Week ending 21 March 2020: CJ goes virtual…

Cosmic Jazz is recorded at a community centre/venue which has had to be closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. There will be no live shows recorded there for some time. Here at CJ we are exploring the possibility of home recording, but until we can secure this, the CJ website will feature ‘virtual shows’, links to online videos, jazz news and record reviews. From time to time, we’ll include a few links to classic past shows too. To ‘listen’ to this week’s show, open up CJ twice and you can check out the blog and listen to the music at the same time! Enjoy our bumper crop of music and stay safe.

This week’s virtual show starts with the tune To Nowhere and Back from a new album by Czech saxophonist Ondrej Stveracek called Space Project. Check out a trailer for the new album here. The album might suggest some Sun Ra-inspired flight to the stellar regions but this is not the case – instead the music has a more conventional, hard bop and jazz-rock sound. To Nowhere and Back is one of the more restrained tracks on the album – relaxed, slow and melodic. The band includes Tomas Baros on bass, Klaudius Kovac on keyboards/synthesiser and features US drummer Gene Jackson. Like so much great jazz from eastern Europe, this album comes via our friends at online store Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Wherever you are in the world – and especially if (like us) you’re in lockdown – then you owe it to yourself to enjoy some new music from Steve. Also check out his Facebook page where you can open up some Youtube links and enjoy the music. Remember – especially in these difficult times – if you like what you hear, buy from  independent sites like Steve’s Jazz Sounds. We can’t recommend this site highly enough.

By contrast, the next choice is a UK/US collaboration. J Z Replacement  are an exciting, innovative and highly contemporary band. Their new album has the title Disrespectful – but it’s not to us here at Cosmic Jazz. The tune Displacement A features a long, fast and definitely sinewy sax lead from Zhenya Strigalev, with heavy backing from drummer Jamie Murray and bass player Tim Lefebvre. It is fast and furious stuff that will have your body moving, maybe even dancing. You can hear a live version of the track (Displacement B) right here. Better still, listen to – and buy – the album here on the group’s Bandcamp site here.

There has to be another selection from the highly important legacy of the late jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. Neil recommended the tune Ebony Queen from his 1972 Milestone album Sahara. The album has to be considered as one of his best. Tyner plays the piano with breathtaking speed that combines both power and subtlety and Sonny Fortune’s soprano saxophone provides a stirring, spiritual start to the track.  Calvin Hill is on bass and the superb Alphonse Mouzon features on drums.

The recent award winning Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool movie is now available to download from the BBC iPlayer site – check out the cinema trailer here. This superb film gives a chronological account of Miles’ musical career and explores his music and personality in real depth.  Birth of the Cool rightly emphasises Miles’ role as a musical innovator and style icon who – as he acknowledged in a famous anecdote – changed music (at least) five or six times.  Mademoiselle Mabry is, of course, titled after one of his muses Betty Mabry (who is interviewed at length in the film) and comes from the Filles de Kilimanjaro album. It’s a great example of the musical telepathy in that second great Miles Davis Quintet. The band included Tony Williams on drums (who joined as a 17 year old teenager), Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone. There is nothing that this band recorded that’s less than exceptional and you owe it to yourself to have at least some of these great albums in your collection. And never dismiss the Miles Davis’ last years – the music may not have been innovatory, but Miles’ touring band included the outstanding Kenny Garrett on alto sax. There are many live video versions of his take on Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time but this take from the 1989 Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the best sounding and most eloquent performances.

The final choice is an up-tempo number. Lettuce are a US soul/funk, occasionally jazzy US group that we have played previously on the show. Checker Wrecker comes from their forthcoming album and Resonate, and has that unique Washington DC sound. The official video features two GoGo music legends – Big Tony Fisher of Troublefunk and ‘Jungle Boogie’ Williams of Rare Essence. Surprisingly, there’s a link here with Miles Davis too – Ricky Wellman, drummer for legendary Go-Go band Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers is on that 1989 Montreux recording. You can catch both Wellman and Big Tony Fisher playing live with Chuck Brown here on the classic Bustin’ Loose.

  1. Ondrej Stveracek – To Nowhere and Back from Space Project
  2. J Z Replacement – Displacement from Disrespectful
  3. McCoy Tyner Ebony Queen from Sahara
  4. Miles Davis – Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry) from Filles de Kilimanjaro
  5. Lettuce – Checker Wrecker from Resonance

Neil is listening to…

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