Week ending 11 January 2020: surprising ECM sounds

Welcome to the new year! This was a rare solo show from Neil (before he heads back to Singapore) but it was a chance for more music from the ever-surprising ECM label, celebrating 50 years of great music. The photo above shows label founder Manfred Eicher and his longtime recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug (who died in 2019) at the mixing desk, probably in the Rainbow Studios, Oslo. We chose this second set of ECM tracks to showcase the full range of ECM recordings – and what better way to begin than with the twin guitar talents of Bill Frisell and John Scofield on a superb album led by bass player Marc Johnson. We could have played any track from Bass Desires (which went on to become the name of the band for their second album for the label) but we chose Samurai Hee-Haw. Worth listening out for is a superb version of Coltrane’s Resolution. Making up this fine quartet is the drummer Peter Erskine – one-time member of Weather Report. Both Frisell and Scofield ‘rock out’ much more than we might expect but that’s perhaps because this music was recorded in 1986 when both guitarists were exploring the outer edges of the genre.

Pat Metheny was a real stalwart of the early years of the ECM label and – along with Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek – one of their most popular artists. His first album for the label also introduced many jazz listeners to the bass playing talents of Jaco Pastorius, but we chose the ever popular Phase Dance, a track from the self-titled Pat Metheny Group, his second ECM album. Metheny’s live take on Are You Going With Me is perhaps the most famous tune from this period – but have you heard this lovely vocal version from Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek which possibly outplays the original?

Joey Alexander’s Think Of One (which I mistakenly attributed to Wynton Marsalis) is, in fact a Thelonious Monk composition – although it is the title track of the very first Marsalis album I bought way back on its release in 1983. The Marsalis version is more restrained and reverential than the more freewheeling approach taken by Joey Alexander. You can hear the Marsalis take right here. Alexander’s take captures the spirit of Monk’s always quirky compositions – and the superb support from drummer This track and six others come from an album of out-takes from Alexander’s first two studio recordings, My Favourite Things and Countdown that’s only available as a download – what a pity! There is no sense in which these are second rate recordings and it’s so worth checking out this EP length collection on here on Bandcamp. I’d love to play this one on vinyl though… Alexander (now aged 16 by the way) has a new release for 2020 titled Warna. You can hear the track Down Time here on Alexander’s website and the complete release should be out soon.

Keith Jarrett’s Dancing has also long been a personal favourite of mine. It’s from the album Changeless which is more riff-bound than many of the great recordings from Jarrett’s Standards Trio that are now available on the label. Untypically, this album features just four original Trio compositions rather than the selection of the great American standards one would expect. It’s still a delight to hear as Jarrett builds four strong melodies out of nothing but his characteristic piano vamps, accompanied by the ever inventive Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

We faded into the percussion and piano that introduced another classic ECM track – but one that is worlds away from the Jarrett repertoire and certainly much less well known. Trombonist Julian Priester was both a member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra and Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi group, but on this ECM release from 1974 he is accompanied  by some other stellar players, including Hadley Caliman, Bill Connors, Ngudu Chancler and Eric Gravatt. Anchored by a sensationally simple bass riff from bassist Ron McClure Love Love is almost 20 minutes of wildly inventive pure 70s style group improvisation.  It’s closer in spirit to late 1970s Miles Davis than  almost anything else from the period.

English bassist Dave Holland’s album Extensions is another magnificent ECM record. We played the opening tune Nemesis (unfortunately, in two parts…) but could have featured any of the tracks from this superb Holland album.  The guitarist in this quartet is the normally restrained Kevin Eubanks, but here he’s on fire – and is more than ably supported by Steve Coleman on saxophones.

We stayed with the label for a very different kind of music – a beautifully restrained record from tabla master Zakir Hussain, and one of a few albums in which he is the leader. He’s accompanied here by guitarist John McLaughlin and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The album Making Music also includes contributions from Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri flute.

The show ended with a very different kind of ECM sound from Swiss keyboard player Nik Bartsch and his Ronin group. All his albums feature music that is heavily programmed rather than improvised and has more in common with minimalist composers like Steve Reich than jazz structures. The distinguishing characteristics of Bartsch’s music are consistent across all his ECM releases: the modular constructions, the polymetric pulses, the complex interlocking patterns and repetitive motifs. This version of Modul 42 comes from a 2CD live album recorded in Europe.

  1. Bass Desires – Samurai Hee-Haw from Bass Desires
  2. Pat Metheny – Phase Dance from Pat Metheny Group
  3. Joey Alexander – Think Of One from In A Sentimental Mood
  4. Keith Jarrett – Dancing from Changeless
  5. Dave Holland Quartet – Nemesis from Extensions
  6. Zakir Hussain – Sunjog – from Making Music
  7. Ronin – Modul 42 from Live

Neil is listening to…

Cosmic Jazz live – Derek plays out!

From time to time, Cosmic Jazz goes live and we’ve recently enjoyed playing sets at the excellent Vinyl Hunter record store in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Now there’s a new venue – and it’s another record store – and but this time in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Hex Records is a new venture and Cosmic Jazz was pleased to play out here recently. Here’s some of the music Derek featured in his set…

Derek was playing…

Week ending 21 December 2019: a full on ECMfest

ECM Records is 50 years old – and Cosmic Jazz needs no excuse for a celebration of this incredible label’s output over the years. In the last few shows, Derek has been featuring some of ECM’s huge and diverse repertoire but this is the first show devoted to the label. As noted in previous shows, ECM has a unique profile in jazz characterised by distinctive art direction, the wizardry of recording engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug and probably the most diverse roster of jazz and jazz related artists in the history of the music.

We began with Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and the title track from his essential 1997 album Khmer, recently released for the first time on vinyl. You can hear Molvaer talking about the album right here. Molvaer’s breathy tone on trumpet suits the ambient sounds of samplers and percussion that suffuse the album.  He’s stated that the album was an attempt to incorporate all the influences on his music – from Brian Eno, to Steve Reich and to the drum and bass sounds of the time.

Up next was another ECM stalwart, Paul Motian. I first came across his album Conception Vessel as long ago as 1972 – one of the very first ECM releases that featured Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden. Tonight’s show featured a track from one of his later albums for the label and one with an unusual line up – two saxophonist and three guitarists for starters. The album is also unusual in that it celebrates the compositions of Charlie Mingus, hence the inclusion of the classic Goodbye Porkpie Hat – itself an elegy for saxophonist Lester Young who had died just two months before Mingus recorded the track in 1959.

Rios Negroes has been a longtime favourite track of mine. Lester Bowie somehow manages to capture the history of jazz in just one track. Whether with the Art Ensemble of Chicago or in his solo work he blazed a trail that – uniquely – looked backwards as well as forwards. Back to Bubber Miley and the Cotton Club but also into the future of jazz in the 21st century. In just seven minutes across the track Bowie takes a first solo that slurs and smears, crackles and blares in a mix of early jazz and contemporary sounds. Bowie was a southerner born in St Louis and early in his career he played with blues and r and b artists including Little Milton and Rufus Thomas. On Fela Kuti’s No Agreement album he makes a distinctive contribution that works perfectly against the afrobeat sounds. The band on The Great Pretender is the most sympathetic he ever had. The late Phillip Wilson on drums is perfect and Hamiett Bluiett provides some lovely bottom end baritone.

Chick Corea is one of jazz music’s great survivors – and at 78 he’s still making great music with both his electric band and his piano trio. Corea has recorded for ECM from the very beginning – his two solo piano improvisation albums were recorded in 1971. Our selection is from one of the two excellent trio records Corea recorded for the label in the 1980s alongside Miroslav Vitous on bass and the legendary Roy Haynes on drums. This track is actually a solo outing for Haynes – but there will be more from this and Corea’s more recent trio recordings in upcoming shows.

Our second appearance from Lester Bowie is from the group he co-led for many years until his death in 1999 – the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Their Odwalla Theme was a signature composition by the band and often featured in live shows. More idiosyncratic music came from one of the first groups that represented a unique take on what we might (incorrectly) call ‘world music’. Here at CJ we firmly believe that all music is world music with the global presence of jazz blazing a trail for all kinds of musical collaborations. Codona was named after its three members – Collin Walcott, Don Cherry and Nana Vasconcelos. They used world music traditions authentically, in the sense that each individual in the group had decades of study and immersion in a wide range of music from all four corners of the earth. None of their sounds were watered down or fusion-like. Instead, they played free like the deep jazz artists they were. Codona were all about listening to each other but with humour and playfulness so that the music feels artless and totally improvised. Our choice came from the first of three albums and melded together two Ornette Coleman tunes with one by Stevie Wonder – and all in under four minutes. And what an album cover too!

ECM might be a European label but much of their earlier recordings emanated from the USA – including pianist Steve Kuhn, recording here with his extended trio of Steve Swallow on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Sue Evans on percussion. The opening track on the album sounds utterly contemporary – it could have ben recorded yesterday rather than 45 years ago.  Whilst Kuhn only recorded two albums for ECM, Jan Garbarek has appeared on hundreds. We could have chosen any of his recordings as a leader, his work with Keith Jarrett in his European quartet or any of his many collaborations. Like John Coltrane on tenor, Wayne Shorter on soprano or Art Pepper on alto, Garbarek has a unique tone – especially on his curved (rather than straight) soprano saxophone. It’s heard clearly on the track we played from his live 2CD release Dresden. Recorded in 2007, Garbarek’s band for this record is Rainer Bruninghaus on keys, Yuri Daniel on bass and Manu Katche on drums. Paper Nut is a Shankar composition and Garbarek takes the lead melody on his saxophone rather than Shankar’s distinctive electric violin.

Our final two tracks are real outliers for the label. Leo Smith, now Pulitzer Prize winner Wadada Leo Smith and one of the most prolific jazz musicians of the moment, recorded just this one album for ECM and early in his career too. On Tastalun, Smith is joined by – yes – Lester Bowie and Kenny Wheeler, both also on trumpet.  We ended the show with musical maverick Jon Hassell who has been ploughing his own unique furrow for many years. Hassell’s music is on the cusp of ambient and jazz with strong Arabic and Asian influences. It’s all brought together on his 1986 Power Spot album. Our third track from a trumpeter, the title tune Power Spot showcases Hassell’s unique processed trumpet sound alongside lots of electronics and guitar treatments from Michael Brook.

  1. Nils Petter Molvaer – Khmer from Khmer
  2. Paul Motian Band – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat from Garden of Eden
  3. Lester Bowie – Rios Negroes from The Great Pretender
  4. Chick Corea – Hittin’ It from Live in Europe
  5. Art Ensemble of Chicago – Odwalla Theme from Coming Home Jamaica
  6. Codona – Colemanwonder from Codona 1
  7. Steve Kuhn – Trance from Trance
  8. Jan Garbarek – Paper Nut from Dresden
  9. Leo Smith – Tastalun from Divine Love
  10. Jon Hassell – Power Spot from Power Spot

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 14 December 2019: more ECM and 2019 favourites

Despite the best-laid plans, sometimes all the music I want to play does not fit into a show. This happened last week with our first ECM celebration and so we’ve carried over some tracks to this week’s show. Added to that is some new music from some of the best 2019 releases. Click on the Mixcloud tab to hear it all.

There have been two very significant jazz celebrations this year – eighty years of Blue Note Records and fifty years of ECM Records – and Cosmic Jazz this week opened with a pianist who has straddled both companies. Distinctive and innovative pianist Jason Moran records for Blue Note Records but he was on the show last week playing piano for Charles Lloyd on the ECM release Rabo de Nube. This week, he led his own trio with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums in Gangsterism Over 10 Years from the excellent Blue Note album Ten. Ten shows a remarkable range of styles and influences, ranging from Leonard Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free to one of Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano studies and is a great example of Moran’s diversity.

We then continued our celebration of music from Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. The late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko appeared on the show last week with a tune not from one of his many ECM albums – but we redressed the balance in this show with a track from his definitive 2006 release for the label, Lontano. Marcin Wasilewski is on piano, Slawamir Kurkiewicz is on double bass and Michal Miskiewicz on drums. Our second ECM tune was a more recent release from 2017, also produced by founder Manfred Eicher demonstrating his personal touch over so many of the label’s release over the years. In this, perhaps his involvement is matched only by the work of Blue Note’s Rudy Van Gelder. The selection came from trumpeter Avishai Cohen who is from the US. Shoot Me In The Leg is part of the album Cross My Palm With Silver which makes strong political statements about the state of affairs in the US.

Next came a quite dramatic change of direction – and perhaps a surprise for the programme. Grover Washington Jr. has never appeared before on Cosmic Jazz. Why? Possibly because some of his music can sound bland mall music – and yet he has played with some of the best, ranging from soul singers Jean Carne and Phyllis Hyman to Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Grady Tate. In the case of this week’s tune, his partner was blues guitar legend B.B. King. Washington was rightly noted for his superb tone on saxophone which is why he was a ‘go to’ for some many artists. Sacred Kind of Love is a 5CD release of his Columbia Recordings – acquired through renewal of my subscription to the excellent black music magazine Echoes.

The music covers the period following Washington’s greatest success with Kudu Records, which included the Mister Magic and Feels So Good albums in the mid 70s. The 1980 release of Winelight was Washington’s million-selling debut for Elektra Records. Containing the hit Just The Two Of Us featuring Bill Withers, it marked the dawning of what was to be called ‘smooth jazz.’ Washington’s later records may never have scaled the popular heights of those releases but there is still some excellent material in this later material for Columbia Records and – as a bargain CD box set – the value is undeniable.

Then it was to one of the best releases from 2019. Binker Golding’s Album Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers is one that we have really enjoyed on Cosmic Jazz. His tenor playing is bold and illuminating. The album is quite different from his duo work with drummer Moses Boyd and, on piano rather than Fender Rhodes, Joe Armon-Jones sounds quite different from his work on his own 2019 solo album Turn to Clear View. All of which provides evidence both of the strength, but also the versatility, of the emerging jazz from the younger members of the UK scene.

Another record that has emerged outta London is Worlds Collide by bass player Michael Janisch. The title is a reference to the different influences and contrasts in the music he plays and loves – he’s on electric and acoustic basses here – but also a statement on the world itself. Janisch was born in the USA but has been based in London since 2005. As well as playing in different contexts he has also founded and runs Whirlwind Records. Another London celebrates the diversity of the different worlds that divide in this city.

There has been an extended interest in some of the more obscure or even forgotten small label jazz releases from Japan in the 1960-80s and collections like the eighth in the Spiritual Jazz series (Jazzman Records) and the two volumes of J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan (BBE Records) have collected some inspiring music over the last few years. One of the best new collections is the second J Jazz volume compiled by BBE crate diggers Tony Higgins and Mike Peden and this week’s choice from that new 2CD album was the collaboration between Japanese pianist Makolo Terashita and veteran US tenor player Harold Land. There will be more from this inspiring collection in future shows.

  1. Jason Moran – Gangsterism Over 10 Years from Ten
  2. Tomasz Stanko – Lontano Pt 1 from Lontano
  3. Avishai Cohen – Shoot Me in the Leg from Cross My Palms With Silver
  4. B B King & Grover Washington Jr. – Caught a Touch of Your Love from Sacred Kind of Love: the Columbia Recordings
  5. Binker Golding –  Forget Santa Monica from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  6. Micheal Janisch – Another London from Worlds Collide
  7. Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land – Dragon Dance from J Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1983 Vol. 2

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 07 December 2019: 50 years of ECM Records

Over this year, here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating 80 years of Blue Note Records. Neil, however, has pointed out that there is another important celebration that we need to acknowledge – namely 50 years of ECM Records.  As a result, a significant proportion of this week’s programme consists selections from that rich catalogue.

To begin, though, I like to include references to places or music that I have seen and heard. Recently, I was in the beautiful city of Amersfoort in the Netherlands.  By accident we came across the amazing Awaze Ethiopisch Restaurant. Not only was the food excellent and different to what is available on most high streets and the service friendly and helpful, but there was Ethiopian music playing throughout. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to play an Anglo-Ethiopian collaboration with the father of Ethiopian jazz, Mulatu Astatke playing with British group the Heliocentrics. This intriguing project is a collaboration that really works as drummer Malcolm Catto ensures that Astatke’s compositions are not watered down or compromised with unnecessary dance grooves. Instead, the music frequently combine his own vibraphone and conga playing with the distinctive sound of the lyre-like Ethiopian krar.

ECM (or Editions of Contemporary Music) was founded by Manfred Eicher in Munich in 1969 and, as producer, Eicher has overseen  thousands of recording sessions – many with Norwegian recording engineer Jan Eric Kongshaug, who sadly died early in November this year. ECM albums have often been stereotyped: cool, minimalist covers often with a black or grey background, fine photography and a clean non-serifed typeface. This often appears to continue through to both the music itself and Kongshaug’s characteristic production values. But the variety of the music on the label belies this simplistic assessment with a truly eclectic range of artists whose cultural, geographical and ethnic diversity demonstrates a musical vision that knows few boundaries. Over the next few months we shall be featuring some of our favourite artists with tracks that will show the breadth of Eicher’s musical vision.

First up was someone from the label who needs no introduction to Cosmic Jazz followers, namely, Charles Lloyd. Why do we keep returning to his live album from 2008, Rabo de Nube? The answer is simple: it is so good and includes such fine musicians performing at the peak of their powers. There is the leader Charles Lloyd on tenor, flute and Hungarian tarogato,  now in his eighties and still going strong, on tenor and flute, the wonderful and original Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass and Eric Harland on drums and percussion. Recorded live on 24 April 2007 at Theater Basel in Switzerland this is an essential album with one track in particular that we have featured many times on CJ – the stunning Booker’s Garden.  But it was time for a change and so we focused on the opening track Prometheus.

A cross-cultural exchange is provided by Tunisian-born oud player Anouar Brahem and his 2017 ECM record Blue Maqams. Brahem aimed to blend, as he had done previously, the sounds of the oud and the piano and to in his words attempt the impossible to associate this delicate instrumental combination with a real jazz rhythm section. For this section Brahem soon decided who he wanted – two jazz titans in UK-born Dave Holland on double bass and Jack DeJohnette from the US on drums. For the piano, it was Manfred Eicher who introduced him to the playing of British pianist Django Bates, with whom Eicher had recently made a record. Anouar Brahem had not come across Bates but on hearing his music  was soon to select him. The recorded outcome is an album that’s a perfect blend of Arabic and jazz sounds.

Next was a break from ECM with a tune from the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and an album he recorded for the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There are five superb tracks on this limited edition CD, featuring pianist David Virelles from was to become Stanko’s American quartet and guest Ravi Coltrane. But Stanko did, however, produce some of his finest work for ECM and we shall feature some of this output in upcoming shows. Stanko’s playing was always so clear and distinctive and I am pleased that I saw him once at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival playing as the sun set outside a medieval church in the centre of this ancient city.

At a subsequent Norfolk & Norwich Festival there was another memorable evening featuring an ECM artist.  The Norwegian drummer/percussionist Thomas Stronen has made over sixty albums but Time Is A Blind Guide must be up there as one of the very best. This is music of mesmerising delicacy, yet it has such strength and power. There’s an interesting range of instruments that includes UK musicians Kit Downes on piano and Lucy Railton on cello, as well as Haken Aase on violin, Ole Morton Vagan on double bass, Siv Oyunn Kjenstad and Steinar Mossige providing further percussion to support Stronen. This is one of our ECM favourites – highly recommended.

The show this week ended with Jan Garbarek, an ECM stalwart from the outset and one of the most prolific recording artists for the label. His 1987 album All Those Born With Wings is unusual in that it’s a completely solo performance with Garbarek playing all instruments. We shall be returning to Garbarek in future programmes as we explore Manfred Eicher’s musical vision, including releases on his New Music imprint that introduced listeners to many new contemporary composers including Steve Reich and Arvo Part.

One significant feature of the label is Eicher’s championing of vinyl and CD – until recently, the only way to hear an ECM recording was to acquire it in a hard copy format. But last year, pretty much the entire catalogue appeared on streaming services – a necessary counter to the unauthorised distribution of ECM titles on YouTube and file-sharing sites. Here on CJ, we’d suggest that the best way to listen to this most diverse of catalogues is still through either physical medium. Put on an ECM record or load the CD, wait for that characteristic five seconds before the music begins and revel in the crystalline sounds of an Erik Kongshaug production.

  1. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics – Anglo-Ethiopian Suite from Inspiration, Information
  2. Charles Lloyd – Prometheus from Rabo de Nube
  3. Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams from Blue Maqams
  4. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  5. Thomas Stronen – The Stone Carriers from Time Is A Blind Guide
  6. Jan Garbarek – All Those Born With Wings (First Piece) from All Those Born With Wings

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 November 2019: jazz in the 1970s

Full service is resumed! Cosmic Jazz is back on the Mixcloud tab once more. Tonight’s show was a pre-record and – as is so often the case in these circumstances – we take a journey back to some great tunes from the past.

A good place to start is the 1970s – often seen as a decade of watered down jazz subject to the corrupting influences of soul, funk and disco. The reality is far from this. Whilst some artists clearly ‘sold out’ and sought to popularise their music through a tokenistic application of these outside influences, other musicians created new sounds whilst remaining in the tradition. From that decade much music has been re-released, often on independent British labels. It’s not always the well-known names that are featured either. A case in point is keyboard player Walter Bishop Jr. Raised in Harlem, Bishop played with the likes of Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. From the early 60s he led his own band and recorded two albums for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s. After a spell teaching in Los Angeles he returned to New York and signed with Muse records for whom he made five albums between 1975-79. The Soul Village album of 1977 was one of these. Re-released in 2014 by the superb Soul Brother Records in the UK, Soul Turnaround was one of four tunes on the album that he had previously recorded on Black Jazz.

Saxophone elder Gary Bartz has raised his profile in recent years, thanks to some excellent recordings and an appearance at this year’s inaugural We Out Here festival where he shared the stage with British newcomers and CJ favourites Maisha. Back again in the UK this month, he headlined at the London Jazz Festival and is apparently currently in the studio with Maisha. We await the results with interest! In the 1970s Bartz was recording with Miles Davis – most notably on the Live Evil album. The full 6CD Cellar Door set has Bartz throughout and, whilst it’s not the most indispensable of the Davis box sets, it’s worth a listen. Separately at this time, Bartz was recording with his Ntu Troop band on Milestone Records – including two excellent Harlem Bush Music albums, now available on one BGP label compilation. Celebrated vocalist Andy Bey is featured on Celestial Blues, a tune he recorded again on his Experience and Judgment album. You can compare it here.

The Black Jazz label has its own story to tell. For a label that lasted only a little over five years, it has a sizeable footprint in the world of jazz. Founded by Oakland based pianist and producer Gene Russell, the Black Jazz imprint stood apart from bland middle of the road jazz styles and aligned firmly to the rise of black consciousness and the electric experimentations of Miles Davis and others.

More than that, Black Jazz records of the 1970s were all issued in a surround-sound Quadraphonic version and so the recording quality was often much higher than for other independent labels. Gene Russell died young in 1981 and left the catalogue in limbo but tracks were already being adopted by UK acid jazzers and hip-hop musicians in the early ’90s before the whole catalogue was reissued by Japanese speciality label Snow Dog Records between 2012-13. Label compilations from Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish (which we have sourced for this week’s CJ selection) have spread the word and you’ll find a great selection of ten excellent Black Jazz albums in this Vinyl Factory feature.

From the Peterson record Black Jazz Radio, we have chosen a Henry Franklin track and from Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature there is a tune from Rudolph Johnson. Both compilations are essential listening.

It is easy in jazz to leave out the greatest and try to spread the word of those that have been forgotten or overlooked, but here on Cosmic Jazz  we try to do both. There is always time for John Coltrane and we try to represent the many phases of his work. The album Stellar Regions was recorded in February 1967 and so is among Coltrane’s last recordings. Not released until 1995, it showcases some of the more lyrical music Coltrane was making in his later years. We chose the fire and fury of the alternate take of Sun Star with Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Our illustration is a take on the album cover by Danish artist K Pakula.

The show ended with more from a DJ compilation and music released originally on the Muse label. Colin Curtis has been based in the North-West of England but has travelled far beyond and has been playing what the title of his 2CD compilation calls Jazz Dance Fusion for many years. The final two tunes came from Disc One of this release and featured firstly guitarist Ron Eschete , with Carol Eschete on vocals and then percussionist Emmanuel K. Rahim and his band The Kahliqs.

  1. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
  3. Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
  4. Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  5. John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
  6. Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Derek is listening to… 

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 November 2019: in the tradition?

All is back to normal and this week’s Cosmic Jazz is available via the Mixcloud tab on this site. It is a good one too. It starts with one of our favourites, and a tune that unashamedly I have played before. Piotr Wojtasik is an experienced trumpeter from Poland who has released several albums and if you follow CJ you know where to get them – Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Please do check out this great site for jazz sounds from continental Europe and beyond that often even we here at CJ haven’t heard of. The Wojtasik track Stay in Time of Freedom provided a joyous and uplifting opening to our show this week with its use of two strong vocalists whose delivery matches the power of the lyrics.

To keep the uptempo mood going I veered from my planned selection to slip in another Cosmic Jazz favourite from the Japanese band Sleep Walker. Led by Masato Nakamura on saxophones and Hajime Yoshizawa on keyboards, Sleep Walker were a quartet with a high profile in the 2000s. Their music still sounds fresh and vital today.

From a little further back in our jazz history comes the music of The Tribe,  a legendary collective of jazz musicians based in Detroit and co-founded in 1971 by saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin. They released their music independently and, like many of the African-American artists of the time, were ignored by major labels. The good news is that British label Strut has just released on all formats an excellent new compilation called Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990-2014. Also appearing on these recordings are CJ favourites Harold McKinney (piano) and Marcus Belgrave (trumpet) whose own excellent albums have been re-released on UK label SoulJazz. If you have not encountered their music so far then this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with some excellent and accessible tunes. Further reading on The Tribe comes via this excellent New York Times article from 26 November.

Jamie Saft  is a wonderful pianist, keyboardist, composer and producer. Previous credits have included work with the Beastie Boys, the B-52s, John Zorn, John Anderson, Laurie Anderson, Donovan, Antony & the Johnsons and more. He has also scored award-winning films. In addition to edgy new sounds he has also produced some more straight ahead jazz with his quartet. These are exquisite, superbly recorded jazz albums, almost traditional in sound, but with a contemporary feel. Hidden Corners has a spiritual jazz vibe and is highly recommended.

We continued with more new music from Neil’s recent purchases, firstly from British solo multi-instrumentalist Emma Jean Thackeray who is definitely one to watch. Recording with Makaya McCraven has given her music that edgy contemporary sound and the track you heard has recently been issued as a 12in single. Trumpeter Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah has been around rather longer but his new and ninth album Ancestral Recall include more tracks that epitomise his concept of ‘stretch music’ – an attempt not to replace the jazz tradition but acknowledge the contemporary movements in the music that include hip hop beats but also hark back to the great traditions of jazz. This may not be surprising as aTunde Adjuah’s grandfather was the legendary New Orleans big chief Donald Harrison Snr and his uncle the saxophonist Donald Harrison Jnr.  The beautiful melody Songs She Never Heard uses the enhanced tonal range of Tunde Adjuah’s customised trumpet and the album as a whole may be the best realisation so far of his ‘stretch music’ concept.

Excellent jazz music is emerging from all parts of the UK. One of the leaders from the north west of England is saxophonist Nat Birchall and, what’s more, like the presenters of this programme, he shares a passion for both jazz and reggae. His latest offering is a tribute to one of his jazz heroes, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef – who is something of an insider hero to many, including us here at CJ. Birchall’s version of Love Theme from Spartacus is an excellent example of how to bring something new to a tune recorded by many jazz artists. Compare it with this beautiful solo version from pianist Bill Evans. Moreover, Nat Birchall can also be found on the tune from UK drummer Andy Hay on his tribute album to Lonnie Liston Smith. Hay has featured as the drummer in Birchall’s previous quintet, best heard on the albums Creation and Live at Larissa. The latter has just been reissued and you can order it from Birchall’s Bandcamp site.

The show ends with more great music from Sarathy Korwar. We heavily featured Korwar’s live UK recording My East is Your West and he takes his eclecticism a step further with his new recording More Arriving. Recorded over two and a half years in India and the UK, More Arriving draws on the nascent rap scenes of Mumbai and New Delhi, incorporating spoken word and Korwar’s own Indian classical and jazz instrumentation. With this album, Korwar expands his politicised narrative to cover the wider diaspora. “This is a modern brown record. The kind of record that a contemporary Indian living in the UK for the past 10 years would make,” he notes. “This is what Indian music sounds like to me right now.” Check out the complete album on Korwar’s Bandcamp site.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Stay in Time of Freedom from Live at Akwarium
  2. Sleep Walker – Nomadic Tribe from Sleep Walker
  3. Tribe – Hometown from Hometown: Detroit Sessions 1990 – 2014
  4. Jamie Saft – Positive Way from Hidden Corners
  5. Emma-Jean Thackeray – Too Shy (12″ version) from Too Shy/Run ‘Dem
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat. Logan Richardson – Songs She Never Heard from Ancestral Recall
  7. The Nat Birchall Quartet – Love Theme from Spartacus from The Storyteller – a Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef
  8. Andy Hay – Lost Lonnie from Many Rivers
  9. Sarathy Korwar – City of Words from More Arriving

Neil is listening to…




Week ending 16 November 2019: classic Latin + more!

This week was a pre-recorded show which usually means some classic tunes from the past – and this week was no exception. We are still having some technical problems, so to access the show you should head to IO Radio Mixcloud and scroll down to the show dated 13 November 2019.

The show began in riotous and joyous style courtesy of Eddie Palmieri – pianist, New York born but of Puerto Rican heritage and part of the roster of great Latin artists who featured on the Fania Records label. Palmieri was a key figure in the music of East Harlem’s El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) district. He formed his own bands – La Perfecta and and La Perfecta II – and often played with others in the vibrant Latin scene in New York at the time. Now aged 85 he continues to record, releasing the Full Circle album in 2018. Check out the complete album here on Bandcamp.

Reeds player Carlos Garnett in 1974 was on a Journey to Enlightenment. I guess many people were at that time. It would seem that Caribbean Sun was one of the places for him to seek out for this enlightenment as he sings on the tune. Actually, it has to be said that whilst his reed playing is good, his vocals leave much to be desired. Forget that and listen to the music and long-time collaborator Hubert Eaves’ contribution on piano.

Argentinian sax player Gato Barbieri was someone else who’s unmistakable tone on tenor sax could be found both in some blistering jazz and some very soupy, saccharine middle of the road moments. It’s best to start with his music on the great Impulse! label and enjoy that fiery, explosive sound that’s balanced with a warm embrace – much like a good South American coffee! Our tune this week comes from the brilliant Chapter One: Latin America album and – like all four of the Chapter albums – is highly recommended. For earlier Barbieri really on form with a top notch band (Lonnie Liston Smith, John Abercrombie, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira, Roy Haynes) try this cut from the excellent Under Fire album. For a taste of Barbieri in later A&M mode (with records produced by Herb Alpert) try this discofied over the top take on Ravel’s Bolero… You’ll either love or hate it! Fun fact: Barbieri was the inspiration for the Muppets character Zoot in the house band Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem! Check out the characteristic fedora that features on many Barbieri album covers and is worn by the Muppet sax player Zoot.

Here on Cosmic Jazz, we continue to celebrate eighty years of wonderful music from the Blue Note Record label. In doing this we are trying to represent the variety of music that has been released on the label – and beside the US, Blue Note also made many visits to Brazil, releasing released three compilations of what they called Blue Brazil, with the sub-title of Blue Note in a Latin Groove, the third of which was released in 1980. Os Borges were a group from Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais Brazil.

A compilation series we have featured widely on the programme has been the Jazzman series Spiritual Jazz. Volume 8 went to Japan, from which you can hear Sadao Watanabe plying with Charlie Mariano, whose Ragam Sinthubairavi sounds as if they had been on a trip to India. Look out for Volume 10 which features artists from the Prestige label and includes the superb Dorian from the aforementioned Roy Haynes.

Another essential compilation for Cosmic Jazz lovers is Black Fire! New Spirits! with the sub – title Radical & Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82. It includes a wonderful piece from 1974 by saxophonist and composer Tyrone Washington. Once again, we find Hubert Eaves on piano. He recorded a solo album for Blue Note in 1967 and worked as a sideman with Horace Silver, Larry Young and Stanley Cowell, In 1973 and 1974 he released two more solo albums for small independent labels but soon after these he stopped playing music and turned to religion.

Finally we go In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from the album Back to You from tenor player Harold Land who features on another excellent Japanese Jazz compilation, J Jazz Volume 2: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-82. Harold Land is something of an enigma in jazz, staring with a hard bop tone but evolving into a much darker sound that (unlike some of his contemporaries) never went into fusion. Search out his Timeless label albums recorded with a stellar group including Cedar Walton on piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Buster Williams on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. To hear much of this band in an earlier incarnation, listen to the  beautiful title track from the Peace-Maker album on Cadet (1967).

  1. Eddie Palmieri – Palo Pa Rumba from Palo Pa Rumba
  2. Carlos Garnett – Caribbean Sun from Journey to Enlightenment
  3. Gato Barbieri – Encontros from Chapter One: Latin America
  4. Os Borges – Em Familia from Blue Brazil 3
  5. Sadao Watanabe and Charlie Mariano – Ragam Sinthubairavi from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  6. Tyrone Washington – Universal Spiritual Revolt from Black Fire! New Sprits!
  7. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In The Dark from Back to You

Week ending 09 November 2019: great sax players and more

This week’s show is available on Mixcloud but not in the usual place. A technical problem means that instead you’ll find it on the IO Radio Mixcloud stream. Just scroll down to the day it was recorded – 06/11/2019 – and click the tab.

The show begins with our Blue Note celebration of the week – this time from one of our very favourite tenor saxophonists, the magnificent Joe Henderson. The album Our Thing dates from 1963 and we played the title track. As the Reid Miles designed cover indicates, the band include Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Andrew Hill on piano, Eddie Khan on bass and Pete LaRoca on drums. Add in Alfred Lion on production, Rudy Van Gelder on recording duties at his famed Englewood Cliffs studio and a great Francis Wolff photo on the cover and you have all the ingredients for an epic Blue Note record. Label aficionados should note that the first ever UK pop up Blue Note store has opened in London’s Coal Drops Yard – celebrating the jazz resurgence and timed to coincide with the EFG London Jazz Festival. The full programme is as excellent and innovative as usual – and those wishing to get a flavour of Joe Henderson’s music could check out the UK’s Denys Baptiste as he celebrates the tenor saxophonist on 23 November at the 606 Club in the capital.

Last week there was a tune from the new Binker Golding album Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible FeathersIt is an album we admire, so two further tunes appeared this week will help you judge for yourself. Exquisite She-Green is, if you have seen some of Goldings work with Moses Boyd, a remarkably restrained and calm piece. Fluorescent Black is, however, more up-tempo. The double bass of Daniel Casimir comes through impressively and Binker Golding provides a strong lead on tenor.

Also on the Binker Golding album playing piano is Joe Armon-Jones, another seemingly ever-present on the burgeoning jazz scene coming out of London. His second album has been released entitled Turn To Clear View, his playing and the musical styles are very different here. From the Golding acoustic piano to electric, from pure jazz to a fusion of genres. Interesting, challenging and at times uncomfortable music for today.

Fat-Suit from Scotland cross musical genres too with a wide variety of instruments and musicians. The tune The Crane and the Crow opens by demonstrating some of their rock influences. If that’s not your thing, however, stay with it because there follows some lovely, sensitive trumpet playing. The album Waifs and Strays was recorded live in Drygate Brewery Glasgow over four days and the expansive ambition of the project comes across in each tune.

Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate from Poland have featured regularly on the show over the last month or two with tunes from their album Don’t Hesitate.  This is another ambitious project. The tune Heart of Darkness – as the whole album –  is full of experimental, haunting sounds. It is music that is unpredictable and makes clever use of electronics, a sonic syndicate as their title suggests – thoroughly contemporary. If you like this music go to Steve’s Jazz Sounds where you can buy this, more Polish music and much else besides.

Coming in at the end of this week’s show is UK trumpeter Laura Jurd with a radical new album that’s miles away from what she has delivered previously.  Jumping In may not even be jazz – it comes across as closer to something that American composer Aaron Copland might have created.

  1. Joe Henderson – Our Thing from Our Thing
  2. Binker Golding – Exquisite She-Green from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  3. Binker Golding – Fluorescent Black from Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Gnawa Sweet from Turn to Clear View
  5. Fat-Suit – The Crane & The Cow from Waifs and Strays
  6. Emil Miszk & the Sonic Syndicate – Heart of Darkness from Don’t Hesitate
  7. Laura Jurd – Jumping In from Stepping Back, Jumping In

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…


Week ending 02 November 2019: with Binker Golding and Joe Armon-Jones

Another Cosmic Jazz show is right here on the MixCloud tab with more new music, another incredible Blue Note celebration and trips to Poland and Brazil.

I first came across tenor sax player Binker Golding through his work with drummer Moses Boyd. Indeed, I saw them deliver a blistering set in a vintage Spiegeltent at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2018. The show this week opens with a great tune from their second ambitious double album collaboration, but Golding now has a solo album released – Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers. The title is a mouthful (and, like – Sarah Tandy’s recent release – in part inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson) but the album is a tight, straightahead jazz release – and very good it is too. Released on the London-based Gearbox label, it’s less like other albums from the many of the younger artists on the London scene, in that it’s a relatively restrained jazz quartet album – Golding on tenor sax, Joe Armon-Jones on piano, Daniel Casimir on bass and Sam Jones on drums. The production is typical superb – Gearbox have developed a reputation for clean, weighty pressings mastered on analogue equipment with a correspondingly natural sound. I love the album and shall play more in future shows.

On the new album, Armon-Jones plays some beautiful acoustic piano, including on the track for this week’s show. Often, though, he can be found playing electric piano as on his new album Turn To Clear View where his playing is more rooted in  a classic Fender Rhodes style and further breaks the conventions of jazz with rappers and dub stylings. Armon-Jones recently appeared on the BBC Radio 3 jazz  programme J to Z and identified some of the artists and tunes that he admires and have influenced him. If you know anything of her work beyond the hit single Forget Me Nots, it is no surprise he selected Patrice Rushen and the tune Haw-Right Now. Kevin le Gendre sums it up perfectly in the current edition of Echoes the Black Music Monthly Magazine in a review of a recently issued Patrice Rushen compilation Remind Me. He says how Forget Me Nots  was “an irresistible piece of youth club  romance” that focused on her vocals but that later her audience “would discover she was also a pianist. More to the point she could really play”. You can hear all her keyboard skills and recognise how Armon-Jones could be impressed on that classic tune Haw-Right Now. And – as an added bonus – it features jazz legend Joe Henderson on tenor sax. We recommend the whole album from which it comes (Prelusion) and that later Elektra Records compilation Remind Me, on the ever-reliable Strut Records.

The show continued with another Blue Note superlative, as we celebrate 80 years of this iconic label. In 1990, the vocalist/pianist/composer Rachelle Ferrell delivered an album of mainly standards, though with two self-penned compositions. Sadly, nothing I have heard from her since has reached the same heights, but this album has to be celebrated. She displays an incredible vocal range – as illustrated on this week’s tune Autumn Leaves – and is accompanied by an outstanding and  impressive group of musicians: Wayne Shorter on tenor, Michel Petrucciani on piano, Stanley Clarke on bass, Lenny White on drums, and Pete Levin and Gil Goldstein on synthesiser. We say from time to time (although sparingly) that some records are simply must-have albums. This one is right up there with some of our other recommendations.

It was now time to feature musicians from beyond the UK and USA with, firstly, a return to Poland and the Pawel Palchowski Quintet. Palchowski is a trumpeter leading a band that includes young musicians and the outstanding drummer Arek Skolik. They have an album of original compositions that captures the mood of the 1950s and 1960s while still sounding fresh and contemporary.

Our final tune came from Brazil and was a remix of a stand-out tune from the album by vocalist Ive Mendes. Her first self titled album from 2002 is a chilled classic and worth investigating if you can find it. With production by Robin Millar, it’s not surprising that the music has more than a touch of Sade’s classic songs – and that’s not a bad thing! This time, however, we played the Sao Benitez remix from the excellent Mr. Bongo Records series Brazilian Beats. All these albums are now available in a budget priced box set – find it here on Discogs.

  1. Binker & Moses – At the Feet of the Mountain Forever from Journey to the Mountain Forever
  2. Binker Golding – Strange – Beautiful – Remembered from Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – The Leo & Aquarius feat. Jehst from Turn to Clear View
  4. Patrice Rushen – Haw-Right Now from Prelusion
  5. Rachelle Ferrell – Autumn Leaves from First Instrument
  6. Pawel Palchowski Quintet – Speed Limit from Old-Fashioned Mood
  7. Ive Mendes – A Beira Mar (Sao Benitez Lush mix) from Brazilian Beats 3

Neil is listening to..

Derek is listening to…

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