Tag Archives: Nat Birchall

Playlist – 20 December 2012

Now’s the time (as they say in jazz circles) – this week and next, Cosmic Jazz picks the best of 2012. We look at our favourite new releases and reissues from the last twelve months, check out what hits the CJ spot and offer a few recommendations. Esperanza Spalding was a predictable selection – we’ve been raving about Radio Music Society since it was released earlier in the year. – and so too was Jack deJohnette, drum master for Charles Lloyd, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and many more. With a new release from ECM of his Special Edition group from the 70s/80s (and too late to feature in most 2012 polls), deJohnette featured twice in our selection. Another four disc set was the latest release from the currently prolific Wadada Leo Smith – his mammoth suite called Ten Freedom Summers. This should be high on the list of any listener interested in the more experimental side of jazz and is a record of the year on many 2012 lists.

But for CJ‘s Neil, another record beat Smith to the top spot. This was an album he camevijay_iyer-001 back to over and over again during the course of the year. Vijay Iyer has one of the great piano trios working in jazz at the moment.and Accelerando is his best release to date and is likely to be one the jazz albums of the decade..Here is where Iyer brings it all together with compositions from such diverse inspirations as Duke Ellington, Flying Lotus and Michael Jackson. The whole thing just works. As Nate Chinen of the New York Times so succinctly says, Accelerando encapsulates his knack for making prickly experimentalism feel approachable, intuitive, even stylish.:

Next week’s show will bring us Derek’s top dogs for 2012 – so expect EST and… well, just wait and see.

  1. Gregory Porter – 1960 What? (Gerardo Frisina Cuban Soul Mix)
  2. Esperanza Spalding – Endangered Species
  3. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
  4. Jessica Lauren Four – White Mountain
  5. Nat Birchall – The Black Ark
  6. Jack deJohnette’s Special Edition – I Know
  7. Jack deJohnette – Enter Here
  8. Charlie Mingus – Track C: Group Dancers
  9. Quarteto de Saba – Pra Che Chorar
  10. Wadada Leo Smith – Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs Board of Education: A Dream of Equal Education, 1954
  11. Keith Jarrett Quartet – Personal Mountains
  12. ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Soul Train
  13. Vijay IyerTrio – Human Nature

Video this week has to come from our first 2012 poll winner Vijay Iyer and his trio, Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums (who, incidentally, is grandson of jazz drumming legend Roy Haynes):

Playlist – 22 November 2012

After the exciting choices from Pete last week this week’s show returned to some of Derek’s current listening. Opening the show with two contemporary jazz dance classics, the grooves continued with two CJ favourites – Roy Haynes’ percussion tour de force Quiet Fire and the classic Red Clay from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

New music was represented by more from Larry Stabbins and Mercury-nominated Roller Trio with a final nod to CJ’s top album from last year, Nat Birchall’s Sacred Dimension. Birchall has a new CD out on his own label. You can hear extracts from the album – called World Without Form – here. Reviewer Phill Johnson of the Independent on Sunday said:

In a scene dominated by jazz graduates who are fluent in the language but don’t have much to say, the music of saxophonist Birchall – who came to Coltrane via reggae’s Cedric Brooks – screams “Belief!” This latest release invests spiritual jazz with a personal vision evoking space and soul. Doubling up bass and drums creates a thicker sound, with roles for Corey Mwamba, Jon Thorne and Paul Hession. Regular pianist Adam Fairhall is a total star.

Yes – it’s a CD we love too! Expect to hear tracks coming weeks on Cosmic Jazz.

  1. St. Germain – Rose Rouge
  2. Nuyorican Soul feat. George Benson – You Can Do It (Baby)
  3. Roy Haynes – Quiet Fire
  4. Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay
  5. Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band – Cobra
  6. Rosa Passos – Lobo Bobo
  7. GoGo Penguin – Akasthesia
  8. Roller Trio – Deep Heat
  9. Larry ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Noetic
  10. Nat Birchall – Sacred Dimension
  11. Joe Henderson – Serenity

On video this week is Larry Stabbins as horns boss in the 1980s band Working Week. Here they are live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1985 with singer Juliet Roberts and guitarist Simon Booth, giving a very respectable jazz treatment of Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues.

Playlist – 18 October 2012

Tonight’s show featured more new British jazz and some music that was truly ‘cosmic’ in its feel. The new release from CJ favourite Matthew Halsall – Fletcher Moss Park – is a calm, spiritual and modal piece. Former Working Week sax and flute player Larry ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins also has an excellent release entitled Transcendental featuring another CJ fave, pianist Zoe Rahman. All the musicians are members of Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra, whose performance in May of this year in Norwich was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen.

There were more modal, cosmic sounds on the show, plus a bonus from a new UK trio. Fanfares by the group GoGo Penguin, is on the Manchester-based Gondwana label, which also releases the records of Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall. From this release you got hard-driving trio jazz, with influences ranging from EST to classical and electronica. It seemed appropriate to pair this with a track from EST’s Seven Days of Falling release before going into a truly cosmic section with Saturnian Sun Ra. And as a final extra, more new British jazz from rising star Trish Clowes.

  1. Matthew Halsall – Cherry Blossom
  2. Nat Birchall – Sacred Dimension
  3. Matthew Halsall – The Sun in September
  4. GoGo Penguin – Seven Sons of Bjorn
  5. EST – Elevation of Love
  6. Sun Ra – Images
  7. Kelan Philip Cohran and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Frankincense and Myrrh
  8. ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Africa
  9. Zoe & Idris Rahman – Sanctuary
  10. ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Transcendental Euphoria
  11. Trish Clowes – Atlas

Playlist – 11 October 2012

This week’s CJ featured music from Trish Clowes and her Tangent Quartet after Derek saw her engaging performance at the Milestones Jazz Club in Lowestoft. In anticipation of Matthew Halsall’s eagerly awaited new release, Fletcher Moss Park, there was music from his previous album On the Go and there was more British jazz from Pangaea, Mike Westbrook and the Curios trio.

  1. Soil & ‘Pimp’ Sessions – Waltz for Goddess
  2. Sleep Walker – Eclipse
  3. Art Blakey – Alamode
  4. The Crescendo Quintet – Variations on the Azerbaijan Mugam ‘Chargiakh’
  5. The Jazz on the Latin Side All-Stars – Mujer Chicana
  6. Pangaea – Coastal Walk
  7. Trish Clowes – Atlas
  8. Trish Clowes Tangent – Coloured Eye
  9. Matthew Halsall – Music for a Dancing Mind
  10. Soul Jazz Orchestra – Consecration
  11. The Mike Westbrook Concert Band  – Tension
  12. Curios – Bradford

This week sees the return of video to the CJ site and more Matthew Halsall seemed an obvious choice. Check out this live version of Colour Yes, the title track from his second Gondwana release and a CJ favourite. Soprano sax is, of course, by long time associate Nat Birchall. And Halsall doesn’t even make an appearance until three minutes into the track. This is a beautifully measured, understated performance and we can’t wait to hear the new album.

Playlist – 12 April 2012

Neil has returned to China and so this week’s CJ was another solo show from Derek. There was recent music from Gregory Porter, Jack deJohnette and  Kenny Garrett together as well as some recent re-releases in Azanyah and Roy Brooks and the Artistic Truth. The mood of the programme was contemplative and  meditative, even spiritual. 

  1. Jack de Johnette – Indigo Dreamscapes
  2. Azanyah – Let God Come First
  3. Gregory Porter – Bling Bling
  4. Kenny Garrett – Seeds from the Underground
  5. Roy Brooks & the Artistic Truth – Black Survival – Prologue
  6. Carlos Garnett – Banks of the Nile
  7. Randy Weston – 1st Movement: Uhuru Kwanza ( Part Two)
  8. Leon Greening – Singapore
  9. Robert Glasper Experience feat. Meshell Ndegedcello – The Consequences of Jealousy
  10. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme Part I Acknowledgement
  11. John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – Lush Life
  12. Nat Birchall – Sacred Dimension
  13. Erich KleinschusterSextet – Communion

Playlist – 23 February 2012

The promised mix from Palma had to be postponed because of technical difficulties. In compensation, CJ focused on some music that Palma would like. So, after Neil had played a 1963 version of Impressions from the Impulse CD of John Coltrane live at Newport in 1963 and 1965, I chose My Favourite Things  from the same record. Warm, modal jazz dominated proceedings with Pharaoh Sanders from the US and Nat Birchall and Matthew Halsall from the Manchester scene. I hope Palma can return next week for his much-anticipated vinyl mix.

  1. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
  2. Pharoah Sanders – Greetings to Idris
  3. Pharoah Sanders – Doktor Pitt
  4. Nat Birchall – Ancient World
  5. Matthew Halsall – The End of Dukkha
  6. Neil Cowley Trio – Portal
  7. Dollar Brand – African Marketplace
  8. Miles Davis – Miles Runs the Voodoo Down

Playlist – 19 January 2012

A solo show from Derek with some more classics including the extended Taj, from the album The Soul of the Bible, recorded with brother Nat Adderley and two tracks from our favourites on the Manchester scene, Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall. Brownswood favourite Zara McFarlane and US rare groove jazz pianist Steve Colson also made appearances.

  1. Freddie Hubbard – Kuntu
  2. Charles Lloyd Quartet – The Water is Wide
  3. Carmen Lundy – (I Dream) in Living Colour
  4. Cannonball Adderley – Taj
  5. Joyce and Tutty Moreno – Berimbau
  6. Zara McFarlane – Blossom Tree
  7. Steve Colson & Unity Troupe – Unknown
  8. Matthew Halsall – Song for Charlie
  9. Nat Birchall – Ancient World
  10. John Coltrane – Untitled Original from The Unissued Seattle Broadcast

Video this week comes from Cosmic Jazz hero Charles Lloyd, seen here on tour in Europe with a version of Manhattan Carousel probably from the late 1960s. Enjoy!


Best of 2011

Cosmic Jazz enters its fourth year and our Best of 2011 features the same eclectic mix of music as the regular show. As most listeners know, during the show we don’t have a prearranged playlist and we have always played whatever we like. As for acclaimed critic Whitney Balliett, jazz for us is simply “the sound of surprise”. Each of these releases briefly reviewed below will feature tracks we’ll come back to in the coming months. There’s no particular order this year, just great music that we’ll continue to feature in the show.

Last year we featured Charles Lloyd’s career-defining Mirror as our best album and this year we’ve chosen another saxophonist whose album Sacred Dimension we have come back to again and again on the show. Tenor player Nat Birchall’s two previous releases on Gondwana Records were very firmly in the Coltrane quartet classic modal mould, but on this new release Birchall’s group has a broader soundbase, most notably through the use of Corey Mwamba’s vibes. Of course, the Coltrane influence is still a major factor but Birchall’s playing here reaches well beyond mere Coltrane-lite. The result is music you will come back to again and again. For me, this was the disc of choice during my most recent month in Beijing: I played it more than a dozen times then and I’ll be continuing to do so throughout 2012. As if this wasn’t enough, Gondwana also released another excellent album from Manchester stablemate Matthew Halsall. On the Go was a delight from start to finish with several standout tracks including Song for Charlie which captures one of Halsall’s strengths – dreamy ballads with insidious melodies that bear repeated listening.

2011 was undoubtedly Gregory Porter’s breakthrough year. His album Water topped many end of year polls (including that of the UK’s Jazzwise magazine) and we were pleased to be involved in an exclusive ICR interview with Porter earlier in the year. Although the stand out track 1960 What? achieved worldwide airplay and now has a handful of indifferent remixes to its name, Porter’s rich baritone carries conviction throughout the remaining tracks.

We played several tracks from another US singer’s latest album The Gate. Eclectic producer Don Was created some multi-tracking magic on reworkings of Norwegian Wood, Blue in Green and – most unusually – King Crimson’s Matte Kudasi. As always, Elling is served by a brilliant band including longtime pianist and musical arranger Laurence Hobgood.

UK pianist and Leeds College of Music graduate Leon Greening cut his new album Cookin’ in Brooklyn in NYC and produced a consistently good record in which his post-bebop credentials are enhanced on three tracks by American altoist Vincent Herring. We particularly liked the cut Waterloo but this is a consistently good set from a very underrated pianist. Still in the Big Apple, Still Life – the piano trio from drummer Sean Hutchinson –gave us a great self titled album which we returned to several times during the year. We loved the imaginative taken on Radiohead’s Planet Telex, another sign that this UK band are providing yet more contemporary standards for jazz artists to reinterpret.

Much has been made of Keith Jarrett’s new solo recording Rio. The story goes that Jarrett knew that the music was some of his best and on the flight back from Brazil he asked ECM producer Manfred Eicher to release as soon as possible. It is certainly a return to the straightforward lyricism of the Koln Concert and Bremen/Lausanne but certainly for this reviewer Rio is without the overwhelming emotional impact of the longer form so apparent on both those 1970s masterpieces. However, fellow sometime solo pianist Brad Mehldau also recorded a live double CD this year. Mehldau’s Live in Marciac is – I think – the real deal. Mehldau has a great way with the ballad standard and his take here on Secret Love is astonishingly assured. You’ll never need to listen to another version after this.

Two late 2011 great British releases that we haven’t had time to feature on the show will definitely start off the new year for us. Veteran Stan Tracey once again tackled the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (remember his masterpiece Under Milk Wood?) and released A Child’s Christmas in Wales, this time including the lyrics spoken by grandson Ben Tracey. A quiet, unassuming and very British record, this pairing of Thomas’ quirky metaphors and Tracey’s Monkish tones made for delightful listening. Meanwhile Basho artist Kit Downes expanded his piano trio to great effect with tenor sax and cello on the excellent Quiet Tiger album. This subtle ambitious music even included a warm and bluesy tribute to Skip James.

Not so the willfully dangerous US trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday and produced the ambitious and noisy Heart’s Reflections. This veered wildly from all out deep grooves to dreamily reflective pieces all expansively trailed across two CDs. The unusual instrumentation includes four guitars, two saxophones, a violin, two basses (one electric, one acoustic), two laptop players, along with the more conventional rhythm section of drums and piano and the result is a demanding bur very rewarding listen. Similarly edgy was the first release from Loop Collective group Ma. Called The Last, this CD featured saxophonist Tom Challenger, here working with drummer Dave Smith, organist Ross Stanley and electronics wizard Matt Calvert. The result is music fed by dubstep as much as jazz. We liked the roaring freejazz meets bass music of Pipes and the big organ-driven sound world of the dark, dubby Noir.

With Michael Brecker gone, the most obvious inheritor of Coltrane’s mantle (aside from UK’s Nat Birchall of course) is the highly regarded Joe Lovano whose Us Five group released Bird Songs, an album which reflected on the legacy of Charlie Parker in a surprising and often highly original way. Lovano isn’t content just to have a go at some of the greatest standards in the jazz language but rather he imbues many with a wholly new spirit breathing new life into Ko Ko, Donna Lee and Loverman.

2011 was a great year for reissues and we championed several of our favourites over the year. The best of the bunch had to be the batch of 50 Impulse! Two on One releases, which paired up albums on one CD pack. Some of our favourites included the Pharoah Sanders twofer Village of the Pharoahs/Wisdom Through Music and Elvin Jones’ Illumination!/Dear John C but for me the best pairings are those from less well known artists including Gabor Szabo, Chico Hamilton and Marion Brown. The latter’s Geechee Recollections/Sweet Earth Flying is very highly recommended.

The British label Vocalion – more used to releasing classic UK jazz – delivered a CD album compilation of two long unavailable Bennie Maupin albums from the late 70s – Moonscapes and Slow Traffic to the Right. This is basically a refinement of the Herbie Hancock sound of classic albums like Crossings and Sextant (and indeed synth pioneer Dr. Patrick Gleeson produced these and the two Maupin albums). Whilst everyone will talk about the Miles Davis Quintet’s Live in Europe 3CD and DVD package, another great reissue was the Bitches Brew Live package which featured some previously unissued Newport Festival tracks from 1969 together the complete Isle of Wight performance from the following year. Whilst this has been available before it is good to have it here with an accurate track listing for the first time. Both of these reissues remind us that Davis generated two unequalled creative peaks just a few years apart. Who else in jazz has achieved this?

Soul Jazz Records delivered their usual high standard of beautifully packaged compilations and spiritual jazz reissues. Bossa Jazz: the Birth of Hard Bossa, Samba Jazz and Brazilian Fusion 1962-73 is the latest in their review of Brazilian music genres. Many of the tracks have been issued before but the usual authoritative notes are always a welcome addition. Soul Jazz is also on a mission to reissue some jazz rarities from the 70s, and we have particularly enjoyed reissues from Steve Colson’s Unity Troupe and the Lloyd McNeill Quintet. Although raised in New Jersey, Colson has links with the AACM in Chicago, and the Art Ensemble’s Joseph Jarman appears on Triumph!, a reissued album from 1980. Also on Soul Jazz and from ten years earlier was the excellent Washington Suite from flautist and composer, painter and photographer Lloyd McNeill. This reissue was featured on several Cosmic Jazz shows – and we will be coming back to it in 2012.

Recent years have seen a swathe of Coltrane reissues but late 2011 saw something special – a reissue of the Complete Stuttgart Concert from 1963. This double CD on Domino Records features extended versions of classic ‘trane tracks from the classic Quartet, including Impressions, My Favourite Things and a blistering version of Afro-Blue.

There’s just time to add four more recommendations in brief – on the fringes of jazz but great fun is the George Duke-influenced The Golden Age of Apocalypse from Thundercat, bass player to Flying Lotus while Austin Peralta’s Endless Planets is the third (and most fully realised) album from this teenage keyboard prodigy. Mercury award nominee Gwilym Simcock produced another excellent piano album – this time a solo performance for his new label ACT. Good Days at Schloss Elmau begins with These Are the Good Days and doesn’t let up. Meanwhile trumpeter Enrico Rava showcased a new quintet on his latest ECM album Tribe. On a recent show we played the uptempo Choctaw, surely a reference to fellow trumpeter Don Cherry.

It’s been a great year for new jazz but maybe even a better year for reissues. CJ looks forward to more great music in 2012. Join us on our musical journey through the spaceways of jazz.

Playlist – 22 December 2011

Tonight’s Cosmic Jazz featured a round up of the best jazz of the year. We played some of the best new releases, reissues and compilations that we’ve checked out on the show over the last twelve months.

  1. Chico Hamilton – Manila
  2. Elvin Jones – Dear John C
  3. Austin Peralta – Algiers
  4. Sean Hutchinson’s Still Life – Red Fish Blue Fish Dead Fish Same Fish
  5. Arun Ghosh – Caliban’s Revenge
  6. Leon Greening – Waterloo
  7. Kurt Elling – Blue in Green
  8. Steve Colson and the Unity Troupe – Cidigie-Dicesui
  9. Ma – We Need Two
  10. Gregory Porter – Lonely One
  11. Joe Lovano – Ko Ko
  12. Lloyd McNeil Quartet – Home Rule
  13. Matthew Halsall – The Move
  14. Nat Birchall – Ancient World
  15. John Coltrane – The Promise


Playlist – 01 December 2011

Cosmic Jazz continued its support for British jazz by featuring tunes from two excellent British records which have been released recently. They were the vocalist Zara McFarlane whose Until Tomorrow CD on Brownswood gets a very strong recommendation from Cosmic Jazz and Nat Birchall’s Sacred Dimension on the Manchester-based Gondwana label. The other British contribution came from the excellent pianist Leon Greening. The programme included an interview with the ex-Test cricketer turned blues/soul guitarist Mark Butcher, who is appearing in Bury St. Edmunds on Saturday 03 December where he will be playing tracks from his new CD.

  1. Gene Ammons – Moito Mato Grosso
  2. Zara McFarlane – More than Mine
  3. Nat Birchall – Ancient World
  4. Leon Greening – Waterloo
  5. Roy Ayers – A Rose for Cindy
  6. Hiromi – Brain
  7. Zara McFarlane – Mama Done
  8. Quarteto Novo -Vim de Santana
  9. Nat Birchall – Radiant Will
  10. Zara McFarlane – Chiaroscuro
  11. Francisco Aguabella – My Favourite Things
  12. John Coltrane – Untitled Original (The Unissued Seattle Broadcast)