Week ending 28 July 2019: jazz old and new

This week’s CJ paid another visit to some of the more obscure corners of jazz and featured another selection of great tunes, both old and new. We began with more from guitarist Jack Wilkins’ Windows album but this time a take on Wayne Shorter’s Pinocchio, a track that initially featured on Miles Davis’ Nefertiti from 1968 and then again ten years later with Weather Report on the Mr Gone album. Drummer Makaya McCraven is no stranger to Cosmic Jazz but we haven’t featured much from his most recent album, recorded live in London in 2017 and featuring Soweto Kinch on saxophone, Theon Cross on tuba, Joe Armon-Jones on Fender Rhodes, Nubya Garcia on saxophone and Kamaal Williams on keys – the cream of new British jazz talent.

Two great tracks next, with the first from a favourite alto sax player, Art Pepper. The raw, lived-in sound of his later recordings reflect a life of hardship and addiction which began with alcoholic absent parents – a 14 year old runaway mother and an absent merchant seaman father. It’s perhaps not surprising that the young Pepper quickly picked up a serious heroin habit that saw him for extended periods in jail in the 1950s and 60s. The title of one of his best albums Straight Life was also the title of his biography, written by his devoted wife Laurie. The title track is a classic late Pepper composition, recorded many times throughout his later career. Our recording is not easy to get hold of and comes from one of the many recordings compiled by Laurie Pepper following his death in 1982. The band is one of Pepper’s best – pianist George Cables, bassist David Williams and drummer Carl Burnett. This live concert was recorded in Japan in 1981, the year before Pepper’s death and is a superb performance throughout with ace versions of Body and Soul, Besame Mucho and Mr Beautiful. So many of these later Pepper albums are stunning and one of the very best is a 4CD set of the complete Ronnie Scott residency in 1980. If you can find it on vinyl you’ll need £140 or so although it’s still available on CD for £55… The recording quality is great and Pepper is superb throoughout.

Flautist James Newton should be much better know. His album The African Flower is a unique take on seven Duke Ellington songs and again features an all star band – violinist John Blake, alto player Arthur Blythe, cornetist Olu Dara and more. The 11 minutes of Virgin Jungle is a highlight. Good luck with finding this one!

Our fifth track was from another under-recorded jazz artist, the alto player Azar Lawrence. His 2014 album, The Seeker, is a really good demonstration of his spiritual jazz credentials and is one of several albums released since 2007 in something of a musical renaissance. Up next was a bona fide classic and now pretty much a contemporary jazz standard. Chick Corea’s Spain is – like Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez – an ode to the country and, indeed, the tune opens with a direct quote from Rodrigo. The song has gone on to be recorded by many greats including Art Farmer, Rare Silk, Stevie Wonder and Al Jarreau. And finally, another great track from a pioneering contemporary label, Soundway Records – African Vibration’s Hinde in a remixed version by Julien Dyne. Glorious!

  1. Jack Wilkins – Pinocchio from Windows
  2. Makaya McCraven – Run ‘Dem from Where We Come From
  3. Art Pepper – Straight Life from The Complete Abashiri Concert
  4. James Newton – Virgin Jungle from The African Flower
  5. Azar Lawrence – Venus Rising from The Seeker
  6. Chick Corea – Spain from Light as a Feather
  7. African Vibration – Hinde (Julien Dyne rework)

Derek is listening to    

  1. Lacksley Castell – Mr. Government Man
  2. Misty in Roors – Oh Wicked Man
  3. Sonny Rollins – Way Out West
  4. Ben Comeau Ensemble – A Song of Innocence & Experience – Dark Sacred Nights
  5. Ruby Rushton – Moonlight Woman (Studio Session)

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