All posts by Derek

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)

Week ending 28 July 2018: some recent favourites

This was a pre-recorded show and on such occasions I tend to select some Cosmic Jazz favourites from albums we have played before. This week proved to be no exception.

We regularly celebrate emerging jazz artists from across the globe on this show and so we began with two contemporary Blue Note artists – Otis Brown III and Marcus Strickland – and both found themselves in the company of more well known CJ regulars. The 2014 (was it really that long ago?) release on from drummer Otis Brown III The Thought Of You has been a particular favourite and features some notable guests including vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Keyon Harrold – whose recent solo record we have featured – and keyboard player Robert Glasper. It’s tough, contemporary urban jazz. Next up was saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his 2016 album Twi-Life which – surprise, surprise, also included Keyon Harrold and Robert Glasper, this time alongside regular Robert Glasper Trio drummer Chris Dave and a rising star on the skins, Charles Haynes (no relation), who occasionally steps outside of the jazz world to tour with the likes of Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

There were records from two trumpeters on the show this week. First up was the long-established Polish musician Piotr Wojtasik, whose music we continue to play on the show simply because it deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Wojtasik is a star who is not heard anything like as frequently as he should be on UK (and US) radio. All the more inexcusable when he surrounds himself (as here) with musicians of the calibre of Gary Bartz, Vincent Herring, Billy Harper, George Cables, Reggie Workman and Billy Hart. Yes – all appear on this album! As always, you can track it down at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Much more celebrated is US trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who, on his album When the Heart Emerges Glistening, did not surround himself with a bunch of starry sidemen but rather introduced a complete band – and it feels like it too. Although piano star Jason Moran (he of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet) produced the album and appears on a couple of tracks, this album has reflective, sensitive playing throughout from all personnel. Akimusire has continued to plough his own furrow: his 2017 live 2CD collection is as uncompromising as ever with alternately introspective and fiery music that bears extended listening. Like many jazz artists before him, Akinmusire appears to have been inspired by his recording venue – New York’s iconic Village Vanguard.

As often on Cosmic Jazz, we changed the tone with a Brazilian sequence. Singer/songwriter Sabrina Malheiros – daughter of the Azymuth bass player Alex Malheiros – produces cool but joyful samba/ jazz influenced music, and her record Clareia (released on the UK’s Far Out label in 2017) is a wonderful example of the genre. The record was produced in London by Daniel Maunick, son of Incognito founder Bluey Maunick, and a hit (again) at this year’s SingJazz Festival. Malheiros was born in 1979 so she may not now be a young Brazilian voice but she’s certainly the junior of a clear influence on her sound, Joyce Moreno. Here on Cosmic Jazz we admit to something of an infatuation with Joyce’s music. And – by the way – it’s not that which allows first name familiarity: in the tradition of her compatriots (Ceu, Cibelle and Simone), Joyce has gone by her first name since her earliest recordings. Born in 1948, her classic album Clareana was released a year after Sabrina Malheiros was born and she has continued recording for Far Out since the 1990s. The tune this week came from one of her more recent recordings for the label, the excellent Raiz. All of her work is highly recommended and there is a fine Mr Bongo compilation available to introduce her earlier music. To end our Brazilian sequence we featured another Brazilian veteran – singer/songwriter/guitarist Jorge Ben, master of an afrosamba style that has influenced many more contemporary Brazilian artists. Boiadero comes from one of Ben’s more disco-influenced albums (check the cover!) but is still a great tune. Check out an interesting Ben meets Fela with rap track in Neil’s listening choices (below) and for more Jorge Ben, new listeners should go straight to a mid70s classic, simply called Ben. It features two of his most enduring compositions Taj Mahal and Fio Marahvila, a musical ode to the 1970s star of the Brazilian soccer team Flamengo.

To end the show this week, it was back to the USA and another favourite. Jazzmeia Horn is a young singer born in Dallas, Texas but now  based in New York. She won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015 and her excellent first album A Social Call emerged last year. It may be a record of jazz standards, but it is how Horn – ably supported by some superb musicians – transformed these tunes that made this album a real 2017 highlight.

  1. Otis Brown III – Stages of Thought from The Thought Of You
  2. Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Mirrors from Nihil Novi
  3. Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
  4. Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to My Unborn Daughter from When the Heart Emerges Glistening
  5. Sabrina Malheiros – Celebrar from Clareia
  6. Joyce Moreno – Desafinado/Aquarela do Brasil from Raiz
  7. Jorge Ben – Boiadero from Salve Simpatia
  8. Jazzmeia Horn – Lift Every Voice and Sing/Moanin’ from A Social Call

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 July 2018: the British scene is hot!

Cosmic Jazz explores the world of improvised music – as always, click on the Mixcloud arrow (left) to hear some great music and then check out our links to hear more and download or buy vinyl and CD. As we often do, we’re championing music from independent sources rather than the more usual global suppliers.

We began with the Jelle van Giel Group from Antwerp, Belgium and a track from their debut 2015 album Songs for Everyone. Van Giel on drums leads a septet with trumpeter Carlo Nardozza sometimes reminding us of Matthew Halsall – those same long legato lines over a modal rhythm base. The atmospheric guitar on this track is from Tim Finoulst. Check out this album and their second release The Journey at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Strongly recommended – have a listen to music from both albums here on Soundcloud. Guitar and trumpet also features in the second track this week – this time from Poland and Emil Miszk, one of the many young up and coming musicians making waves in European jazz at the moment. The guitarist in Miszk’s Sonic Syndicate octet is Michał Zienkowski.

The music from UK based harpist Alina Bzhezhinska may sound familiar – it’s her take on Alice Coltrane’s Blue Nile, coincidentally also played in an excellent version by the aforementioned Matthew Halsall. Again, you can find that version here on Soundcloud. Supporting Bzhezhinska on this debut album released earlier this year is the excellent Toni Kofi on soprano sax.

So then on to two stars of the current UK jazz renaissance, Binker and Moses. Whilst their name might suggest everything from a betting agency to a team of dodgy solicitors, Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are two of the most influential musicians on the scene. After winning the MOBO Best Jazz Act in 2015, the pair have now appeared on countless releases and are festival headline acts. And it’s no wonder when they can conjure up a sound like this – The Birth of Light is Moses Boyd’s opening drum solo from their most recent album Alive in the East?, recorded live in June 2017 at Total Refreshment Centre in East London with sax legend Evan Parker (among others) in support. It’s worth listening to the whole album as one piece – check it out and download here from Bandcamp.

Staying in the UK, up next is the excellent Jessica Lauren and a track from her 2018 release Almeria. Lauren is joined by more stalwarts from the UK scene – the baritone saxophone of Tamar ‘Collocutor’ Osborn and percussion from Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and drummer Cosimo Keita Cadore. And, of course, you know where this excellent new album can be found – right here on Bandcamp. Staying firmly grounded in East London but with a worldwide sensibility is Nick Woodmansey, a UK drummer recording as Emanative (photo above. His long-awaited album is another recent release – and it doesn’t disappoint. There are African, Indian and Middle Eastern influences and a galaxy of contributors – including Idris Ackamoor of US spiritual jazz legends The Pyramids, ex-Fela keyboard player (but Hackney-born) Dele Sosimi, key protagonist from Manchester’s jazz scene Nat Birchall, India-raised Ninja Tune artist Sarathy Korwar,  The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto and Flying Lotus collaborator Ahu. Woodmansey notes on the Bandcamp site (of course!) that I remember reading something Sun Ra said that has stuck with me. For most cultures and tribes music is not about the technical quality but it’s about expression, communication and the joy of playing. For me it’s about the vibe rather than technical perfection – if it sounds good, it is good. And, as jazz artists through the decades have demonstrated, this spirit is at the heart of the music. Use the Bandcamp link to listen to and buy this excellent example of all that’s best in new British jazz.

You can clearly hear that spirit in our final track this week from Singapore’s finest, The Steve McQueens, on a tune from their most recent Terrarium album. More atmospheric guitar here – this time from the superb Andrew Lim. Vocalist Ginny Yip is adept with the jazz standards as her own compositions as evidenced in a recent live performance.  In fact, she’s said that her favourite singer is Betty Carter – and you can hear it in her voice. Carter is perhaps not as well known as she should be – for a taste, check out Neil’s listening choices this week. The Steve McQueens will be premiering their new album here in Singapore next month – watch this space.

  1. Jelle van Giel Group – A New Beginning from Songs For Everyone
  2. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Hate No More from Sonic Syndicate
  3. Alina Bzhezhinska – Blue Nile from Inspiration
  4. Binker and Moses – The Birth of Light from Alive in the East
  5. Jessica Lauren – Kofi Nomad from Almeria
  6. Emanative feat. Nat Birchall and Liz Elensky – Reflection from Earth
  7. The Steve McQueens – Like Coltrane from Terrarium

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 14 July 2018: Brazil and beyond

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of music in this week’s show. Cuba, USA, Brazil, Poland, Japan, France and the UK are all represented.

Our first tune is a family affair. Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill, along with pioneers Mario Bauza and Machito, were leaders in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz music. Bebo was a composer and pianist and Chico a composer and bandleader and now their sons have worked together to perform in concert and then to record as a tribute to their fathers. In this 2CD set even a third generation – their respective children – feature on the second CD. Ecucaion was composed by Bebo Valdes and has both Arturo and Chucho on piano. The CD notes describe it as demonstrating the elegant compositional style of Bebo with a rich soaring melody, sophisticated arrangement and lush harmonies. It is hard to disagree.

Our CJ music stayed Latin but shifted to Brazil. Wilson Simonal was a singer from Rio de Janeiro and Nana, recorded in 1964, is one of those Brazilian tunes that you wish had been embellished and lengthened. The instrumental break is exciting but I find myself wishing the musicians had been given the freedom to continue.  Although short and very sweet it’s a wonderful tune, and one that has you humming along and tapping your feet. Keyboard player/composer/arranger  Marcos Valle came next. Throughout his long career he has had a wide range of influences – bossa, soul, pop, electronica – but always with a Brazilian spirit. His music has been recorded by several Brazilian artists including Wilson Simonal. His excellent 2001 release Escape on the British Far Out label has some electronica moments but is a strong and recommended release that really captures Valle’s compositional qualities. Our Brazilian sequence this week ended with a jazzy piece recorded in 1968 by alto sax player and clarinetist Paula Moura who appeared on Cannonball Adderley’s 1962 Bossa Nova release and recorded music through to his death in 2010. This is his take on Milton Nascimento’s classic Tardes – try this version with Wayne Shorter from the excellent Native Dancer album.

The show continues to feature what appears to be the endless stream of exciting, young musicians from Poland. Emil Miszk is a trumpeter who leads the wonderfully named eight-piece Sonic Syndicate. The tune Chorale (Ballad No. 31) has a beautiful soaring chorale effect with Miszk’s trumpet at the head taking the lead. It was quite a change from the music of Brazil but its rapturous sounds soon take you to other interesting places. We followed this with more Polish music from the Confusion Project trio. The album Primal is divided into chapters and also takes you on a journey – this time to follow your instincts to discover primordiality!  Deep, soul-searching music.

There was a Polish-British connection with the piece from Alina Bzhezinska, a harpist brought up in Poland but now based in London, where she teaches harp at Goldsmith’s College. Bzhezinska is accompanied on her debut album Inspiration by British musicians – the fine and seemingly these days ever present saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer John Prime – on this version of another Coltrane favourite, his original composition After the Rain. This beautiful tune has been recorded by many jazz artists – compare with this respectful tribute from guitarist John McLaughlin (which features original Coltrane quartet drummer Elvin Jones vocalising over his kit).

Traditional British folk music is not something one would usually associate with jazz, Japan or spirituality but there’s a long traditional in jazz of improvising from traditional melodies – think of John Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves, for example – and these three elements certainly come together in a track from the excellent new(ish) Jazzman compilation Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan. The quartet Four Units deliver their take on that traditional folk club favourite Scarborough Fair – and very good it is too.

We ended Cosmic Jazz this week with Kamasi Washington and another track from his latest Heaven and Earth release. It’s very encouraging to see both this jazz album and the John Coltrane reissue Both Directions at Once placed high in worldwide music charts. The jazz renaissance continues apace!

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Ecuacion from Familia: Tribute to Bebo + Chico
  2. Wilson Simonal – Nana from Blue Brazil 2
  3. Marcos Valle – O India E o Brasil from Escape
  4. Paulo Moura Hepteto – Das Tardes Mas SOS from Mensagem/Bossa Jazz
  5. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Confusion Project – Upstream from Primal
  7. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration
  8. Four Units – Scarborough Fair from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  9. Kamasi Washington – Can You Hear Him from Heaven and Earth

Derek is listening to …..

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 07 June 2018: Kamasi Washington – then and now

Musician and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

This week Cosmic Jazz provided a spiritual and religious experience both in the title of the tunes and the feel of the music,  featuring deep, reflective music for both body and soul.

If you ever wondered what Kamasi Washington was playing before he became such a jazz superstar you can find out from a record released in 2008. In 2005, the birthday of Thelonious Monk (10 October), conductor and saxophonist Jesse Sharp welcomed a group of Los Angeles musicians to the Californian Institute of the Arts in Leimert Park to a musical gathering that reflected spirit of Harold Tapscott’s celebrated Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra.  It was a large group of musicians, both young and old, some of whom had played with Tapscott himself and included some names well-known to Cosmic Jazz – Dwight Trible, Azar Lawrence, Phil Ranelin – along with a young Kamasi Washington and his current pianist Brandon Coleman. The outcome was a superb record titled The Gathering which included a total of twenty-four musicians laying down some inspirational jazz. Released ten years ago,  it was the opening track that began this week’s show. Peyote Song III was written by Jesse Sharp in the 1970s and inspired by an, er, ‘mystical session’ with native Americans in New Mexico.

Sharp encouraged this gathering of musicians to take pride in their history and culture – “it keeps the spirit of the ancestors alive,” he affirmed. The younger ones were paired with older musicians “to preserve tradition and at the same time create something new.” Brandon Coleman and Kamasi Washington were among those younger ones but the spirit that imbued that historic session is undoubtedly present in the music you can hear in Washington’s The Epic set from 2016 and now his new release Heaven and Earth. We featured The Space Traveller’s Lullaby from the Heaven disc.

Alice Coltrane and her husband John have often been described as leaders and pioneers  of what might be called spiritual jazz. This was particularly through their interest and exploration of Indian music and religion. So it seemed appropriate in this week’s show to include an Alice Coltrane track from her Transcendence record – music merging Indian scales with jazz that ends up sounding like a service of joyous devotion.

Angelus Domini literally translates as the angel of the lord and is the Roman Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation. Traditionally this was held at 6 am and 6 pm and the angelus bell called people to prayer. Angelus Domini, therefore, invokes religious imagery but is also the title of a tune from the Polish Oles brothers, who play drums and double bass together with the German vibraphone player Christopher Dell. The chosen track comes from their record of jazz interpretations of music from the Polish contemporary composer Henryk Gorecki, who died in 2010. Most famous for his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Gorecki achieved huge popular success with audiences all round the world following the release of a recording of the symphony which featured soprano Dawn Upshaw.  You can hear the Lento e Largo movement here performed by Isabel Bayrakdaraian with the Sinfonietta Cracovia, conducted by John Axelrod. Listening to Angelus Domini is a similarly moving experience as befits the title and the intentions of the original.  All the music on this new release (called Gorecki Ahead) draws you into a meditative and reflective mood with its depth and meaning. Seek it out at Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

We ended the show this week with two groups informing us that The Creator Has a Master Plan. Firstly, French band Palm Unit whose record pays homage to French pianist Jef Gilson, born Jean-François Quiévreux and his Palm record label.  Gilson’s music was influenced by bebop, free jazz and West African sounds together with the unique music of Madagascar where Gilson spent several years at the end of the 1960s. He’s undoubtedly a musician who should be better known for as a talent spotter, Gilson may well have been the equal of Miles Davis, In the 60s, he introduced the jazz world to Henri Texier (who joined his orchestra when he was only sixteen), Jean-Luc Ponty, Michel Portal and Eddy Louiss along with many other celebrated French instrumentalists. Gilson was the man young American musicians in Paris turned to for help and collaboration. Lloyd Miller, Nathan Davis, Woody Shaw, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Coleman, Sahib Shihab, Hal Singer, Byard Lancaster and David Murray all recorded or toured with Gilson during their time in France. For more on Jef Gilson check out this feature on Bandcamp.

In 1965, during the Antibes/Juan Les Pins festival, it was Gilson who opened for John 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.

This new Palm Unit recording – Chant Inca – includes uKanDanZ’s saxophonist Lionel Martin, keyboardist Fred Escoffier from Le Sacre du Tympan, drummer Philippe ‘Pipon’ Garcia (who played with the Erik Truffaz Quartet), and special guest Del Rabenja, who played alongside Gilson in Madagascar on the valiha harp. We ended the show with another version of this Pharoah Sanders classic from The Brooklyn Funk Essentials. This  was more up-tempo, possibly less devotional in sound but brought a fitting and joyous end to the show.  To compare these two versions with Sanders, check out the 32 minute original from the album Karma recorded in 1969 and – to complete your listening pleasure – you might also like Carlos Santana exploring his jazz roots with his take from the Lotus live album (complete 3SACD version).  Both recordings have Leon Thomas on vocals.

  1. The Gathering – Peyote Song III from Leimert Park: Roots and Branches of Los Angeles Jazz
  2. Kamasi Washington – The Space Travellers Lullaby from Heaven of Heaven and Earth
  3. Alice Coltrane – Bhaja Govindam from Transcendence
  4. Oles Brothers and Christopher Dell – Angelus Domini from Gorecki Ahead
  5. Palm Unit – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Chant Inca, Hommage a Jef Gilson
  6. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Cool and Steady and Easy

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 June 2018: new music from Poland and Japan

Listen via the MixCloud tab to hear music from two of the countries that feature regularly here on Cosmic Jazz – Poland and Japan. Thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds for great new sounds from Poland and to Jazzman Records for the latest in their Spiritual Jazz series – Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – which we sampled at the end of this week’s show.

CJ began though, with one of those numbers that appeared on my iPod and made me determined to play it on the show. This was from another album available at Steve’s (he stocks much more than Polish music) from Belgian drummer Jelle Van Giel. Tiffany’s Dodo is one of those tunes you want to hum to yourself – it is tuneful, melodic and uplifting, brassy and yet carefully restrained. Once  heard it gets to you, in  the best possible way.

The 1980-90s jazz dance scene in London was enlivened by a number of groups from outside the UK – most notably United Future Organization (UFO). Their take on  Frank Foster’s classic Loud Minority was one of those hot jazz dance/nu-jazz numbers from back in the day – released as a single in 1992 and on album in 1993. I can even remember it being played in a village hall up country in South-West France as music to which local young people presented a dance performance. It still sounds fresh and is definitely still danceable. A key member of that group and producer of that album  (along with Frenchman Raphael Sebbag) was Toshio Matsuura. He left the group in 2002 but now has his own material out, which continues the tradition of a jazz basis with more than a nod to the dance-floor, hence the album title (see below). Neil notes: I first heard this track on the radio and thought it was strangely familiar – and yes, it is Matsuura’s take on Bugge Wesseltoft’s classic Change. The album also features classics like Rotary Connection’s Black Gold Of The Sun (feat. Daymé Arocena), Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma epic Do The Astral Plane and an excellent take on Carl Craig’s At Les. Perhaps best of all is that the band assembled for this recording are all members of the new London jazz scene – Yussef Dayes, Yazz Ahmed and Nubya Garcia – all under the direction of drummer and arranger Tom Skinner.

Next up on the show was an interesting and varied Polish sequence. including another tune from the excellent Lukasz Juzko Quartet. The music has the same effect as the Jelle Van Giel tune above. Juzko’s tenor sax is well to the fore, as are the gospel and soul influences, music that is warm and comforting and good for body and soul.

Kostov Panta Konrad is a Bulgarian pianist with a Grammy award-winning rhythm section. The tune Dizzy Con Carne Roots – great title! – is an original composition but also on the album are jazz interpretations of classical pieces from Albinoni, Chopin and Gershwin. Quite a mix!

There was another link to jazz interpretations of classical music. The Oles brothers (one a drummer, the other on double bass) have combined with German vibraphone player Christopher Dell firstly to re-interpret the music of Polish jazz musician Krysztof Komeda on Komeda Ahead, but now on Gorecki Ahead to re-interpret the music of Polish classical composer Henryk Gorecki. Very interesting it is too. On Old Polish Music Dell hammers out a great, pounding vibraphone lead with superb,  back-up from the Oles Brothers rhythm section.

Szymon Lukowski is an award-winning sax player, accompanied by Austrian guitarist Hannes Piepler – collaboration by musicians from across European borders being another feature of this week’s show. The quintet is completed with vibes, as above, marimba and bass – an innovative combination. Seventh Sense from the album Hourglass has a pleasing tone, with percussive drumming in the background.

The final contribution from Poland, or perhaps Poland and more, came from sax player Maciej Sihkala and his Septet. This is another live recording from Gdansk, to follow that of the previous week. The title A Bit Like Theolonius says it all.

Finally, it was back to Japan. One of the long-time Cosmic Jazz favourites has been the tune Watarase from pianist Fumio Itabashi. I have a 2CD album of different versions of this Japanese folk tune – most performed by Itabashi in different groups. The final version on this excellent compilation is included on the latest Spiritual Jazz compilation, Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – another re-issue from this jazz-obsessed country. May the trend continue.

  1. Jelle Van Giel Group – Tiffany’s Dodo from Songs For Everyone
  2. United Future Organization – Loud Minority from Loud Minority
  3. Toshio Matsuura – Change from LovePlayDance: Scenes From the Floor
  4. Lukasz Juzko Quintet – One or Few from First Breath
  5. Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – The Dizzy Con Carne Roots from The Conversations
  6. Oles Brothers & Christopher Dell – Old Polish Music from Gorecki Ahead
  7. Szymon Lukowski Quintet – Seventh Sense from Hourglass
  8. Maciej Sikala Septet – A Bit Like Theolonius from Live in Club Zak
  9. Takeo Moriyama – Watarase  from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

 

Week ending 02 June 2018: jazz from UK and Poland

This week there was only one way to start the show. In the previous week I had been to three shows which represented the very best of the new wave of jazz and jazz-related music in the UK – the sounds of young London and truly jazzre:freshed. Our photo shows UK tuba player Theon Cross performing with Moses Boyd at London’s Field Day Festival – more next week.

The 2018 Norfolk & Norwich Festival included three ambitious nights of late-night music in the Adnams Spiegeltent erected in a city centre park. On the first night there was the sax and drums combination of Binker & Moses who respectively blew and drummed with tough intensity and relentless energy to the amazement and appreciation of the crowd. The next evening saw the young keyboard player Ashley Henry with his trio, and joined later by vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett. The repertoire included original compositions, a re-working of a tune from rapper Nas and one from indie band Enemy. Ashley Henry is an exciting and developing talent with a debut album forthcoming. The third night brought a performance from the six-piece Maisha led by drummer Jake Long. There was added excitement by the inclusion in the band of my pianist/keyboard of the moment Sarah Tandy. She plays with seeming nonchalance, with constant surprise and invention and with total involvement in the group. Another highlight was the deep interplay between Jake Long on drums and Tim Doyle on Percussion. Maisha played non-stop with no break for introductions or song titles until the end of the set. What a welcome change from the tedium of many jazz nights of the past.

There was more from Timo Lassy’s 2012 album In with Lassya joyful and uplifting work. The Finnish saxophonist has come long way since his days with the Five Corners Quintet and the tune It Could Be better has a soulful, gospel feel with pleasing contributions on the Hammond organ from Georgios Kontrafouris and Timo Lassy himself on tenor sax. As with Lassy’s great new album Moves, this one is recommended.

Gospel is a major inspiration for Polish tenor sax player Lukasz Juzko on his new album Breath from the Noise. He is one of the latest exciting East European discoveries we have come across from Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Juzko is from the Gdansk Academy of Music and included in the quartet is the pianist Michal Wroblewski, who we have come across already on Cosmic Jazz. There will be more from this a record in future on Cosmic Jazz.

Also with a Gdansk connection is the live album Copy & Insert from pianist Leszek Kulakowski and his Quintet. The Quintet includes another Polish musician familiar to Cosmic Jazz in Jerzy Malek on trumpet. Kulakowski himself has collaborated with a number of players both from Poland and the US, including Tomasz Stanko and Eddie Henderson. This album features American saxophonist Andy Middleton and was recorded in Gdansk at the XXIII Komeda Jazz Festival, commemorating the Polish jazz icon Krzysztof Komeda.

The Kulakowski track is entitled Japanese Tune and this prompted the inclusion of another tune from the J-Jazz album of great deep, modal jazz from Japan from 1969-1984. It came from guitarist Kigoshi Sugimoto. The track has a great bass line running through with contemporary sounding drums in the background.  There’s a revival of interestin this golden age of Japanese jazz at the moment with a number of compilations for listeners to look out for. We’ve featured a number of tracks from the great J-Jazz compilation and  in upcoming shows we’ll move on the Jazzman label’s contribution to this genre – Spiritual Jazz Volume 8: Japan, another masterwork of crate digging.

This week’s show ended with another piece from the newly-released Mark Springer album Diving. The music was recorded live at a series of concerts and the tunes were composed on the spot in response to the ambience, audience and the settings in both the UK and Italy. The selection this week was from a UK concert. Springer might be unknown to some listeners but he was a key player in a much earlier British jazz movement in the early 1980s when he led the group Rip, Rig + Panic. Their first album God was one of my introductions to contemporary jazz and the band went on to complete two more albums before disbanding in 1983. The first album featured Neneh Cherry on vocals and the second her father, Don Cherry on trumpet.

  1. Binker and Moses – The Valley of the Ultra Blacks from Journey to the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry – Deja Vu from Ashley Henry’s 5ive
  3. Maisha – Welcome to a New Welcome from Welcome to a New Welcome
  4. Timo Lassy – It Could Be Better from In With Lassy
  5. Lukasz Juzko Quartet – Breath from the Noise from First Breath
  6. Leszek Kulakowski Quartet – Japanese Tune from Copy & Insert
  7. Kigoshi Sugimoto – Long Neal from J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984.
  8. Mark Springer – Winstone Leys Concert Hall II from Diving

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 26 May 2018: deep jazz from Japan and more

Over the years we have played a lot of jazz from the 1970s on Cosmic Jazz. In retrospect, there’s every indication that this was something of a golden age for the music. Many of the albums we’ve featured have been re-released and tunes have appeared on the numerous compilations that have emerged over the last decade, Some of these had previously been accessible only to a limited audience and so a wealth of treasures have been opened up to a new and wider audience. We have not always played much Japanese jazz from that period but this week’s featured release from British based BBE Records redresses the balance. Check out the music by clicking the MixCloud tab where you can hear this week’s show.

The album in question is called J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984It is deep, it is modal and much of it has a spiritual quality and we featured three tracks from it. The first was from Takeo Moriyama, a musician who played the piano as a child but became a drummer as an adult. The tune Kaze was played again because the previous week’s show provided only a brief excerpt from it. Terumasa Hino is one of the most celebrated of Japanese jazz musicians – a trumpet/cornet/flugelhorn player who settled in New York in 1975. He played with a number of prominent US jazz musicians and among these was bass player Reggie Workman who not only had a tune in his praise but also played on it. As with all of the tunes this week we love this one. There’s always been a strong affinity between Japanese jazz-related music and the influence of Brazil music and a veteran musician of twenty-four albums, bass player Eiji Nakayama, is represented on the album by the track Aya’s Samba. J-Jazz is one of those albums on which every track is superb and so is a very definite CJ recommendation. Buy or download and enjoy this inspiring music.

There was, in fact, much in the programme that sounded spiritual.  Diving is a new album from pianist Mark Springer, released in May this year. Springer is a contemporary composer/musician whose work ranges from solo piano to chamber works for piano to a forthcoming opera. The album features music recorded in solo piano concerts in Italy and the UK and spontaneously recorded in front of a live audience. At these concerts Springer compares himself to a swimmer diving into different pools and that he is trying to challenge my audience’s perception of what a piano concert is and the surprises that can lead to a completely new work composed in that moment. The outcome is impressive – what an experience for the audience. There will be more from this new release next week.

Quin Kirchner is featured via his track The Ritual which from single hearing you will recognise as an appropriate title. Saxophonist Nate LePine blows like a young Coltrane on this one and across this double album Kirchner has assembled a superb group to perform a mix of original compositions and jazz covers (including tracks from Charles Mingus and Sun Ra). He’s a drummer/percussionist from Chicago who spent time in New Orleans before returning to the windy city. Kirchner is perhaps most noted for his time with Nomo – check out their postrock/afrobeat/Sun Ra sound on this track. The Other Side of Time is his first solo release and it has – rightly – garnered a number of very favourable reviews. Another excellent artist that my colleague Neil has unearthed and made available to CJ.

There was more current music from Polish sax player Marcin Stefaniak with his trio. It is cool, contemplative, contemporary jazz – yet another of those many Polish jazz musicians whose work is recommended to our followers. There is a rich, varied and constantly evolving scene in Poland that is not always reflected in the jazz press here in the UK – on CJ we redress the balance where we can.

The one tune on the show that might struggle to gain the description as spiritual in feel came from Kaidi Tatham, UK multi-instrumentalist/DJ/producer and core member of Bugz in the Attic. Tatham was a influential presence in the West London broken beats/nu-jazz scene and he continues to fuse jazz with own twisted funk, boogie and electronica. He has done much to bring a jazz sensibility to club audiences and we applaud this here on Cosmic Jazz. For a sample of his current musical style, listeners are recommended to download Kaidi’s 5ive from the jazzre:freshed site.

  1. Takeo Moriyama – Kaze from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  2. Mark Springer – Castello Di Potentino II from Diving
  3. Quin Kirchner – The Ritual from The Other Side of Time
  4. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Wheelers from Unveiling
  5. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times
  6. Terumasa Hino – Ode to Workman from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  7. Eiji Nakayama Aya’s Samba from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984

Derek is listening to …

  1. Binker & Moses – At the Feet of the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry Trio – @ jazz re:freshed
  3. Maisha – The Night Trance
  4. Common – Be
  5. The Ruts DC – In A Rut