15 February 2015: the producers – Axelrod and Shad

This week’s show is a mixture of styles, moving from soul jazz, to jazzy soul, to Brazil to the European avant-garde. All in an hour-long show!

Neil drew my attention to the death of record producer, composer, performer and hip-hop sampled supremo David Axelrod. Of particular interest to Cosmic Jazz is his work and friendship with Cannonball Adderley from 1964 until Adderley’s death in 1975. Featured in the programme are two tunes Space Spiritual and Walk Tall. The titles say it all; the former uplifts you towards the heavens, the second is a proud, dignified and important statement. They left me greatly moved and spiritually enriched as I sat listening to them. Axelrod has had more influence on the current mixing of hip hop beats with jazz than probably any other producer. In many ways, this is surprising as his work is full of grand symphonic gestures that allow the music to range from huge orchestral chords to intimate motifs. It’s not what you expect hip hop artists to use as source material. But they did – and perhaps the most obvious example was Dr Dre’s The Next Episode which sampled the Axelrod track The Edge. Of course, then came DJ Shadow and the masterpiece album that is Endtroducing. The use of Axelrod’s The Human Abstract in the epic Midnight in a Perfect World was pure genius. As an excellent feature by Nate Patrin on the Pitchfork site notes, Aside from Isaac Hayes, virtually nobody’s compositions could hit that sweet spot between “beautiful music” opulence, uncannily strange pop-psychedelia, and deeper-than-deep soul quite like Axelrod. True.

There were two more tunes from the Feeling Good compilation of our other producer focus, Bob Shad. Shad did not have the unique sound world of David Axelrod but the range of record labels and artists he worked with was huge. We chose the scatting Barry Miles and the soulful Maxine Weldon – an interesting contrast.

The slice of Brazil included in last week’s show made me search for more and gave me the chance to play something from the back catalogue of two British labels that have done so much to promote Brazilian music in Europe and around the world – Far Out and Mr. Bongo respectivelyThe Friends From Rio interpretation of the Milton Nascimento classic Vera Cruz was particularly strong on the jazz playing and singer Ive Mendes has a naturally sultry, jazzy sounding voice.

The return to the ever-wonderful Kamasi Washington Epic album was another reference to a tune that appeared on my shuffle songs during the week. It’s an original interpretation of a jazz standard, Ray Noble’s Cherokee with Patrice Quinn providing great vocals. Noble was born in England but moved to New York in 1934 where he had a very successful dance band. It was bebop maestro Charlie Parker who first took the chords of Cherokee and turned them into Ko-Ko – probably the first ever recorded bebop composition (1945).

There was a lively interpretation of another classic tune Summertime from a Polish quintet led by pianist Michal Wierba, recorded in the studios of Polish radio in 2015. Then it was time for some intense, challenging music. Firstly, Didrik Invaldsen, a Norwegian trumpet player leading an ensemble of Norwegian and Czech musicians. There is a powerful, brass sound to the music, it is complex and engaging and at times, the sax player and drummer seem almost to compete yet remain part of the whole. Check the bass lines at the end of the tune. There is more strong bass playing in in the choice of another tune from Delusions, the album of the Wojcinski/Szmanda Quartet, comprising three Wojcinski brothers and drummer Szmanda. As mentioned last week, this album is highly recommended.

  1. Cannonball Adderley – Space Spiritual from Walk Tall
  2. Cannonball Adderley – Walk Tall from Walk Tall
  3. Barry Miles – Scatbird from Feeling Good: Funk, Soul & Deep Jazz Gems from Bob Shad
  4. Maxine Weldon – Right On from Feeling Good: Funk, Soul & Deep Jazz Gems from Bob Shad
  5. Friends From Rio feat Celia Vaz – Vera Cruz from Friends From Rio 2
  6. Ive Mendes – A Beira Mar (Sao Benitez Lush Mix) from Brazilian Beats 3
  7. Kamasi Washington Cherokee from The Epic
  8. Michal Wierba – Summertime from Body Language
  9. Didrik Ingvaldsen – Circle Music Part I from The Expanding Circle
  10. Wojcinski/Szmanda Quartet – No Context from Delusions

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

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