17 April 2021: boundary crossing jazz

In contrast to the geophysical and political worlds, jazz has no boundaries. We look for, find and play jazz from across the globe – and Cosmic Jazz this time truly reflects the global reach of jazz and jazz-related music with the US, Italy, Cuba and Poland all represented on the show.

Bobby Vince Paunetto – Fenway Funk from London Jazz Classics Vol. 2 

This tune can be found most easily on a Soul Jazz Music compilation of 1994 from the days of the London Jazz Dance scene – and a compilation that included two tunes we’ve played out on Cosmic Jazz live shows – Airto Moreira’s Samba de Flora and Sivuca’s take on Ain’t No Sunshine. The album ends with Fenway Funk,  originally on Paunetto’s 1975 album From Paunetto’s Point. Bobby Vince Paunetto was a vibes player prominent among New York Latin jazz/salsa musicians and Fenway Funk is a positive and rousing piece of Latin jazz. This big band collective of twelve musicians includes three sax players, trumpet and trombone, with probably Andy Gonzales on bass and the wonderful Cuban-born percussionist Manny Oquendo being the most widely known.

2. Joe Barbieri – Promemoria from Tratto Da Una Storia Vera  

We enjoyed a first play of this tune and like the album from which it comes. Promemoria is the single released ahead of the album earlier this month. Joe Barbieri is an Italian Naples-based jazz singer/songwriter and on this track there’s a clear Brazilian feel with Antonio Carlos Jobim cited as an influence on Barbieri – as was vocalist Shirley Horn with her uniquely laconic delivery. The album – including this single – presents stories from Joe’s personal and artistic life and we’ll return to Tratto Da Una Storia in coming weeks.

3. Matti Klein – Sunsqueezed from Soul Trio Live On Tape 

Also with a Brazilian connection comes keyboard player Matti Klein, musical director for the distinguished Brazilian artist Ed Motta – another of our CJ favourites. Klein’s new record is the outcome of three musicians coming together in Jazzanova’s Berlin studio – Klein on Wurlitzer and Rhodes bass with Lars Zander on tenor sax/bass clarinet and Andre Seidel on drums. It’s straight ahead soul jazz – recorded live in the studio without headphones to enhance the live and direct experience – and will be released at the end of this month via Shuffle Shack Records.

4. Raoul De Souza – Sweet Lucy from Plenitude 

After the Brazilian connections, we no feature virtuoso Brazilian trombonist Raoul De Souza. With a career spanning six decades, de Souza was born in Rio de Janeiro but moved to the US and became a go-to sideman for an impressive list of musicians including Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Sergio Mendes, Milton Nascimento, Herbie |Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Nat Adderley, Jaco Pastorius and Jack DeJohnette. More recently he has been playing with younger musicians and this group, which came together in 2017 for a jazz festival in Hamburg, has musicians ranging in age from twenty-four to De Souza at eighty-six. There is a two trombone front line with bass, drum and piano and the soon to be released album Plenitude features traditional and contemporary Brazilian jazz merged with funk. Sweet Lucy was written by George Duke and is a new take on one of De Souza’s most celebrated tunes, originally found on the first of three albums he recorded in the late 1970s for the Capitol label.

5. Street Jazz Unit – What’s the Best Thing To Do Tomorrow from Seeing the Light/Sister Bosssa

So we head back to Italy with Brazilian flavours. This up-tempo tune was originally on the album Seeing the Light released by the Italian jazz label Schema Records and is still available in a digital download via Bandcamp right here. Put together by Nicola Conte, Street Jazz Unit featured Bruno Marini on baritone saxophone, Max M. Bassado on vocals with Giuseppe Bassi acoustic bass and  Mimmo Campanale on drums. What’s the Best Thing to Do was then included on the Sister Bossa compilation on the US label Irma. The subtitle promotes the selection of cool jazzy cuts – and this is certainly one of them. Street Jazz Unit are a good example of the way in which younger artists from the 1990s stretched out the concept of jazz to include the sounds of soul jazz and hard bop in a hip hop and club culture mix. Not always appreciated at the time, there are many good examples of this sub-genre – most notably the ambitious Jazzamatazz project which featured Guru, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Pharcyde and jazz artists like Donald Byrd,  Lonnie Liston Smith, Roy Ayers and Branford Marsalis who appears on the excellent Transit Ride.

6. David Sanchez – Canto from Carib

This great tune comes from saxophonist David Sanchez’s Carib album – an exploration of his Puerto Rican heritage and its liks to the African diaspora. Sanchez noted: I wanted to approach this album as a means to pay tribute to all Afro descendent communities who have helped define my music and the culture’s broad ranging beauty and idiosyncrasies. It’s striking, and it hurts me to see the marginalization and poor sociological conditions in so many Pan African communities, which are wrongly viewed as a simple, normal circumstance of life and consequently receive a lack of attention and action to change those conditions, and systems, which continue to create inequity. This recording is part of a new series of my recordings which begins with all original pieces inspired by the musical traditions of Puerto Rico and Haiti, then travels to other Afro descendent musical traditions throughout the Americas. Carib features traditional music from these two islands, because it still amazes me how similar their music flows. I focused on the Congo-Guinee in Haitian music because it is a musical tradition shared by many other Afro descendant cultures. Haiti has an amazing and resonant history, filled with struggles; foreign occupations, revolution, independence, national disasters, embargos, long stretches of isolation, which, at times, both created a cultural vacuum in the country and also circumstances to preserve the core of many traditions coming from Africa. Some of Haiti’s struggles, reminds me of my own island. A long time oppression created by colonists has played a central part in Puerto Rico’s culture too. And after the devastation hurricane María wreaked on my island, I saw more parallels with Haiti aftermath from their tragic earthquake in 2010. Furthermore, for over a century, both islands have had their economy systematically crippled in a diversity of ways. In reality, Puerto Rico has always been a property, a casualty of imperialism, and the island has too long been in a one-sided economic relationship in which the priority has never been the well-being of country’s people. Yet the cultural identity feels very strong and omnipresent despite all the struggles colonialism usually brings, and ultimately it’s a genuine testament to the irrepressible people of Puerto Rico. The band features David Sánchez on tenor saxophone and percussion, Obed Calvaire on drums and vocals, Lage Lund on guitars, Ricky Rodriguez on bass, Luis Perdomo on piano and Fender Rhodes, Jhan Lee Aponte on percussion and Markus Schwartz on additional Haitian Percussion.

7. Jessica Lauren – Teck et Bambou from Almeria

Released in 2018, Almeria remains UK keyboard player Jessica Lauren’s most recent release. It’s a record Neil has returned to recently and it’s time for a reappraisal of this fine contribution to the British jazz scene. Lauren has an unusually minimalist approach – there’s a sense of space and restraint in much of her music – evidenced clearly on White Mountain, the opening track of her 2012 album Four. It’s here too on Teck et Bamboo (which translate as teak and bamboo) with its jungle frogs and bird calls leading into sparse percussion (Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and Cosimo Keita Cadore) and elegantly restrained saxophone from Tamar Osborne. The album is still available in all formats on Bandcamp right here. Try the vinyl if you can – it’s a great recording.

8. Janczarski & Siddik 4Tet – Caribbean Fire Dance from Contemplation

Contemplation is an album of tributes to the jazz heroes of Rasul Siddik (trumpet, flutes and vocals) and Borys Janczarski (tenor sax). Tunes by McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, Don Cherry, Jim Pepper and Joe Henderson’s Caribbean Fire Dance create an album of contemporary jazz classics that mix freeform and mainstream energy to excellent effect. It would be easy to assume that the Joe Henderson original might have appeared on one of his mix 1960s hard bop outings for Blue Note, but in fact the tenor saxophonist was beginning to cut loose by the time of this 1966 album – one of his very finest. Mode for Joe features a front line of trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and is – for us – an essential Blue Note release. Just check out A Shade of Jade as an example. Fellow saxophonist Dave Liebman described Henderson’s style as an extension of Sonny Rollins, attributable mostly to his sense of phrasing and note choices and the fact that the principles of the bebop legacy are fundamental to both However, Joe took the tenor sax elsewhere technically, in areas such as his unique set of expressive devices, unending variations of articulations, fast arpeggios, trill sand the like… a looseness of rhythm that defied the bar line, his own personal way of using the high register of the horn and a tone that could go from liquid to coarse in a beat. That’s it – but we could add that Henderson is always very distinctive: his ‘voice’ is often hard and gruff, not at all the rich nasal sound of Hank Mobley, or the acid sharp alto of Jackie McLean. There’s always emotional expression, urgency and excitement and – very often – surprise in Henderson’s music. Whether you explore his 1960s Blue Note outings, his 1970s records on Milestone or his return to Blue Note for the two superb live State of the Tenor records in the 1980s, Henderson will never disappoint. Back to the excellent Janczarski & Siddik 4Tet – Michal Jaros on bass and Kazimierz Jonkisz on drums form the backbone of this excellent  group and it’s a  highly recommended record from us.

9. Miyasaka + 5 – Animals Garden from Animals Garden/J Jazz Vol. 2

This fifth release in the BBE Music J Jazz Masterclass Series is another cult rarity from Japan originally issued in 1979 on the private Japanese label ALM.  The group was a one-off project led by drummer Takashi ‘Bear’ Miyasaka and included saxophonist Koichi Matsukaze, whose Earth Mother album has also been reissued by BBE Music. With just four long tracks including the modal title tune, there’s space for the musicians to stretch out on solos that reflect the many influences of this most creative period of jazz in Japan. The vinyl and CD reissues are now sold out, but the album can still be downloaded from BBE’s Bandcamp site.

10. Lucien Johnson – Blue Rain from Wax///Wane

Neil was introduced to this record by Scots music promoter Rob Adams (Twitter: @rabjourno) who also led us to the wonderful Fergus McCreadie. Saxophonist Lucien Johnson is actually from Wellington, New Zealand but spent much of his twenties living and working in and out of Paris, meeting and playing with musicians he knew from recordings including drumming legend and long-time Paris resident Sunny Murray, the late pianist Bobby Few and drummer John Betsch’s band.  Another drummer, Makoto Sato introduced Johnson to free jazz bass legend Alan Silva (of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler fame), and they formed a trio, going on to record the album Stinging Nettles. The current group features John Bell on vibes, Michelle Velvin on harp, Tom Callwood on bass, Cory Champion on drums and Riki Piripi on percussion and the music is deep, modal and with more than a touch of Pharoah Sanders too. With bone conduction headphones safely in place, Neil has been listening to this album on repeat while cycling in the 95% humidity that’s typical in Singapore at this time of year. It’s an excellent record and we’ll feature more in upcoming shows. Wax///Wane is available here on Bandcamp – and it’s on vinyl too.

8. Mariusz Smolinski – Song for My Girls from Ten Minutes Later 

Recent Cosmic Jazz shows have featured a number of trios, so the trend continues with a couple of tunes, beginning with Marius Smolinski – a jazz composer and piano/Fender Rhodes/Moog player from Poland. 10 Minutes Later is his debut album of melody-based mainstream jazz/fusion and was released in 2010. There are soloing opportunities for bass player Bartosz Kucz and drummer Piotr Budniak, both who come from the Polish jazz fusion scene. Polish-Jazz Blogspot, a key source of information on Polish jazz recordings, describes the music as reminiscent of Chick Corea’s recordings of the 1970s and 1980s and praises the record as yet another example of the many fine young jazz musicians emerging in Poland.

12. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Ma Petite dans la Boulangerie from Un Dia Cualquiera

In a show of returning connections, the second jazz trio featured comes from Cuban-born, New York-based jazz musicians, playing a number with a French title. The group is the traditional format of piano, bass and drums/percussion with Harold Lopez-Nussa on piano, Gaston Joya on bass and Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa (brother of Harold) on drums and percussion. There are Cuban influences but don’t expect an album of son music – this is most definitely a jazz album, with influences drawn from the conservatories and barrios of Lopez-Nussa’s homeland. Un Día Cualquiera translates as Just Another Day and some track titles reflect this. There are two versions of tunes by Ernesto Lecuona – sometimes known as ‘the Gershwin of Cuba’ – and the title track tribute to the pianist Bebo Valdés (Chucho’s father), Una Tarde Cualquiera en Paris.

13. Abbey Lincoln – Caged Bird from Abbey Lincoln in Paris: Painted Lady 

Abbey Lincoln was an American vocalist, significant not only for her passionate and powerful singing but also her commitment to the civil rights movement. This album was recorded in Paris in 1980 with Archie Shepp – another committed activist – on saxophones, Hilton Ruiz on piano (another Latin/jazz musician on the show), Jack Gregg on bass, Freddie Waits on drums and Roy Burrowes on trumpet. The band was assembled by French  jazz promoter Gerard Torres who took advantage of Abbey Lincoln being in France at the same time as the Marion Brown quartet (Ruiz, Gregg and Waits) and Shepp’s Attica Blues Band. The result is is a record with some very fine performances, including our choice and the magnificent Throw It Away. Lincoln was married to drummer Max Roach and her unique voice is very much centre stage on the essential We Insist! recording from 1960 which includes the powerful Driva’ Man.

14. Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from African Rhythms: Afro-Centric Homages to a Spiritual Homeland

The title of this tune as well as the sub-title of the superb two-CD 2008 Blue Note compilation from which it comes, chimes well with the spirit of Abbey Lincoln’s work. It was released originally on the album Happy Frame of Mind which finally appeared under Parlan’s name in 1986, years after its recording in 1963. Pianist Horace Parlan arrived in New York in the late 1950s, joined the Charles Mingus group and appears on the seminal Ah Um from 1959. He was signed to Blue Note as a hip, soulful pianist and the group on this record has indeed a sharp, soulful line-up and includes Grant Green, Booker Ervin, Billy Higgins and Johnny Coles. Parlan is worthy of more investigation: he had a strong series of Blue Note recordings in the 1960s but then – like several other US jazz musicians of the time – left America for Copenhagen in 1973, and gained international recognition for some stunning albums on the SteepleChase label,  including a pair of superb duet sessions with the aforementioned Archie Shepp. Check out the compelling Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child from their 1977 album Goin’ Home, a collection of compelling gospel spiritual songs delivered with intense passion – making it another CJ highly recommended album.

15. Lee Morgan – Exotique from Tom Cat 

Both Neil and Derek have been listening to trumpeter Lee Morgan lately. Not only was he a fine trumpeter who died tragically too young but, as Neil has commented, Morgan was also a composer of considerable merit. Exotique is one of those compositions and it provides a wonderfully uplifting and soulful end to the show. The album Tom Cat is a Blue Note classic that – once again – was released many yeas after its initial recording in August 1964. On board for this set are McCoy Tyner on piano, Jackie McLean on alto, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Art Blakey on drums – wow! We recently included a tune from the Blue Note Tone Poet vinyl re-release of Morgan’s The Rajah: check it out if you do not know it – this record is more essential Blue Note listening. If you’d like a pristine audiophile version of Tom Cat to add to your collection then you’ll need to search out a Music Matters 2 x 45 reissue (currently from US$150 on Discogs!) or do some crate digging for one of the 1983 CD or vinyl reissues. Good luck!

Enjoy the show – more Cosmic Jazz treasures coming soon…

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