Week ending 17 March 2018: Latin connections

We often talk on Cosmic Jazz about the connections between jazz and Latin music and the musicians who play both forms of music either separately or as a fusion. The show this week has some fine examples of music to illustrate this. Just click the MixCloud tab (left) to listen and enjoy.

The double album Familia released at the end of last year says it all. This is a  celebration of tradition and innovation in Afro-Latin jazz featuring the music of three generations: the grandfathers – Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill – some of whose compositions and arrangements are to be found on the album and the musicianship and compositions of the sons – Chucho Valdes and Arturo O’Farrill. And that’s not forgetting the grandchildren – Jessie and Leyanis Valdes and Adam and Zack O’Farrill. It’s a family affair as Sly Stone once said. We featured two contrasting tunes from the album – Con Poco Coco which translates to with little coconut or with little money features the sons Arturo and Chucho on piano and grandson Adam O’Farrill on trumpet. It is a classic up-tempo latin jazz excursion and is in contrast to the next track, Recuerdo. This translates as memory but it veers more towards musicians of Latin heritage playing jazz. Grandchildren Jessie and Leyanis perform on piano and drums respectively with Jessie as composer and arranger.

Fredrik Kronkvist is another of the musicians introduced to us by Steve from Steve’s Jazz Sounds. He is a superb alto sax player, born in Sweden but now  New York-based where he has been able to play with and be joined by other first-rate musicians.  His repertoire is a wide one, ranging from innovative compositions, to standards – and now to Afro-Cuban music.  Not surprisingly, Kronkvist is inspired by Dizzy Gillespie who did so much to popularise the links between jazz and Latin music. He chose 2017 – the centenary of Dizzy’s birth – to release this album.

There was a final acknowledgement of classic Afro-Cuban music with a tune from an artist we have turned  to frequently on Cosmic Jazz. Percussionist Manny Oquendo was a long time member of Eddie Palmieri’s La Conjunto Perfecta band before he left to lead the quintessential New York Latin band Libre. Oquendo was born in Spanish Harlem, Brooklyn, to parents of Puerto Rican heritage and his three 1990s albums for the jazz label Milestone are all worth getting hold of. Mejor Que Nunca includes our featured track – a latin take on Kurt Weill’s jazz standard Speak Low.

Some aspects of Brazilian music also have close links to jazz and many musicians, such as Airto Moreira and Hermeto Pascoal have  have played across the genres and fused them. Indeed, Miles Davis called Pascoal one of the most important musicians on the planet and for a while he featured on some of Miles’ 1970s albums including Live Evil. This week we featured another Hermeto Pascoal track from the recently released  Viajando Com o Som: the Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session released by UK-based Far Out Records. It is another long tune that builds intricately and emotionally. Hermeto – who contributes electric piano, flute and voice to this album – was quite simply an innovative genius.

There was time for one more Brazilian tune from Neil’s selections – this time vocalist Patricia Marx featuring Seu Jorge on the excellent compilation Tokyo Moon put together by Japanese DJ Toshio Matsuura.

At this point the show moved away from Latin influences but saw the return of Fredrik Kronkvist in one of his other guises with an uplifting tune from his album On The MoveHe calls upon some influential musicians, as the album features in-demand Swedish bass /piano player Martin Sjostedt. I presume he plays piano as bassist Ameen Saleem, whose album released last year we featured on Cosmic Jazz, is also featured as is drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

Next was a touch of class from a duo of two classic jazz musicians on classic jazz label Impulse. Pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland on their duo album The Art of Conversation play with all the subtlety, beauty and devotion that players of their experience can bring. The album features compositions by both of them as well as a couple of standards. Another of Neil’s choices and one I had previously missed. Finally, there was time for an excerpt from one of our favourite Polish musicians of the moment, sax player Marcin Stefaniak and his trio – we’ll return to this new album in upcoming shows.

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Con Poco Coco from Familia
  2. Jessie and Leyanis Valdes – Recuerdo from Familia
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist – Gillespiana from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  4. Manny Oquendo and Libre – Speak Low from Mejor Que Nunca (Better Than Before)
  5. Grupo Vice Versa and Hermeto Pascoal – Danca do Paje from Viajando Com o Som: the Lost ’76 Vice Versa Studio Session
  6. Patricia Marx feat. Seu Jorge – Espelhos d’Agua from Tokyo Moon
  7. Fredrik Kronkvist feat .Martin Sjostedt, Ameen Saleem and Gregory Hutchinson – Glowing from On the Move
  8. Kenny Barron and Dave Holland – The Oracle from The Art of Conversation
  9. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Proxima Centauri from Unveiling

Derek is listening to…..

  1. Luciano – Its Me Again Jah
  2. Maisha – The Night Trance
  3. Binker and Moses – The Departure
  4. Mark Murphy – Speak Low
  5. George Frideric Handel – Israel in Egypt

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