At last you can hear the superb and uplifting Latin descarga from master percussionist Manny Oquendo and his band Libre in full on this week’s show – after a few failed attempts! Oquendo was one of the many top Latin musicians with a Puerto Rican heritage who were born in New York. The full range of his skills are on full display on Major Que Nunca (Better Than Ever) and in the spirit of a descarga (Latin jam) the music is free, unpredictable and exhilarating.
Marcus Strickland is one of the current generation of US jazz artists who are crossing musical boundaries: think, for example, of Ameen Saleem and Theo Croker. His new record Nihil Novi may be challenging to many jazz fans but I rate it as an example of where contemporary jazz can and needs to go to reflect the interests of the players. Mirrors starts off sounding like a Tony Allen afrobeat piece and ends as pure jazz. Alive features R’n’B/soul artist Jean Baylor on vocals, the tune has an R ‘n’ B feel but also a jazz one too. This album deserves to be listened to. Musicians on it include Meshell N’degeocello on bass, drummer Charles Haynes and the ubiquitous (at least on Cosmic Jazz) trumpeter Keyon Harrold. N’degeocello has also produced the album – hear Strickland talking about the making of the album here. This is the world of contemporary jazz, with reference points that include R ‘n’ B, hip hop and electronica. There are top drawer guests too, most notably Robert Glasper and Chris Dave.
There was more of the Polish jazz available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds: with a new album from pianist Wojciech Majewski and his Quintet first up. It’s full of the atmospheric intensity we have come to expect from much contemporary Polish jazz. Then more from Piotr Wojtasik, the trumpeter who has been almost a permanent fixture on Cosmic Jazz in recent weeks – simply because he is that good. The tune begins with echoes of Coltrane’s version of The Inch Worm but soon moves into a free and exciting jazz mode.
We used to play music from the pianist Andrew Hill regularly on Cosmic Jazz. Somehow, he has slipped out of our playlists recently so it was time to change things. Hill was a Blue Note artist who recorded from 1963-70 with the label. His labyrinthine melodies and elastic sense of timing mark out a very distinctive style that was never like that instantly recognisable conventional Blue Note sound. Outside the free jazz camp, Hill pursued an individual furrow that’s well worth exploring. Point of Departure, Hill’s fourth album for the label, is a good place to start but we’d also recommend Black Fire and Smoke Stack. Here’s the title track from Black Fire. The line up on the Point of Departure track we chose (Spectrum) is phenomenal too – Hill on piano accompanied by Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto, flute and clarinet, Joe Henderson on tenor, Richard Davis bass and Tony Williams on drums. In his later years, Hill recorded for the Italian Soul Note label – check out the Cam Jazz box set that features four of these excellent recordings.
We followed with Philly from Kenny Garrett’s new album Do Your Dance – a tune that’s clearly a tribute to the eponymous Philadelphia dance music sound. The new album is very much in what we can call the Garrett tradition now: long snaking alto sax lines with that acidic tone that’s somewhere between the later Jackie McLean and David Sanborn and yet still utterly distinctive – and all wrapped in a dance-oriented framework that references swing, funk and latin.
Finally, we ended with a lovely modal piece from the French pianist Florian Pellisier with his Quintet. This tune was from the 2014 album Biches Bleu on one of our favourite labels, the delightful Heavenly Sweetness. Pellisier has a well-received new album just released – Cap de Bon Esperance. Expect to hear something from it shortly here on Cosmic Jazz.
- Manny Oquendo & Libre – Major Que Nunca from Manny Oquendo & Libre
- Marcus Strickland – Mirrors from Nihil Novi
- Marcus Strickland feat Jean Baylor – Alive from Nihil Novi
- Wojciech Majewski Quintet – Zemyslemie from Remembrance
- Piotr Wojtasik Quartet – Celebration from Amazing Twelve
- Andrew Hill – Spectrum from Point of Departure
- Kenny Garrett – Philly from Do Your Dance
- Florian Pellisier Quintet – J’ai du Rever from Biches Bleu
Derek is listening to:
- Michael Tippett – Deep River (from A Child of Our Time)
- Wailing Souls – Very Well
- Sleep Walker – Wind (feat. Yukimi Nagano)
- Victor Davies – Don’t Believe a Word (Sleep Walker remix)
- Andrew Hill – Refuge
Neil is listening to: