Category Archives: Playlist

Week ending 30 May: Chicago jazz now

Another week of the ‘circuit breaker’ as we call lockdown here in Singapore. It’s going well: everyone wears face masks when outside or in stores as they are required to, most stores remain closed but hawker centres and many restaurants are open for take away food and drinks. Shopping malls require a temperature check and ID before entry and so do major supermarkets. The TraceTogether app was launched in March and has been running successfully ever since. The recent surge in infections among the migrant community has been checked and daily local cases are in single or double figures. All Covid-19 cases are published and the recent locations of those infected is made public too. Erosion of public liberty? Sure. But no one complains. Why? Number of Covid-19 cases to date 34,884. Number of deaths 23. As they say – it’s not rocket science.

The Art Ensemble of Chicago in characteristic pose

But there are other issues to address on Cosmic Jazz this week. We draw attention to recent events in America and reflect on how little has changed. Chicago’s riots of 1919 began with the death of Eugene Williams, a black man, and the current US-wide riots began with the death of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis on 25 May, 2020. Chicago has once more experienced the pain of racial conflict and – as this post is being compiled – the situation continues to worsen.

Thanks to ongoing enlightened governance, Chicago may have escaped the worst of the USA’s racial tensions over the years, but the jazz scene in the windy city has continued to cast a light on what’s happening stateside. The current Chicago scene has some key players who reflect the social activism espoused by perhaps the city’s most famous crusading musician, Curtis Mayfield. From People Get Ready to Right On for the Darkness, Mayfield knew exactly how to capture the mood of the time, and the axis of jazz musicians around the latest incarnation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago have their own stories to tell. We’ll start with current bass player Junius Paul whose own album Ism reflects some of the current tensions through its own sizeable canvas of influences. “It’s just bringing more awareness of those things, so blacks can know their past, and history and that everybody can know, not just us”, he told Jazzwise while in London to play with Shabaka Hutchings. “Obviously, we have to know because it’s ours, but everybody needs to know what’s going on… black, white and in between.”  There’s a fascinating Bandcamp interview here which allows you to access all the music on the album. Listen to the featured tracks Baker’s Dozen and Ase before exploring the whole album and you’ll get an idea of the breadth of this record.

Trumpeter Marquis Hill features on Ism but his own releases are just as strong. His 2018 album Modern Flows II is an excellent example of his recent work. Prayer for the People begins with afrobeat drumming before introducing rapper M’Reid Green, along with rising Blue Note talent Joel Ross on vibes. It Takes a Village is equally powerful and this time features Brandon Alexander Williams on rap vocals. It’s all an excellent example of how jazz has embraced the current rap scene – and to powerful effect. Modern Flows II is highly recommended and available on download here on Bandcamp. Whilst Joel Ross may have gone more mainstream for his first Blue Note release, his music is equally interesting. Yana from the album captures the way that Blue Note has with vibes players – think of Bobby Hutcherson – ethereal and deep. It’s a fine debut.

Self proclaimed beat scientist Makaya McCraven’s drums have driven much of the music of the current Chicago scene, some of it centred on famed venue The Velvet Lounge where Junius Paul cut his teeth as the resident bassist. Owned by Chicago saxophonist Fred Anderson, the venue closed in 2109 although its jazz credentials really ended on Anderson’s death in 2010. Anderson is another musician who really should be better known – listen to him here on Saxoon from his 1979 album Dark Day featuring Chicagoan Hamid Drake on drums. McCraven has been responsible for a number of projects on both sides of the Atlantic and he’s been featured with several of the current crop of British jazz musicians on recordings in London. Perhaps the best place to start with his music is the excellent In the Moment album, now available in a deluxe 3CD/vinyl set – check it out here on Bandcamp. This new version include another 40 minutes of music from the initial 48 hours of live, improvised performance recorded at 1 venue over 12 months and 28 shows. Mostly short tracks at under three minutes, each has something to recommend but, for a longer groove try, Finances from the deluxe edition. In the Moment features an honorary Chicagoan currently making waves with his solo records, guitarist Jeff Parker. He first came to fame with the post rock group Tortoise – and specifically their 1998 album TNT, a more jazz-inflected than most of their output. The title track is a clear indication of this new direction with Parker’s guitar very much to the fore. Currently riding high with his new album for the label, Parker’s music continues to evolve.

His new record on Chicago’s International Anthem label, Suite for Max Brown, is a good example of his deployment of the same studio cutup styles loved by both Tortoise and Makaya McCraven – an exploration of the intersection of live improvisation and modern digital recording techniques of loops, samples and beats. But the record has a more organic heart too – listen to how the kalimba cuts into the groove on the short track Gnarciss.

Parker’s recording method is much like McCraven’s. Beginning with a digital bed of beats and samples, he lays down tracks of guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion before inviting musicians to play and improvise over his melodies. There’s no classic studio arrangement though: each musician usually works alone with Parker before he layers and assembles the individual parts into final tracks. The results feel like in-the-moment jams with the improvisational human spirit that characterises a real live recording.

Which brings us full circle to one of the sources of this current creative river of Chicago jazz – the AACM, or Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians – the collective that gave us the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Founded back in 1965 by Muhal Richard Abrams and Phil Cohran numerous influential jazz musicians have passed through the ranks of the AACM. Percussion Kahil El’Zabar, for example, became their chairman in 1975 – and I’m currently really enjoying his What It Is! album from 2012 on Delmark Records. Here’s the lead off track The Nature Of, featuring Kevin Nabors on tenor sax and on Justin Dillard on Hammond B3 organ and – yes – Junius Paul on bass. This record really does swing! For more El’Zabar try his Ritual Trio and a tune from the excellent African N’da Blues album, featuring the great Pharoah Sanders. Here is the delightful Africanos/Latinos with Susana Sandoval on vocals and Malachi Favors from the Art Ensemble of Chicago on bass.

So where to start with the AEC themselves? Let’s begin at the beginning. The initial Roscoe Mitchell Sextet included Mitchell on tenor sax, trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Favors and the great Phillip Wilson on drums. All of musicians were multi-instrumentalists and played a huge range of conventional and what they called ‘small instruments’ – from conch shells to whistles. In 1968 they decamped to Paris where they released some of their first records under the AEC banner. Film soundtrack Le Stances a Sophie was recorded at this time – here’s the famous Theme de Yoyo with vocals by Fontella Bass. On returning to the US in 1972 the AEC recorded more than 20 albums through to 2004 – really their period of peak creativity.

Take this example of their extraordinary live performances – complete with face paints (and Lester Bowie in his characteristic doctor’s coat) at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1991. They were very much still on fine form here with their original lineup before Lester Bowie’s death in 1999. The tune is the signature Ohnedaruth which appeared first on the excellent Phase One album from 1971. If you’re looking for a good quality live recording, Urban Bushmen on the ECM label captures the group on tour in 1980 or – for a more chaotic, but inspired, live recording – try the famous Bap-tizum from 1972 on Atlantic. This also features a lengthy take on Ohnedaruth – compare the two!

More inspirational music next week on Cosmic Jazz. Until then – enjoy!

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 23 May 2020: Pitchfork, PopMatters and Lee

More from the online treasure trove of jazz music, films and writing this week on Cosmic Jazz. It’s not all TikToks and Tweets out there – there’s a wealth of great writing to start with. Pitchfork and PopMatters are two go-to sites for in-depth reviews – take this recent post from Pitchfork, for example. It’s a beautifully written piece by Andy Beta on one of my favourite records in any genre – Clube da Esquina by Lo Borges and Milton Nascimento. That iconic album cover says it all – two young Brazilian playmates (whom most people might assume are Borges and Nascimento when young) who turn out to be boys captured in an ‘image a la sauvette’ moment by Carlos da Silva Assunção Filho (better known as Cafi), a local photographer. The Pitchfork feature has some lovely stuff about the back story behind this image as well as a focus on the extraordinary lyricism of the record. Thanks to hauntingly beautiful arrangements by Eumir Deodato, the tracks are themselves burnished snapshots of moments in the lives of two central figures in Brazilian music. My favourite song from the many on this double album? Without doubt, it’s the extraordinary wordless Clube da Esquina No. 2 – listen and be moved. Trust me – you’ll come back to this song again and again.

Just 19 at the time of recording Clube da Esquina, Lo Borges was supported by his mother – affectionately known as Dona Maricota – who founded the corner cafe in Belo Horizonte where teenagers would meet to test out their new songs. Nascimento would go on to become one of the most famous of Brazil’s singer songwriters, performing with a host of the world’s best jazz artists including Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Jack deJohnette and Wayne Shorter, whose 1974 album Native Dancer was a collaboration between the two. Here’s Miracle of the Fishes, composed by Nascimento and Fernando Brant, one of the Clube da Esquina songwriters and featuring a spirited tenor solo from Shorter.

Original Clube da Esquina members – including Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, Wagner Tiso, Fernando Brant and Toninho Horta.

PopMatters‘ name may suggest that it has nothing to offer jazz lovers – but far from it. This recent piece on Joseph Bowie and his band Defunkt by Imran Khan includes an interview which has more interesting revelations about Bowie’s musical sources and his current situation. If his surname has a jazz familiarity it’s because his elder brother was Lester Bowie from the Art Ensemble of Chicago – but Joseph pursued a different path, emerging as part of the New York punk/’no wave‘ movement in the late 1970s. The result was two albums – the self-titled Defunkt from 1980 and the explosive Thermonuclear Sweat which appeared two years later. Both albums are worth searching out – look for the Rykodisc set which includes both along with some additional tracks. Standouts include Illusion and their take on the O’Jays’ For the Love of Money, both from Thermonuclear Sweat (the better release). Bowie had also played with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards around this time, and those who remember the NME’s cassette tapes from the 1980s might recall a Lounge Lizards track (Stomping at the Corona) on the Dancing Master compilation.

It was at this point that I moved on and lost track of Defunkt and Bowie – his elder brother’s music holding a more powerful appeal. Indeed, Lester Bowie’s The Great Pretender album for ECM in 1981 included Rios Negroes – the subject of a Cosmic Jazz feature from back in the day. Whether with the Art Ensemble or his Brass Fantasy project, Lester Bowie was responsible for some of the most innovative jazz recordings in the history of this art form. He referenced the history of both jazz and popular music – listen to this take on Night Life – more usually associated with Elvis Presley – from the excellent live album The Fire This Time (1992).

So what’s Joseph Bowie up to now? The PopMatters feature and interview revealed an interesting more recent project that I’d missed – Defunkt’s One World album from 1995 which featured a version of the Art Ensemble’s People in Sorrow, written by Joseph Bowie and with vocals by Kellie Sae. Recorded in the Netherlands where Bowie now lives, this is much more of a soul record (unfortunately with a slew of unconvincing lyrics) but the band is tight and it’s good to know that after decades of drug addiction and turbulence Bowie is still making music. For the full 40 minute threnody of the AEC’s People in Sorrow, listen right here.

We also have a run of jazz filmographies to check out at the moment: portraits- as dramatisations or documentaries of trumpeters Lee Morgan, Miles Davis and Chet Baker along with a new bio of the mysterious founder of jazz, cornetist Buddy Bolden. We have written of the excellent Birth of the Cool previously on CJ and you can now download it from BBC’s iPlayer. You should – there are memorable interviews – particularly with Frances Taylor Davis – and the story of Miles Davis remains compelling. Netflix delivers I Called Him Morgan and, while it isn’t as glossy as Birth of the Cool, it has its moments too. The story is rather less well known: trumpeter Lee Morgan was just 33 when he was shot and killed by his wife Helen Morgan while playing at Slug’s Saloon in New York in 1972. Initially, Morgan modelled himself on another trumpeter who met an early death, Clifford Brown. Both supremely talented on trumpet, Morgan went on to have the longer career, recording prolifically for Blue Note in the 1960-70s and netting the label a genuine chart hit with The Sidewinder from 1963. But there was much more to Morgan than this and, at the time of his death, the music was moving in new directions. In fact, his next release – 1966’s Search for The New Land – is a taste of where his music was heading. It was actually recorded before The Sidewinder but perhaps was shelved until Blue Note and/or his audience could catch up with him. Highlight is the 15 minute title track which features over both and closing of the film. Wayne Shorter is interviewed for I Called Him Morgan and says of this music: He was actually digging back into his roots in history – and what could be achieved with freedom. This is a favourite Lee Morgan album for many jazz fans – including myself. The sextet lineup is perfect with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Grant Green on guitar, Herbie Hancock on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. All tracks are standouts but Mr Kenyatta (a tribute to the now rather forgotten alto player Robin Kenyatta) is another classic.

Morgan went to release another sixteen albums in the nine years before his death and everyone is worth investigating. Of the lesser known releases, The Rajah is a personal favourite along with his intriguing final album, The Last Session and the wonderful In What Direction Are You Heading? My original double disc vinyl pressing is now rare but the CD can be tracked down for a reasonable price.

More lock down virtual crate digging revelations next week… In the meantime, this is some of the music Neil has been listening to over the last week:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 May 2020: jazz vloggers and YouTubers

Another week, another Cosmic Jazz. For those of us who like some jazz in our lives, these seem like particularly rich times. Of course, there is no real substitute for live music, but if you’re confined to home then this seems like the ideal time to explore the numerous jazz blogs, websites and Youtube videos out there. So – not really a virtual show this week but instead music inspired by my internet exploration of two of these vlogs.

We’re trawling that deep space online where you never know what you’ll find. Let’s begin with a virtual record store and review site – The ‘In’ Groove is a record store in Phoenix, Arizona that also supplies online, with owner Mike Esposito also taking time out to do video reviews – like this one about his favourite jazz records. Mike is a hifi retailer too and so his focus is on records that sound good – I like the anecdote of the listener who thought that Take Five sounded “too good.” Of course, all of Mike’s choices are of the audiophile variety but there’s some music here that all jazz fans should have. One interesting choice is from saxophonist Nathan Davis on the French Sam label – here’s a promo video for the 3LP live recording. Davis was one of those African-American jazz artists who found himself more accepted and respected in the postwar jazz scene in Paris. Woody Shaw and Kenny Clarke were also part of this set, and you can hear them with Davis on this lovely version of Sconsolato that didn’t make it onto Davis’ 1965 record Peace Treaty, an excellent album and now about to be reissued on the Sam label with that bonus track.

Mike also includes a Three Blind Mice record – a rare label to find in the UK but one revered here in Singapore. It hails from Japan and majors on incredible recording quality – one of my go-to stores here, The Analog Vault, has the Impex re-release box set available for SGD$330 – but it is a 6 record set… For a taste of audiophile nirvana, strap on your best headphones and listen to Aqua Marine from the Isao Suzuki Quartet. Also included in this Best of… list is (predictably) Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959) and Thelonious Monk’s 1963 album Monk’s Dream. You can find both regular and audiophile titles at The Analog Vault and my favourite store here in Singapore, The Jazz Loft.

Ken Micallef reviews jazz records for Downbeat and Jazz Times magazines and also writes for Stereophile magazine. But perhaps he’s best known for his quirky, opinionated Youtube channel posts. His love of jazz is deep and knowledgable and the vlogs from his New York apartment are a great listen. Here he is extolling the virtues of some ‘jazz through the cracks‘ – records that are not well known but well worth a listen. There’s so many records here that are worth looking out for if you’re able to go crate digging. How about this lovely version of Chick Corea’s Litha on the first record Micallef mentions – Stan Getz’s Sweet Rain from 1967… Getz is with Corea on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Grady Tate on drums – what’s not to like? Micallef also features new jazz artists, in this instance flautist Nicole Mitchell. Her Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds album from 2017 is new jazz to explore. Recorded live at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Chicago in 2015, there’s an Art Ensemble of Chicago feel to the complex instrumentation, dominant percussion and attendant freedoms given to the players. Check out the opening track Egoes War for a taste of this brilliant, if challenging, record. Easier listening comes from another Micallef recommendation – pianist Tommy Flanagan’s Overseas album, recorded in Stockholm in 1957 and reissued thirty years later (with extra tracks) in 1987 on the Japanese DIW label. Flanagan’s take on Charlie Parker’s Relaxin’ at Camarillo just swings – and that’s Elvin Jones you can hear on brushes. Spend time with Macallef – you’ll learn a lot and come away with some great record recommendations.

Stereophile magazine itself is – of course – available in print and digital versions and there’s much in the latter to entertain any music lover. I particularly like the annual R2D4 (Records to Die For) lists with mini-reviews that encourage you to explore further – and often well outside your genre comfort zone. The best music writing is the kind that persuades you to listen and/or buy, and Stereophile writer do this – often rather too frequently for comfort…

As a New Yorker article from 2018 made clear, “vinyl offers the joys of possessorship: if you go to a store, talk to other music lovers, and buy a record, you are committing to your taste, to your favorite group, to your friends” – and I think that’s any record store buyer’s experience. It is not the same as the simple internet click to secure your latest download. Can you remember where you were when you bought a favourite download? It’s unlikely. In contrast, most vinyl lovers can remember clearly when and where they purchased their most treasured records. The New Yorker piece indicated that those young people buying vinyl now have joined up with two sets of people who never really gave up on the black wax: “the scratchmaster d.j.s deploying vinyl on twin turntables, making music with their hands, and the audiophiles hoarding their LPs from decades ago”. The result is a resurgent vinyl market that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak, but will hopefully bounce back so that more of us can enjoy that unique crate digging experience – perhaps best captured by this now iconic image from DJ Shadow’s essential 1996 album Endtroducing, which features two of his co-diggers and DJ associates in a record store in Sacramento, California. More great music next week here on Cosmic Jazz – and we leave you with a track from the magnificence that is Endtroducing – Building Steam with a Grain of Salt. Until next week, enjoy!

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 09 May 2020: Covid deaths and new music

This week’s Cosmic Jazz stays with the virtual show format – click on the hyperlinks to listen to the show – and open up twice to listen and read simultaneously! This week, six artists from Neil reflect two more sad Covid-19 deaths but also provide music that’s uplifting and spiritual in scope.

First up is one of the most recent deaths from Covid-19 in the UK – Benedict Chijioke, more commonly known as rapper Ty, was one of the most eloquent musicians of his generation with a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his album Upwards in 2004. Check out Groovement (Part 1) and The Willing for an indication of why we think his work is comparable not just with his international peers but with the work of A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul. The latter track features the distinctive trap kit sound of Tony Allen – as unmistakable as ever. You can explore much more of Tony Allen’s music in our previous post.

Detroit DJ Mike Huckaby was another recent Covid-19 victim. The phrase ‘taste maker’ is perhaps used rather too loosely, but Huck’s music choices were remarkably influential, not just in the US but in clubs around the world. Ever keen to encourage new talent, Huckaby ran DJ and production workshops in Detroit and beyond, mentoring upcoming talent with a generosity typical of his approach to music. Have a listen to The Jazz Republic for a taste of his deep house sound.

Sometimes a Twitter post or online article can start a search that yields unexpected rewards. I can’t remember how this one started, but I ended up with Maria Rita Stumpf and her Brasileira remixes. The original Brasileira album, released in 1988 and her first recording, was all but lost but has now been rediscovered and remastered. The music features and is inspired by one of Brazil’s ethnic minorities, the Kamaiura.

The complete album is available here on Bandcamp but have a listen to one of the standout tracks – Cantico Brasileira No. 3 (Kamaiura). This tune in turn led me to the remixes – just two tracks, of which this – the same Cantico Brasileira No.3 – is the second. The remix artist is Carrot Green – and here’s another of his stunning transformations, the hypnotic Ponto Das Caboclas from Camila Costa.

To avoid confusion, Cosmic Jazz points out that Maria Rita Stumpf and Maria Rita are not one and the same. Both are Brazilian singers but Maria Rita (full name Maria Rita Camargo Mariano is the daughter of famed singer Ellis Regina and pianist/arranger Cesar Camargo Mariano. Her self-titled debut album was released to some acclaim in 2004 – here’s the Milton Nascimento album opener, A Festa. Since then she’s released half a dozen albums, with 2008’s Samba Meu perhaps the most worthy of further investigation.

Hard bop tenor player Charlie Rouse had a ten year partnership with pianist Thelonious Monk but his own recordings are often surprisingly good too. A new discovery for me was the album Bossa Nova Bacchanal which – at first glance – might look like an attempt to cash in on that 1960s bossa nova craze. But the album is much more than this. For a start, there’s the players – Kenny Burrell on guitar, Willie Bobo on drums and Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdes on congas. The Haitian-influenced Merci Bon Dieu is a good example of the strengths of this record – it’s much more of a jazz than bossa album. Good luck on finding a vinyl copy of this record! Rouse is there on many of Monk’s classic Columbia recordings, including the superlative Monk’s Dream – an album that belongs in every jazz collection. The album opens with a new recording of the title track – check it out here.

DJ Gilles Peterson’s has been making good use of his lockdown situation by delving deep into his phenomenal record collection and presenting a selection of top 20s on his Worldwide FM radio channel. The Brazilian Jazz 20 was especially rewarding with all tracks worthy of your attention. I’ve listened to the programme four times already since it was broadcast earlier this month. Don’t think you’ve missed it either – you can catch up right here. Standout tracks? Too many to mention – but if you don’t know Dom Um Romao’s superb Spirit of the Times record on the Muse label (1975) then listen to Gilles’ choice The Angels and you’ll want to investigate further. Before this album was released, Romao was performing percussion duties in Weather Report – listen to him here on the sinewy Cucumber Slumber from Mysterious Traveller (1974) and with new bass player Alphonso Johnson up in the mix too.

Finally, in the mix this week was something new from Texan (largely) instrumental trio Khruangbin. With a name taken from the Thai word for airplane, their music can be described as a mix of funk, psychedelia, Iranian and Thai styles and – yes – a little jazz too. Their debut album The Universe Smiles on You was widely acclaimed and their sophomore release Con Todo el Mundo went on to be released in a special dub version Hasta el Cielo last year. Out in a few weeks will be their 2020 album Mordechai – from which the chart friendly Time (You and I) is the first release, out in June. The video features UK comedians Stephen K Amos and Lunda Anele-Skosana making sandcastles in some familiar London streets…

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 02 May 2020: new jazz sounds

This week’s Cosmic Jazz reverts to our current virtual show format – three tunes from Neil and three from Derek. The current lockdown has encouraged more online purchasing, but we’d recommend using the independent sites and those where a higher proportion of the profit goes direct to the musicians themselves. For example, if you purchase any music in whatever format from Bandcamp on Friday 01 May, then 100% of that purchase price will go to the artists themselves. In the 30 days since the first 100% promotion, music fans have paid Bandcamp artists $14.29 million. With musicians in all genres unable to perform live, it’s a nobrainer. Check out all the jazz new releases here and support musicians through this difficult time.

First up this week is a track from the new release by UK tenor saxophonist Tony Kofi, Another Kind of Soul. It’s his tribute to Cannonball Adderley, and was recorded live at Luton’s Bear Club in 2019. The album features Andy Davies on trumpet, pianist Alex Webb, bassist Andrew Cleyndert and Alfonso Vitale on drums. The album is best heard in limited edition vinyl but is available in digital formats – check it out here on the Juno Records site.

Kofi has cited the work of Adderley as an early inspiration.  “The first recording I ever heard of Cannonball’s was of the Quintet with the opening track “Arriving Soon.” It opens with his lone saxophone. I was 17 and from that moment on, I was hypnotised as if the pied piper had called out to me. I swore that before I got a good technique on the saxophone, I would first acquire a voice that people could recognise and relate to. Cannonball’s sound is like a human voice. He had his own personal sound, which is like finding the rarest diamond that only belongs to you. His sense of rhythm was a revelation,” says Tony Kofi of the jazz giant. This record comes highly recommended by Cosmic Jazz – buy on vinyl for the real deal!

The setlist includes Adderley brothers classics like Things Are Getting Better, Work Song, Sack O’Woe, and boasts two originals. A Portrait of Cannonball explores Adderley’s breadth of style and was composed for the project by Alex Webb. Operation Breadbasket is a Kofi composition which pays tribute to Cannonball’s support of young jazz musicians.  Mercy, mercy, mercy!

Up next is something new from Blue Note – it’s the fruits of a collaboration between UK singer songwriter and beatmaker Tom Misch and drummer Yussef Dayes. What Kinda Music is not deep but it is good, relaxed listening. Check out the title track and lead single here.Some of the album feels like part of the South London jazz scene with saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and bassist Rocco Palladino in two of two tracks, Storm Before the Calm and Lift Off. It’s available in digital and analogue formats.

We’ve long been fans of the ensemble Maisha, led by drummer Jake Long. At last year’s Gilles Peterson-curated We Out Here Festival, UK headliner Gary Bartz performed with Maisha and the fruits of this collaboration were then developed into an album on the new UK-based direct-to-disc Night Dreamer label. The album will be released on the label on 29 May but you can check out the tracks Harlem to Haarlem (where the album was recorded) and Leta’s Dance right here, right now. Again, why not give your turntable a treat with this one and go for the vinyl option!

Polish pianist/composer Krzystof Herdzin has released an album entitled The Book of Secrets. It’s Volume 84 in the Polish Jazz series, started in 1965 by the state recording company. Herdzin is a veteran of the Polish jazz scene. He has released twenty albums and has appeared on other records across different genres of music. This album was recorded with a quartet, although there are other guests. It includes US saxophonist Rick Margitza, bass player Robert Kubiszyn and Cezary Konrad on drums. Time starts with Herdzin prominent on piano, gathering pace to quite some speed with Kubiszyn on bass also to the fore. Later Margitza appears from the shadows and trades with Konrad on drums and then the bass. It’s good, contemporary jazz.

Chandra Rule is a Chicago-born vocalist “rooted in gospel, but with a heart full of soul and a voice blessed with jazz”. She has collaborated with New York sax player Donny McCaslin and has performed as an opening act for quite a varied list of performers – Kamasi Washington, India Arie, Regina Belle and The Whispers. On her new album Hold On she’s backed by the Sweet Emma Band, a quintet of European jazz virtuosos. Chandra acknowledges “a sea of ancestral energy supporting me, guiding my flight” and describes Hold On as “a musical libation to them”.

Seven of the nine tunes on the album she says were “originally written and sung by unnamed and undocumented African-American mothers, fathers, workers, prisoners, preachers, sons and daughters.” Chandra has updated the lyrics to “support us through a new time”. tune Rosalie is raw, earthy, rootsy and pared down to essentials. A fitting, powerful and emotional testament to the origins of the music. Sweet Emma, incidentally was a renowned pianist and singer from New Orleans and, in a link with Neil’s choices, Nat and Cannonball Adderley dedicated their song Sweet Emma to her.

Maybe it is the times but I have been finding myself listening to some music on the soul/jazz borders. Some might find it too smooth, even sugary, but I am not afraid to confess a partiality for the music. My attention was drawn to a piece in the March edition of Echoes music magazine on US vocalist Lindsey Webster. I confess that perhaps the line under the photo indicating that she had just made an album with the man she recently divorced did encourage me to read further, but I was already aware of her. Previous references in Echoes through had already drawn attention to Webster’s music and so I was intrigued by the prospect of her new album, A Woman Like Me. Yes, it has ex-husband Keith Slattery on keys and he contributes to what is a highly polished and professional sound which combines remarkably well with the warmth and intimacy of Webster’s voice. Listen with an open mind to One Step Forward and you could enjoy it as much as I do.

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 18 April 2020: Covid-19 and jazz deaths

Back to a regular, but virtual, Cosmic Jazz this week. There have been far too many Covid-19 related deaths around the world over the last few months. We mourn those who have passed and think of those left behind, but this post focuses on some of those in the jazz world who have been the recent victims of this global epidemic. There’s a lot of music in this week’s ‘show’ and a long read too. Why not open two CJ’s simultaneously and you can read and listen at the same time?

We start with the two most recently announced deaths – those of bassist Henry Grimes and saxophonist Guiseppi Logan. There are some fascinating parallels between these two jazz artists: both were involved in the free jazz scene on New York in the early 1960s and both vanished in the 1970s and were believed to have died. In 2008 Logan was spotted playing in a New York park and in 2002 Grimes was tracked down by a jazz fan in near destitution in a Los Angeles apartment. Like Miles Davis, Henry Grimes was a student at the Julliard School of Music in New York and had already established himself as a versatile bass player in the 1950s. He can be seen on Bert Stern’s Jazz on a Summer’s Day film at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1958. Just 22 years old, Grimes played with six different groups at the Festival – including Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk (you can see him in this brief clip of Stern’s from the film) and Lee Konitz. For more on the film and its relationship with American culture it’s worth reading Nate Chinen’s deep dive for WBGO right here. Grimes appeared on several great jazz records of this time, including two of my favourites – drummer Roy Haynes’ Out of the Afternoon (1962), which also included Tommy Flanagan on piano and Roland Kirk on saxes. Listen to the fantastic Moon Ray here.

Grimes was also on the earlier Lee Konitz album Tranquility (1957). The latter is a quiet masterpiece of which Jason Ankeny of Allmusic says: crafted with startling precision and economy, Tranquility extols the virtues of mood and shape with Talmudic zeal, towering astride thought and expression. …Rarely is music so profoundly cerebral also so deeply heartfelt. Both of these albums should be in your collection. Listen to the track Lennie Bird right here (likely a tribute to two huge influences, Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker). Later in the 60s, Grimes was closely involved in the growing free jazz scene, appearing on records by Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor and and Archie Shepp.  He was the bassist on Pharoah Sanders’ Tauhid (1967). That’s him on a track I return to over and again – Upper Egypt, & Lower Egypt (Part 2) with its hypnotic Grimes bassline that’s first introduced around 9 minutes into the song. Younger readers may have come across this in samples from Herbie Hancock, J Dilla and Ras G. Pitched up, it was the bedrock of Mr Spock’s Words and Poets 12in single (if you can find it!). After Grimes’ return in 2002, musicians and fans offered help – most notably fellow bass player, William Parker who donated a green painted bass (nicknamed Olive Oil/Oyl) and soon Grimes was back in the recording studio. A notable early outing at this time was for trumpeter Dennis González in his excellent Rive Nile Suite album (2003). Check out Part II: the Nile runs through my heart. Grimes went on to record with dozens of noted jazz musicians including David Murray, Rashied Ali, Bill Dixon, Joe Lovano and Cecil Taylor. He appeared at numerous festivals and it’s calculated that he may have made up to 1000 appearances at live events since his return in 2003. Here he is (playing that green bass) at a benefit concert in 2012.

Sadly, Giuseppi Logan was not as lucky on his return.  He was a collaborator with Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Bill Dixon before recording two albums for the French ESP-Disk label (noted for its pioneering of free jazz) and his own quartet at the times was made up of pianist Don Pullen, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Milford Graves. The self titled album is not easy to find but, as ever, Youtube can help out – listen to Bleecker Partitia here. A considerable drug habit marginalised Logan, and then his erratic behaviour began to take its toll on his music. He was spotted in various locations in New York and was the subject of short films by Suzannah Troy as well as those who recorded him at one of his favourite places, Tompkins Square Park. His comeback record was released in 2010 – here’s a slightly rusty take on Miles Davis’ Freddie Freeloader that sounds rather more like a Sun Ra out-take. Logan died at a nursing home on 17 April.

The passing of alto great Lee Konitz two days earlier is especially sad. Konitz was the last surviving member of the revolutionary nonet that created Birth of the Cool in 1957 – here’s Gerry Mulligan’s Jeru from that album. The first great Miles Davis record, Birth of the Cool signalled a new post-Bop jazz sound and – until last week – Konitz was the only surviving member of that original nonet. Konitz was an incredibly open musician  – from his beginning with Lennie Tristano to his great later recordings with Brad Mehldau. En route, Konitz recorded with so many great names in jazz – Warne Marsh, Chet Baker, Jimmy Giuffre, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Elvin Jones, Henry Grimes, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Bill Frisell and countless others. Imagine playing with both Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman… From Konitz’s late record for Blue Note with Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden, here’s their extended version of the 1938 jazz standard Cherokee which Charlie Parker later used as the basis for his Ko-Ko.

Onto Wallace Roney, a trumpet player who died on 31 March and – uniquely – was the only jazz artist mentored by Miles Davis. With a rich, golden tone and a supple technique, Roney was the chosen trumpeter on Miles Davis’ final recording with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991 where he supported Davis through familiar tunes like Summertime and Gone, Gone, Gone. But Roney was a fine performer in his own groups where he performed with some musicians on a fine series of albums for the Muse and Highnote labels. Some of the later Highnote albums (for example Jazz) featured turntablist DJ Axum alongside brother Antoine on saxes and wife and pianist Geri Allen. Here’s their version of Sly Stone’s Stand. Almost all of these albums are worthy of investigation with Intuition (1998) and Mystikal (2005) good places to start. Roney always attracted great musicians around him too – Kenny Garrett, Mulgrew Miller and Ron Carter appearing on the earlier albums and  Gary Bartz, Lenny White and Patrice Rushen on some later releases.

Whilst Ellis Marsalis may be more famous as the father of Branford and Wynton Marsalis, he recorded twenty albums of his own and featured (sometimes uncredited) on his sons’ recordings. Similarly guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli may not be so well known to more progressive jazz audiences but he featured on a wide range of records – perhaps, surprisingly, including Michael Franks’ Tiger in the Rain. Which brings us to producer Hal Wilner who died of Covid-19 complications on 07 April. Wilner was house music producer for Saturday Night Live but, more importantly, he was best known for a series of tribute albums that redefined the genre, include Amacord Nino Rota that featured a roster of jazz artists including Carla Bley, Michael Mantler, Bill Frisell and the Marsalis brothers. Here’s the Carla Bley Band with their take on Rota’s title music from the film .

Famously, Wilner linked Sun Ra with Walt Disney on the tribute album Stay Awake. I remember buying this record on its release in  1988 and enjoying pretty much everything from Los Lobos rollicking I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book to Bonnie Raitt’s moving Baby Mine from Dumbo. But perhaps most bizarre was Sun Ra’s Pink Elephants on Parade, also from Dumbo, which was to encourage Ra’s full length tribute to Disney’s music on his 1995 live album Second Star to the Right. This post has been a reminder of some great music from superb jazz artists – now all sadly missed. Next week’s show will include more of the great new releases that continue to enrich the world of jazz. Until then, stay safe everyone.

Week Ending 11 April 2020: a Herbie special!

Wow! The ever youthful Herbie Hancock is 80 years old. The pianist and jazz ambassador was born on 12 April 1940 in Chicago. Like many jazz pianists, Hancock received a classical musical education, studying from age seven. Such was his talent that his first public recital at the age of 11 was of the first movement of a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Hancock’s first recordings were with trumpeter Donald Byrd in 1961 but it wasn’t long before Blue Note gave him his first date as leader – Takin’ Off in 1962 – and his first hit with the lead off track Watermelon Man. Regarded as one of the most accomplished debuts in jazz, Takin’ Off is now available as a Blue Note reissue under their Blue Note 80 series. The album caught the attention of the ever-shrewd Miles Davis who quickly incorporated Hancock into his new quintet. Hancock was only 23 at the time – new drummer Tony Williams was just 17.

While in Davis’s band, Hancock found time to record dozens of sessions for the Blue Note label, both under his own name and as a sideman with other musicians including Wayne Shorter, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. Almost all of Hancock’s albums for Blue Note are outstanding – but particular mention must go to the 1964 outing – Inventions and Dimensions which included two Latin percussionists and featured one of my favourite Hancock compositions, the ostinato-driven Succotash. Of course, the most well known album of this period appeared the following year. Maiden Voyage is the archetypal Blue Note album and deserves to be in everyone’s collection. The title track is outstanding but there’s more to enjoy including the often covered Dolphin Dance. The personnel on this Blue Note is Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, George Coleman on tenor sax, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. Maiden Voyage has been covered by many artists including Grant Green on his Alive! album. You can hear this reflective version right here.

Like many jazz artists of the period, Hancock was keen to incorporate electric and then electronic keyboards and, after the R&B inspired Fat Albert Rotunda album from 1969, Hancock moved into fully electronic mode with a trilogy of recordings between 1971 and 1973 – Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextant. This new sextet comprised Hancock, Buster Williams on bass, drummer Billy Hart and a trio of horn players – Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Julian Priester on trombone and multireedist Bennie Maupin. Electronics pioneer Patrick Gleeson was included on the latter two albums and was instrumental (!) in the sound of such compositions as Rain Dance. Two albums with pretty much the same personnel  were recorded under trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s name and are equally worth exploring. Start with the excellent Mars in Libra from the Realization album (1973).

And then came the big breakthrough – the 1974 album Headhunters with four extraordinary tracks, including a radical reworking of Watermelon Man. That intro and outro sound was derived from a field recording of hindewhu music from the Ba-Benzélé tribe of central Africa. Percussionist Bill Summers had heard the music on an ethnomusicology LP, The Music of the Ba-Benzélé Pygmies (1966), by Simha Arom and Genviève Taurelle. The other three cuts are the standouts too, and the 15 minute long Chameleon was to become one of Hancock’s most well known compositions. The follow-up album Thrust from 1974 was almost a successful and just as good. Hancock moved in an ever-further commercial direction with Man-Child and Secrets, each of which contained more superb tracks. I remember buying Man-Child (on vinyl, of course) the moment it came out in 1975 and was blown away by the double bassline and horns in The Traitor.  Like many of Hancock’s albums, it’s one you can return to again and again.

A period of consolidation followed with some superb live albums that saw Hancock’s facility with reworkings of old Blue Note classics alongside more contemporary tracks. The album Sunlight signalled another change of direction though with Hancock – ever enthusiastic about new technology – using a vocoder for the first time. The album also featured iconic bass player Jaco Pastorius on the final cut Good Question. Whilst the subsequent disco-influenced Vocoder albums received a mixed reception, Hancock continued to record with a new version of his Blue Note style VSOP group before the next breakthrough – the first jazz hip-hop tune, 1983’s Rockit from the album Future Shock. Bass player and producer Bill Laswell was to feature significantly on this and three subsequent releases, ending with Perfect Machine in 1988. It would be Hancock’s last album for six years, as he concentrated on other projects. He re-emerged with Dis is Da Drum in 1994 – a curiously-titled and rather neglected album. There’s a debt to classic 90s hip-hop scratching rhythms – easily heard in the track Mojuba – but also some acoustic piano soloing too. Also from this period is the sometimes neglected New Standard album in which Hancock performs the same trick as his mentor Miles Davis was to do a few years later – reinventing pop and rock tunes as jazz standards. Prince in a jazz arrangement? Why not – listen to the excellent Thieves in Temple with the all star band of Michael Brecker on saxes, John Scofield on guitar, Dave Holland on bass, Jack deJohnette on drums and Don Alias on percussion.

A re-reading of Gershwin’s tunes in 1998 that featured a plethora of guest stars also turned out much better than expected and generated a world tour. Nowhere is the album more surprising than on Duke Ellington’s Cotton Tail, itself a reworking of I Got Rhythm. Wayne Shorter is outstanding. The electronic album that followed Gershwin’s World, Future2Future, turned out to be rather less successful and 2005’s Possibilities took the guest star quotient rather too far.

But help was at hand through Hancock’s longtime friendship with singer Joni Mitchell, herself no stranger to jazz. River: the Joni Letters was a real return to form. Guest vocalists, including Corinne Bailey Rae on the title track, were accompanied by some beautiful piano from Hancock. Mitchell herself made an appearance but Norah Jones and Tina Turner (on Edith and the Kingpin) were almost equally effective. The distinctive tenor solo on this track is (of course) by Wayne Shorter and Prince plays (uncredited) guitar. River justifiably won the 2008 Album of the Year Grammy Award.

Hancock appeared on the 2014 Flying Lotus album You’re Dead and his new album is eagerly awaited with likely contributions from Wayne Shorter, Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington and – yes – Snoop Dogg. We will no doubt feature it here on Cosmic Jazz but, until then, here’s to Herbie Hancock – eighty years young!

Week ending 04 April 2020: virtual vibes

Cosmic Jazz stays virtual again this week – but we are exploring options and hope to bring you news soon. So this week it’s three tunes each – and a load of links to sustain your musical enjoying if you’re in lockdown anywhere around the world.

Derek started the show with some great bass lines from Andy González, a ubiquitous and distinguished New York musician who died recently. We have featured his music before on Cosmic Jazz – and that of his late trumpet playing brother Jerry González, both members of the great Fort Apache and Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklórico Y Experímental Nuevayorquíno bands. Andy González died recently and we included a track from an excellent compilation as a tribute.  On this occasion he was the special guest of The Afro-Rican Ensemble on a version of Tangathe seminal Latin Jazz tune composed by Cuban-born New York Latin great Mario Bauza. See if you can find the compilation Viva Cubop Jazz: the Afro-Cuban Way released in 1999 on San Francisco-based Ubiquity Records – strongly recommended if you like Latin jazz. Two more compilations followed in the series. For more from the brothers González, listen to this great track from the Fort Apache band – Eighty One, recorded live at the Zurich International Jazz Festival in 1988. The album  from which it comes – Obatala – is highly recommended and yes, this is the Ron Carter/Miles Davis tune that’s featured on the album ESP. The record has one more ambitious Latin reworking of another great Miles Davis Quintet track – in this case, Nefertiti. If you’re not familiar with the beautiful original version – the title track on the great 1965 outing by the second Miles Davis Quintet – here it is.

Michal Martyniuk is a very accomplished pianist and composer who produces music of great maturity.  He was born in Poland but while he was young his parents moved to New Zealand. For the last ten years he has lived in New Zealand and travelled back and forth playing and recording with a number of fine musicians in both countries. His new album Resonate opens with Jazz Dance and we feature a live version of the track recorded at the Java Jazz Festival in 2017. The personnel on the album includes both Polish and NZ musicians: Jakub Skowroński on tenor, Kuba Mizeracki on guitar, Bartek Chojnacki on bass and Kuba Gudz on drums. The extra NZ recorded tracks feature Cameron McArthur on bass and Ron Samsom on drums. As always, check out the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds for this album and much more new European jazz.

Noemi Nuti is a new name to me but this vocalist has just released her second album Venus Eye on the Ubuntu record label. Nuti was born in New York but is based in London, and is not only a singer but also harp player and composer. She has worked with pianist Andrew McCormack and has toured and supported other artists, including Brazilian Cosmic Jazz favourite Marcos Valle. On Venus Eye she is accompanied by five other musicians including Tom Herbert on bass and Gareth Lochrane on flute. Her cover of the Tori Amos song Cornflake Girl includes some great scat singing – here it is in a studio version (with some excellent piano from Chris Eldred). Why not compare with the original here if you’re not familiar with Tori Amos.

Neil’s three choices this week all celebrate the upcoming 80th birthday of Herbie Hancock on 12 April. There will be more Herbie music in future shows. There’s a lot of Hancock’s music that is well known to jazz listeners – whether the Blue Note magnificence of Maiden Voyage, the archetypal funk blueprint of Chameleon or the electro-jazz of Rockit – but Neil’s selections are all from the more obscure end of the Hancock spectrum. We begin with the improbable Hank Williams cover album from (now) Blue Note supremo Don Was. Forever’s a Long, Long Time features Herbie Hancock on piano – vocals are by Sweet Pea Atkinson.

Hancock also lent his distinctive piano skills to saxophonist Sam Rivers’ Blue Note album Contours. Check out the great solo on Point of Many Returns right here. The track also features Freddie Hubbard on trumpet along with Ron Carter on bass and Joe Chambers on drums. Recently reissued as part of the superb Blue Note Tone Poet series of audiophile albums, it’s worth getting hold of these superb pressings and gatefold ‘tip on’ record covers (where the artwork is stuck on to the thicker record cover.) The label’s boss Don Was brought the ‘Tone Poet’ Joe Harley (from Music Matters) on board to curate and supervise an ongoing series of reissues from the label. All records in the Tone Poet series are 180 gram new vinyl with silent surfaces and (in my experience) they often look and sound like the best versions currently available – other thank crazily expensive original editions (expect to pay £150.00 for the Rivers’ album, for example) . The Jazz Loft – my local (and excellent) jazz record store here in Singapore – has a great selection of both the Tone Poet and Blue Note 80 series of vinyl reissues and you should be able to find examples of these albums in any good independent jazz record store.

Now this is not exactly a lost album but you may find it hard to get a copy of drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath’s Kawaida. If you can lay your hands on a copy you won’t regret it. Heath is more experimental than usual on this fine 1970 release for the O’Be label and he enlists a fine group to accompany him on these largely modal afrocentric influenced tunes. We could have chosen any of the tracks but went for the lengthy opener Baraka. The record includes great performances from Jimmy Heath on tenor, soprano and flute, Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Buster Williams on bass, Ed Blackwell on percussion and Mtume (who composed all tracks bar one) on congas. For more from this great album, have a listen to Dunia – very much a vehicle for Don Cherry’s characteristic pocket trumpet sound.

  1. The Afro-Rican Ensemble – Tanga from Viva Cu-Bop! (Jazz the Afro-Cuban Way)
  2. Michal Martiniuk Quartet –  Jazz Dance from Resonate
  3. Noemi Nuti – Cornflake Girl from Venus Eye
  4. Orquestra Was – Forever’s a Long Long Time from Forever’s a Long, Long Time
  5. Sam Rivers – Point of Many Returns from Contours
  6. Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath – Baraka from Kawaida

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 March 2020: virtual sounds and memories

It’s virtual Cosmic Jazz again this week with our blog and music choices. Open CJ twice and you can read from one and listen on the  other!

Through jazz I discovered the music that I love were the words of Cameroonian sax player Manu Dibango. Sadly, he has died at the age of 86 from Covid-19. From a start with the seminal Congolese rumba group, African Jazz Dibango went on to release 44 albums over a lengthy career than included collaborations with the Fania All Stars, Fela Kuti, Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry and Sly and Robbie. What an eclectic mix! There are claims that his most famous tune Soul Makossa heralded the start of disco, and it was certainly a favourite at David Mancuso’s Loft from 1972 onwards. That ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-sa refrain was replicated in Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and within a few months of the song’s release over 20 different cover versions were available. Wikipedia lists almost 50 different songs with this take on ‘makossa’  – the Cameroonian dance style popularised by the Soul Makossa. Derek’s party choice, though, is the later Big Blow which is one for my box when playing out. Released in 1976, it still sounds as good and as danceable today – click on that link and get yourself moving. For Neil, it has to be 1984’s Abele Dance – one of his favourite 12in singles. Ironically, he was playing it at home in the UK in December and thinking back to live DJ sets where it surprised and delighted dancers in equal measure. Dibango’s infectious chuckles and expressions featured on many of his tracks – and they’re capable of generating big smiles everywhere they’re heard.

There is, however,  another great version of the Makossa tune – and that’s Reggae Makossa. There’s the same uplifting, swinging, jazzy sax but this time with a reggae beat, recorded in Kingston, Jamaica and New York and mixed in London. Manu leads with the vibes on this tune but Jamaican reggae rhythm kings Sly & Robbie are in there along with the Brecker Brothers on horn duties, Gwen Guthrie on vocals and a host of other distinguished musicians. It comes from the compilation album Choc ‘n’ Soul – tracks recorded by Dibango between 1978-89 and here’s the title track for you. You can find the album on the French label Fremeaux and Associes.

On a different front, but perhaps not entirely, comes more new music from Poland – sax player Wojciech Staroniewicz. He has been playing for over twenty years, starting with the Big Band Gdansk. His new album has an interesting title –  A’FreAK-aN Project – and it’s good.  The gently rocking/sax-led sound on this live take of the tune Moja Ballada suggests they might have admired Manu Dibango – check out the whole album. Tomasz Wendt is another Polish saxophonist from Gdansk but from a  much younger generation. The son of a jazz saxophonist, and a graduate of Wroclaw Academy of Music, Wendt has played with several artists we have featured on the show, including the magnificent Piotr Wojtasik. Wendt has a new album out called Chapter B – and we’ve featured the title tune in this week’s virtual show. Of course, at this time of near-worldwide lockdown, we urge you to support all the independent record stores you can. To find Staroniewicz, Wendt and other great European jazz, just check out the always excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

The current coronavirus situation has led me to listen to records in my collection that I have not heard for some time – and certainly or maybe not as often as I should. Today it was the Viva Cubop series, of which I have three CDs. Cubop was set up in 1995 as the Latin jazz arm of Ubiquity records and from the the second album I chose a marimba and vibes player (definitely the instrument of the week!). Dave Pike emerged in the late ’50s and recorded with – among many artists – Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Paul Bley, Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock and Clark Terry. San Dunga is crisp, fast-moving and definitely something to get you moving – and, if you find Manhattan Latin, the original album from which it comes – try not to be put off by that latin exotica cover…

Enjoy the music and stay safe.

  1. Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa from Soul Makossa
  2. Manu Dibango – Big Blow from Big Blow
  3. Mauy Dibango – Abele Dance (12in single)
  4. Manu Dibango – Reggae Makossa from Choc ‘n’ Soul
  5. Wojciech Staroniewicz – Moja Ballada from A’FreAK-aN
  6. Tomasz Wendt – Chapter B from Chapter B
  7. Dave Pike – San Dunga from Manhattan Latin

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 March 2020: CJ goes virtual…

Cosmic Jazz is recorded at a community centre/venue which has had to be closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. There will be no live shows recorded there for some time. Here at CJ we are exploring the possibility of home recording, but until we can secure this, the CJ website will feature ‘virtual shows’, links to online videos, jazz news and record reviews. From time to time, we’ll include a few links to classic past shows too. To ‘listen’ to this week’s show, open up CJ twice and you can check out the blog and listen to the music at the same time! Enjoy our bumper crop of music and stay safe.

This week’s virtual show starts with the tune To Nowhere and Back from a new album by Czech saxophonist Ondrej Stveracek called Space Project. Check out a trailer for the new album here. The album might suggest some Sun Ra-inspired flight to the stellar regions but this is not the case – instead the music has a more conventional, hard bop and jazz-rock sound. To Nowhere and Back is one of the more restrained tracks on the album – relaxed, slow and melodic. The band includes Tomas Baros on bass, Klaudius Kovac on keyboards/synthesiser and features US drummer Gene Jackson. Like so much great jazz from eastern Europe, this album comes via our friends at online store Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Wherever you are in the world – and especially if (like us) you’re in lockdown – then you owe it to yourself to enjoy some new music from Steve. Also check out his Facebook page where you can open up some Youtube links and enjoy the music. Remember – especially in these difficult times – if you like what you hear, buy from  independent sites like Steve’s Jazz Sounds. We can’t recommend this site highly enough.

By contrast, the next choice is a UK/US collaboration. J Z Replacement  are an exciting, innovative and highly contemporary band. Their new album has the title Disrespectful – but it’s not to us here at Cosmic Jazz. The tune Displacement A features a long, fast and definitely sinewy sax lead from Zhenya Strigalev, with heavy backing from drummer Jamie Murray and bass player Tim Lefebvre. It is fast and furious stuff that will have your body moving, maybe even dancing. You can hear a live version of the track (Displacement B) right here. Better still, listen to – and buy – the album here on the group’s Bandcamp site here.

There has to be another selection from the highly important legacy of the late jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. Neil recommended the tune Ebony Queen from his 1972 Milestone album Sahara. The album has to be considered as one of his best. Tyner plays the piano with breathtaking speed that combines both power and subtlety and Sonny Fortune’s soprano saxophone provides a stirring, spiritual start to the track.  Calvin Hill is on bass and the superb Alphonse Mouzon features on drums.

The recent award winning Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool movie is now available to download from the BBC iPlayer site – check out the cinema trailer here. This superb film gives a chronological account of Miles’ musical career and explores his music and personality in real depth.  Birth of the Cool rightly emphasises Miles’ role as a musical innovator and style icon who – as he acknowledged in a famous anecdote – changed music (at least) five or six times.  Mademoiselle Mabry is, of course, titled after one of his muses Betty Mabry (who is interviewed at length in the film) and comes from the Filles de Kilimanjaro album. It’s a great example of the musical telepathy in that second great Miles Davis Quintet. The band included Tony Williams on drums (who joined as a 17 year old teenager), Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano and Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone. There is nothing that this band recorded that’s less than exceptional and you owe it to yourself to have at least some of these great albums in your collection. And never dismiss the Miles Davis’ last years – the music may not have been innovatory, but Miles’ touring band included the outstanding Kenny Garrett on alto sax. There are many live video versions of his take on Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time but this take from the 1989 Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the best sounding and most eloquent performances.

The final choice is an up-tempo number. Lettuce are a US soul/funk, occasionally jazzy US group that we have played previously on the show. Checker Wrecker comes from their forthcoming album and Resonate, and has that unique Washington DC sound. The official video features two GoGo music legends – Big Tony Fisher of Troublefunk and ‘Jungle Boogie’ Williams of Rare Essence. Surprisingly, there’s a link here with Miles Davis too – Ricky Wellman, drummer for legendary Go-Go band Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers is on that 1989 Montreux recording. You can catch both Wellman and Big Tony Fisher playing live with Chuck Brown here on the classic Bustin’ Loose.

  1. Ondrej Stveracek – To Nowhere and Back from Space Project
  2. J Z Replacement – Displacement from Disrespectful
  3. McCoy Tyner Ebony Queen from Sahara
  4. Miles Davis – Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry) from Filles de Kilimanjaro
  5. Lettuce – Checker Wrecker from Resonance

Neil is listening to…