Week ending 04 April 2020: virtual vibes

Cosmic Jazz stays virtual again this week – but we are exploring options and hope to bring you news soon. So this week it’s three tunes each – and a load of links to sustain your musical enjoying if you’re in lockdown anywhere around the world.

Derek started the show with some great bass lines from Andy González, a ubiquitous and distinguished New York musician who died recently. We have featured his music before on Cosmic Jazz – and that of his late trumpet playing brother Jerry González, both members of the great Fort Apache and Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklórico Y Experímental Nuevayorquíno bands. Andy González died recently and we included a track from an excellent compilation as a tribute.  On this occasion he was the special guest of The Afro-Rican Ensemble on a version of Tangathe seminal Latin Jazz tune composed by Cuban-born New York Latin great Mario Bauza. See if you can find the compilation Viva Cubop Jazz: the Afro-Cuban Way released in 1999 on San Francisco-based Ubiquity Records – strongly recommended if you like Latin jazz. Two more compilations followed in the series. For more from the brothers González, listen to this great track from the Fort Apache band – Eighty One, recorded live at the Zurich International Jazz Festival in 1988. The album  from which it comes – Obatala – is highly recommended and yes, this is the Ron Carter/Miles Davis tune that’s featured on the album ESP. The record has one more ambitious Latin reworking of another great Miles Davis Quintet track – in this case, Nefertiti. If you’re not familiar with the beautiful original version – the title track on the great 1965 outing by the second Miles Davis Quintet – here it is.

Michal Martyniuk is a very accomplished pianist and composer who produces music of great maturity.  He was born in Poland but while he was young his parents moved to New Zealand. For the last ten years he has lived in New Zealand and travelled back and forth playing and recording with a number of fine musicians in both countries. His new album Resonate opens with Jazz Dance and we feature a live version of the track recorded at the Java Jazz Festival in 2017. The personnel on the album includes both Polish and NZ musicians: Jakub Skowroński on tenor, Kuba Mizeracki on guitar, Bartek Chojnacki on bass and Kuba Gudz on drums. The extra NZ recorded tracks feature Cameron McArthur on bass and Ron Samsom on drums. As always, check out the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds for this album and much more new European jazz.

Noemi Nuti is a new name to me but this vocalist has just released her second album Venus Eye on the Ubuntu record label. Nuti was born in New York but is based in London, and is not only a singer but also harp player and composer. She has worked with pianist Andrew McCormack and has toured and supported other artists, including Brazilian Cosmic Jazz favourite Marcos Valle. On Venus Eye she is accompanied by five other musicians including Tom Herbert on bass and Gareth Lochrane on flute. Her cover of the Tori Amos song Cornflake Girl includes some great scat singing – here it is in a studio version (with some excellent piano from Chris Eldred). Why not compare with the original here if you’re not familiar with Tori Amos.

Neil’s three choices this week all celebrate the upcoming 80th birthday of Herbie Hancock on 12 April. There will be more Herbie music in future shows. There’s a lot of Hancock’s music that is well known to jazz listeners – whether the Blue Note magnificence of Maiden Voyage, the archetypal funk blueprint of Chameleon or the electro-jazz of Rockit – but Neil’s selections are all from the more obscure end of the Hancock spectrum. We begin with the improbable Hank Williams cover album from (now) Blue Note supremo Don Was. Forever’s a Long, Long Time features Herbie Hancock on piano – vocals are by Sweet Pea Atkinson.

Hancock also lent his distinctive piano skills to saxophonist Sam Rivers’ Blue Note album Contours. Check out the great solo on Point of Many Returns right here. The track also features Freddie Hubbard on trumpet along with Ron Carter on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. Recently reissued as part of the superb Blue Note Tone Poet series of audiophile albums, it’s worth getting hold of these superb pressings and gatefold ‘tip on’ record covers (where the artwork is stuck on to the thicker record cover.) The label’s boss Don Was brought the ‘Tone Poet’ Joe Harley (from Music Matters) on board to curate and supervise an ongoing series of reissues from the label. All records in the Tone Poet series are 180 gram new vinyl with silent surfaces and (in my experience) they often look and sound like the best versions currently available – other thank crazily expensive original editions (expect to pay £150.00 for the Rivers’ album, for example) . The Jazz Loft – my local (and excellent) jazz record store here in Singapore – has a great selection of both the Tone Poet and Blue Note 80 series of vinyl reissues and you should be able to find examples of these albums in any good independent jazz record store.

Now this is not exactly a lost album but you may find it hard to get a copy of drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath’s Kawaida. If you can lay your hands on a copy you won’t regret it. Heath is more experimental than usual on this fine 1970 release for the O’Be label and he enlists a fine group to accompany him on these largely modal afrocentric influenced tunes. We could have chosen any of the tracks but went for the lengthy opener Baraka. The record includes great performances from Jimmy Heath on tenor, soprano and flute, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Buster Williams on bass, Ed Blackwell on percussion and Mtume (who composed all tracks bar one) on congas. For more from this great album, have a listen to Dunia – very much a vehicle for Don Cherry’s characteristic pocket trumpet sound.

  1. The Afro-Rican Ensemble – Tanga from Viva Cu-Bop! (Jazz the Afro-Cuban Way)
  2. Michal Martiniuk Quartet –  Jazz Dance from Resonate
  3. Noemi Nuti – Cornflake Girl from Venus Eye
  4. Orquestra Was – Forever’s a Long Long Time from Forever’s a Long, Long Time
  5. Sam Rivers – Point of Many Returns from Contours
  6. Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath – Baraka from Kawaida

Neil is listening to…

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