08 October 2020: more global jazz – including vinyl at last!

The show this week is the usual mix of jazz and jazz-related music from across Europe to the US  and Cuba. To listen on Mixcloud just press ‘play’ below.

1. Lettuce – Blaze from Resonate

Last time the show ended with Lettuce, the collective of fine musicians from Boston, and this week we start the show with the band.  It was a good and powerful way to begin too. Lettuce are not easy to categorise: there is definitely jazz in there but there is also funk, soul and more. They started life in 1994, reconvened as undergrads at Berklee and attempted to play at various Boston jazz clubs where they would walk in and ask the club owners and other musicians if they would “let us play” – yes, that’s their story… Certainly, Lettuce sound like musicians who are enjoying themselves, know what they are doing and make forthright statement through their music. Their skills are evident from the list of top-notch hip-hop, r’n’b, soul and pop artists – the ones who can afford the very best – that have employed members of Lettuce to perform with them – drummer and leader Adam Deitch has worked with John Scofield, Ledisi, 50 Cent, the Average White Band, Talib Kweli and Pharoahe Monche amongst others.

2. Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band – Another Man Done Gone from Hold On 

We’ve featured Chanda Rule before – a combination of a strong jazz/gospel Chicago-born vocalist backed by European jazz virtuoso musicians delving into the music of the American South. This is one of the more well-known tunes on the album but it is given a fresh interpretation and, as Chanda acknowledges this song – like most of the tunes on the album – were given “a lyrical update”. The contribution from Czech Hammond organ player Jan Korinek is prominent and fitting, but you may be surprised to hear the inclusion of tabla, courtesy of guest Avirbhav Verma. It’s an effective combination from an album that rewards repeated listening. Appropriately in Black History Month here in the UK, the album “reaches back into some emotional roots to serve up a set of civil rights jazz vocals that remains defiant and powerful as well as being solidly appropriate for the times” [Chris Spector: Midwest Record].

3. Marek Jakubowski Quartet – Black from Colors

4. Marek Jakubowski Quartet – Rusty from Colors

We next featured two doses of Poland in colour. Marek Jakubowski is a drummer and composer leading a quartet on their third album. It’s called Colors and not surprisingly each track is named by a colour. To get a sense of the colour and musical range two of them were chosen – Black and Rusty. The former is a warm, melodic tune while the latter is a short piece. The album has strong compositions and offers space for solos, particularly from Marek Konarski on rasping sax and Jacob Szwaj on lyrical piano. Damian Kosta on bass completes the quartet. Check out the video for Red here and – as always – head to Steve’s Jazz Sounds for more great Polish and European jazz.

5. Wojciech Staroniewicz – Walk Spirit Talk Spirit from A’ Freak-An Project (Live in Gdansk)

The tune may be familiar (a McCoy Tyner composition we’ve highlighted on the show previously) but this take is from Wojciech Staronoiewicz, Polish leader of an octet and maybe rather less familiar. Just as the Tyner original is best known from the stunning live version (recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973) so the Staroniewicz version is also a live recording. This track is an addition to the tunes on this 2019 live album, all of which can also be heard on the A’Freak-An studio recording. The band has an interesting composition: Staroniewicz is one of the sax players in a saxophone quartet and for this live performance and recording session his usual band had an extended rhythm section, including Larry Okey Ugwu on percussion. The result – an invocation of the spirit of African music perhaps suggested in the title of the project. The band certainly produces a big sound and they do justice Tyner’s powerful original. It’s a telling reminder of the power of live jazz.

6. Patrice Rushen – Jubilation from Before the Dawn

I need little excuse to play Patrice Rushen – jazz piano and keyboard player (and one time chart star – remember Forget Me Nots?) . On learning that it was her birthday recently there seemed to be an additional impetus and how appropriate to have a tune entitled Jubilation. Rushen has an interesting musical resume: she was classically trained and gave her first recital aged six; she has composed symphonies; is involved in musical education in universities and still plays superb jazz with  with the likes of Marcus Miller. On this tune her band includes Hubert Laws on flute, Lee Ritenour on guitar and Harvey Mason on drums – session superstars all. The album was recorded on jazz label Prestige who usefully coupled together Before the Dawn (1974) and Prelusion (1975) onto a 2CD set in 1998. Both albums will repay your listening – check them out.

7. Eric Dolphy – Hat and Beard from Out to Lunch!

This was a joyous moment for Cosmic Jazz. For the first time in a long while there was vinyl played on the show. It has been a long time coming but what a way to start. Recorded in 1964, Out to Lunch! is regarded by many as Eric Dolphy’s finest work. It was to be his final recording and his only album on Blue Note as leader. With Rudy Van Gelder at the helm, the sound is excellent and the Reid Miles cover is one of the most famous in all jazz. Best seen and heard on vinyl, this is one record every jazz lover should own.  n full size on vinyl. On this tune, dedicated to Thelonious Monk, Dolphy is on bass clarinet with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Richard Davis on bass and the just-18 year old Tony Williams on drums. What a line up. As with Ornette Coleman, for some listeners, Dolphy may be an acquired taste but what he does on all of the tunes on this record is spellbinding. A few months after recording this album, Dolphy went on a European tour with the Charles Mingus Sextet and this full length video recording of the tour gives an indication of both his power and originality. The writer Ted Gioia hears Dolphy’s angular melodic lines “zigzagging from interval to interval, taking hairpin turns at unexpected junctures, making dramatic leaps from the lower to the upper register” and that’s what you’ll find on both Out to Lunch! and the linked European tour video.  If you’re looking for the best recording and an original Blue Note pressing is out of reach (at US $1500 it probably will be!) then you should check out some of the better reissues. The two Kevin Gray remastered Music Matters versions (33rpm and 45 rpm) will be hard to find except through Discogs or Ebay as they are now out of stock, but there’s 500 or so other copies waiting for you here on Discogs alone! You’ll get a taste of what the MM versions sound like on this 45rpm two disc Music Matters remastering of Hat and Beard.  Even if you’re listening on your laptop you’ll hear that Rudy van Gelder studio clarity. If you have one, plug in a DAC and some headphones – you won’t be disappointed! Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes have never had more attack and Tony Williams’ drumming is a revelation.

8. Jas Kayser – Fela’s Words from Unforced Rhythm of Grace

We start Neil’s selection of five tunes with young UK drummer Jas Kayser. After attended a Berklee College summer school, Kayser found herself with a postgraduate full scholarship and mentoring from  superstar jazz drummer Terri Lynne Carrington. The result has been a sharply inclined profile in the UK jazz community and beyond. Kayser began learning drums and piano aged nine, gravitating towards after experiencing Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters album (with its stunning drumming from Mike Clark). It was while at Berklee that she was introduced to Fela Kuti and master drummer Tony Allen (see our Cosmic Jazz feature here). The Unforced Rhythm of Grace EP was released in June 2020 and signals the arrival of a UK talent that we will undoubtedly hear more from. With reference to recent black activism and anti-racist demonstrations, Kayser acknowledges the power of using the “psychology of dancing and drums to shake the minds of people” – perhaps a reflection of Albert Ayler’s view that “music is the healing force of the universe”.

9. Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharaoh Sanders – Moussa Berkiyo/Koubaliy Beria La Foh from The Trance of Seven Colours

The Gnawa music tradition from Morocco traces its roots to Kano in what is now northern Nigeria and one of its principal exponents was the late Maleem Mahmoud Ghania. Mahmoud learned this craft as a youth along with his brothers, walking from village to village, performing Gnawa trance music ceremonies with his father. He was one of the few masters, or Maleem, who continued to practice the Gnawa tradition strictly for healing and purification. Mahmoud performed music from his own repertoire at many major festivals in Morocco (including for King Hassan II), playing the three stringed lute, usually called the gimbri, which is at the heart of this ancient musical tradition. Originally released in 1994 on Bill Laswell’s Axiom imprint and produced by him, The Trance of Seven Colours album is enhanced by the addition of Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone. Recorded live in the courtyard of a private house in the medina in Essaouira, Morocco, the album is produced without the sonic manipulation for which Laswell is noted. While most of the tunes are traditional gnawa number, two – including the elegiac ballad Peace in Essaouira dedicated to guitarist Sonny Sharrock – are Sanders originals.

10. Bill Laswell – Golden Spiral from Against Empire

More Laswell but this time from his own album, again with Pharoah Sanders in tow. Laswell has dabbled in pretty much every music genre out there – from avant-jazz, rock, dub, funk, ambient, sub-bass and thrash metal – and here he manages (most of the time) to bring some of these together in a satisfying combination. It’s all based on the five drummers and percussionists Laswell deploys, including long time collaborator Adam Rudolph. Both Sanders and Herbie Hancock (himself no stranger to the ministrations of Laswell as producer) appear alongside multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum. The results are mixed but worthy of investigation as with much of Laswell’s music, but three remix projects should be investigated – Panthalassa (Miles Davis), Divine Light (Carlos Santana and Alice Coltrane) and Dreams of Freedom (Bob Marley). In all three, Laswell is able to find new nuances of meaning that deepen our understanding of the original music.

11. Maria Rita Stumpf – Lamento Africano/Rictus (Joakim remix) from Remixes

And we take a short excursion to Brazil for this next track but this time in remixed form. Maria Rita Stumpf’s music appeared on the excellent Outro Temp compilation in 2017, sparking a renewed interest in her music. She had stopped recording and performing in 1993, but returned to both in 2018, resulting in both remix projects and a new album Inkiri Om. We have featured Stumpf’s music before in a May post on Cosmic Jazz and you can check out our comments, and the Bandcamp links to her recently rediscovered album Brasiliera, on that post right here.

12. Resolution 88 – Runout Groove from Revolutions

For this one we’re back in the UK to a band that should get more attention than they do. I first heard them on a Patrick Forge podcast and recognised that – whilst they owe a huge debt to Herbie Hancock circa 1974 (the Thrust album era) – their music really is something special. On Revolutions they even manage to work in an effective concept about vinyl records. Originally from Cambridge and led by keys player Tom O’Grady, Resolution 88 can create tunes that have the staying power of Hancock’s Palm Grease and Actual Proof. Runout Groove is one of these, with a wickedly infectious bassline worthy of anything by Paul Jackson. In addition to O’Grady the band includes Rick Elsworth on drums, Alex Hitchcock on sax, bass clarinet and flute, Tiago Coimbra on bass and Oli Blake on percussion, samples and all effects. If Herbie Hancock is your baseline (pun intended) for this kind of jazz funk then you owe Resolution 88 a visit – and to ensure that the musicians themselves get a decent return on your purchase, head to the band’s Bandcamp site here.

13. Otis Brown III – The Thought of You – Part II feat.  from The Thought of You

More Blue Note but from 2014 showing that into the 21st Century Blue Note remains an essential source of music for the times. I have played this album on the show quite often because I think it is a good example of tough, contemporary  sounding music out of New York. Otis Brown is a drummer and has drawn upon an impressive cast: Keyon Harrold, who has since released fine solo work, is on trumpet, Robert Glasper is on keyboards and production and guests on vocals include Bilal, Gretchen Parlato and Nikki Ross.The music harks back to the golden age of Blue Note and the classic jazz quintet instrumentation but musicans like Otis Brown and Robert Glasper were raised on hip hop and neo soul too. The result is that this album was very much a part of the renaissance of Blue Note and a reminder that while it continues to value the classic Blue Note albums with its superb remastering programme the new sound of Blue Note is as much Dilla as Dolphy.

14. Dayme Arocena – Madres from Nueva Era

We return to Dayme Arocena. Seeing her perform on BBC4 TV recently made me dig out her music. On the half-hour TV feature, he came across as a witty, thoughtful and insightful observer of life in Cuba and the wider world. The sight of Arocena and her band  joyously playing together in what looked like a quiet back street courtyard was inspirational. She is deeply embedded in the culture and beliefs of her island and is a proud showcase for the contemporary music of Cuba, drawing on both her Santeria faith and the world of jazz. Arocena came to the notice of western audiences following her appearance on  the first of Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura Projects from 2008. She’s a fine singer and composer and her appearances on these albums and her own recent releases are all worthy of investigation. If you’re new to the current range of  Cuban music then it’s worth checking out Peterson’s recent 3LP collection from his various Havana Cultura projects – of course, available here on Bandcamp – but start with this fun promo video to get you started.

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