Week ending 29 August 2020: CJ live again

This week the show is shorter than usual as we’re still getting used to the new equipment and keeping it right for you. So, for a while there may be some shorter shows but more of them too. As it is, this week has five great tunes.

1. Sarah Tandy – Bradbury Street from Infection in the Sentence

Image © Benjamin Amure. 2015

This was a great start – the wonderfully inventive Sarah Tandy on piano, playing a tune that makes reference to the street where  weekly jazz jams helped get her noticed. I saw her first with Camilla George at the Cambridge Jazz Festival and have tried to keep up ever since. It was as a student at Cambridge University that Tandy changed from classical to jazz piano, and she remains simply amazing to listen to and watch. There are none of the flamboyant gestures – she just plays with an endless invention and rhythmic density. On her splendid album Infection in the Sentence she also provides much scope to the other musicians in the band – all luminaries of the current London jazz scene, including Sheila Maurice Grey on trumpet, Binker Golding on sax and Femi Koleoso on drums.

2. Jerzy Malek – In the Basement from Black Sheep

Jerzy Malek is a trumpet/flugelhorn player from Poland leading a sextet that includes Aga Derlak, an excellent young pianist. Black Sheep is his eighth album. In the Basement combines warmth and melody with depth. It makes you feel good and it moves you too. You can find out much more about Polish jazz via the Polish Jazz Blogspot where Adam Baruch provides useful informationand insights.  He describes this album as more in the American tradition than the contemporary Polish jazz scene – perhaps true, but it also reminds us that Polish jazz does not need to reflect that rather cliched view of a melancholic ECM-style approach to the music.

3. Lettuce – Resonate from Resonate

Lettuce are a US band that defy genre classification. Funk, jazz, soul, hip-hop, psychedelic, experimental are among the categories that they have drawn upon. Their seventh studio album Resonate has been released in digital formats only at present – no vinyl. Producer and engineer Russ Elevado guided the recording following his work with a number of musicians including D’Angelo, The Roots and Erykah Badu. We featured the title track on this week’s show but the whole album is worthy of attention. More than background instrumentals and deserving of a more careful listen. If (like me) you yearn for a bit of Washington GoGo music, then Checker Wrecker will bring a smile to your face. The accompanying video has a guest spot from Trouble Funk’s bass player and vocalist Big Tony Fisher.

4. Ana Mazzotti – Agua ou Nunca from Ana Mazzotti

The British Label Far Out Recordings has provided a valuable service to the world of jazz and more for over twenty-five years, with its many reissues of Brazilian music including both the popular and the less well-known. They have also issued some excellent contemporary recordings and are noticeably responsible for the resurgence of the incomparable Marcos Valle who continues to release excellent new records on this and other labels. One artist whom they re-released last year was Ana Mazzotti – a singer/composer who sadly died in her thirties and released just one album recorded in two rather different versions.

Born in Caixas, in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul, Mazzotti began to play the accordion aged five, before moving onto the piano. By the age of twelve she was already conducting her convent school’s choir, and at twenty-one she led her city’s premier chorus, the Coral Bento Goncalves. On meeting drummer Romido Santos, Mazzotti was introduced to the music of Brazilian master Hermeto Pascoal whom she would later record with. Her debut album first appeared in 1974, but our choice comes from the re-recorded version from 1977 and is now available on all formats from Far Out. If the music has an Azymuth-like sound that’s simply because it features Jose Roberto Bertrami who co-wrote several of the tracks alongside Azymuth bassist Alex Malheiros and percussionist Ariovaldo Contestini, with Romildo Santos – who produced the album – on drums.

5. Andrew Hill – Flight from Point of Departure

Pianist Andrew Hill is one of the greats we return to frequently on Cosmic Jazz. He recorded principally on Blue Note between the years 1963 and 1970, surrounding himself with some of the great names from the label. 1964’s Point of Departure is no exception, with Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto, Joe Henderson on tenor, Richard Davis on double bass and Tony Williams at the drums. However, if you think you can imagine what that might sound like – be prepared to think again. Hill’s compositions are not standard Blue Note in style. They are distinctive – angular and knotty but with melodies that rise up out of the rhythm and challenge you before sinking back down again. Influenced by Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, there’s also a classicism in Hill’s music too with tones that could be Ravel or Debussy. Hill recorded five albums in his first eight months with Blue Note and they are all excellent.

He went on to record for Italian label Soul Note in the 1980s, before returning to Blue Note for a late flowering with the album Time Lines from 2005. It’s a good time to start with Hill on vinyl as two records have been released in the Blue Note 80 and Tone Poet series – check out Smoke Stack from the former and Black Fire (Hill’s debut for the label) as part of the latter, with both entirely faithful to engineer Rudy van Gelder’s vision of the best recordings in jazz.

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