Tag Archives: John Coltrane

21 September 2016: keeping jazz in the family

ravi-coltrane

This week’s CJ features music chosen by Neil before his departure to Singapore. We started the show with a very different version of a tune familiar to Cosmic Jazz listeners. This week saw the 90th anniversary of John Coltrane’s birth (23 September) and so we featured two classic ‘trane compositions – Alabama and Tunji. We have played the impassioned Alabama before on the show – and told the essential backstory. If you don’t know, then check out this radio feature on Alabama which suggests that (just as with the suite A Love Supreme) Coltrane based the cadences and rhythms of the tune on the spoken word – in this case, Martin Luther King’s funeral eulogy on the four girls killed in the Montgomery firebombing. Our other two versions will be much less familiar to CJ fans.

In Movemdejohnette-in-movementent, the new ECM album from Jack DeJohnette is a stunner. It’s a collaboration between DeJohnette and the sons of two musicians who featured in the classic Coltrane quartet – Ravi Coltrane (pictured above) and Matthew Garrison, bass playing son of Jimmy Garrison – so it seems appropriate that they should cover Alabama. In fact, all three of the album cover tunes are inspired – how about EWF’s Serpentine Fire?! The whole thing is suffused with subtle electronics from Garrison and sounds like a reinvigoration for DeJohnette who – at 74 – is arguably
on his best ever form.

The late Bernie Worrell was not just the keyboard player behind George Clinton’s funk groups Parliament and Funkadelic but an bernie worrell elevationadventurous jazz pianist in his own right. He committed only one solo piano album to disc and Elevation: the Upper Air was stunning result. There are no keyboard histrionics here – just quiet reflective versions of some tunes old and new that could now be called standards. One of them is our second look at Alabama. Other surprising inclusions on this gentle album are Carlos Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. It won’t be easy to find this album but it’s worth tracking down – and the excellent sound quality (thanks to producer Bill Laswell) is a bonus.

arthur-blythe-illusionsIn between these two impassioned performances was alto player Arthur Blythe. With a tone all his own, Blythe is one of the most underrated alto players in jazz. When he emerged in New York aged 37, he was already fully formed as a player. For me, Blythe has the same quality of sound as trumpeter Lester Bowie – a free-influenced player who is also capable of playing older styles in an utterly personal and borderline iconoclastic way. This new four album, two CD reissue on enterprising British label BGP is highly recommended. All four albums were the result of Blythe’s contract with Columbia Records – until they dropped him in favour of rising star Wynton Marsalis. The rest – as they say – is history… I bought Blythe’s Lenox Avenue Breakdown album when it when it first appeared in 1979 – but I didn’t get Illusions, this later one.  I should have done. My Son Ra is from is a blast from start to finish. Bob Stewart’s tuba is there still and James Blood Ulmer is on guitar too. This is another tribute title – it’s for his son Raschid.  

I just had to follow this with some authentic John Coltrane and so chose Tunji from Coltrane (the Deluxe Edition). This version is one of the several alternative versions on the extra disc and is taken rather faster than the one which appears on the initial album release. The title is a tribute to percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, of course – and he appears here in an updated performance of his classic Drums of Passion, this time adding modern beats with the help of Airto Moreira and Mickey Hart.

massive-attack-blue-linesEarlier this month, I was inspired by watching a rather good BBC4 television documentary on Massive Attack and their origins in the Bristol music scene of the late 1980s. It was a fascinating portrait, largely told through the eyes of the Wild Bunch collective founder Milo Johnson. Watch the full documentary Unfinished: The Making of Massive Attack along with these photographs of Bristol in the 1980s by Beezer. As Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines played over the end credits, I thought that this would make an excellent CJ opening track. Of course, it’s a great song but I think this version tops the excellent William DeVaughn original. By the way, Vince Montana of the Salsoul Orchestra played vibes on that original version. Here he is with the extended sextet version of the classic Heavy Vibes from a 1982 edition of Soul Train. Love the dancing…

Pianist Ahmad Jamal appears to be having a late career revival at the moment – but the reality is that he’s never gone away. Stolen Moments from The Awakening (1970) on the Impulse! label is a surely a tune that you can’t get wrong – and Jamal doesn’t disappoint, twisting and turning round the tune once he gets going with that really chordal percussive stye of his. About half way through he just runs off on another journey but is soon back with the theme – this version is just a delight. You can catch Jamal on fine live form at Marciac, France here with a radical version of Blue Moon

Wayne Shorter is one of the greatest living jazz artists. Now in hiswayne-shorter-odyssey-of-iska 80s, he is still at the top of his game – for example, delighting audiences at this year’s September Monterey Jazz Festival. Here he is on his very last outing for the label with the tune Joy from Odyssey of Iska. It’s quite difficult to get hold of this one on either vinyl or CD but look out for the album and its equally elusive predecessor Mato Grosso Feio. Both albums feature that Shorter’s unique elipical compositions and his radically different playing style on tenor and soprano saxes – the former gruff and rasping, the latter lean and clear. Odyssey of Iska features two drummers and two percussionists, along with vibes too, and yet the whole feels very light and airy. Interesting. A footnote: Iska was named after Shorter’s young daughter.

joe-henderson

Shorter began on the iconic Blue Note label and so did his contemporary Joe Henderson, one of CJ’s long time heroes. Even if you dip your musical toes into something more obscure from the extensive Henderson back catalogue (like Terra Firma from Black is the Color) you won’t go wrong. Easily dateable from the drums and the little bits of synth, this outing on Milestone is still pure deep Henderson – overdubbed on both tenor and soprano saxes along with flute too. Yes, there’s some wah wah style guitar and some synthesizer decorations,  but there’s some punchy electric bass too (unusually) from Ron Carter. That’s CJ this week – keeping it in the family.

  1. DeJohnette/Coltrane/Garrison – Alabama from In Movement
  2. Arthur Blythe – My Son Ra from Illusions
  3. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Bernie Worrell – Alabama from Elevation: the Upper Air
  5. Massive Attack – Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines
  6. Ahmad Jamal – Stolen Moments from The Awakening
  7. Wayne Shorter – Joy from Odyssey of Iska
  8. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color

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Neil is listening to…

07 September 2016: Rudy van Gelder special

Rudy Van Gelder used his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.
Rudy Van Gelder used his parents’ living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was all about one man – Rudy van Gelder, whose death was announced late last month. Van Gelder was, without doubt, one of the most important figures in the history of jazz music – but he wasn’t a musician. As an engineer, he helped to define the sound of recorded jazz from his two iconic recording studios – first in Hackensack at his parents’s home and then at his own custom built studio (and home) at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

herbie-hancock-maiden-voyageVan Gelder always said that he was not a record producer but a recording engineer. He had the final say in what Englewood Cliffs records sounded like, and he was, in the view of countless producers, musicians and listeners, better at that than anyone. Van Gelder engineered albums for four key labels – Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse and CTI – and was responsible for so many jazz classics, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Horace Silver’s Song For My Father.

In 1988, van Gelder told the New York Times that he believed he had been associated with more records, technically, than anybody else in mccoy-tyner-horizonthe history of the record business – and any look at the list of records engineered at Englewood Cliffs endorses this. So, here at CJ, we’ve tried to condense some of the Englewood Cliffs experience into an hour of classic jazz recordings. We began with the title track from Horizon, one of the best of McCoy Tyner’s many recordings for Milestone. This record is a stonecold classic – find it and buy it if you can. The inspired choice of John Blake on violin and saxophonist George Adams complement Tyner perfectly as he weaves through a series of superb compositions, of which Horizon is the most exceptional. Up next was a more familiar recording – Oliver Nelson’s Impulse! label classic Stolen Moments from his 1961 album The Blues and the Abstract Truth. This standard has now been recorded by dozens of artists including a celebrated vocal version by Mark Murphy that we have featured previously on CJ.

John Coltrane was much recorded at Englewood Cliffs, from the early days with Prestige to his long tenure at Impulse! Records. We chose a classic from 1962 – the studio recording of Impressions. This track is pure Coltrane – although it uses the same chord sequence as john-coltrane-coltraneMiles Davis’s So What, it couldn’t be more different. Impressions is modal piece featuring what had become known by the time of this recording as Coltrane’s sheets of sound. Listen to the free-flowing drumming of Elvin Jones and how he is tuned to the pulse and energy of Coltrane’s saxophone tones. For us at CJ, this is one of those timeless Coltrane recordings that belong with Blue Train, Ole and A Love Supreme. Seek out the deluxe version of the Impulse! album just called Coltrane and you’ll find the recording we featured.

There are some great records that feature recipes – one of my favourites is Don Cherry’s Rappin’ Recipe on his little known album Home Boy, Sister Out. Check out the track Alphabet City here. We larry-coryell-barefoot-boywedged in the comic double act of trumpeter Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill with their 1966 recipe Spanish Rice before the arrival of Gabor Szabo’s Gypsy Queen, a track recorded by Santana on their excellent Abraxas album. But it’s a tune that has a jazz pedigree as well – I’ve always enjoyed the version by guitarist Larry Coryell.

Rudy van Gelder was reluctant to reveal too many specifics about sam-rivers-fuchsia-swing-songhis recording techniques. But he was clear about his goal: to get electronics to accurately capture the human spirit, and to make the records he engineered sound as warm and as realistic as possible. The
placing of microphones was crucial in this process and the result was that many of his recordings (particularly those from the late 1950s and early 1960s have a presence that often places the musicians in the room with the listener. That’s true of many of the recordings we featured in this week’s show and even on an MP3 file you can hear this. Listen closely to Sam Rivers’ tenor saxophone on Beatrice for a taste of this. Van Gelder wanted what he called
 a sense of space in the overall sound picture. He used specific microphones located in places that allowed the sonny-rollins-alfiemusicians to sound as though they were playing from different locations in the room, which in reality they were. This created a feeling of dimension and depth that few other recordings have. Whether it’s Sonny Rollins’s sax on Alfie’s Theme or Tommy Flanagan’s claves on Samba Para Bean you can hear it all so clearly.

WVANGR03
WVANGR03

As a former optometrist, van Gelder was particularly fussy about the small details of recording. He said I was the guy doing everything — setting up the chairs, running the floor cables, setting the microphones, working the console. I didn’t want to handle all of my fine, expensive equipment with dirty hands. It shows. Even more, van Gelder was involved in every aspect of making his records, from preparation rudy-van-gelder-run-off-grooveto mastering (the final stage in the process) in which the music on tape was transferred to disc for record-plant pressing. I always wanted to be in control of the entire recording chain, he said. Why not? It had my name on it. This – of course – was true: if you look at the run off groove on any Rudy van Gelder vinyl recording you will see his initials.

  1. McCoy Tyner – Horizon from Horizon
  2. Oliver Nelson – Stolen Moments from Stolen Moments
  3. John Coltrane – Impressions from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill – Spanish Rice from Spanish Rice
  5. Gabor Szabo – Gypsy Queen from Spellbinder
  6. Jackie McLean – Francisco from Capuchin Swing
  7. Horace Silver – Home Cookin’ from The Stylings of Silver
  8. Sonny Rollins – Alfie’s Theme from Alfie
  9. Sam Rivers – Beatrice from Fuchsia Swing Song
  10. Coleman Hawkins – Samba Para Bean from Desafinado

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Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to…

22 June 2016: jazz with a message

Jazz and protest go hand in hand, and this week’s theme of jazz with a message seems particularly timely. As always, click the MixCloud button (left) to hear this week’s CJ and check out the embedded links below. 19th century writer and social john_coltrane_order_is_everythingreformer Harriet Martineau said, If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power. Well, after a decision that has literally split the UK, we too will soon find out how one half treats the other. Of course, we are not comparing the post-Brexit environment with the social circumstances that generated the radical, fierce equal rights messages so powerfully conveyed in our music this week. But we can always reflect on the power of music to help define where we are and what we feel.

Radical music will not – by definition – be easy listening. Good. Stay with it and appreciate the part that great black music played in achieving social change in the USA. To begin with there were marion brown vistaVisions: Have I lived to see the milk and honey land,
Where hate’s a dream and love forever stands?
This is Stevie Wonder filtered through alto player Marion Brown from his album Vista, released on the Impulse! label in 1975. The track features two ‘engine room’ greats – Reggie Workman on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums in addition to Allen Murphy on vocals. The vocals on this track might give you a misleading impression of Marion Brown’s music: here he is in a very different context – music from his album Sweet Earth Flying with Muhal Richards Abrams and Paul Bley on piano.

We followed this with two well known and haunting tunes. Firstly, John Coltrane’s Alabama: his response to the 1963 Baptist church john coltrane live at birdlandbombings in Birmingham, Alabama in which four girls (the oldest only 14 years old) were mercilessly murdered at the hands of white supremacists. Then the chilling, explicit Strange Fruit written in 1939 by schoolteacher Abel Meeropol and delivered with unrivalled intensity and emotion by Billie Holiday. Meeropol was apparently haunted by a photograph of the lynching of two black men and wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday.

frank foster loud minorityUp next was a Cosmic Jazz favourite – this time in its original form – from Frank Foster. The Loud Minority (1974) is a long and, at times, free piece with impassioned vocals from Dee Dee Bridgewater supported by an approving crowd. The message is clear: We are the loud minority and, as such, we are a part of those concerned with change. On this track, Foster’s big band is a powerhouse with terrific performances from Marvin Peterson on trumpet, Jan Hammer on piano, Earl Dunbar on guitar and Elvin Jones on drums. This track is, of course, the inspiration for a favourite tune from Japanese jazzers United Future Organization – here’s their take on Loud Minority (with its original video too).

gil scott heron and brian jackson bridgesMore mellow in delivery, but still delivering a powerful message were Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. From their 1977 album Bridges came the almost inevitable choices for such a theme. Scott-Heron reminds us that We say that since change is inevitable, we should direct the change/Rather than simply continue to go through the change. Seems appropriate. Bt the way, Bridges also contains the anthemic We Almost Lost Detroit, a track sampled by Common on his The People track from Finding Forever.

Wild, free and unpredictable could describe another musical appeal to the rights of minorities. This was Triumph of the Outcasts, R-2377721-1280502406.jpegComing from pianist Adegoke Steve Colson, whose music carries social, political and spiritual messages. Again, it is a tune with a distinctive, unique vocal that accentuates and drives home the message, from vocalist wife Iqua. Colson was a member of the influential Black Artists Group (BAG) in Chicago but following his move to New Jersey, the Newark City Council named 13 November as Steve Colson Day! The proclamation honoured the premiere of his multimedia work, Greens, Rice, And A Rope and Colson has gone on to work with many avant garde jazz artists, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake and Henry Threadgill. The penultimate track on this week’s show was from another revolutionary jazz figure, Philip Cohran. Along with his Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Cohran has ploughed a singular furrow meshing elements of John philip cohran on the beachColtrane, James Brown and Fela Kuti into what Thom Jurek in his Allmusic review of the album On the Beach calls a seamless solidarity of black consciousness. The track Unity tells us how things should be and complemented the name chosen for Steve Colson’s band (The Unity Troupe). To end this week’s we dived back into the spiritual realm with the Charles Gayle Trio, recorded live in Poland, and invoking the way to Eternal Life. 

  1. Marion Brown – Visions from Vista
  2. John Coltrane – Alabama from Live at Birdland
  3. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit from Jazz Greats Bille Holiday
  4. Frank Foster – The Loud Minority from The Loud Minority
  5. Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson – Delta Man (Where I’m Coming From) from Bridges
  6. Steve Colson and the Unity Troupe – Triumph of the Outcasts, Coming from Triumph!
  7. Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble – Unity from On the Beach
  8. Charles Gayle Trio – Eternal Life from Christ Everlasting

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

03 February 2016: from Krakow to Kingston

CJ is globetrotting again this week – from Krakow to Blackburn, Porsgrunn (check it out!) to Montevideo and more. As always, just click the MixCloud tab on this page to hear for yourself.

algorhythmThe show began with with some of the excellent Polish jazz around. One of my favourite groups at the moment are Algorythm and we started with a tune from their impressive Segments album. Emil Miszk is on trumpet, Piotr Chęcki on tenor, Szymon Burnos on piano, Krzysztof Słomkowski on bass and (despite what I said on the show!) Sławek Koryzno on drums. High Definition Quartet are one of those quirky, unpredictable, up-front bands – and the track V is typical of the music on their new release Bukoliki. Since their formation, they have built up quite a reputation and have played with many other musicians, including Randy Brecker in 2012.

Last week, saxophonist Nat Birchall featured on CJ – both with music from his latest album on Jazzman Records, but also here on the website where we looked at one of the many excellent features on his own website. This week on the show we feature another tune from Invocations but also the track Ethiopia from one of the14921 musicians who has influenced Birchall, Jamaican tenor player Cedric Im Brooks. For more, check out the album Cedric Im Brooks and The Light Of Saba reissued a few years ago on the excellent Honest Jon label. I’m lucky enough to have a copy on the original double vinyl. 

don rendell:ian carr phase IIIAfter the death of the distinguished British sax/flute player Don Rendell last year it seemed appropriate to play again Black Marigolds by The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet.  This wonderful piece, written by pianist Michael Garrick, still sounds as fresh and interesting as it surely did when issued in 1966. Sadly, there’s almost no video available of this iconic band – but here they are at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1968 (and still in suits!).

We have recently featured music from Norway and will be playing more in our next show. This week it was more of a re-visit to the album Bugge and Friends from Bugge Wesseltoft. The friends on this record include Erik Truffaz whose new album Doni Doni features Rokia Traore. You can check out a live version of the title track here from the WorldStock Festival in Paris.

I’ll be playing a few older latin jazz tunes, many for jazz dancers, over the coming week. I began with Opa from Uruguay. The Fattoruso brothers from Montevideo formed the band in the 1970s and theiropa magic timetwo records were both produced by Airto Moreira. The track I featured came from their second album Magic Time, released in 1977. Both Airto and his then wife, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim can be heard. Both albums have been reissued on Milestone and the first – Goldenwings – on BGP Records here in the UK. You’ll find Montevideo on the widely available BGP compilation – details below.

Below, as usual, is this week’s playlist – but also something I hope to do from time to time. It’s five of the records we’re currently listening too – whether on the move or at home. As you’ll see, it’s not all exclusively jazz. Neil will be doing the same while he’s in Beijing – check out his top five below. We’ve linked either the tune or the album to a YouTube video. Enjoy!

  1. Algorythm – Sorry For the Delay from Segments
  2. High Definition Quartet – V from Bukoliki
  3. Nat Birchall – A Luta Continua from Invocations
  4. Cedric Im Brooks – Ethiopia from Studio One Rockers
  5. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Black Marigolds from Phase III/Impressed II
  6. Bugge Wesseltoft – Make It from Bugge & Friends
  7. OPA – Montevideo from Magic Time/BGP presents Jazz Funk

Derek’s currently listening to…

Neil’s currently listening to…

 

 

24 November 2015: jazz icons live

This week’s CJ featured only four selections – but what powerful performances they were! We began with John Coltrane performing live at Temple University in 1966 from a recording that john coltrane offeringfinally emerged last year on Impulse! Records. The saxophonist was relentlessly exploring his music during the last the last two years of his life, frequently deploying extra musicians in expanded groupings. On this night in Philadelphia, he had some additional musicians on stage – a couple of extra saxophone players he knew from the area as well as Umar Ali, Algie DeWitt, and Robert Kenyatta on percussion. But they don’t really intrude into the the performance – Coltrane himself is at the heart of it (there was, after all, only one microphone recording all of this) and the performance is full of explosive atonal blowing – as you can hear on the 26 minutes of Crescent.

As the excellent Pitchfork review attests, ‘trane’s playing is unbearably intense, the brittle shrieking egged on by someone yelling “Hey!” in the background. Melody and harmony are sacrificed at the altar of texture and feeling, anger and joy bleed into sadness. Once in a while you can hear a cowbell in the background, and you get a glimpse of what it might have been like to be here on this night. “

Next up was Miles Davis, perhaps the most iconic of all jazz artists and another restlessly exploring musician. Coltrane didn’t embrace the growth of electric music in jazz in the way that his one time boss did – the intensity of his playing didn’t need any additions. But by the time of this second live track in 1970, Miles was fully electric,bitches brew live playing his trumpet through a wah wah pedal and using two electric keyboards on stage. This performance is from the Isle of Wight Festival where Davis shared the bill with such artists as Chicago, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix. This was exactly the audience Miles wanted to bring his new music to and this was to be the biggest audience (600,000 people) ever played to by a jazz artist. The first ten minutes of the continuous set is a version of Bitches Brew, released the previous year as as a double vinyl album.

CJ next played Charles Lloyd whose 1966-68 quartet featured Keith Jarrett on piano, who was earlier heard wreaking havoc on a Fender electric organ with Miles Davis. But this 2007 band is altogether different. Lloyd is very much the elder statesman here leading his rabo de nubeyoung band through a set of mostly Lloyd originals at a Basel concert. Here on CJ we come back to this recording time and again – why? It’s probably the centrepiece of Lloyd’s many recordings for the ECM label and a great place to begin to investigate his music. He had recorded several albums for the German label by time this one was released in 2008 and here he invests several earlier tracks with a new spirit thanks to a superb band. High school classmates Eric Harland on drums and Jason Moran on piano are joined by Reuben Rogers on bass and each pushes their leader to new heights of improvisation. Start with Rabo de Nube and you’ll want to experience all of Lloyd’s work with this astonishing quartet.

The final track in this very special show came from an artist that Miles Davis had huge respect for. Ahmad Jamal, now , is here jamal marciacrecorded last year at the Marciac festival in France. Another elder leader invigorated by a young band featuring bassist Reginald Veal,  percussionist Manolo Badrena and drummer Herlin Riley, this live show (available with a DVD) captures warmth and good nature of a band who know how to work around Jamal’s quirky take on both standards and originals. Check out our video below which shows Jamal revisiting his Poinciana original in Paris in 2012 with this same quartet.

  1. John Coltrane – Crescent from Offering: live at Temple University
  2. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew from Bitches Brew Live
  3. Charles Lloyd – Migration of Spirit from Rabo de Nube
  4. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac

Playlist – 01 July 2015: featuring Kamasi Washington

the epic4This week’s show featured the young saxophonist Kamasi Washington. He’s already been featured on the show in an earlier programme and his 3CD release The Epic is one of our favourite records of 2015. Find it in your local independent record store (mine is Soundclash in Norwich – see our link) and pay around £13 for over three hours of excellent music.

Washington leads a big band with, at times, singers and a choir as well as several musicians all from Los Angeles, many of whom have known each other for a long time. They state that they Want to make jazz new, unexpected and mysterious again. The rapper Common has said: These guys remind me why I listen to music and Flying Lotus, (although related to the Coltrane family) said referring to Washington I don’t want to hear ‘My Favourite Things… What I hear is a leader among artists. The two tunes played on this week’s show Askim and Re-Run Home are long, intense, spiritual and uplifting.

John-Coltrane-Stellar-Regions-1967-FLACI am sure the quote above from Flying Lotus is not intended as a slight to John Coltrane. Cosmic Jazz this week showed where we stand by opening with Seraphic Light from Stellar Regionsmusic from Coltrane’s late period and discovered only after his death. The track features Alice Coltrane on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Free, heavy, intensely spiritual and moving jazz.

There was more from stevesjazzsounds.co.uk, but this time from Sweden. Veteran saxophonist Nisse Sandstrom with a quintet featuring young Swedish musicians, played a calypso-inspired tune to make the hips sway, or perhaps wine as they would say in the Caribbean. Shades of Sonny Rollins to be heard here. Also from Sweden came REQ – another young group, this time a quartet, led by bass player Robert Erlandsson.

groove orchestraFinally, to show that Kamasi Washington is not the only young black American leader of a jazz big band that we have featured recently on Cosmic Jazz, there was another play for Samuel Prather and his Groove Orchestra. They, however, are from Washington – a long, long way from LA.

  1. John Coltrane – Seraphic Light from Stellar Regions
  2. Kamasi Washington – Askim from The Epic
  3. Kamasi Washington – Re-Run Home from The Epic
  4. Nisse Sandstrom Quintet – Calypso Bulbosa from Live at Crescendo
  5. REQ – News from News
  6. Samuel Prather – Fela Snarky from Groove Orchestra

 

 

 

Playlist – 25 March 2015: some tough tunes

The theme of this week’s show, available on the MixCloud tab is Tough Tunes. This was inspired by the deep and demanding tunes that have started the show off for the last two weeks.

message from the tribeThe context I chose for the selection was either tough in the sense of being musically challenging or tough in terms of music with a powerful message, or in some cases, a combination of both these criteria. Such choices will always evoke a response as to what has been left out or, indeed, whether or not this collection of tunes can truly be described as ‘tough’. Posts in response on this blog will be welcome.

  1. Kenny Garrett – Welcome Earth Song from Seeds from the Underground
  2. Otis Brown III – Stages Of Thought from The Thought Of You
  3. Max Roach – Freedom Day from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  4. John Coltrane – Africa (first version) from the Complete Africa Brass Sessions
  5. Tribe – What We Need from Message From The Tribe
  6. Michael Brecker – Two Blocks From The Edge from Two Blocks From The Edge
  7. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live from Bitches Brew Live

coltrane africa brass

garrrett seedsFL_KE$HA

Playlist – 21 January 2015: Neil’s choice

In the studio this week was Neil: back from Beijing for a short visit, it was time for him to head to the decks and record a live show. The music focused on new albums and reissues from 2014 – along with an extra or two. We bookended the show with a couple of tracks from rising star Taylor McFerrin’s first release, Early Riser. taylor mcferrinTaylor is son of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin and knowing that the album is on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label tells you quickly that this is not a case of ‘like father, like son’. Robert Glasper and bassist Thundercat are some of the big names supporting multi-instrumentalist McFerrin to create music that moves fluidly between soul, electronica and jazz.

Next up was another new release – this time from American pianist Jason Moran whose recent concerts featured a papier mache head of his most recent inspiration, Fats Waller. The track also featured vocals – this time from bassist Meshell Ndegeocello. Following this was more evidence that the boundary between electronica and jazz continues to blur, with both Black Top and what might be called the Wesseltoft Trio using sonic manipulation to creative effect.

sun ra in the orbit of raFollowing the 100th anniversary of his birth, interest in the original jazz space cadet Sun Ra has never been greater. Reissues of his albums (even the most obscure ones) continues apace but we featured a track from one of the best introductions to his work that you could possibly wish for. Strut Records was definitely one of the labels of 2014 and their 2CD compilation of Ra’s work (In the Orbit of Ra) was compiled by long serving Ra sideman Marshall Allen. Angels and Demons at Play is a typically glorious, brassy romp that’s impossible not to like.

We followed with a great reissue from drummer Horacee Arnold who recorded in the 1970s with a host of big names across two great albums, Tales of the Exonerated Flea and Tribe, both now available on a double album reissue. You might not have heard of Arnold, but you’ll know many of the great names on these two albums. Arnold’s vision was a wide-ranging one and he recruited players from all over the jazz world – bassist George Mraz, flautist Art Webb, saxophonist Sonny Fortune, percussionist Dom Um Romao, and from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, bassist Rick Laird and and keyboard player Jan Hammer. As if this wasn’t enough, Arnold was even able to access two great guitarists who continue to form the backbone of many an ECM release – Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie. The end result is one of the most fascinating, soulful and truly successful albums of the entire jazz rock genre. The album never drops into predictable jazz rock tropes and every track offers a genuine fusion of new rhythmic, melodic and harmonic concepts. This is an album to chase up and enjoy. The funky Latin groove of Benzele Windows is a good example with intricate, modal solos by Webb, Fortune and Abercrombie.

john coltrane offeringTalking of reissues, one of the best of 2014 was John Coltrane’s Offering: Live at Temple University. Much has been written about this double CD album, recorded just eight months before Coltrane’s early death from liver cancer. in 1966 ‘trane’s gig at Temple University was recorded by the university’s radio station but has only been heard in partial, poor-quality bootlegs until this year, when it was polished up and issued for this set. The music on Offering shifts between standard ideas of jazz and noise music, regularly tipping over from chords and melody and harmony into the realm of pure sound. On this night in Philadelphia, Coltrane threw in everything – a couple of extra saxophone players he knew from the area as well as Umar Ali, Algie DeWitt, and Robert Kenyatta on percussion. We don’t hear much of them because the whole thing was recorded through one microphone. The focus is clearly on the leader, but there’s no need to worry about the pressure as Coltrane is on fire –  his playing (and vocalising) makes this record a must.

After the edge of the universe playing on his Live in Japan set (also recorded in 1966), Coltrane seems to return to Earth on Offering.  He starts with the ever-beautiful Naima, roughs it up with Crescent, and tunes in to Rashid Ali’s intense drumming on Leo. But then, halfway through this last track, we hear something unique in all of Coltrane’s extended, various output.  He sets aside his horn and starts to vocalise, singing phrases while beating on his chest to give his vocals an effect something like vibrato. The audience (or more accurately those that were left) must have been mesmerised, perhaps recognising that Coltrane had reached a point where his instrument just couldn’t convey the feelings he had locked inside.

From the intensity of this track we moved to a brief taste of one of the most joyous of returns to form from octogenarian pianist Ahmad ahmad jamalJamal, recorded live in Paris. The package comes as a double CD with DVD and it’s great value. In the second half of the concert,  Jamal brings out special guest Yusef Lateef who was to die at the age of 93 soon after recording. The whole concert is a glorious demonstration that age is no barrier to being cool. There was more Lateef towards the end of the show with an early classic from the beginning of his career.

There was also time to squeeze in a short piece by Alsace DJ and sampler Kira Neris in a track culled from the Japan-only version of his Behind Closed Doors album and a short taste of another great reissue from 2014 which showcases Keith Jarrett’s early American trio but the ‘meat’ of this musical sandwich was the astonishing michael wollnyMichael Wollny Trio. Jazzwise magazine had this release at the top of their Best of 2014 – and it’s easy to see why. Wollny’s vision is more eclectic than most and the influences on this classic piano, bass, drums combination are omnivorous. Wollny takes in the Flaming Lips, Varese, writer Fredrich Nietzsche and punky priestess P!ink amongst others. We ended the show with a drum workout from Pheeroan Ak Laff and another Taylor McFerrin track. In all, an eclectic mix but then – as Frank Zappa noted – “jazz isn’t dead – it just smells funny.”

  1. Taylor McFerrin – Invisible/Visible – Early Riser
  2. Jason Moran – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – All Rise
  3. Black Top – Archaic Nubian Stepdub – # One
  4. Wesseltoft, Schwarz, Berglund – Take a Quick Break – Trialogue
  5. Sun Ra – Angels and Demons at Play – In the Orbit of Ra
  6. Horacee Arnold – Benzele Windows – Tales of the Exonerated Flea
  7. John Coltrane – Offering – Offering: Live at Temple University
  8. Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon (encore) – Live at the Olympia
  9. Kira Neris – My Room – Behind Closed Doors
  10. Michael Wollny Trio – God is  a DJ – Weltentraum
  11. Keith Jarrett Trio – Life, Dance – Hamburg ’72
  12. Heliocentrics – Prologue – The Last Transmission
  13. Pheeroan Ak Laff – Tzaddi Vau (part 1) – Black Fire! New Spirits!
  14. Yusef Lateef – Chang, Chang, Chang – Black Fire! New Spirits!
  15. Taylor McFerrin – Already There – Early Riser

Video this week comes from bassist Richard Bona and vocalist extraordinaire Bobby McFerrin. Enjoy!

Playlist – 12 October 2013

Listen to Cosmic Jazz on the radio – the show is now available from the IO Radio Mixcloud link on this page and at Listen Again on the IO Radio at www.ioradio.co.uk

Our first Cosmic Jazz show on IO Radio and chance to share in a one hour programme the range of music covered by Cosmic Jazz.

The tunes ranged from music that anyone would call jazz – John Coltrane and his admirer Billy Gault as well as Carlos Garnett (sounding clear and exciting on new studio vinyl decks – baptised by CJ!). We also illustrated the global reach of jazz through Fela Kuti and Africa 70 from Nigeria and Flora Purim from Brazil – both with strong jazz influences. There were two contemporary Blue Note recording artists, Gregory Porter and Jose James, who in their 2013 recordings show how you can take what is essentially jazz beyond the boundaries to draw deep on other influences.

transcendentalIt was fitting to end with British saxophonist Larry Stabbins who has been a powerful force in UK jazz. His reworking of Coltrane’s Africa was undoubtedly inspired by by his own memory of ‘trane’s Africa Brass Quartet album. Here’s what Stabbins says on his website:

I bought John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass on my thirteenth birthday and tried to play along. A couple of weeks later at a rehearsal with the mainstream band I was playing in with even bigger boys, I played a solo and thought I was getting somewhere. Afterwards the bandleader came to me and said “Don’t you ever do that again.”. They stopped asking me after that. I thought “There’s more to this stuff than I thought.”.

  1. Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit  from Liquid Spirit
  2. Jose James – – It’s All Over You from No Beginning, No End
  3. John Coltrane – Song of the Underground Railroad  from The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions
  4. Billy Gault – Mode for Trane from Spiritual Jazz Volume 4
  5. Fela Kuti & Africa 70 – Water No Get Enemy from The Two Sides of Fela
  6. Carlos Garnett Mother of the Future from Black Love
  7. Flora Purim – Moon Dreams from BGP presents Jazz Funk
  8. Larry ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Africa from Transcendental

Video this week comes from jazz iconoclast John Zorn – one of the most remarkable figures in contemporary jazz. Zorn has hundreds of album credits as performer, composer, or producer. He has had experience with a variety of genres including jazz, rock, hardcore punk, classical, extreme metal, klezmer, film, cartoon, popular, and all kinds of improvised music. He has stated: “All the various styles are organically connected to one another. I’m an additive person – the entire storehouse of my knowledge informs everything I do. People are so obsessed with the surface that they can’t see the connections, but they are there.”

This is the full 50 minute show from Zorn’s 2010 group, live in Marciac, France. The performers are:

John Zorn – direction, saxophone
Marc Ribot – guitar
Jamie Saft – piano, organ
Trevor Dunn – bass
Kenny Wollesen – vibraphone
Joey Baron – drums
Cyro Baptista – percussion

Warning – you are entering a loud guitar area… Enjoy!

Playlist – 16 May 2013

After the example set by Martin who did the show a couple of weeks back, I’m now adding the name of the record from which each tune comes. If you listen to CJ you’re likely to want to follow up your listening by tracking down the music and – hopefully – then buying it. All the music on CJ is bought by us: we support jazz artists directly by buying their music and we hope our listeners do the same.

I continued some of the themes of the previous week. Compilations seem to comprise our theme of the moment and this week included the following; Gilles Peterson Black Jazz Radio; Message From The Tribe; Freedom Jazz France and The Hurst Selection 2. They are all highly recommended.

There was a first airing for the Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfes who added some deep mhswipv24nsqsnvintensity after the more dance-orientated sounds of Gabriel Poso and Timo Lassy. This intensity was continued by the Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (here with with his old quartet) and John Coltrane, who ended the show this week.  The track comes from a CD of a previously unreleased Seattle, Washington broadcast that came out a couple of years back. I listened to it at home during the week and it left me thinking how an audience, or radio listeners, hearing this live in 1965 would have reacted to this blast of tough, free, outer limits jazz?

There was also a welcome Brazilian interlude to highlight how many of the Brazilian artists that are known to European audiences have links to jazz. Joyce has featured on Cosmic Jazz before but I am sure this was our first airplay for Jorge Ben, to whom I was introduced many years ago when he was featured on a BBC 2 television programme. Could we expect to see such a programme today? I doubt it. Ben is the writer of Mas Que Nada, one of the most famous of all Brazilian songs – and one covered by many jazz artists, including a celebrated version by Ella Fitzgerald

Neil notes: If you like Ben’s Afrocentric take on Brazil, then check out three of his very best CDs from a long career in Brazilian music – A Tabua de Esmeralda (1972), Gil e Jorge (1975) and Africa Brazil (1976). The first contains great songs like Errare Humanum Est and Zumbi and the others feature very different versions of the irresistible Taj Mahal..I bought my vinyl copy of A Tabua… in a Paris Seine-side record fair in 1985 and I still love playing it. The song featured in the show actually first surfaced on a 1967 album called O Bidu (Silencio no Brooklin) – named after the Brooklin [sic] area of Sao Paolo to where Ben had recently moved.

  1. Cleveland Easton – All Your Love, All Day, All Night from Gilles Peterson Black Jazz Radio
  2. The Tribe – Beneficent from Message From The Tribe
  3. Timo Lassy – Creole Stew from In With Lassy
  4. Stella Levitt – Notes So High from Freedom Jazz France
  5. Gabriele Poso – Freedom from The Hurst Selection 2
  6. Goran Kajfes – Sarasvati from Album X
  7. Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Lontano 1 from Lontano
  8. Joyce – Hard Bossa from Hard Bossa
  9. Jorge Ben – Bom Dia, Boa Tarde, Boa Noite Amor from Maravilhas 78/85
  10. Caribbean Jazz Project – Blue from Birds of a Feather
  11. John Coltrane – Untitled Original from The Untitled Seattle Broadcast

For a taste of more recent Jorge Ben live check out this extended selection of some of his greatest songs from 2002 – it’s largely acoustic (but with strings too!). It’s all available on a double CD and this is music from the first CD called Admiral Jorge V.