All posts by Derek

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…

Week ending 09 September 2018: worldwide jazz

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of inspiring tunes from spiritual/modal jazz to free form, jazz infused music from Latin America. Cosmic Jazz this week – as ever – maintained its reputation for playing jazz and jazz-related music from the past as well as the present and from across many international borders.

The journey started in Japan, but with a connection to the USA as well as the UK where the record was released. We have consistently recommended the Spiritual Jazz releases on Jazzman Records and – over the years – have featured many tracks on the show. Volume 8 is a 2CD set of music from Japan. The selection this week was from guitarist Shungo Sawada and his band playing a warm, spiritual and modal interpretation of the Wayne Shorter classic Footprints. A wonderful way to start the show.

It was appropriate to follow this with something from Wayne Shorter himself who coincidentally celebrated his 85th birthday last week. We didn’t go for his original recording of Footprints but the selection did come from a compilation album with that title. There’s nothing to add here to these important contributions other than to say any jazz lover needs to explore his music. Shorter is one of the foremost composers in modern jazz and his own new 3CD release, Emanon, which comes with a graphic novel authored by Shorter, himself a longtime science fiction and comic book fan, will be released next week on 14 September. Expect to hear tracks on upcoming Cosmic Jazz shows.

Last week we played a Joe Harriott tune inspiring us to feature more this week. The context was different, with this time Les Condon on trumpet, Pat Smythe on piano, Coleridge Goode on bass and the great Phil Seaman on drums. Coleridge Goode, like Joe Harriott, was another Jamaican exile who arrived Britain in 1934 to study in Glasgow, in his case long before the Windrush generation. He lived to the age of 100. Joe Harriott uses the tune on the show as a pretext to explain free form to his audience.

On last week’s show Harriott  featured as part of Michael Garrick’s Quintet and so it seemed appropriate to include another tune from Garrick, this time from his excellent album Troppo. Here on CJ we’ve talked about and played some excellent music from the new generations of British jazz musicians – but it’s easy to forget what superb British jazz was around in the 1960s and 1970s – as exemplified by the likes of Harriott and Garrick. Troppo (released in 1973) is highly recommended, with original vinyl copies fetching serious money these days. The musicians on the album were among the best around; the same Coleridge Goode and another link to Joe Harriott with Norma Winstone on vocals, Don Rendell on sax and flute, Trevor Tomkins on drums and Dave Green on bass. Art Themen on flute and sax and Henry Lowther on trumpet are both still active on the UK jazz circuit today with Lowther releasing a new album in January this year. Check out Lowther’s website for more details.

Events in Latin America tend to reach the UK news only when there have been unfortunate tales to tell. So, last week was the disastrous fire at the National Museum of Brazil and the problems of the currency and the economies in Argentina and Venezuela. It was time to hear something positive. What better than through music? The sequence started with Berklee College of Music trained Brazilian sax player Victor Assis Brasil and the Jobim tune Wave. You can find this track on the newly re-released FarOut album Esperanto which includes on the CD release both that album and the Toca Antonio Carlos Jobim release which featured Wave. The music is much more jazz than bossa nova and – had Assis Brasil lived longer than his 35 years – he would not be the forgotten figure he is today. It’s again thanks to the UK FarOut label that this music is being made available once more.

There is and never will be any apology for playing yet another selection from Jane Bunnett’s Spirits of Havana, especially as the tune was Song From Argentina.  The album, now released as a double CD, is another of those we recommend highly. Jane Bunnett is a soprano sax/flute player who back in 1991 travelled with her trumpet-playing husband to Cuba. There they joined up with some of the finest local musicians to record some excellent music, several years before the Buena Vista Social Club and produced, in my opinion, music that was far more interesting. Give it a listen – but better still buy/download the CD.

There was a bright ending from Grupo Batuque with a tune to be found on a further UK compilation, Brazilian Love Affair 5 – the final release in another excellent FarOut series which incorporated both original new material from current FarOut releases and classic era tracks from the 1960s onwards.

  1. Shungo Sawada – Footprints from Spiritual Jazz 8
  2. Wayne Shorter – The Three Marias from Footprints; the Life and Music of Wayne Shorter
  3. Joe Harriott – Joe Explains Freeform from Genius
  4. Michael Garrick – Sons of Art from Troppo
  5. Victor Assis Brasil – Wave from Esperanto
  6. Jane Bunnett – Song from Argentina from Spirits of Havana
  7. Grupo Batuque – Ida E Volta from Brazilian Love Affair 5

Derek is listening to …..

Week ending 01 September 2018: tribute to Tomasz Stanko (1942-2018)

It was a warm evening in May. I was seated in a large medieval church in the centre of Norwich, one of the UK’s most historic and beautiful cities, and the evening sun was streaming through the windows at the western end of the building. It was in this calm and peaceful setting that I heard Tomasz Stanko perform a few years back. The clear, pure spiritual sounds of his trumpet soared towards the heavens and the venue and the musicians blended in perfect harmony.

Tomasz Stanko, who died recently, was right up there with the best jazz musicians of our era. He played with distinguished musicians both in his home country of Poland and in the US, where he was a Manhattan resident from 2008. The tune on this week’s show was from the  album Polin. It was composed at the invitation of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and was performed at the opening ceremony of the permanent exhibition in 2014. The album includes Ravi Coltrane on sax and Cuban-born pianist David Virelles, it is important music.

It seemed appropriate to have a segment of important Polish musicians and that had to include pianist/composer Krzysztof Komeda. His album Astigmatic features Tomasz Stanko on trumpet. Stanko joined Komeda’s band in the 1960s. The album was selected for inclusion in the Penguin Jazz Guide which claims the album never fails to repay close attention and has an engrossing emotional charge that is almost physical. The tune Kattorna (apparently Swedish for female cats and dedicated to a Swedish friend) was also recorded once more Tomasz Stanko’s own quartet on the album Lontano.

The final piece of the Polish segment came from another Polish trumpeter we love on Cosmic Jazz – Piotr Wojtasik. Like Tomasz Stanko, he has played with some outstanding US jazz musicians. His album We Want to Give Thanks includes Reggie Workman on bass, (who Stanko played with too), Billy Hart on drums, George Cables on piano and Billy Harper on tenor sax. This is an impressive line-up. The tune Escape Party 3 was a fitting end to the sequence.

The show opened with Cecile McClorin Salvant, after the tune Something’s Coming appeared among my iPod shuffle songs during the week. Hearing the tune again reminded me of the range and versatility of her voice – what a fine singer! In addition, the strength of her backing musicians who are allowed scope to express themselves and travel off down unexpected paths. The tune – from musical West Side Story and with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Leonard Bernstein – was well timed as the centenary of Bernstein’s birth is being celebrated at this year’s BBC Proms season.

There was yet another connection to current times. The end of August sees Europe’s biggest Caribbean carnival come to Notting Hill, London and on the first Monday of September to Labor Day in New York. A number with the title Calypso Sketches seemed, therefore, to be timely. There is another connection, however, that evoked other memories. The tune was by the great free and innovative alto sax player Joe Harriott playing with the Michael Garrick Quintet. On trumpet was Shake Keane (a poet as well as a jazz musician). Both arrived in the UK from the Caribbean in 1952 – Joe Harriott from Jamaica and Shake Keane from St. Vincent & the Grenadines. As such, they were part of the Windrush Generation, whose sad and despicable treatment by the British Government has recently been uncovered.

From time to time I like to put into the mix an old tune that I love, even if I have played it before. This week it was Amsterdam After Dark from tenor sax player George Coleman. Hilton Ruiz is on piano, (check out his subtle insertions to the tune), Billy Higgins on drums and Sam Jones on bass. It is one of those feel good tunes with a wonderful melody – perfect to hum along to.

  1. Cecile McClorin Salvant – Something’s Coming from For One to Love
  2. Tomasz Stanko – Yankiel’s Lid from Polin
  3. Komeda Quintet – Kattorna from Astigmatic
  4. Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
  5. Joe Harriott – Calypso Sketches from Genius
  6. George Coleman – Amsterdam After Dark from Amsterdam After Dark

Neil is listening to…

This 36 minute selection was compiled by ECM producer Manfred Eicher and represents some of the best of Stanko’s work with this label. The playlist is as follows: Track 1: Morning Heavy Song – Leosia Track 2: Sleep Safe and Warm (Version 2) – Litania Track 3: Svantetic – Litania Track 4: … y después de todo – From The Green Hill Track 5: Litania – From The Green Hill Track 6: Song For Anja – Lontano

Week ending 25 August 2018 – catching up

In a show that lasts for an hour it will almost inevitably be difficult to include all the tunes you want, especially as here at CJ we like to draw upon jazz that is not only recent but from previous decades as well. This week was an attempt to catch up with some new music (with one exception) – and particularly tunes selected by my colleague Neil, thousands of miles away in Singapore.

The show began with yet another example of Polish jazz artists recording with a musician from another country. The band led by pianist Leszek Kulakowski, which includes US sax player Andy Middleton, includes trumpeter Jerzy Malek whom we have met before on Cosmic Jazz. The tune XX Century Memories is a long one that builds in intensity and excitement. It comes from the album Copy & Insert recorded in Gdansk at the XXIII Komeda Jazz Festival – an event which pays homage to one of Poland’s greatest jazz musicians, Krystof Komeda. The album is highly recommended and you can check it out at the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

We played another tune from the excellent album of Brazilian-infused jazz Palmares Fantasy from British saxophonist Sean Khan. He uses a number of musicians from Europe and Brazil, including the eccentric Hermeto Pascoal. This week’s selection was Your Way Not My Way, featuring European musicians – the legendary guitarist Jim Mullen from Scotland, the Italian born/London based double bass player Dario de Lecce and superb London based vocalist Heidi Vogel whose delivery on this tune is perfect.

It was then down to catching up on some of the selections chosen by Neil. There was the World Saxophone Quartet, whose Little Samba was a tenuous link to Sean Khan and then French outfit Palm Unit whose album pays tribute to France pianist, composer and arranger Jef Gilson, whom they feel deserves wider recognition. We agree – check out his albums. Gilson, who died in 2012 was a French pianist, composer, arranger and record label owner who notably in 1965 during the Antibes/Juan Les Pins festival opened for Coltrane and advised him backstage to perform the full suite of A Love Supreme. It was the only time Coltrane would play it onstage with his original quartet.

When Neil sent me notes for some of these tunes back in February 2018, he was very enthusiastic (and rightly so) about Makaya McCraven whom he described as “the drummer of the moment”. Well, has that moment now passed? You can judge. Neil also suggested that he could be called a “beat architect” – interesting. McCraven’s album In the Moment is a two CD set recorded live and then treated in the studio. I notice in the September edition of Jazzwise Magazine that he will be appearing at this year’s London Jazz Festival on Saturday 24 November, along with Cosmic Jazz favourite from the UK, sax player Nubya Garcia.

It was long overdue to play more from Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah and his album DiasporaScott is another of the current crop of artists from the younger generations who make important historical/political references in their music. The tune Completely features Elena Pinderhughes on flute and its distinctly contemporary sound is enhanced by a hip-hop feel to the drums.

From there it was a case of stretching the jazz boundaries – something we love to do here on Cosmic Jazz. Neil is a great champion of Emanative aka drummer Nick Woodmansey. He’s part of a London jazz scene that has experimented and expanded the territory to incorporate sounds beyond  instantly recognisable jazz. His new record Earth is ambitiously eclectic and includes support from pianist/keyboard player Jessica Lauren, whose music we have featured. Following this came XOA out of Brazil. Stay with this one: the tune begins with some electronica that may not be too acceptable to jazz listeners but it develops into an exciting Afrobeat (as opposed to the current Afrobeats) and jazz inspired workout.

One tune from the past ended our show this week. Travellin’ Man is a brief solo piano and kalimba piece from pianist Stanley Cowell – a co-founder of the wonderful  Strata East Records. The label recorded over fifty albums in the 1970s, including Gil Scott Heron’s classic Winter in America. If you have not yet discovered work on this label, you are missing out.

  1. Leszek Kulakowski – XX Century Memories from Copy & Insert
  2. Sean Khan feat. Heidi Vogel – Your Way Not My Way from Palmares Fantasy
  3. World Saxophone Quartet – Little Samba from Revue
  4. Palm Unit – San Remo from Hommage a Jef Gilson
  5. Makaya McCraven – In the Moment from In the Moment
  6. Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah feat Elena Pinderhughes – Completely from Diaspora
  7. Emanative – Heaven’s Mirror from Earth
  8. XOA – Mass from Mass/Mon Ecole
  9. Stanley Cowell – Travellin’ Man from Musa: Ancient Streams

Derek is listening to….

Week ending 18 August 2018 – old, new and even (sort of) classical

What do you want to see on an album cover? An aesthetically pleasing piece of artwork, a photo of the musicians or an image that grabs your attention? One of the records from which a tune of over sixteen minutes is included in this week’s Cosmic Jazz probably comes into the latter category. It is almost scary in appearance – see  for yourself. The cover, along with playing the music, was brought to my attention by staff at Soundclash Records in Norwich. The record  is Work, Money, Death by Leeds-based tenor saxophonist Tony Burkill.

The show this week includes the outstanding tune from Tony’s album, Beginning and End: an intense tune that builds and builds, with Tony’s sustained sax playing, the insistent rhythms of the Headingley Hand Choir and guest piano from Matthew Bourne (the jazz musician, not the dancer). It is good to see records emerging from across the UK and not just London. Manchester is well established through Gondwana records and Tony is not the only jazz musician to emerge from Leeds – the Roller Trio came out of the music college in the city.

The show opened with two of the artists that over the years rank among the most-played on Cosmic Jazz. The first came from Carmen Lundy, who over a number of years has been right up there among our favourites. She is widely respected but does she get the veneration she deserves, does she perform in the UK as often as we could expect? Probably not.  You’re Not In Love is one of those tunes which illustrate her strength of purpose not only through the lyrics but also her voice which at the same time has a sultry, sensuous quality. It is a live version from a concert recorded at the Madrid Theatre, Los Angeles in February 2005.

The second artist in this category is pianist Keith Jarrett from another live album After the Fall recorded in Newark, New Jersey in late 1998 but released in 2018. The selection this week is a classic tune When I Fall In Love, the first version of which was recorded in 1952. Here Jarrett is accompanied by classic jazz musicians – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums. Recommended.

The cover of the Jamie Saft Quartet was mentioned last week. Perhaps best ignored for the oblique, idiosyncratic words but the visuals are interesting. The most important thing, though, is the music. It is really good and, at times, outstanding. One of the very best tunes on the album Blue Dream (available on CD or double vinyl) on the excellent Rare Noise label is Words and Deeds. Listen out as the tenor sax of Bill McHenry comes blasting in – a powerful moment.

There a further reggae connectionon the show this week – this time from Nat Birchall, another sax player from the North of England. He has always cited dub reggae as one of his true inspirations and for his album Sounds Almighty has enlisted the support of veteran Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon, whose contributions to vintage ska back in the day are legendary. Also linked to the Caribbean, although more in name and political intent than through the music, is the highly recommended album from Nicholas Payton – Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Nicholas Payton is one of an increasing number of black jazz musicians who are using their music as a vehicle to express political viewpoints.

The classical connection comes from John Coltrane from the newly-released lost album Both Directions At Once. The tune Vilia Take 3 is Coltrane’s improvisation of a piece from the operetta The Merry Widow by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Christian Lehar.

The show ends with another contribution from the British New Wave. The excellent Maisha from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood compilation We Out Here exemplifies the approach of these new groups.

  1. Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Live at the Madrid
  2. Keith Jarrett – When I Fall in Love from After the Fall
  3. Jamie Saft Quartet – Words and Deeds from Blue Dream
  4. Nat Birchall – Wisdom Dub from Sounds Almighty
  5. Nicholas Payton – Jazz is a Four Letter Word from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  6. Tony Burkill – Beginning and End from Work, Money, Death
  7. John Coltrane – Vilia Take 3 from Both Directions At Once
  8. Maisha – Inside the Acorn from We Out Here

Week ending 11 August 2018: new versions and jazz classics

It is interesting how some music is more appropriate to re-interpretation than others. We have all heard some awful cover versions, in fact, some musicians seem to make a living out of it. Classic Brazilian music, however, does not suffer from this. I have found countless examples of different recordings of the same Brazilian tune – both past and present – and most of them seem to work. The show began this week with a fine example of this. Firstly, an original 1979 recording of Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser (All That You Could Be) from guitarist/composer Lo Borges, and then a 2018 version from London saxophonist Sean Khan with, among others, Brazilian singer Sabrina Malheiros on vocal, Jim Mullen (the veteran guitarist from Scotland) and Andy Noble prominent on Fender Rhodes and piano. The original is a heavenly, soaring piece while new version is exciting and sounds like one of those interpretations you would like to see live. Compare both with the first appearance of this classic in 1972 on the classic Clube da Esquina album from Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges. If you don’t have this masterpiece – invest now…

There was a reference to Brazil in the title of the next tune, Recado Bossa Nova from Bulgarian pianist Kostov Panta Konrad and his trio comprising a Polish drummer and bass player. Their album manages to combine original compositions with interpretations – and good ones too – of classical composers Albinoni, Chopin and Gershwin.

Japan is never far away from the programme and this week’s contribution came from DJ/musical director/former member of United Future Organisation Toshio Matsuura. It was from an album released by the Gilles Peterson’s label Brownswood under the direction of UK drummer Tom Skinner.  Change a really interesting take on Bugge Wesseltoft’s tune from his superb album of the same name. Compare with the original here.

In fact, Tom Skinner was to appear later in the programme as a member of Sons of Kemet, the band led by sax player Shabaka Hutchings. This is such an original and politically significant album. The tuba of Theon Cross is prominent and provides almost a New Orleans sound but there is much else going on – in particular, the overt political messages as Shabaka Hutchings identifies some of the queens that are important to him. The example this week was Nanny of the Maroons. It has not always been recognised that the enslaved in the Caribbean resisted and fought their colonial oppressors. The Maroons were a community of the formerly enslaved who escaped to the hills of Jamaica, where they lived in freedom and resisted the British. Nanny of the Maroons was one of the leaders of that resistance.

Some of us can remember record sleeve notes that reached the land of the fanciful (to put it mildly) in terms of the way they described the music. There is a recent album cover where the notes verge towards this. Apparently “They’re on a chessboard, grading on, trading off”. Unlike, however, many of the past examples, the music is excellent. The album in question is Blue Dream by the Jamie Saft Quartet. Great musicians led by Jamie Saft on piano. Bill McHenry on tenor sax, Bradley Christopher Jones on acoustic bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Trivia point: Saft is undoubtedly the man with the longest beard in jazz.

The rest of the programme included another contribution from the lost John Coltrane album Both Directions At Once. It was a version of Impressions – surely one of ‘trane’s best, whichever interpretation you hear. That album will continue to feature on the programme in the coming weeks and probably beyond.

Someone whose sound suggests that he was influenced by Coltrane is Tony Burkill – but are there many tenor sax players who have not been? Burkill hails from Leeds, UK with contributions on his album Work, Money, Death from the Headingley Hand Choir, Neil Innes and Matthew Bourne. We followed up with more British music from the Ezra Collective, and then an upbeat ending from Finnish saxophonist Timo Lassy.

  1. Lo Borges – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from A Via-Lactea/Blue Brazil 1
  2. Sean Khan – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from Palmares Fantasy
  3. Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – Recado Bossa Nova from The Conversation
  4. Toshio Matsuura – Change from LOVEPLAYDANCE – 8 Scenes from the Floor
  5. Jamie Saft Quartet – Mysterious Arrangement from Blue Dream
  6. Tony Burkill – Work, Money, Death from Work, Money, Death
  7. Ezra Collective – Pure Shade from We Out Here
  8. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons from Your Queen is a Reptile
  9. John Coltrane – Impressions from Both Directions at Once
  10. Timo Lassy – Northern Express from Lassy Moves

Derek is listening to…..

  1. The Brothers Johnson – Strawberry letter 23
  2. Slave – You And Me
  3. The Blackbirds – Walking in Rhythm
  4. Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You
  5. Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine

Week ending 04 August 2018: reggae, Braziliance and a jazz master

This week’s show has music I am really excited about. I enjoy every show but, almost inevitably, the music in some is extra special. It was one of those weeks.

After having just acquired the music there was only one place to start – the recently released ‘lost’ album from John Coltrane. What  a joy for a new album to be released from the classic quartet of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Both Directions At Once has 90 minutes of previously unheard music recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio on 6 March, 1963. The tapes of this album were found only recently in the possession of the family of Coltrane’s first wife Juanita Naima – the Impulse! label had no copies. There are versions of well-known pieces from the Coltrane repertoire such as Impressions and One Up, One Down but two of the tunes are untitled and it was one of these – Untitled original 11386 that was included in this week’s show. It should not be necessary to say this but at Cosmic Jazz we’d simply say that this album is essential for any jazz lover.

Often on the show I play tunes that have appeared on my iPod during the week and to which I give particular notice. This week it was another group discovered through Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the Audio Feeling Trio led by pianist Pawel Kaczmarczk. They have been described as like EST with Polish melancholy. Certainly on the tune Along the Milky Way you can hear the EST influences, but I’m not sure about that melancholy.

My favourite contemporary album of the moment comes from UK alto & soprano sax/flute player Sean Khan. Palmares Fantasy is released on the wonderful UK label Far Out and was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with additions in London. The album includes Brazilian royalty, featuring Hermeto Pascoal playing a variety of instruments – for example, Fender Rhodes and vocals on the title tune and melodica on Said, the two tunes played this week. There is also Azymuth drummer Ivan ‘Mamao’ Conti, described by Far Out publicity as Brazil’s answer to Tony Allen, plays on several tunes and Sabrina Malheiros is on vocals for a magnificent version of a classic Brazilian tune. There are also appearances from a doyen of the UK jazz scene, Glasgow-born guitarist Jim Mullen and former Cinematic Orchestra vocalist Heidi Vogel. It is essentially a jazz album but the sounds and feelings of Brazil are definitely in there.

It was after Sean Khan that the reggae  began to appear. Anyone who knows me can vouch for my long-held love of reggae and any dub approaches in jazz-related music gets my attention. So it was great news to hear that Sons of Kemet – the band led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings – have been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize this year. Sadly they will probably end up as the token jazz-related group. [Neil notes] Hmm – I’m not so sure! With a relatively weak line up of competitors and the phenomenal popular interest in new British jazz, I think this could be the year when jazz breaks through. If so, then the will be the first ever jazz winner since the competition began in 1992. Whatever the outcome, it’s good news for sales of all the nominated albums. Watch this space…

Your Queen is a Reptile provides a powerful statement on British colonialism, history and nationality with Shabaka Hutchings creating tune titles which are a list of the ‘queens’ important to him. The queen in this week’s show is Mamie Phipps Clarke, who researched the detrimental effects of segregation on African-American school children. The toasting input came from Congo Natty.

Dub sounds continued with Mollison Dub, a track from young British pianist Joe Armon-Jones and his album Starting Today. The record includes contributions from Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, who appear also on Your Queen is a Reptile. Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are no strangers to reggae influences in their music and a track from their 2017 album Journey to the Mountain of Forever was a fitting end to this week’s show.

  1. John Coltrane – Untitled Original 11386 from Both Directions At Once
  2. Pawel Kazmarcz Audio Feeling Trio – Along the Milky Way from Deconstruction (Vars and Kaper).
  3. Sean Khan featuring Hermeto Pascoal – Palmares Fantasy from Palmares Fantasy.
  4. Sean Khan feat Hermeto Pascoal – Moment of Collapse from Palmares Fantasy
  5. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Mamie Phipps Clarke from Your Queen is a Reptile
  6. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
  7. Binker and Moses – Trees On Fire from Journey to the Mountain of Forever

Derek is listening to…

  1. Trio HLK & Evelyn Glennie – Extra Sensory Perception part ii
  2. Etana – Destination (Reggae Forever)
  3. Beres Hammond – I’m Alive
  4. Protoje – Who Knows feat Chronixx
  5. Timo Lassy – Northern Express (live)