Week ending 03 August 2019: many places, different musics

For the last few weeks Neil has been making the Cosmic Jazz selections, but this week it was back to Derek – although Neil was very much a presence as many of the tunes were his choices. This week’s show visited different parts of the world, past and present and the music reflected that diversity. Give it a listen via the Mixcloud tab (left).

We began by catching up on more jazz from continental Europe recently made available from the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Our first stop was Poland, with superb music from yet another alumni of the Katowice Academy of Music. Wojciech Lichtanski is an alto player who leads a jazz quartet and a very interesting one too. As a teenager Lichtanski won classical competitions and the music is clearly both composed and improvised. There are strong melodies, but also unexpected contrasts with interesting pauses and changes of direction. Lichtanski has played with one of our favourite musicians from Poland Piotr Wojtasik – surely credit enough? – and he’s also appeared at the Delhi Jazz Festival.

Mark Lotz is a veteran German alto/flute player resident in the Netherlands. He leads a trio with two Polish musicians on acoustic  bass and drums and their debut album, from which Raaste Men is taken, was an impromptu recording made while he gave a masterclass in Wroclaw, Poland. The record was then mixed back in the Netherlands. Raaste Men appears to be translated as ‘people screamed’ – but perhaps a Dutch speaking listener can clarify for us…

I have often heard people refer to “African music”. My response is the same as if they were talking about the music of any continent. How on earth (literally) could we encapsulate the music of Europe or Asia into any one style? We need to know much more – what sort of music, which part of that huge continent does it come from, and when was it recorded? The truth is – of course – that there are as many styles of music on the African continent as there are on any of our inhabited continents.So, not surprisingly, there is very little in common between the two tunes from the African continent played on this week’s show. This is Bolga Part I & II is actually a collaboration between the Bolga All-Stars from Bolgatanga, Ghana and the Polyversal Souls from Germany – but very much reflects the music of  the Bolgatanga area in the north of Ghana. The second is from the veteran and  outstanding pianist from South Africa, Abdullah Ibrahim. His music has long combined the traditional sounds of the South African townships with jazz and gospel. He has made albums over a period of sixty years but now has a new album released, four years since the last one. The Balance has ten tunes, nine of which are Abdullah Ibrahim originals. This has to be one of the significant releases of 2019. The August 2019 edition of Jazzwise Magazine has a feature on Abdullah ibrahim and this new album.

From South Africa, we crossed continents to Brazil and to Marcos Valle from his new album SempreYou could easily be mistaken into thinking that the next tune was also from Brazil given the name of the artists but while Azymuth are the group from Brazil, Azimuth were a trio from the UK formed in the 1970s with Kenny Wheeler on trumpet and flugelhorn, John Taylor on piano and synths and Norma Winstone using her often wordless vocals to ethereal effect. Azimuth recorded three albums for ECM Records, now collected into a box set and highly recommended by us here on CJ. The Tunnel has vocals that float to another plane, appropriate as that tune is also on a compilation assembled by DJ, producer and – yes – neuroscientist Sam Shepherd (or Floating Points) for the latest in the Late Night Tales compilations. The album is full of unusual choices that reflects and eclecticism someway beyond our own here on Cosmic Jazz – recommended nonetheless.

The show ended with two tunes from jazz greats. From time to time, we like to include tunes from essential albums on the show. Few are more essential to any jazz collection than Saxophone Colossus from Sonny Rollins. Recorded as long ago as 22 June 1956 it still sounds as fresh as ever with Rollins on tenor, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Max Roach on drums. In the past I have played the Caribbean-influenced St. Thomas but this week it was Strode Rode. To end the show we went back to that excellent selection of Black Saint and Soul Note records and the title track from Archie Shepp’s Down Home New York album from 1984.

  1. Wojciech Lichtanski – First Questions from Iga
  2. Mark Lotz Trio – Raaste Men from The Wroclaw Sessions
  3. Bolga All-Stars & the Polyversal Souls – This is Bolga! Parts I & II
  4. Abdullah Ibrahim – Jabula from The Balance
  5. Marcos Valle – E Voce from Sempre
  6. Azimuth – The Tunnel from Late Night Tales – Floating Points
  7. Sonny Rollins – Strode Rode from Saxophone Colossus
  8. Archie Shepp – Down Home New York from You Need This: An Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note 1975-1985

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