original while adding something different and contemporary. That is no surprise if you look up the calibre of musicians with whom Kronkvist has collaborated.
There were two old programme favourites to end the show – firstly sax player Roy Nathanson, with son Gabriel on trumpet and vocals , playing a Latin-tinged version of a Johnny Nash tune, and then British-based band Da Lata bringing a Brazilian touch to end the show with the simply brilliant tune Pra Manha.
- Pawel Palcowski Quintet – Announcement from Old Fashioned Mood
- Jackie McLean – Appointment in Ghana from Jackie’s Bag
- Richard Michael – Giant Steps from Contemplation
- Fat Suit – Caretaker from Waifs & Strays
- Havana Cultura – Pa’ Gozar from Havana Cultura New Havana Sound
- Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Pa’ Gozar from Un Gran en el Barrio
- Fredrik Kronkvist – Manteca from Afro-Cuban Supreme
- Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce – I Can See Clearly Now from Complicated Day
- Da Lata – Pra Manha from Songs from the Tin
Derek is listening to……