Category Archives: Playlist

Week ending 10 February 2018: more 2017 jazz from Poland and the US

In this first live show of 2018, Cosmic Jazz caught up with some great music from the old year. Technical problems aside there was some great music to listen to – click that MixCloud tab (left) and check it out.

Up first was a moving track from one of my favourite discs of 2017. MB Lament from Keyon Harrold’s sophomore release The Mugician is a tribute to Michael Brown, the young man shot dead by police in Harrold’s home town of Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The Mugician is a good example of the way in which many current jazz artists seek to explore the boundaries of their music: there’s reggae, neo-soul, spoken word and some inspiring orchestration here. Harrold’s sound is close to Terence Blanchard’s and it’s all bound up in a socially conscious framework. This music means something – and that’s Harrold’s intention.

There is still some interesting Polish music to catch up on from 2017. The Improvisation Quartet on their debut album have produced what a Polish critic described as one of the finest moments in Polish jazz for 2017. The musicians play tunes based on folkloric song using clarinet, double bass, drums and piano – and it’s co-ordinated by the  outstanding Dominik Wania, who we have met already on Cosmic Jazz.

Another debut album came from the Patrycjusz Gruzecki Trio. Gruzecki himself is a trumpet/flugelhorn player  and combines with the interesting mix of drums and Hammond organ, which provides both swing and  groove to the music. More conventional is the pianist Kuba Stankiewicz (see photo above) – a more established member of the Polish jazz scene. His record is a dedication to Henryk Wars, a composer of Polish jazz standards. The music is mainstream but has a calming effect especially when played among some of the less conventional material on the programme.

From time to time you hear music that is simply amazing, music that leaves you in awe and wonder, music that moves you physically and spiritually. Neil, my co-presenter of Cosmic Jazz has just introduced me to a new example. Cat Toren is a pianist leading a band which she says is inspired by the jazz of the 60s and 70s but music, though, is so much more than a re-working of the past – it is simply wonderful. So much so, that I will not be able to resist playing the same tune all over again next week and after that I hope Neil will have more of her music available to play. Check out some of her live performances on YouTube (see Neil’s listening selections for the previous week’s show) but – more importantly – go and buy this album. [Neil notes] Joining Toren on keyboards are Xavier Del Castillo on sax, Yoshie Fruchter on guitar and oud, Jake Leckie on bass and Matt Honor on drums. Toren’s liner notes are worth quoting: These compositions are 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 music of expression and of the people. In the late 60s, as John and Alice Coltrane and their contemporaries were bringing jazz to new levels of experimentation and cross-culturalism, the sociopolitical climate was fraught with tension. There were benefits held for the Congress Of Racial Equality (CoRE) at the infamous Five Spot Cafe, Nina Simone was singing Mississippi Goddam at Carnegie Hall and producer/concert promoter Norman Granz was demanding that venues adhere to mixed seating for his Jazz at the Philharmonic tours which featured artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. America has come a long way, but this recent regression is a wake up call that the work is far from over.

And, of course, Toren is right. There’s a long history of jazz addressing civil rights issues and Toren and Harrold are just two of the many current musicians focusing on these issues in their chosen art form. Buy this music and you’ll help to benefit organisations fighting for civil liberties and human rights. Go to this Bandcamp link and download the Human Kind EP – then spread the word!

Also from Neil came Makaya McCraven, who Neil describes as the drummer of the moment. I can see why. His 2CD set In the Moment includes some of Chicago’s finest musicians and the tune on the show is a haunting, percussive piece. His music draws upon different musical genres but the spirit is definitely jazz.

The show ends with a short improvised piece from two British jazz masters – free saxophonist Evan Parker and celebrated bass player Dave Holland. Funds raised from downloads of the tune go to raising funds to save the Vortex Jazz Club in London. You can make your own contribution here.

Parker describes the Vortex as my haven from the demands of the road… the Vortex is for me, a space to play ‘free jazz’ I cannot imagine life without it’  New York-based Holland has dropped into the club on a few occasions to take in the odd Evan Parker gig as well as to take in the unique Vortex vibe created by the musicians who perform here and volunteers who look after the place. He says …the Vortex plays a vital role in the cultural life of London providing performance opportunities for both a UK and international community of musicians… its imaginative programming introduces new listening experiences to its audience. Both jazz greats will play sets live at the Vortex on 02 March 2018, donating 100% of ticket sales to the club.

  1. Keyon Harrold – MB’s Lament from The Mugician
  2. Improvisation Quartet – 193  from Free-Folk-Jazz
  3. Makaya McCraven – In the Moment from In the Moment
  4. Cat Toren’s Human Kind – Soul from Human Kind
  5. Kuba Stankiewicz Trio – Let the Chips Fall from The Music of Henryk Wars
  6. Patrycjusz Gruzecki Trio – First Flight from Something About
  7. Evan Parker and Dave Holland – Bass and Tenor Duet (untitled) – Download

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to..

Week ending 20 January 2018: CJ is back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derek returns after the Christmas break with some old Cosmic Jazz favourites, featuring music from Nigeria, the USA and Argentina. It’s a mixture of sounds to make you dance and connect your soul with your spirit. Most artists in this week’s show are likely to be familiar to regular listeners – with the exception of Francisco Mora Catlett, US drummer and son of the Mexican artist Francisco Mora and American sculptor Elizabeth Catlett.

Living in Mexico City, Mora Catlett began as a session musician for Capitol Records. In 1970, he was awarded to attend the Berklee College of Music, where he studied composition and African percussion with the iconic Nigerian drummer, Babatunde Olatunji who so influenced John Coltrane’s music.

From 1973 to 1980 Mora Catlett traveled the spaceways as a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra and it was Ra who introduced him to the African-American poet and writer, Henry Dumas. Inspired by Dumas’s writings, Mora Catlett assembled the first incarnation of his Afro Horn project in Detroit in the early 1980s. He appeared with legendary drummer, composer, and bandleader Max Roach on several of Roach’s all-percussion ensemble albums, M’Boom.

In 1996 Mora Catlett took part in two groundbreaking jazz/electronica fusion projects with techno producer, Carl Craig – Bugs in the BassBin and OuterZone – and in 1999, he released the highly acclaimed World Trade Music album which features the track Vital Force.

  1. Fela Kuti and Africa 70 – Roforofo Fight from Roforofo Fight/The Two Sides of Fela
  2. Francisco Mora Catlett – Vital Force from World Trade Music
  3. Gato Barbieri – Viva Emiliano Zapata from Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata
  4. Alice Coltrane – Radhe-Shyam from Transcendence
  5. Eddie Harris – Freedom Jazz Dance from The In Sound
  6. Donald Byrd – Black Byrd from Black Byrd

Neil is listening to…

Week Ending 23 December 2017:

This week’s round up of great jazz included a brief tribute to the originator of vocalise, the late Jon Hendricks. He idolised Brazilian composer Joao Gilberto and apparently at their first meeting, before speaking a word to each other, they just scatted some familiar tunes. The album that emerged from this meeting, Salud! Joao Gilberto Originator of the Bossa Nova, shows a total empathy with the bossa nova movement: Hendricks’ English wordplay is faithful to the original Portuguese meanings and he pretty much plays it straight throughout. He swings through our choice, You and I (Voce E Eu) and the whole album is highly recommended.

But we began the show with a new track from Singapore’s finest, The Steve McQueens. Terrarium is up there with their 2015 album Seamonster and Hephaestus shows off the qualities of Ginny Bloop’s swooping, darting voice. But the album is also about the interplay between Joshua Wan on keys, Jase Sng on bass and the prolific and versatile Aaron James Lee on drums. There’s a different sound now too – Fabian Lim on saxes and Andrew Lim on guitar left the band in 2017 leaving the melodic weight on keys. Judge for yourself and then check out this album promo.

Up next was an obscure track from the third volume in Kevin Beadle’s Private Collection of personal favourites. Belair was a west coast band of the 70s led by Michael Belair and Tucker Crosby on guitars with Frederic Wetterau on flute and saxes and Private Collection is full of similar entertaining rarities. The seemingly endless supply of new Polish jazz netted two more tracks, including the bass-less Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio featuring Gruszecki on trumpet and flugelhorn, Zbigniew Lewandowski on drums and Kajetan Galas on Hammond B3 organ.

US producer, keyboard player and singer Daniel Crawford seems to be under the jazz radar and yet his music exhibits strong jazz sensibilities. We like his 2016 album Awakening – and a further twist on the Fela classic Water Get No Enemy would seem a good place to start checking out his music. For more Fela, check out the Neil is listening to… tracks (below) for this week and try this sensational live performance by Erykah Badu, recent curator of a new Fela compilation. Next up was Norwich’s finest, Mammal Hands with Black Sails, taken from their 2016 release Shadow Work. There’s a split CJ jury on this one – with some suggestions that the increased amount of electronica has masked the vibrancy of both the band’s compositions and performances. Judge for yourself with more from the band – here’s a live take on Kandaiki from their 2014 Animalia album.

Here at CJ we’ve played many releases from the London-based Soul Jazz label and over the last two years we have played several tracks from the 2014 Black Fire! New Spirits! album – but, until this week, not the Doug Hammond Spaces and Things. We ended the show with two great baritone voices, Gil Scott-Heron  and Gregory Porter. They’re linked through Gregory Porter’s BBC4 series Popular Voices – an interesting three part series on a 100 years of some of the greatest vocalists in modern music. The range was wide, but it was good to see some classic footage of jazz artists including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Gil Scot-Heron, whose classic Winter in America was featured this week. Our final track was from Porter himself who is not only a fine singer but an often exceptional lyricist – as shown here with Painted on Canvas.

  1. The Steve McQueens – Hephaestus from Terrarium
  2. Belair – Samba For a Cold Warrior from Kev Beadle’s Private Collection
  3. Piotr Bodniak Essential Group – It Starts Now from Into the Life
  4. Patrycjusz Gruszecki Trio – Mr. Cogito from Something About
  5. Jon Hendricks – You and I (Voce E Eu) from Salud! Joao Gilberto Originator of the Bossa Nova/A Trip To Brazil Vol 2. Bossa and Beyond
  6. Daniel Crawford – Water No Get Enemy from The Awakening
  7. Mammal Hands – Black Sail from Shadow Work
  8. Doug Hammond – Spaces and Things from Black Fire! New Spirits!
  9. Brian Jackson/Gil Scott-Heron – Winter in America from The First Minute of a New Day/Anthology
  10. Gregory Porter – Painted On Canvas from Be Good

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 December 2017: featuring Piotr Wojtasik and more

Another revisit feature this week which came from superb Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. Either side of this the show begins with some very recent sounds and ends with a Herbie Hancock/George Coleman link.

The three tunes that kicked off the show provided fresh, tough and contemporary sounds. They came from the James Lewis Trio and the title track of their album No Filtertrumpeter Keyon Harrold (who we have played extensively in recent weeks and who’s the subject of a feature by Kevin Le Gendre in the current edition of the Black Music magazine Echoes) and Dziedzic, a Polish trumpeter who – after supporting other musicians for twenty years – now has his own record. The title of every tune on his album Tempo includes BPM and an accompanying number. So, at 143BPM, this one is right between Miles Davis’ So What (142) and Herbie Hancock’s Sly (146). It’s the ideal jogging or running tempo apparently…

Now, there is always time on the show for vocalist Jazzmeia Horn – deinitely one of the breakthrough artists of the year. Like Cecile McClorin Salvant and Gregory Porter she provides space for her excellent musicians and the jazz standard East of the Sun and West of the Moon was no exception

The revisit album this week is a definite favourite. Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik has produced an album that stands up to the very best of modern jazz. CJ came across the stunning Old Land via the Polish and Scandinavian jazz specialist Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Steve has a comprehensive range of music from artists who often down’t get mainstream jazz press reviews – and that’s a good reason to promote them on Cosmic Jazz. As we have noted before, Wojtasik’s stature can be judged by the calibre of US musicians he has played with – Kenny Garrett, Dave Liebman and drummer Billy Hart, who features on this highly recommended record.

Our playlist is often affected by events during the week. An old contact/friend – who got me one of my first-ever DJ slots – posted an enquiry  on Facebook asking if  anyone could recommend music by the sax player George Coleman. Much in demand in the 1960s on Blue Note and beyond, at 82 Coleman is still leading his own quintet and recorded an album as recently as 2016. He played on Herbie Hancock’s classic album Maiden Voyage, and so we featured the title track (if you’re interested, around 118BPM). I and another friend recommended Amsterdam After Darkso it seemed appropriate to conclude the show with an excerpt from the Herbie Hancock standard followed by George Coleman’s title track from this excellent 1978 record which showcases the late Hilton Ruiz on piano.

  1. James Brandon Lewis – No Filter from No Filter
  2. Keyon Harrold feat. Josh David Barrett – The Mugician from The Mugician
  3. Dziedzic – 143 BPM from Tempo
  4. Jazzmeia Horn – East of the Sun and West of the Moon from A Social Call
  5. Piotr Wojtasik – Dr. Gachet from Old Land
  6. Piotr Wojtasik – Hola from Old Land
  7. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage from Maiden Voyage
  8. George Coleman – Amsterdam After Dark from Amsterdam After Dark

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 December: focus on Keyon Harrold and Charles Lloyd

Click the Mixcloud tab to hear this week’s show with two great jazz artists featured. One is Keyon Harrold from his new 2017 release album and the other is another example of our current feature to re-visit Cosmic Jazz favourites – and particularly to play tunes we may not have played before. This week the selections came from master saxophonist Charles Lloyd.

The show began with more from the labels described as the Italian equivalent of Blue Note – Black Saint and Soul Note. The tune this week was a wonderful modal piece from US saxophonist John Stubblefield who was a member of the Mingus Big Band, but who also played with a long list of top US jazz artists.

Trumpeter Keyon Harrold – as we mentioned last week – is one of the young US jazz players of the moment and someone who collaborates with other artists, both on their record and his own. His album The Mugician includes several collaborations, including the Wailer’s vocalist Josh David Barnett on a tune with reggae influences which we have played previously. There is a different collaboration on one of this week’s tracks: Her Beauty Through My Eyes features rapper Pharoahe Monch. Overall, The Mugician is not the uptempo album you might expect and MB Lament, our first tune from this recommended album, provides some calm and gentle playing. Other guests on this sophomore release include Robert Glasper, Bilal and Gary Clark Jnr.

The Charles Lloyd album selected for a re-visit was the superb Rabo de Nube – truly one of our all time favourite recommendations here on CJ. This ECM album was recorded live in Basel Switzerland on 24 April 2007. Besides Charles Lloyd on tenor saxophone and flute, the musicians are the superb Jason Moran on piano, (who somehow doesn’t sound so interesting on a solo album of his that I have), Reuben Rogers on double-bass and Eric Harland on drums and percussion. Normally, I cannot resist playing the wonderful Booker’s Garden which includes Moran at his very best but, in the spirit of what I set out to do with this feature of old favourites, I resisted the temptation and played two other equally absorbing tunes.

There was another track from the highly recommended Blue Note All-Stars album – an extended version of Wayne Shorter’s classic Witch Hunt. We have featured several tracks from this excellent 2CD release: the track lengths are frequently self-indulgently long but somehow the quality of the ensemble playing ensures that it all works. We ended this week’s CJ with another cut from the excellent John Armstrong presents Afro-Beat Brazil, one of our favourite re-issue compilations of 2017.

  1. John Stubblefield – Confessin’ from You Need This: an Introduction to Black Saint and Soul Note
  2. Keyon Harrold – MB Lament from The Mugician
  3. Keyon Harrold – Her Beauty Through My Eyes from The Mugician
  4. Charles Lloyd – Prometheus from Rabo de Nube
  5. Charles Lloyd – La Colline de Monk from Rabo de Nube
  6. The Blue Note All-Stars – Witch Hunt from Our Point of View
  7. Lucas Santtana – Musico from John Armstrong presents Afro-Beat Brazil

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 02 December 2017: making connections

Jazz musicians are flexible and move around to play in different groups. Often, they need to do so in order to make a living – you have to be very successful to limit your playing to one group only. Even then, the most successful appear as guests on the records of others – as, for example, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock who appear on the Blue Note All Stars record we have featured on recent shows.

The first three tunes on this week’s Cosmic Jazz illustrated this perfectly. The show began with Otis Brown III and the trumpeter on that record was Keyon Harrold. This was followed by a tune from The Mugician, Keyon Harrold’s sophomore release as leader. Playing sax on that record was Marcus Strickland – who also appeared on the third tune from the Blue Note All Stars. Also with the Blue Note All Stars are Robert Glasper and Derrick Hodge, both of whom played on the Otis Brown III record. Oh, and Keyon Harrold is also featured on Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life album – another CJ favourite. It sounds complicated, but it’s just part of the interconnected nature of jazz – musicians adding their ‘voice’ to a new context to make music with friends and labelmates. CJ highly recommends all three of these albums as places to start checking out some of the best American new jazz artists.

Having talked on last week’s show about the current crop of British jazz artists, it made sense to revisit one of our favourites from an earlier era. The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet was perhaps the greatest jazz group to come out of the UK in the 1960s. Ian Carr went on to form the jazzrock group Nucleus and become a definitive biographer of Miles Davis. Many of their albums are CJ favourites – for an introduction, start with Dusk Fire or Shades of Blue – reissued on a 2CD set on the excellent BGO label.

I decided to re-visit some old Cosmic Jazz favourites and will from time to time on the show play two tunes from favourite albums. I began this week with an artist who has probably appeared on the show as much as any – alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett. His fine Seeds From the Underground album of 2012 coincided with me seeing a live performance of his group, and so has a particular resonance. Garrett is one of those alto sax players with a very distinctive ‘voice’ – whether it’s his earlier work with Miles Davis or his most recent Mack Avenue label records his sound is immediately recognisable. Check out the title track from one of our favourite albums, Beyond the Wall.

Somi is an artist I have played quite frequently on the show, particularly The Lagos Music Salon inspired by her year in Lagos. I have just, however, revisited her 2017 release Petite Afrique and found an impassioned account of the effects of gentrification, with reference to Harlem, New York. Interesting vocals and interesting musical arrangements.

The show this week ended with another excellent piece of contemporary jazz from Poland courtesy of trumpet/flugelhorn player Lukasz Korybalski.

  1. Otis Brown III – The Way (Truth & Life) from The Thought of You
  2. Keyon Harrold – Ethereal Sounds from The Mugician
  3. The Blue Note All Stars – Meanings from Our Point of View
  4. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Blue Mosque from Shades of Blue
  5. Kenny Garrett – Boogety Boogety from Seeds from the Underground
  6. Kenny Garrett – Seeds from the Underground from Seeds from the Underground
  7. Somi feat. Aloe Blacc – The Gentry from Petite Afrique
  8. Lukasz Korybalski – Crossing from CMM

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 25 November 2017: analogue sounds

These are good times for jazz in the UK. There are some excellent young musicians around, including the superb quartet led by saxophonist Camilla George who I saw this week. Their pianist Sarah Tandy, who has her own trio, was something else. As a classical pianist, she’s a former BBC Young Musician of the Year but is now getting noticed as an exciting and inventive jazz artist. In performance, she just takes off and goes you cannot predict where when it’s her turn to feature, while still maintaining the level of invention while supporting others. She has been chosen by  eminent jazz critic John Fordham in the current edition of Jazzwise magazine as his musician to look out for in 2018.

Ironically, this week’s CJ doesn’t contain music from any native UK artists but – in compensation – we include many excellent, pioneering musicians from the Americas.

As promised last week, I trawled through my record racks and dug out some I have ignored for a while. As a result, the first tune on the show is from Don Cherry – a world musician long before the term ‘world music’ was used as an understandable way to find music in record shops. This comes from the celebrated Mu albums, recorded on the Actuel/BYG label in Paris in 1969.  Here Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell play as a duo with Cherry on flute and Blackwell on percussion. Cherry continued his explorations of music influenced by middle eastern, traditional African and Indian musics and between 1978-82 he recorded the three Codona albums for ECM with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and sitar/tabla player Collin Walcott. These have now been reissued as a 3CD box set – highly recommended if you want to explore this pioneering music.

Kelan Philip Cohran (08 May 1927-28 June 2017) is someone whose death this year we should have acknowledged earlier on the show. His role playing mainly trumpet with the Sun Ra Arkestra from 1969-71 provided him with essential Cosmic Jazz  credentials. This week he is featured playing with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble,  eight of whose nine members are his sons. Look out for their new album Book of Sound just released on UK Honest Jon’s label.

Reggae in jazz is not new. When record producer Coxsone Dodd  was choosing musicians in Kingston for what became The Skatalites he looked for jazz musicians and chose Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso and Tommy McCook. Cedric im Brooks was another Jamaican musician brought up on jazz whom we have featured here on CJ. It was great, however, to play a 2017 released tune with a reggae-meets-jazz feel to it. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold supplied this with the title tune of his new album The MugicianThere are CJ-friendly musicians on the album including, on this powerful, forceful tune, James Poyser and Marcus Strickland.

Marcus Strickland also appears on the next selection which is complex and full of surprises. It came from the new 2017 Blue Note All Stars who comprise Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kendrick Scott, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge and Strickland on saxes. Our choice from the album featured two masters from an ealier generation – Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock – in a version of Shorter’s tune Masqualero, first heard on the Miles Davis album Sorcerer in 1967.

Two or three weeks ago Neil posted on his current listening selection a collaboration between Chilean musicians  (Newen Afrobeat) and Seun Kuti. DJ and long-established record compiler John Armstrong has now assembled a collection merging Afrobeat with another Latin American country, this time Brazil. Excellent it is too. The Camarao Orchestra, like Newen Afrobeat, show how musicians from one country can draw upon and play successfully the music of another – pretty much what many jazz musicians across the world have done since the music began… And eagle eared listeners may have that nagging feeling that they have heard a version of the riff that appears partway through the wonderful Afoxe – perhaps this link from the previously mentioned Herbie Hancock may help…

To end the show we featured a long track from William Parker released in 2002 with soul/hip hop vocals from Leena Conquest, who lists many causes including Native Americans to Civil Rights leaders. I have tried to track down this album for some time but have just managed to do so via the superb Soundclash Records in Norwich. I will play more.

Finally, a shout out to another excellent record shop, and one selling exclusively vinyl – Bury St Edmunds’ excellent Vinyl Hunter. Along with my MC buddy Derek, this week Cosmic Jazz took to the streets of Bury and presented a set of Caribbean music courtesy of Vinyl Hunter. It’s very encouraging to see a small market town the size of Bury St. Edmunds supporting analogue music and, in its dual role of cafe and record store, the place was heaving yesterday. Business is good too – Vinyl Hunter have recently opened a second store in Elmstead, Essex. It’s interesting that the current vinyl revival is not experiencing the much predicted slowdown. The fascination with the format has been taken up by advertising agencies too – vinyl is seen as not only cool but also authenticHere it is with a Rega Planar turntable taking centre stage in a recent Specsavers advertisement. The music is Lester Bowie’s take on The Great Pretender, the title track from his 1981 ECM album. More convincingly, this is Raphael Saadiq chillin’ out in a loft apartment to his own excellent Movin’ Down the Line (Don’t You Go).

  1. Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell – Omelejo from Mu First Part
  2. Kelan Philip Cohran and The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Frankincense and Myrrh from Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
  3. Keyon Harrold feat. Josh David Barrett – The Mugician from The Mugician
  4. Blue Note All Stars feat. Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock – Masqualero from Our Point of View
  5. Camarao Orchestra – Afoxe from John Armstrong presents Afrobeat Brazil
  6. William Parker feat. Leena Conquest – Raining On the Moon from Raining On the Moon

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 18 November 2017: jazz from around the world

This week is the usual mixture of the new and old, some of it influenced by groups I have recently seen live – or am about to see. Check the MixCloud tab to hear some eclectic choices.

On 21 November I am off to hear the Camilla George Quartet at the Cambridge Jazz Festival which has a varied and interesting programme. It looks as if it’s now a fixed item in the jazz calendar – good news. I have enjoyed the Quartet’s record Isang so the tune Lunacity was a timely taste of what I can expect to hear soon – quotes from St Thomas (and Salt Peanuts too) suggest a direct Caribbean connection. The Quartet are collaborators with other jazzers on the current London scene – you can check out Daniel Casimir’s new release here on the jazzre:freshed section of Bandcamp. Expect more and a report on the Camilla George gig next week.

There’s been an Afro-Cuban flavour to CJ recently so I extended this further. After hearing it once again on my shuffle songs I could not resist playing again a tune from the Orchestre Dakar Band, who were a group of young Senegalese students living in Abidjan. This tune was there to make the Senegalese youth dance – beware, it could have the same effect on you! Listen out, in particular,  for the wild trumpet blast during the instrumental break in the tune. It is another example of the influence Afro-Cuban music had, and indeed still has, in West Africa. The track comes from a compilation of Senegalese Afro-Latin music.

The other Afro-Cuban piece this week came from the influential band leader Machito, whom we have played recently supporting other artists. Here he is, though, as the front man to his own New York big band on the track Tibiri-Tabaro from an excellent Charly Records compilation. Check out this club favourite from the same disc.

Neil has introduced me to an excellent compilation of music from the music from Black Saint and Soul Note labels which have been described as the Italian equivalent to Blue Note. The label managed to attract some top-notch US artists to its stable, as embodied in this week’s selection from Don Pullen featuring cult US saxophonist Sam Rivers.

It may be a month late, but CJ this week also took time to remember Theolonius Monk on his centenary, 10 October 2017. The tune Misterioso has been used at the London Jazz Festival as a basis for performances about his life and work.

The Polish section, another regular CJ feature, this week included the young trumpet/flugelhorn player Lukasz Korybalski from his exciting 2017 release CMM. Great, contemporary-sounding jazz, strongly recommended. The other tune came from one of my favourite Polish musicians, trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik and his stunning album Old Land. Wojtasik’s stature can be judged by the calibre of US musicians he has played with – Kenny Garrett, Dave Liebman and drummer Billy Hart, who features on this highly recommended record.

Mammal Hands is a band I have seen recently in their home city of Norwich. To be honest, their most recent material has not had a great impact on me but their previous album Floa is fantastic, so I settled for a tune from there. Another band I saw in Norwich, albeit a couple of years ago, was the Anglo-Norwegian combination assembled by percussionist Thomas Stronen for his superb ECM album Time is a Blind Guide. It was time to return to this record to close the show.

  1. Camilla George Quartet – Lunacity from Isang
  2. Orchestre Dakar Band – Baylen Di Yelwane from AfroLatin Via Dakar
  3. Machito – Tibiri-Tabara from Nuyorican Hits
  4. Don Pullen feat Sam Rivers – Joycie Girl from You Need This, Intro to Black Soul & Soul Note 1975 – 85
  5. Theolonius Monk – Misterioso  from The Best of the Blue Note Years
  6. Lukasz Korybalski – CMM from CMM
  7. Piotr Wojtasik – Recognition, Understanding & Acceptance from Old Land
  8. Mammal Hands – Kudu from Floa
  9. Thomas Stronen – I Don’t Wait for Anyone from Time is a Blind Guide

Derek is listening to…

  1. Kenny Garrett – Seeds From The Underground
  2. Don Cherry – Rhumba Multikulti
  3. Steve Colson & Unity Troupe – Lateen
  4. Gabriel Faure – Requiem
  5. Raging Fyah – Nah Look Back

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 11 November 2017: jazz with a message

Kamasi Washington poses for photos with his saxophone “The Duchess” at The Atom Factory in Culver City, CA (March 8, 2016)

Can instrumental jazz have a message? Of course. Music of all kinds speaks to the body, mind and spirit and this includes jazz. Whether it’s the spiritual intensity of Kamasi Washington as he channels Pharoah Sanders or the elegaic trumpet of Avishai Cohen as he reflects on the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre and beyond. Cohen was clearly moved by saxophonist Jimmy Greene, whose daughter was killed in that 2012 high school attack and who released the excellent tribute album Beautiful Life in 2014. Whilst the NRA and Donald Trump appear to be ignoring the real issue, the New York Times recently made the situation crystal clear. The simple fact is that a country making up 4.4% of the world’s total population owns 42% of the world’s guns. Just let that sink in – and then think about what the obvious solution must be…

More new jazz this week, then, from five 2017 releases, one superb reissue compilation and some downtempo Braziliana from UK producer Mark Pritchard’s group Troubleman – and all available as soon as you click on the link left.

The show began with man of the moment (or more accurately, the last 24 months) Kamasi Washington. Familiar to CJ listeners since the release of his 3CD monster The Epic in 2015, Washington has carved out a mainstream profile and is now one of the most recognised figures in contemporary jazz. For those new to this remarkable LA-based tenor saxophonist, his new EP Harmony of Difference (on The Young Turks label and available here) is an admirable summary of his style. The record consists of variations on a theme – including the opening track Desire – and Washington powers his way through all six tracks, culminating the mini-epic Truth. You can listen to that complete track and watch the powerful AG Rojas video here.

Up next was trumpeter Avishai Cohen – not to be confused with jazz bass player Avishai Cohen. We’ve been featuring his new ECM release Cross My Palm with Silver – a convincing recommendation from Cosmic Jazz. More Polish jazz next courtesy of the ever reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds and then a new Blue Note double album from some of the label’s big name artists including Robert Glasper on keys, Marcus Strickland on saxes and Lionel Loueke on guitar.  It’s truly an all star lineup and the compositions are good too. This week’s show featured Meanings. Elsewhere, there’s a fine reading of Wayne Shorter’s Masquelero and both he and Herbie Hancock guest on the track. Again, highly recommended.

Record shop owner Jean Claude of If Music… in Soho, London has long been an enthusiastic champion of vinyl and now he’s brought out a fascinating compilation of tracks from the Black Saint and Soul Note labels out of Milan, Italy. From 1975 onwards, these two affiliated labels released a huge range of music – including key American artists like Archie Shepp, Don Pullen, Oliver Lake and the late Muhal Richard Abrams. When Cam Jazz acquired the label in 2008, they created a series of artist and group box sets that are all worth checking out if you like edgy, avantgarde jazz sounds. This week, we chose a track by the George Adams/Dannie Richmond group from their Soul Note album Hand to Hand. You can read an interview with Jean Claude of If Music… on the Vinyl Thoughts blog here.

The show ended with two contrasting tracks – the first from trance DJ James Holden who has gone on a Moroccan Gnawa music trip and come back with Animal Spirits, a trance jazz album that successfully fuses at least three different musical genres – and finally the aforementioned slice of Brazilian chillout from Troubleman. The ethereal vocals here are by Smoke City’s Nina Miranda.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Desire from Harmony of Difference EP
  2. Avishai Cohen – Will I Die Miss, Will I Die? from Cross My Palm With Silver
  3. Lukasz Korybalski – Taniec Greka from CMM
  4. Blue Note All-Stars – Meanings from Our Point Of View
  5. George Adams and Dannie Richmond – Joobubie from You Need This: an introduction to Black Saint and Soul Note 1975-85.
  6. James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through Fire from The Animal Spirits
  7. Troubleman feat Nina Miranda – Paz from Time Out Of Mind

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 04 November 2017: searching for jazz

This week Cosmic Jazz returned to some themes from our last show – check it out via the Mixcloud tab left.

There was another attempt to find the jazz in Zara McFarlane’s new album, Arise. I am still struggling. Her voice does not have the range or expressiveness of CJ favourites like Jazzmeia Horn or Cecile McClorin Salvant and musically Arise is neither notable jazz nor typical of any Caribbean musical styles . At times, it sounds to me like a pop record! Neil notes: heaven forfend! I agree with what you say Derek, but Arise is being presented as more of a mainstream breakthrough record and so evaluation needs to be on those terms. McFarlane’s voice is actually better suited to soul rather than jazz and the new record reminds us of this. Is McFarlane’s Peace Begins Within a good cover? Yes, because it reinterprets Nora Dean’s reggae original and gives it a smoother take on what, in other more adventurous jazzier hands, could have been an all-out spiritual anthem. And that trombone/sax break from Nathaniel Cross and Binker Golding is pretty cool… Producer Moses Boyd has ensured that the album sound clean and crisp – all directed at that more mainstream audience. As a whole, Arise is a better use of McFarlane’s vocal limitations than her more jazz inflected earlier releases – but there is certainly a lot less jazz here. So, with Brownswood’s intention to target a different audience, does Arise succeed? Overall, yes – but with caveats for both Neil and Derek here on CJ.

Zara McFarlane’s reworking of the Max Roach classic All Africa is – however – the real jazz deal. It’s worth getting hold of the 10inch single/download to hear the extended McFarlane take on this celebrated cut from Max Roach’s anthemic 1960 album We Insist! There are great solos from Binker Golding on sax and Ashley Henry on keys.  Listening to this version was a useful reminder to play the inspiring original which featured vocals from Abbey Lincoln alongside an all star band including Julian Priester, Booker Little and Coleman Hawkins.

Once I get into a phase of listening to a particular style I tend to return to it. Afro-Cuban Jazz was the example this week. I could not resist returning to the Dizzy Gillespie and Machito album and that led to another record with connections. Mario Bauza appears on the Dizzy/Machito record, as does Chico O’Farrill and trumpeter Victor Paz. They are all together again on a tune from Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Carnegie Hall 100. It is uplifting – check out the speed and clarity of that conga playing. The Tanga Suite, the album from which it comes is highly recommended.

The Horace Tapscott tune came from a compilation put together to mark a recent art exhibition at Tate Modern gallery in London, which I was  pleased to visit.  Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power seemed to be an appropriate selection as Black History Month came to its conclusion – as did Terra Firma from Joe Henderson’s Black is the Color record.

To end I could not resist at least another play of Yusef Lateef’s Morning from the latest release in the Spiritual Jazz series and originally found on his – yes – his first 1957 album Jazz Mood. What a revolutionary track this was! Lateef taps deep into middle eastern sounds and in a wonderful piece of modal jazz is featured on tenor sax, with bassist Ernie Farrow doubling up on rabat. In his autobiography The Gentle Giant, Lateef notes how he would visit Detroit’s Eastern Market and the Syrian spice shop where he first encountered the arghul, an Egyptian twin reed clarinet which features elsewhere on Jazz Mood.

Searching for jazz? Oh yes, we found it…

  1. Zara McFarlane – Pride from Arise
  2. Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite
  3. Dizzy Gillespie y Machito – Pensativo from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
  4. Mario Bauza and his Afro-Cuban Orchestra – Carnegie Hall 100 from The Tanga Suite
  5. Horace Tapscott – Desert Fairy Princess from Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power/Live at IUCC
  6. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color
  7. Yusef Lateef – Morning from Spiritual Jazz 7/Jazz Mood

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…