All posts by Derek

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

Week ending 21 May 2018: tunes from the past and present

There is plenty of music from the past available on the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab this week, but some important current tunes too. As usual we feature artists from different countries and continents – just how we like it on the show.

There’s often so much music to cram into an hour long show that we have to end with just a glimpse of the last tune. That happened last week (and again this week), so we usually make amends and catch up. As a result, the opener this week was the complete version of Natal – Tema Das Flutas from Brazilian musician Hermeto Pascoal and Grupo Vice Versa. It comes from an album of previously unreleased material from the 1970s now available through the highly rated UK-based Far Out label.

There was further acknowledgement of a recommended BBC TV series Latin Music USA with Mambo Rincon from Mario Bauza, often called “The Legendary Mambo King”. Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra could fairly claim to have invented Latin jazz. Bauza was born in Cuba in 1911, where he met the great Machito (later to become his brother in law) and the two remained friends and collaborators until Machito’s death in 1984. In 1930 Bauza moved to New York and became involved with bands there (including Cab Calloway’s) where, as the programme explained a band member was very disparaging about his Cuban music. Undeterred he joined Machito’s Latin Orchestra in 1941 as a trumpeter, music director, song composer and arranger. Jazz became an essential element of all their music. The sleeve notes for the Machito album Tanga claim that Latin Jazz began in May 1943. At a Monday evening rehearsal, Bauza got the band to play a jazz melody, Bauza then began blowing jazz riffs over the melody and then asked his alto player to ad-lib. At the end of two hours Mario Bauza had successfully merged jazz with Cuban music and Latin Jazz was born.

I have been enjoying the compilation from DJ Colin Curtis Jazz Dance Fusion. This week there were two tracks from CD 1. The first is one of those essential tunes from Marvin Gaye that with its jazz inflections invited a jazz cover. Michelle Handricks, daughter of jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks, provided just that to superb effect; a wonderful interpretation.  Charles Earland is well known among  jazz dancers for his driving Hammond organ numbers. On Murilly, which apparently tells the story of a girl he once knew, there is not only his organ playing to admire but also his vocal skills, which it has to be said are pretty good. It is a great number and swings forcefully from start to finish.

There was room for some contemporary music beginning with more of the Polish music available from Steve’s Jazz Sounds  Firstly, from back in 2002 came music from trumpet player Jerzy Malek, who actually plays flugelhorn on Out of the Window. Then there was more from the exciting, young pianist Kazia Pietrzko and her Trio, much admired by Neil and me. Her music is dynamic, unpredictable and as the album title suggests forthright. It would be good to see her playing in the UK, especially with  all the wonderful young musicians on the UK jazz scene at the moment. Incidentally if you want to find an exciting young British pianist check Sarah Tandy, whose work with Camilla George we have featured on Cosmic Jazz, and who has her own album coming out later in the year.

I am very excited because next week I am going to hear some of those British musicians at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. On 24 May they have Binker & Moses, on 25 May Ashley Henry and on 26 May Maisha – a very impressive line-up. This week I played a track from Maisha’s free download EP – check it out on jazzre:refreshed. The group is led by drummer Jake Long and it includes British sax player Nubya Garcia – an award winner at the recent Jazz FM awards.

I am afraid it was another of those endings to this week’s show. Firstly there was some unwanted interference and then the tune from the J-Jazz compilation had to be cut short. Perhaps once again I have to make amends next week!

  1. Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa – Natal (Tema Das Flutas) from Viajando Como Som
  2. Mario Bauza – Mambo Rincon from Tanga
  3. Michelle Hendricks – What’s Going On from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  4. Charles Earland – Murilly from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  5. Jerzy Malek – Out of the Window from Gift
  6. Kazia Pietrzko Trio – Zielore Oczy Grafitowe from Forthright Stories
  7. Maisha – Welcome to a New Welcome from Maisha EP (jazzre:freshed)
  8. Takeo Moriyama – Kaze from J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969 – 1984

Derek is listening to:

  1. Binker & Moses – Black Ave Maria
  2. Ashley Henry, The RE Ensemble – The World Is Yours
  3. Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra – Oyele Que Te Conviene
  4. Luciano – Its Me Again Jah
  5. Mark Springer – You Are Here

Week Ending 12 May 2018: Timo Lassy past and present

Last week there were two tunes from the excellent new Timo Lassy album MovesIt is an album we like here on Cosmic Jazz and so there is another tune this week. The album features a variety of collaborators, one of whom – the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass – are evident on this week’s tune Lashes. The other collaborators include Finnish Jazz sax star Eero Koivistoinen, New York based singer Joyce Elaine Yuille and Finnish rapper Paleface – all alongside Lassy’s regular five-piece band.

The new album provided an appropriate occasion to re-present some of Lassy’s past work. So, next came a tune from his 2012 album In With Lassy. This was an album in which he aimed to pay homage to jazz as the art of the now in trying to capture the essence of a ‘cooking session’ in which the tape runs free and if all goes right you capture the moment. The tune Teddy the Sweeper cooks very nicely. Finally, Lassy was a founder member of the Finnish Jazz  group The Five Corners Quintet. Their 2005 album Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By included three tunes with a very distinguished guest vocalist, the late Mark Murphy. We featured the tune Before We Say Goodbye with Murphy on suitably cool vocals and providing a superb link to what came next on the show.

The 2018 compilation Jazz Dance Fusion – music from the Muse record label put together by veteran Manchester-based DJ Colin Curtis – includes two numbers from Mark Murphy. Empty Faces (or Vera Cruz) is a tune of great beauty, a Brazilian classic written by Milton Nascimento and recorded originally by Murphy on the Muse album Sings, released in 1975. It’s one of Murphy’s best Muse albums of this period with striking interpretations of On the Red Clay, Naima and Maiden Voyage. The album features a top notch band too – Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mike Brecker on tenor, Don Grolnick on keys and David Sanborn on alto. Compare with Nascimento’s original version from his album Courage here.

On the show last week I mentioned the BBC series Latin Music USA. I promised this week to include one of the musicians that appeared on the New York Latino programme. For me, so much of the music has strong jazz influences: the big brass orchestration has a strong jazz feel and both the singers and the musicians constantly improvised. One of the most ‘political’ of them was Ruben Blades – a Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor, musician, activist, and politician – whose best work was often in collaboration with the fine trombone player Willie Colon. The tune Ganas first appeared on Blades’ 1983 Fania album El Que la Hace la Paga, the last of his many collaborations with Colon from this period. Blades is a political activist and his Buscando America album from the following year is still a timely reminder of the situation for many Hispanic people in the USA. The translated lyrics of the epic title tune include the following lines: You’ve been abducted, America/your mouth has been gagged/and today it’s our turn/ to bring you freedom

This was followed by another excellent tune from Swedish sax player Fredrik Kronkvist from his new Afro-Cuban Supreme album, a record inspired by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s idea of bringing together different people, music and rhythms from different countries and continents. It is an eclectic mix of Afro-Cuban rhythms and Coltrane-inspired jazz and reflects the spirit of a recent feature documentary, The Jazz Ambassadors, that tells the story of the jazz artists who found themselves apologists for American propaganda in the 1950s.

It all began in 1956 when Adam Clayton Powell Jr, an African American congressman from Harlem, suggested that America send its greatest jazz musicians overseas as cultural emissaries. The State Department warmed to the idea, believing that touring mixed-race jazz groups could help deflect attention from the spiralling civil rights abuses and present a uniquely American art form that the Russians couldn’t compete with. Powell convinced his friend Dizzy Gillespie to become America’s first jazz ambassador, though the irony of the request was not lost of Gillespie. When the State Department asked him to come in for a pre-tour briefing, Gillespie responded I’ve had 300 years of briefing. I know what they’ve done to us. He went on to explain: I sort’ve liked the idea of representing America, but I wasn’t going over there to apologise for the racist policies of America. Dizzy, like all the jazz musicians who would tour on behalf of the State Department, was torn between the feelings of patriotism and his progressive politics, of hoping that America would win the cold war, and wishing that his country would actually embrace its founding ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Nicholas Payton is one of several young American jazz musicians who are making political statements, particularly on the condition of Black America past and present. Payton’s Afro-Caribbean Mixtape is a very powerful statement and The Egyptian Second Line (released as a single prior to the album) is – says the trumpeter – in the spirit of reclaiming that which colonisation sought to destroy. Payton is from New Orleans and ‘the second line’ is the group of celebrants who tag on to ‘the first line’ of official mourners in the funeral processions that are still part of life and death in the Crescent City. The Egyptian Second Line is not a track for jazz traditionalists: indeed, Payton’s trumpet feature does not come until towards the end of a number that lasts 14:56 – but it’s well worth the wait.

We ended the show this week with more commentary – this time from singer Jazzmeia Horn and her interpretation of Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s People Make the World Go Round – before providing a teaser from Brazilian iconoclast Hermeto Pascoal.

  1. Timo Lassy – Lashes from Moves
  2. Timo Lassy – Teddy the Sweeper from In With Lassy
  3. The Five Corners Quintet feat Mark Muphy – Before We Say Goodbye from Chasin’ the Jazz Gone By
  4. Mark Murphy – Empty Faces from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Funk Dance
  5. Ruben Blades – Ganas from El Que la Hace la Paga
  6. Fredrik Kronkvist – Yemaya from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  7. Nicholas Payton – The Egyptian Second Line from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  8. Jazzmeia Horn – People Make the World Go Round from A Social Call
  9. Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo Vice Versa – Natal (Tema das Flutas) from Viajando Com O Som

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 05 May 2018: music for jazz dancers

CJ programmes of late have featured some deep, introspective and serious music. The music available on the Mixcloud tab this week is still serious stuff but the tempo is raised and there is definitely some music that jazz dancers will enjoy.

To begin with, though, it was the last in our sequence of tracks from Andrew Hill. This was planned for every week in April but as one week was missed out it was extended into the first week of May. Of course, we’ll play more Andrew Hill in the future – he’s too important to leave for long. Smokestack was recorded in 1963 – his second album for Blue Note Records, although the fourth to be released. Hill was a frequent visitor to the studios and the records were not always released in sequence. His individualistic approach is evident in the selection of musicians for this one: there are two bass players – Richard Davis and Eddie Khan (with Davies the more forceful of the two) and the great Roy Haynes on drums. As ever, the music is challenging and original.

Finnish tenor sax player Timo Lassy has a new album released entitled Moves. It features his regular five piece band as well as the Ricky Tick Big Band Brass, another prominent Finnish sax player Eero Koivistoinen, New York based singer Joyce Elaine Yuille and Finnish rapper Paleface. Lassy was a founder member of the Five Corners Quintet – much loved by jazz dancers – but for a decade has led his own band. This is his sixth solo album. Gilles Peterson has described his music as quality swinging jazz with a difference; a helpful and apt description. There is a maturity and depth to this album, it is music that swings but it is much more than that image can sometimes imply. This is good jazz produced by some serious players. Check this for yourself from the two tunes in this week’s show.

BBC TV in the UK has paid more attention than of late to Latin history and culture. There has been a couple of long programmes on Cuba and a series of three programmes on BBC4 which present the story of Latin Music USA. Perhaps next week’s show can acknowledge the latter, but for this week I was inspired to include a Cuban tune. Son, the basis of so much Cuban dance music, has a strong jazz element, with fine musicianship. The song Dundunbanza by Sierra Maestra includes trumpet breaks by Jesus Alemany that soar and soar straight to the heights – irresistible. You can find the album on the always recommended World Circuit label.

Colin Curtis is a DJ based in the north of the UK. Starting in Manchester 40 years ago, he became increasingly attracted to jazz sounds which he began to play alongside his soul and funk selections. At venues in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester, the jazz room became  an important feature leading to club nights devoted to jazz dance. To celebrate forty years on the scene, Curtis has released an album of tunes from Muse Records. These are from albums that appeared in the crates of jazz dance DJs as they went in search of those killer tracks that would get the jazz dance floor moving. This week’s show includes two tracks from the album. Morning Song by alto saxophonist Eric Kloss is a driving, melodic, samba infused tune. New York Afternoon by Richie Cole, another alto sax player with Eddie Jefferson on vocals, is described by Colin Curtis as a jazz dance anthem that received rapturous reception in the clubs. Cole wrote the lyrics with the Fifth Dimension in mind and then Manhattan Transfer were going to record it but never did.

While in jazz dance mode it seemed to be time to play again some prime exponents of the genre from Japan, where some exciting, at times eccentric, bands emerged from the 1990s. Their music reached the club scene in the UK where UK jazz DJs both played the music and in at least one case worked with the four musicians of Sleepwalker, who along with Quasimode – another band of four musicians – were leaders on the scene. Both are featured this week. Quasimode’s tune Down in the Village is a faithful take on the Tubby Hayes classic recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s in 1962.

Inevitably in such a programme the final selection took us to Brazil. Sabrina Malheiros is the daughter of Alex Malheiros – bass player with Azymuth, a band that has no doubt featured in many a Colin Curtis club night. The tune Clareia swings nicely and melodically and is the title track of an album released in 2017 on the UK’s Far Out label. As with all of Maleiros’ albums for the label the music was written in collaboration with with her father and producer Daniel Maunick – son of Bluey Maunick, the founder of British jazzfunk legends Incognito.

  1. Andrew Hill – Smokestack from Smokestack
  2. Timo Lassy – Moves from Moves
  3. Timo Lassy – Adriatic from Moves
  4. Sierra Maestra – Dundunbanza from Dundunbanza
  5. Richie Cole – New York Afternoon from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  6. Eric Kloss – Morning Song from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Quasimode – Down in the Village from Oneself Likeness
  8. Sleepwalker – Time Voyager from Sleepwalker
  9. Sabrina Malheiros – Clareia from Clareia

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 April 2018: serious stories; serious music

The advantage of a show like Cosmic Jazz is that we have no restrictions. We have a jazz/jazz related formula but in terms of which music we play within that formula it can be of the present, it can be of the past – and we have no hesitation in playing tunes that are lengthy. This week’s show includes two tunes over ten minutes long, and two others with deep and serious stories to tell. All available, as usual, via the MixCloud tab on this site.

The Andrew Hill celebration continued with the title track from an essential album. Compulsion!!!!! (yes, that’s five exclamation marks) is a recognition of the African-American musical experience and the African roots of jazz and includes two percussionists. Listen, says Andrew Hill on the album’s sleevenotes, to what is called the ‘avant-garde’ and you can hear African kinds of rhythms. You can hear field cries. You can hear the basic roots of jazz. Hill’s Blue Note group on this 1966 recording is a seven-piece featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, longtime Sun Ra stalwart John Gilmore on tenor sax, Cecil McBee on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. Compulsion is one of Hill’s best and well worth checking out.

Also digging into the roots is Nicholas Payton with his Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Payton Payton is a trumpeter from New Orleans. He likes to tell a story and included in this long tune are references to other past musicians from New Orleans. It is another one of those contemporary records that stretches the boundaries: jazz is certainly in there but so is hip-hop and beats and the list of musicians on the album includes a turntablist. The tune on the show this week is simply left me in awe and wonder.

Someone else with a story to tell is Luis Nabiola, a Cuban-born sax player who moved to Costa Rica and then across continents to Poland. His album has the title Global Friendship which probably reflects his life experience of playing jazz in different places and with different musicians. His fellow musicians are Polish, the music is essentially jazz – but those Cuban roots are evident. Recommended and available from the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

The longest tune title I have ever encountered (see below) must have a story to tell and sure enough it does. Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has a record of works with a political statement and in America’s National Parks he celebrates the parks and identifies area that deserve to be included under this category. More deep, culturally significant contemporary music – and proof once more that instrumental music can address issues and make statements.

CJ this week ended with two tunes from compilations. Firstly, from an album of music never previously released in Europe. The superb, modal, spiritual music of J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984 celebrates one of the most creative eras in modern Japanese jazz and is available on the UK-based BBE label. It’s a celebration of the kind of music you can hear in the jazu kissa bars of Tokyo (see Cosmic Jazz w/e 07 April for more information) and then from an album released to celebrate an exhibition at the Tate Modern Gallery in London on American art in the age of Black Power.

  1. Andrew Hill – Compulsion from Compulsion!!!!!
  2. Nicholas Payton – #BAMboula from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  3. Luis Nabiola – Halito from Global Friendship
  4. Wadada Leo Smith – Sequoia/King’s Canyon National Parks: The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliff Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems from America’s National Parks
  5. Fumio Karashima – Little Island from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  6. Sarah Webster Fabio – Sweet Song from Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 January 2018: pianists past and present

Cosmic Jazz this week features tracks in which a pianist is either the leader of the group or is featured prominently. As always on CJ, there’s a wide variety of music – both contemporary and from the tradition.

Cecil Taylor.

We opened the show with a tribute to one of the greatest pianists jazz has produced. Cecil Taylor treated the piano like a percussion instrument, attacking the full range of the keyboard with pinpoint precision. Taylor was born in 1929 and died on 5 April 2018. The tune we featured was from his very first album, Jazz Advance. Released in 1956, it was selected by The Penguin Jazz Guide for inclusion in their 100 best albums to cover the history of jazz music. A quote from this guide on Jazz Advance sums things up perfectly – Taylor’s record remains one of the most extraordinary debuts in jazz and for 1956 it’s an incredible effort“. Indeed, there would be much incredible music to follow. [Neil writes] Taylor carved out a career as a solo performer and I was lucky enough to see him in the early 1980s at the time of one of his solo masterpieces, Garden, released in 1981. This 2LP set on HatHut Records is hard to come by now but captures Taylor at his solo best. Another album to look for is his 1974 appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival where he recorded an album called Silent Tongues. Listening to his music is not easy: better is to watch him performing – as here in an extract from a 1981 performance. This is free jazz but it is not random – Taylor heard and planned all this music before playing it. His keyboard control here is unparalleled – and it continued to be so until his last performances. Listen to this piece a few times and marvel at the precision and the structure. Apologies for the breaks in sound quality towards the end of the performance.

Unique is an easy adjective to use but it was never more true about anyone in jazz than Cecil Taylor. In an interview, he acknowledged that he felt the same about music as one of his heroes, Duke Ellington, who said It’s American music that never existed in the world until we did it. That just about sums up his contribution to jazz. No one has inherited his mantle because it is simply not possible to do so.

Interestingly, the next artist is described by Brian Priestley in Jazz: the Essential Companion as one of a strong line of pianist/composers who, like Theolonius Monk or Cecil Taylor,  are impossible to categorise except as individualists. Andrew Hill was a pianist who recorded on Blue Note during the label’s classic years but whose music is far from typical of most Blue Note recordings. I had intended to make Andrew Hill a featured artist for the month of April but as it was not possible to play any of his tunes last week there were two this week – one each from the Black Fire and Point of Departure albums. Both records include impressive support musicians with one of our favourite tenor players, Joe Henderson, common to both.

After these retrospectives it was time to go contemporary. One of the new artists whose music is now available through Steve’s Jazz Sounds is the young Polish pianist Kasia Pietrzko. She leads a trio on her first album Forthright StoriesForthright is an appropriate word both to describe the music and the emotions it evokes. After starting with some delicate drumming touches the tune Intimacy develops into a tune of fast, forthright intensity. There was a short excerpt from another of her tunes to end the show.

UK pianist Jessica Lauren has just released one track from an upcoming album. It’s already been remixed by drummer Nick Woodmansey through his alter ego Emanative and we gave you his take on Kofi Nomad. It provided a link to our show last week which raised the question Jazz or not? We think it is, but you may disagree. New York pianist Cat Toren leads a band called Human Kind – you can check out the album here on Bandcamp. Toren demonstrates that jazz can continue to be political with compositions inspired by both the free form jazz of the 1960s and a personal expression of the resurgent civil rights movement that is upon us. Jazz has always been a music of personal expression and political views are often a part of that. The tune Sanctuary City represents a very strong EP that anyone interested in contemporary jazz should buy and listen to.

The Third Generation Ensemble refers to the latest musician descendants of Chico O’Farrill and Bebo Valdes. The album Familia is a tribute to Bebo and Chico from their sons Arturo and Chucho, but the third generation is also represented – Gonki Gonki features Leyanis Valdes on piano.

  1. Cecil Taylor – Bemsha Swing from Jazz Advance
  2. Andrew Hill – Black Fire from Black Fire
  3. Andrew Hill – New Monastery from Point of Departure
  4. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Intimacy from Forthright Stories
  5. Jessica Lauren – Kofi Nomad (Emanative remix) from Kofi Nomad
  6. Cat Toren’s Human Kind – Sanctuary City from Cat Toren’s Human Kind
  7. The Third Generation Ensemble – Gonki Gonki from Familia: Tribute to Bebo & Chico
  8. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Zielone Oczy Grafitowe from Forthright Stories

Derek is listening to: 

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 14 April 2018: jazz or jazz-related – you decide…

On the Mixcloud tab this week is a show of what is mainly jazz-related rather than ‘strictly’ jazz music. But this begs the question of what jazz is – a debate that has been current since ‘jass music’ (as pianist Eubie Blake once described it) began at the beginning of the last century. Whatever, the music featured this week is a rich tapestry of sounds that show the range of emotions, sounds and possibilities that this extraordinary music makes possible.

[Neil writes] We began with another track from saxophonist Piotr Wojtasik’s great new album – a celebration of the legendary jazz venue in Warsaw that after almost ten years of closure reopened last year. There’s a fascinating collection of instruments deployed on this record including ocarina, shakuhachi and guest Leszek Mozdzer on a range of keyboard sounds.

Bassist Esperanza Spalding is nothing if not eclectic and her latest project generated two separate CDs. That’s not unusual, but the way in which the recordings were made certainly is. Spalding set herself the challenge of recording a new album from scratch in 77 consecutive hours, with the whole process being streamed live on Facebook. The resulting music emerged on the CD Exposure, itself limited to just 7,777 copies. If you were one of the lucky few who secured the disc (which will never be repressed) you also received a bonus disc from which our chosen track Tangerine was taken.

Back to something that Eubie Blake would have very much recognised – the sound of a New Orleans style marching band with their characteristic ‘second line’ rhythms crossed with Jewish klesmer music. Actually, the Kinetic Brass Collective come out of Norway but are led by UK sax maverick Tim Lowerson. If you want to hear more or download the new album just check out their site here on Bandcamp.

The oud has become increasingly recognised as an improvisational instrument in jazz. Of course, it has been this for centuries in the middle eastern culture where it originates, but modern masters like Anouar Brahem and Dhafer Youssef are bringing it to the fore in jazz and jazz-related music. Tunisian Brahem’s new ECM recording features long time collaborator bassist Dave Holland and two new recruits – veteran drummer Jack de Johnette and British pianist Django Bates. It’s Bates who is the surprise here: a recent recruit to Manfred Eicher’s iconic jazz label, he quickly establishes a real rapport with Brahem and his peerless rhythm section. And de Johnette shows how he can move from straight ahead jazz drumming to the subtlest of cymbal splashes. Derek was absolutely right to choose two tracks from this excellent new release – it’s a great set and one well worth getting hold of.

Cosmic Jazz is always about contrasts and the music this week certainly reflected that. Up next was Chicago crate digger, record store owner and DJ Mark Grusane who here chops his way through Shabadoo’s classic Do It from 1976. You can compare with the string-driven original right here. And if you check out what Neil is listening to below, you can see his celebration of the music of Herbie Hancock – possibly the only jazz artist to successfully innovate across funk, disco, hip hop without disgracing himself! – reflects that 1976 sound with his perfect Doin’ It. The ever youthful Hancock turned 78 on 12 April and my choices this week show the range and diversity of his music. There’s no sign of him slowing down either – his new album will feature collaborations with those hippest of LA musicians, the West Coast Get Down crew – including Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and Thundercat.

The show concluded with two more edge-of-jazz artists – the first a really underrated Californian Jarrod Lawson, whose excellent self-titled 2014 album contains the excellent Music is a Magical Way. Undoubtedly influenced by Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, he created an individual sound that still sounds good. Maisha are part of the same London jazz explosion that has seen the rise of Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones and other artists we have featured on the show in recent months. Africa comes from their free live download available here on here on jazzre:freshed/Bandcamp. Download it now and support this new wave of talented young jazz artists!

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Tribute 4 from Tribute to Akwarium
  2. Esperanza Spalding – Tangerine from Undeveloped
  3. Kinetic Brass Collective – Cesar de Carnaval from Kinetic Brass Collective
  4. Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams from Blue Maqams
  5. Anouar Brahem – La Nuit from Blue Maquams
  6. Shabadoo (Mark Grusane edit) – Do it from The Real Sound of Mark Grusane
  7. Jarrod Lawson – Music and its Magical Way from Jarrod Lawson
  8. Maisha – Africa from Welcome to a new Welcome

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…