Week ending 24 November 2018: Coltrane’s heritage

Available to you this week at the touch of the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab – music from Poland, Cuba, the US and UK.

Poland is the first stop. We have said it before, but it is worth repeating that there is a wealth of new music coming out of Poland and much of it getting recognised beyond the borders of the country. Stockists such as Steve’s Jazz Sounds have done much to make easy access to the music possible. Many of the bands are young too and their influences are many and diverse – like many of the current jazz musicians we feature here on CJ. There are two examples this week. The Tubis Trio are led by pianist Maciej Tubis and Flashback (great album cover!) is their second release. The title tune comes complete with its own flashback moments... Monosies are a quintet led by guitarist/composer Lukasz Komala and Stories of the Gray City is their debut album. Do these tunes present further examples of what is often referred to as Polish melancholy? I am not sure – we leave that judgement to you.

From Cuba came more music this week from pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his new trio album Un Dia Cualquiera – which translates as Just another day. In some ways the music is firmly in the tradition of the piano/bass/drums trio tradition, but with this record the Cuban flourishes are integral to Lopez-Nussa’s sound. The music references back to a number of Cuban styles, including Yoruba chants, rumba, descarga and – on our choice this week – an old bolero-style classic from 1946. But don’t think that all this roots referencing has created a traditional album – far from it. It’s a joyous contemporary celebration of a deep musical heritage that is an ongoing musical exploration

Ok, so we all know John Coltrane was a genius – it’s a naive truism in jazz – and, of course, his influence is still with us through many of the younger generation of jazz soloists. But, listening again to the 2018 Impulse! release Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album, made me stop and simply say, yes – this music really does take us to another place. But what is it about Coltrane’s music that’s so influential?  Well, a good place to start might be with this Earworm analysis of Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps, surely an influence on pretty much every contemporary jazz musician. Why? Well, you don’t need to be a musician to understand the significance of the circle of fifths – a musical principle that guided ‘trane’s musical explorations – but the video will give you renewed sense of John Coltrane’s musical mastery. The image here is Coltrane’s own hand-drawn annotated circle of fifths – and check out Derek’s Coltrane listening choice below which features a graphic based on this musical principle.

All of this suggested it was a good time to play Coltrane again and follow this with a contemporary musician who has clearly been influenced by him. Coltrane’s classic quartet released the tune Tunji in 1962 as part of the album just called Coltrane. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s simply a masterpiece and you owe it to yourself to check out the complete version of this Impulse! album as it contains five alternate versions of the tune.

One of our CJ favourites, Manchester-based saxophonist Nat Birchall has just released his version of Tunji as a single. You don’t get the piano and bass features of the Coltrane version – rather Nat Birchall blows his sax all the way through on what is a much shorter version. But it stands up well – a praiseworthy achievement. Respect is due, as they say. You can still get the 7inch single or download Tunji along with Mode for Miles (also from the Coltrane album) from the ever-reliable Bandcamp site here. It’s also well worth seeking out all of Birchall’s work from his earliest albums like Akhenaten through to his most recent release Cosmic Language on the Jazzman label.

While in the groove of playing those influenced by Coltrane it seemed appropriate to feature something more from Kamasi Washington and his most recent release Heaven and Earth album. Washington has been championed in Cosmic Jazz for a good few years now, and his 2018 3CD release doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of lengthy, sometimes overblown tracks but the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane and others is undoubtedly there and Washington is a powerful force in the jazz new wave. Heaven and Earth is highly recommended as is The Epic from 2016 and – a really good place to start for Washington novices – the Harmony of Difference EP.

We ended the show with a tune by UK DJ/producer/musician Kaidi Tatham, formerly of the influential Bugz in the Attic collective. As producers and remixers to many in the London broken beat scene, the Bugz released a couple of excellent compilations of their work – both worth looking out for. Tatham is now a prolific artist and producer in his own right having worked with Amy Winehouse, Slum Village, Mulatu Astatke, Soul II Soul, Amp Fiddler, Macy Gray, King Britt and DJ Spinna, Like the two Tunji selections, I See What You See was one of Neil’s selections and – at last – it got an airing. It’s an example of one of those many tunes we play on the show, without apology, which stretch beyond the boundaries of what some might call jazz. We love it. Tatham’s newest EP (released in October 2018) can be found here – again on Bandcamp.

  1. Tubis Trio – Flashback from Flashback
  2. Monosies – Passages from Stories of the Gray City
  3. Harold Lopez-Nusa – Contigo en la Distancia from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane
  5. Nat Birchall – Tunji from single release
  6. Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol from Heaven and Earth
  7. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 November 2018: sounds unexpected

We like to think that by clicking the MixCloud tab and listening to Cosmic Jazz you will find something unexpected – including a few surprises for jazz lovers.

Something unexpected prompted an opener to the show from Sounds of the Unexpected. They are a Norwegian band led by a British sax player, Tim Lowerson. The sounds are exactly as they promise and you would find them difficult to categorise. Something unexpected for Cosmic Jazz, thoughhas occurred as a result of our contacts with Tim, namely a mention for the programme/site in a Norwegian magazine containing an article on Polish jazz. We are there and recommended as somewhere to find and listen to Polish jazz. We feel honoured and thanks to all concerned.

Similarly, we must acknowledge Steve’s Jazz Sounds as a source for music from Poland (and beyond) and we recommend a visit. Following this we had to play some Polish jazz: a new release from a trumpeter who has produced and directed at least nine albums. Piotr Schmidt has a PhD in music from Katowice and also received a scholarship to Kentucky. The album has a clever title Saxesful, amazing no-one has thought of that before and he is a trumpeter!

Harold Lopez-Nussa is a Havana-based pianist leading a trio which includes his younger brother. There will be more tracks from his album on the show, but there was a repeat from last week, as that show did not do justice to the tune.

We do like to promote small, independent labels and artists who may not get wide exposure. Birnam is a company based in Scotland that supports and provides access to recording for Scots and other artists. We received from them recently an album that vocalist Evelyn Laurie made and released herself. This is her first album and has been the culmination of many years of hard work. Her first singing appearance was at the age of four in Arbroath. She’s sung in many styles from folk, to choral to opera, but around twelve years ago began her training in vocal jazz and has since  performed around Scotland. The album A Little Bit Of Me has several delights and her version of the tune Close Your Eyes is a highlight. The vocals are warm and the backing instrumentation is pared down but still clear and definite with lovely percussion from Tom Gordon.

We have said so much on this site about the British group Maisha whose spiritual jazz with global influences is highly recommended to hear live. Their long-awaited first album There is a Place has now been released and is highly recommended to all our CJ listeners. The band is led by drummer Jake Long and includes percussion, sax, bass, guitar and keyboards – superb musicianship all round, but let’s single out Nubya Garcia on sax and Shirley Tetteh on guitar.

Neil has been persuading me for some time to play new music by Sarathy Korwar which he sent me. I love the title of the album My East is your West – and I love the music. This is music that honours a relatively long tradition of fusing of Indian classical music with the jazz tradition – and it really works. Recorded live at London’s Church Of Sound, the album is a homage to the great musicians of the 60s and 70s spiritual jazz movement, covering the likes of Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Joe Henderson. Korwar plays alongside the UPAJ Collective, a group of highly versatile musicians who share Sarathy’s passion for jazz and Indian music and include CJ favourite Tamar Osborn on baritone sax. The featured tune this week is their version of Joe Henderson’s composition Earth, which originally featured on his excellent duo album with Alice Coltrane, The Elements. There will be more.

In a show of longish tunes there was still space for another tune from Anthony Joseph from his new album A Place in the Sun. Recorded in Trinidad and Tobago, and released on the excellent French label Heavenly Sweetness, there are really strong tunes and the opening cut Milligan (The Ocean) is one of them. UK jazzer Jason Yarde is on sax and labelmate Florian Pellissier is on keyboards.

  1. Sounds of the Unexpected – Sounds of the Unexpected from Sounds of the Unexpected
  2. Piotr Schmidt Quintet – Stella by Starlight from Saxesful
  3. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Une Tarde Cualquiera en Paris (to Bebo Valdes) from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. Evelyn Laurie – Close Your Eyes from A Little Bit of Me
  5. Maisha – Eaglehurst/The Palace from There is a Place
  6. Sorathy Korwar – Earth from Your East is My West
  7. Anthony Joseph – Milligan (The Ocean) from People of the Sun

Derek is listening to…..

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 10 November 2018: Caribbean links and Roy Hargrove

Music from the Caribbean features regularly in my listening choices selected each week for Cosmic Jazz – I love so much music from the many different styles on offer. Neil has also been a recent visitor to the Caribbean and has had his interest in the music refreshed and expanded. A click on the MixCloud tab this week will give you a few samples.

The new release People of the Sun by British/Trinidadian poet/musician/academic and novelist Anthony Joseph has attracted a lot of attention. He has a PhD in creative and life writing, lectures in creative writing at Birkbeck College, London and is also a performer and recording artist. This is his seventh album. It was recorded in Trinidad and Tobago for the French label Heavenly Sweetness, with French pianist, band leader and Cosmic Jazz favourite from the same label Florian Pelissier. UK sax player and Jazz Warriors alumnus, Jason Yarde (with St Lucian roots) features . He will be well known to many of our UK listeners and played on the Hexagonal McCoy Tyner/Bheki Mseleku project we  featured recently on the show. People of the Sun has some outstanding tunes, including He Was Trying, selected this week. Although some tunes disappoint, it’s an interesting and welcome fusion of words and music.

Saxophonist David Murray was on the show this week with his Cuban Ensemble playing Nat King Cole “En Espanol”. Murray handpicked his Cuban musicians, which he recorded with in Argentina, and then moved to Portugal to record string arrangement with the Sinfonieta of Sines. These give the album a surprisingly lush feel that clear seeks to emulate those Latin big bands of the 1940-50s . It’s an unusual combination, but – for the most part – it really works. Also from Cuba is pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa with his trio which includes  younger brother Ruy Adrain Lopez-Nussa. The album Un Dia Cualquiera is recorded on the excellent US label Motema (see more below) but Lopez-Nussa prefers to remain in Havana. “I need the kind of relaxed life that Havana gives me,” he states on his online biography. Cuban music is an essential part of the US jazz scene and jazz is infused through much of Cuban music. Lopez-Nussa did not get involved with jazz until he was 18 years old – “Jazz was scary” – but listening to Herbie Hancock changed that and then he found Cuba’s own jazz pianists Chucho Valdes and his father Bebo Valdes. The tune selected this week is dedicated to Bebo Valdes, another familiar name to Cosmic Jazz followers.

The Motema label appeared again because the November edition of the excellent UK magazine Jazzwise included a CD to celebrate 15 years of the Motema label. Very good it is too. We have featured many artists from this innovative  label over the years on Cosmic Jazz. Motema introduced Gregory Porter to the world with his first album, Water – and we all know what happened to him. Porter is on the compilation and so is David Murray with Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington, and the excellent Jameo Brown. Our choice came from vibes player Stefon Harris, whose new album Sonic Creed is his first since 2009. It’s one of those records which combines contemporary sounds with an acknowledgement of the history of jazz.

The Stefon Harris tune was co-written by Bobby Timmons who is actually mentioned in another tune on the show. This had to be played for a very sad reason. Poetry from the RH Factor was played in tribute to trumpeter Roy Hargrove who died recently at the age of just 49. Hargrove has left a substantial legacy and Neil’s listening choices this week all pay tribute to this most open mind. Poetry come from the first of Hargrove’s excellent three RH Factor EPs and features both Erykah Badu and Q Tip – a sign of Hargrove’s eclectic approach to music. Whether he was performing with one of the many neo-soul artists he recorded with or blowing a tender flugelhorn jazz ballad, Roy Hargrove was always a lyrical player. But despite his presence on neo-soul, hip hop and R&B projects, Hargrove remained in the mainstream jazz tradition: Sonny Rollins, who featured him on a tune called Young Roy in 1991 was a great admirer and many of Hargrove’s straight jazz releases are really excellent albums. A particular favourite here at CJ is his superb Earfood release from 2008 which features the lovely Strasbourg/St Denis (see below) – surely destined to become a jazz standard at some point. Hargrove was also generous as a mentor himself: among the younger musicians who responded to his death on social media was one of our current favourites, fellow trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who wrote on Twitter “I don’t think I would be alive if I hadn’t met him when I did. I am extremely grateful I got to tell him as a grown man to his face.”

Also on CJ this week was drummer of the moment Makaya McCraven (who will be performing at the end of this month at the London Jazz Festival) and an important re-release from free jazz specialists The Lightmen. The title Free As You Wanna Be says it all and we shall hear more of this record in coming weeks. To wind things down there was the excellent Jamie Saft Quartet and a track from his recent Blue Dream album. Enjoy!

  1. Anthony Joseph – He Was Trying from People of the Sun
  2. The RH Factor – Poetry from Hard Groove
  3. Stefon Harris – Dat Dare from Blackout
  4. David Murray Cuban Ensemble – Black Nat from Plays Nat King Cole En Espanol
  5. Harold Lopez-Nussa – Una Tarde Cualqiera En Paris (to Bebo Valdes) from Un Dia Cualquiera
  6. Makaya McCraven feat. Dezron Douglas – Black Lion from Universal Beings
  7. The Lightmen – Free As You Wanna Be from Free As You Wanna Be
  8. The Jamie Saft Quartet – There’s A Lull In My life from Blue Dream

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 03 November 2018: the Black Renaissance annual appearance

Cosmic Jazz regulars who click the Mix-Cloud tab will know there are a few records that we love to play again and again. But there is only one that I vow to play at least once every calendar year and that is Black Renaissance, the band that was led by keyboard player Harry Whitaker – probably best known for his work with Roy Ayers. I have described before how amazing this tune is and so there’s no need to repeat myself. Just click the tab and listen for yourself to enjoy 23 minutes + of pure rapture and delight.

There were more selections from my colleague Neil this week, including an interesting tune from a new group – Spiral Deluxe. Assembled by Detroit techno guru and drummer Jeff Mills, Spiral Deluxe contains one standout track that alone is worth the price of entry. E=MC2 is a live-in-the-studio improvisation that pulses with life. Much of this is due to the bass playing of Kenji Hino – son of trumpeter Terumasa Hino. The EP Voodoo Magic was recorded in Paris in a two-day session. Recommended.

Soul in the Hole is a great album title and another of those excellent compilations from a British label (in this case BBE) and compiled by Sadar Bahar, self-professedly one of the World’s Deepest DJs, includes the excellent Tornado from sax player Sonny Stitt, featuring Eddie Russ on Rhodes piano. Excellent.

Neil has been championing the music of another drummer, Makaya McCraven, for a while now. He’s also been called a cutting-edge beat scientist and this certainly reflects the way his music is composed. Following on from the ‘cut and paste’ techniques of jazz pioneer producers like the great Teo Macero, McCraven assembles on his new 2CD Universal Beings album what he calls organic beat music using live recordings from four different venues, including one at the Total Refreshment Centre in London. McCraven was born in Paris, the son of a US jazz drummer and a Hungarian folk singer, but raised in Massachusetts and is now working out of Chicago. He is playing in the UK this month at the London Jazz Festival (LJF). The UK contributors include Nubya Garcia (who is on the bill with him at the LJF), Daniel Casimir and Ashley Henry. Very highly recommended. Tenor player and Sons of Kemet leader, Ashley Hutchings appears on the Chicago side.

Poland is never far away from the programme. This week the selection came from the Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio and a debut album Something About. The leader is a trumpet/flugelhorn player supported here by drums and Hammond organ which definitely provides a swing/groove feel. The title tune on the show this week moves along very nicely – it’s the Hammond effect indeed.

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body, Mind & Spirit
  2. Spiral Deluxe – E=Mc2 from Voodoo Magic
  3. Sonny Stitt (feat. Eddie Russ) – Tornado from Sadar Bahar presents Soul in the Hole (A Journey into Funk/Soul/Boogie & Disco)
  4. Patrycjusz Druszecki Trio – Something About from Something About
  5. Makaya McCraven (feat. Joel Ross) – Young Genius from Universal Beings

Neil is listening to:


Week ending 27 October 2018: contemporary British jazz

The show on the Mix Cloud tab this week is an all-British affair featuring some of the exciting music coming from the wealth of talent now playing jazz and jazz-related music in the UK. It was also a chance to re-visit some of the artists and tunes we have been featuring on Cosmic Jazz this year. They need to be played – and often.

UK sax player Sean Khan has produced an interesting album that is essentially jazz but with strong Brazilian influences. Who better from Brazil to combine these two genres than Hermeto Pascoal – and Sean Khan managed to secure his services for four of the nine tracks on his album Palmares Fantasy. On this week’s tune Montreux, Hermeto is credited with flute, vocals and glass of water! That’s him making some interesting sounds at the end of the tune.

We have played and talked much about the young/youngish jazz scene in the UK and representatives are well to the fore in this week’s show. I was so pleased to see Maisha, the band led by drummer Jake Long, perform this year. They cook up quite a storm and their infectious enthusiasm for playing together in quite a large group comes across strongly. In pianist Sara Tandy they have an exciting, unpredictable and innovative musician whose playing  and obvious joy in playing is a delight. I have seen her also playing with Camilla George. Guitarist Shirley Tetteh and sax player Nubya Garcia are also members of the band whose reputation and renown seems to grow by the day. Maisha have an album due for release on Brownswood Records on 09 November and Sara Tandy is also due to release her debut album soon.

One of the features of these groups is that the musicians work with each other on different projects. For example, Nubya Garcia  plays with Maisha and is also on the title tune of Joe Armon-Jones’ first release and in her own right on the EP When We Are.  Another feature, illustrated most clearly with the Joe Armon-Jones and Sons of Kemet tunes, is that the boundaries of jazz are stretched. We love this on Cosmic Jazz. There is experimentation, there are challenging sounds and even instruments you may not have heard on in jazz before – such as Theon Cross and his tuba with Sons of Kemet. Ezra Collective’s excellent tune I Have a God we have played before, but are only too pleased to play again. There are some lovely vocals by Zara McFarlane which illustrate when she is at her best that she can  combine power and sensitivity as a vocalist.

The final tune came from someone at the other end of the age spectrum and the other end of England from most of the above. Tony Burkill is a tenor saxophonist from Leeds who I can only presume has been active on the scene there for a number of years. He has put out an album Work Money Death comprising tunes written by himself and bass player Neil Innes. The album can even boast contributions from the Headingley Handclap Choir.  I like it. Third of All Numbers provided an uplifting and positive way to end the show.

  1. Sean Khan – Montreux from Palmares Fantasy
  2. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today from Starting Today
  4. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Ada Eastman from Your Queen is a Reptile
  5. Nubya Garcia – When We Are from When We Are
  6. Ezra Collective feat Zara McFarlane – I Have a God from Chapter 7
  7. Tony Burkill – Third of All Numbers from Work Money Death

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 20 October 2018: great pianists and more Polish jazz

lt has been a bit of a gap but Cosmic Jazz is back with its usual mix of jazz both old and new from around the globe. Click on the Mixcloud tab on this page to hear the show.

My colleague Neil put forward  a tune for inclusion that inspired the two selections that followed. The British band Hexagonal have produced an album that is a tribute to two fantastic pianists, namely US great McCoy Tyner, he of the classic Coltrane quartet and Bheki Mseleku who was born in South Africa and moved to the UK where he recorded some highly-regarded jazz. Jason Yarde, the Hexagonal alto player has played with Tyner and both the Hexagonal pianist John Donaldson and the drummer Simon Thorpe played with Bheki Mseleku. The tune on the show was their take on the McCoy Tyner tune Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit and an impressive version it is too. It seemed only natural to follow this with tunes by McCoy and Bheki. From the former came the uptempo African Village and from the latter the more measured and contemplative title tune from his album Celebration. Apparently, this album is due for re-release. It is a recommended album, as – of course – is any work from McCoy Tyner.

The inclusion of ‘Village’ in the title above inspired the choice of a Cosmic Jazz classic from Japanese band Quasimode.  Written by British tenor player Tubby Hayes, Down in the Village is a reference to the celebrated NY jazz venue, The Village Vanguard. The wealth of music we come across through Steve’s Jazz Sounds illustrates what a jazz-rich nation Poland must be. In Poland, many musicians from the past have, and a new generation of exciting young players are, receiving recognition  beyond the borders of the country. Two of these were included in this week’s show. Firstly, the Wojtek Masolewski Quintet with two tunes from their album Polka. This album went platinum in Poland but reached many other places too. The band have toured across twenty-one countries, with a recent performance at London’s Jazz Cafe. Their music respects and harks back to the traditions but it is also contemporary and infused with electronica. This was followed by EABS a septet of young Polish musicians, Again, they respect the past and combine traditional Polish jazz with new sounds; there is a turntable in the mix. They have been compared to some of the young musicians on the current London scene and like them are bringing jazz to some new and younger audiences.

The show ended with one of those contemporary, tough, genre-stretching tunes that are now appearing from many sources, in this case from the James Brandon Lewis Trio. They are soon to appear at the London Jazz Festival in November.

  1. Hexagonal – Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit from McCoy & Mseleku
  2. McCoy Tyner – African Village from Time for Tyner
  3. Bheki Mseleku – Celebration from Celebration
  4. Quasimode – Down in the Village from Down in the Village
  5. Wojtek Masolewski Quintet – Roma II from Polka
  6. Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet – Sunday from Polka
  7. EABS – Private Conversations VIII from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  8. James Brandon Lewis Trio – Y’All Slept from No Filter

Derek is listening to ….

Week ending 06 October 2018: different styles and more Randy Weston

Jazz covers a wide-ranging spectrum of music and we like to reach into all corners here on Cosmic Jazz, sometimes heading well outside the boundaries – as this week. Check out the music for yourself by clicking the MixCloud tab (left) and giving a listen.

Maisha are an exciting band of young UK jazz musicians led by drummer Jake Long. Live  – and certainly when I saw them – they have included our pianist of the moment, Sara Tandy, and the much feted saxophonist Nubya Garcia. There is also guitar, percussion and bass. The music has been described as  spiritual jazz and Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders are definite influences along with West African percussive sounds. Maisha have an album due for release titled There Is a Place in early November on Brownswood Recordings and the tune Osiris will be on it. We shall play more.

There are many, almost an extraordinary number, of excellent young bands in Poland. Very good many of them are too and it must be a very lively jazz scene. This week we featured EABS whose album Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda is one of many ways in which the Polish jazz scene pays tribute to one of its greats. EABS are ostensibly a jazz septet but featuring a turntablist marks them out as among the more unconventional new Polish bands and, as such, they are attracting a new audience to the music.

Swedish sax player/composer Jonas Kulhammer was included because, as happens frequently, this tune appeared on my shuffle songs and I had to play it. Presumably Homage to George Braith is dedicated to the New York sax player who, like Roland Kirk, could play multiple horns at once. Kulhammer has played in some distinguished company – for example, Carlos Garnett, Goran Kafjes, Mulatu Astatke (who we included in last week’s programme), Jason Moran and Chick Corea.

There was a further tribute to Randy Weston to follow on from another feature that was included last week. Neil’s choice came from the 1991 2CD release Spirits of Our Ancestors, and mine from another album, Tanjah, originally released in 1973.  The reverse of the 1995 CD re-release of Tanjah sums up Randy Weston’s approach in both these tunes and in much of his work when it describes him as the “original pan-Africanist and pan-Arabist in jazz”. In the interview with him transcribed in the accompanying booklet, Randy Weston states how “In the late fifties and early Sixties, it was all in the air: the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King… We had that kind of energy, and it inspired me to compose what was in the air”. Weston was a pioneering and important musician with a deep jazz legacy. Find out more about his black heritage explorations in this extract from All That Is, a portrait of Weston by French director Jacques Goldstein.

To end the show we featured an artist who’s a new discovery for us. Neil and I don’t know quite why it has taken us to find out about hip hop artist Akua Naru. I came across her when the aforementioned pianist Sara Tandy played a tune on a BBC radio show, commenting that she had played with Naru on tour. It is interesting to note that jazz trumpeter Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah appears on one of her albums. The presence of both these musicians suggests a jazz sensibility at the very least. Is Nag Champa Gold jazz? Probably not but we love it.

  1. Maisha – Osiris from There is a Place
  2. EABS – Pinguin VI from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  3. Jonas Kulhammer – Homage to George Braith from Gentlemen
  4. Randy Weston – Blue Moses from Spirits of Our Ancestors
  5. Randy Weston – Tanjah from Tanjah
  6. Akua Naru – Nag Champa Gold from Live & Aflame Sessions

Derek is listening to…..

Week ending 29 September 2018: conscious music and a tribute to Randy Weston

Music can lead you places. Cosmic Jazz this week began with a tribute – but that music and life of pianist Randy Weston inspired a programme of conscious music, some of it linking jazz to the African continent and the roots of this music. Click the Mixcloud tab left and join this important , soul-enriching and uplifting journey.

Randy Weston was born in 1926 and died died on 1 September this year. Raised in New York, he was conscious of his musical roots early on and began spending time in Africa – firstly, Nigeria and then Morocco to where he moved full time in the late 1960s. Weston was deeply influenced by the music he heard there, playing with Moroccan musicians and being inspired by African Liberation movements. The Spirits Of Our Ancestors was recorded in 1991 and the lineup included fellow distinguished musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Pharaoh Sanders and Idris Muhammad. The 2CD album is an eloquent tribute and homage to jazz music’s African musical ancestors with Weston’s approach to life and music encapsulated in the liner notes – which celebrate the universal musical language that transcends race, color and nationality. We shall play more.

From there, it seemed appropriate to include music that is rooted in Black/African conscious thought or has strong links to the roots of jazz. Michele Hendricks, daughter of singer Jon, produced a fine version ofMarvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a deceptively gentle commentary on  the black repression, the struggles for liberty and the Vietnam  War in the 1960s. The original version is jazz-inflected, but this one takes the jazz much further. You can find it on Jazz Dance Fusion, a compilation released last year by Manchester DJ Colin Curtis.

Here at Cosmic Jazz we never expected that Sons of Kemet would win the Mercury Music Prize – and they didn’t. The reporting of the event made little mention of them but we can only hope the messages from the album and the sales have now gone wider than before. The queen chosen for musical respect this week was academic, author and activist Angela Davis, who interestingly, is emeritus professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been long in the struggles and has survived attempts to jail her and to sack her, the latter by President Ronald Reagan.

It seemed appropriate, while remembering Randy Weston, to include further links to the continent of Africa. Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian musician whose distinctive music merges jazz and Latin sounds to the traditional music of his country. He is the founder of Ethio-jazz. He has travelled the world and trained in London, New York and Boston. Here he is heard with British musicians the Heliocentrics. British group Kokoroko travel the other way. They are part of the youthful and exciting scene of new jazz in the UK. Their tune from the compilation We Out Here pays tribute to Abusey Junction,  a place in the Gambia where musicians/griots meet and play.

One of the highs of playing music on a show like Cosmic Jazz is that we are not limited to new releases or to a pre-planned time schedule. We can play long tunes and there are two very long ones opn this week’s show. One was the Randy Weston tune that opened the show, the other was the one to end it. Cannonball Adderley’s live Black Messiah recording from the Troubador Club, Los Angeles in 1971 seemed to some up the hopes, aspirations and ambition of the music played this week.

  1. Randy Weston – African Cookbook from The Spirits Of Our Ancestors
  2. Michele Hendricks – What’s Going On from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  3. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics – Cha Cha from Inspiration, Information Vol 3
  5. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
  6. Cannonball Adderley – Black Messiah from Black Messiah

Derek is listening to……

  1. Roxanne Panufnik – Zen Love Song
  2. Julian Anderson – Fantasias
  3. Maisha – The Night Trance
  4. Anthony Joseph – Shine
  5. Spanish Harlem Orchestra – Sacala Bailar

Week ending 22 September 2018: musicians on the move

The life of a jazz musician is not always an easy one. You have to go where the music and the work is. Often this means settling in the capital city of the country where you live, but for some moving countries is the more dramatic alternative. If you check out the MixCloud tab this week you will find some examples of musicians who have moved out of their country of birth and – it would seem -have truly benefited from this international exchange.

We paid tribute to the late Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko two  weeks ago but his achievements deserve more recognition than one tune on the show. The ECM album Lontano brings back to me images and sounds similar to those I heard him play in a church in Norwich. Clear, pure, spiritual music that has you drifting away to the heavens but yet combines this effect with music that is deep and complex. In recent years Stanko had moved to Manhattan and became an important figure on the New York jazz scene, although he died back in his native Poland.

Jerzy Malek is a Polish trumpeter who has been on the scene for over twenty years and has been compared to Stanko and the other great Polish trumpeter we love on Cosmic Jazz, namely Piotr Wojtasik. The album Forevelle was recorded in Warsaw with Polish musicians and the tune on the show has a title that is a clever play on the capital city. Stalgia, his previous album, was a more international affair, involving musicians from the USA. Jerzy Malek is an artist we have come across through the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds and another much-loved artist from the same source is Swedish alto saxophonist Fredrik Kronkvist. He is unpredictable in his choice of material. His last album Afro-Cuban Supreme focused on Afro-Cuban jazz as a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, while a previous release (Monk Vibes) saw him provide new interpretations to classic Thelonious Monk compositions. The tune on this week’s show though is straight hard bop. It’s from an album entitled Brooklyn Playground – an indication of his journey from Europe to the US.

Sax player Luis Nubiola has made more changes than most musicians. He was born in Cuba, moved to Costa Rica and then on to Poland which is where, with Polish musicians, he recorded his album Global Friendship – clearly a subject he knows quite a lot about.

From time to time we feature an artist(s) over a few programmes. The most recent has been the incredible alto sax player Joe Harriott, a pioneer of free jazz in the UK and beyond. The more I have played, the more I have realised just how creative and amazing his music was. The album Abstract was recorded in 1961/1962 and still sounds like progressive jazz today. Any serious jazz lover has to listen to Joe Harriott. He played with some of the leading British jazz musiciams of the day – on this album pianist Pat Smythe, and drummers Bobby Orr and Phil Seaman. Harriott himself, though, moved from Jamaica to the UK as did his frequent collaborator, bass player Coleridge Goode, while trumpeter Shake Keane was born in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. One of the tunes on the album also has Guyanese-born bongo player Frank Holder. We featured Harriott’s take on the Sonny Rollins classic Oleo.

Vocalist Abbey Lincoln may have been born in the USA and lived only there until her death in 2010 – but her influence is felt much more widely.  Jazz singer, lyricist, actress and US Civil Rights activist, Lincoln was not only a distinctive voice in jazz but a powerful interpreter of the music. I came across her album Painted Lady, recorded with Archie Shepp, on my shelves and it felt right to hear her again. As ever, there is some powerful and distinctive sax blowing from Shepp on Stevie Wonder’s tune Golden Lady. 

The show ended with an uptempo number from another vocalist – Brazilian Eliane Elias. Born in Sao Paulo, Elias was married to trumpeter Randy Brecker and recorded with him. It’s her piano playing that has garnered her more recent attention and Latin Grammy Awards along the way for her 2016 album Made in Brazil and then again in 2017 for Dance of Time. We chose a track from the latter album featuring current and previous collaborators including veteran Brazilian guitarist Toquinho, trumpeter Randy Brecker and vibes player from Steps Ahead Mike Mainieri.

  1. Tomasz Stanko – Lontano Pt I from Lontano
  2. Jerzy Malek – War Saw from Forevelle
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist – Open Air from Brooklyn Playground
  4. Juis Nubiola – The New One from Global Friendship
  5. Joe Harriott – Oleo from Abstract
  6. Abbey Lincoln/Archie Shepp – Golden Lady from Painted Lady
  7. Eliane Elias – Sambou Sambou from Dance of Time

Derek is listening to…..

  1. Randy Weston and Billy Harper – Blues to Senegal
  2. Randy Weston – African Rhythms
  3. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Kamasi Washington – Street Fighter Mas
  5. Ntjam Rosie – Space of You

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 15 September: stretching jazz boundaries

This week, when you click our Mixcloud tab (left) you will find a Cosmic Jazz with more than its normal share of genre-stretching music. Although forced by tunes not arriving on the screen as planned, this nonetheless made for an interesting challenge and certainly some intriguing music.

We began with a piece from the Santuri Mugwisa International  Xylophone Group from Uganda on a Sam Jones Construct – which presumably means ‘remix’ – and released through the London label On the Corner. It is a fascinating and enticing sound that draws you into its rhythms. It was followed by Mr. Fingers a.k.a. house producer/DJ Larry Heard whose warm and lilting tune Tiger Lounge comes from an album with the cosmic-sounding title Cerebral HemispheresOur trio of what we might call alternative sounds for Cosmic Jazz was completed by Bitchin Bajas’ unusual interpretation of the Sun Ra tune Angels and Demons At Play with very long loops creating a hypnotic feel. Whilst this music is more closely linked to the work of minimalist pioneers like Terry Rile, the improvisational element is never far away. It’s further evidence that jazz continues to draw on inspiration from other contemporary musical sources. Check out this longform collaboration between Riley and world music trumpet visionary Don Cherry recorded live in 1975.

More contemporary music followed, this time from the UK. It was long overdue that I played Manchester’s GoGo Penguin, now on Blue Note records, with a selection from their latest album A Humdrum Star, titled after Carl Sagan’s reference to planet Earth on his celebrated TV series Cosmos. Appropriate again…GoGo Penguin are interesting, innovative and mesmerising – and what a bass line from Nick Blacka anchoring the track Strid, our selection for this week.

Piano/keyboard (or in this case Wurlitzer) player Joe Armon-Jones fitted in perfectly with the sounds so far. Jazz, yet not quite jazz for some listeners. His new album Starting Today includes many of the now well-known young UK players familiar to CJ listeners. They play on his record and he plays on theirs. Ragify features drummer Moses Boyd, guitarist, Oscar Jerome, saxophonists James Mollison and Nubya Garcia and trumpeter Dylan Howe.

Our last two tunes this week may have been more conventional, but there was nothing wrong with that – especially when the music included the beautiful and becalming playing of the Jamie Saft Quartet from their new release Blue Dream. We ended the show with another track from the excellent Familia disc which featured three generations of the O’Farrill and Valdes families – truly latin royalty.

  1. Mogwisa International Xylophone Group – Jinja Pearls from Santuri’s Embaire Umene EP
  2. Mr. Fingers – Tiger Lounge from Cerebral Hemispheres
  3. Bitchin Bajas – Angels and Demons at Play from Bajas Fresh
  4. GoGo Penguin – Strid from A Humdrum Star
  5. Joe Armon-Jones – Ragify from Starting Today
  6. Jamie Saft Quartet – There’s a Lull in My Life from Blue Dream
  7. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Father, mothers, sons, daughters from Familia Disc I

Neil is listening to…

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio