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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to:

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

Week Ending 12 May 2018: Timo Lassy past and present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 05 May 2018: music for jazz dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 April 2018: serious stories; serious music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 21 January 2018: pianists past and present

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

Cecil Taylor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to: 

Neil is listening to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

Week ending 07 April 2018: contemporary sounds and crucial classics

Click the MixCloud tab to hear another Cosmic Jazz mix of mainly contemporary tunes, but with two jazz classics that are nothing less than essential listening.

There is often a link between CJ shows from one week to another and so it was this week. We began where the last one ended with some of the exciting new jazz coming out of London right now. Jazz Re:freshed is one project – and it’s an apt term, with a scene across the UK that’s totally re-invigorated. If you can, check out  the two day festival of such music at this year’s Field Day in London. This week CJ featured keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones and his contribution to We Out Here, the new Brownswood compilation. It’s no surprise that Boyd Moses and Nubya Garcia – whom we played last week – show up on this tune too. Armon-Jones will have his first album out in May. Called Starting Today, you can check out an extended live Brownswood Basement version of the title tune right here.

The first of the wonderful classics came from the Koichi Matsukaze Trio, actually a quartet in  this instance as a pianist is added to the alto sax/flute, drums and bass of the trio. It is to be found on a new BBE compilation, J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984. The whole record is full of tracks never before released outside Japan and the Matsukaze tune Earth Mother with its spiritual, deep, modal vibe is perfect for Cosmic Jazz or any jazz lover. It’s one of those tunes you must have.

[Neil writes] The cover art is interesting too – it’s all taken from a website that documents the vanishing world of the jazz kissaten, the Japanese coffeehouse or bar (see photo above). The jazz cafe culture in Japan grew organically in the years after WWII as shops where fans could gather and listen to the latest records from the United States. Imported records – let alone turntables and speakers – were a luxury few could afford as Japan recovered from the war years. The act of going to a cafe and listening to a new release in a social, group setting became the norm for a generation of Japanese jazz fans. At its height, areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku in central Tokyo had dozens of these cafes and bars. Many of these places specialised in playing the new jazz releases on high quality vinyl hifi systems and the vinyl revival has sparked an interest in such venues around the world.

Whilst there are still over 100 such jazu kissa in Tokyo alone, London now has two of its own – both worth visiting. Spiritland is located in the redevelopment behind King’s Cross Station while Brilliant Corners is in the hipster’s heartland of Dalston. You can explore this unique world at the excellent tokyojazzjoints website and there’s a fine feature with some atmospheric photos on the Resident Advisor website. Singapore had its own jazu kissa until recently – the excellent Long Play in Arab Street. One of my first jobs in the city was archiving all the vinyl purchased over the years by the owner, restaurateur Geoffrey Eu. The Long Play site is now a new (and excellent) Japanese restaurant but Geoffrey hopes to reopen another jazu kissa venue soon.

Neil encouraged me some weeks ago to play a tune he sent me from the recent album The Centennial Trilogy by trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. It is a tribute to the American jazz tradition but also draws upon the legacy of fusion, in keeping with many contemporary artists as we noted last week. The tune Encryption features the young flautist/vocalist Elena Pinderhughes. Already, she has played with such as Hubert Laws, Kenny Barron, Esperanza Spalding, Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, Santana and Marcos Valle. Quite an impressive and varied list. We shall follow her.

Kasia Pietrzko is a Polish pianist, another of the many exciting young musicians emerging from Poland. She trained at the Katowice Academy of Music and also studied in New York City. She is inventive and, in her words, the trio “concentrate on overall sound and the most important being emotions”. Certainly there are quite a mix of emotions in the tune Brown and the title of her debut album –  Forthright Stories – signals her approach.

One of the very great pianists provided the next tune. Andrew Hill is someone we used to play regularly. He is always interesting, challenging and unpredictable. It is time to re-visit his music and for no other reason than his music is truly essential I shall make April 2018 the Cosmic Jazz Andrew Hill month with at least one tune on every show throughout the month. This week it was Passing Ships, the title tune of his 1969 album. It’s a beautiful, delicately and sensitively played piece recorded with many favourite Blue Note stalwarts including Ron Carter, Julian Priester, Woody Shaw, Lenny White and Joe Farrell.

The alto sax player Fredrik Kronkvist appeared on the show last week. He was back again this week but in a different context. He released an album in 2017 entitled Afro-Cuban Supreme to celebrate the centenary of Dizzy Gillespie – and very good it is too. There are fellow Swedish musicians on the album, Miruiam Aida and Martin Sjostedt, who featured last week on the show, along with Cuban conga virtuoso Eliel Lazo, Jason Marsalis from the USA on drums and Johnny Aman on bass. Their version of Manteca, which was played and co-written by Dizzy Gillespie, is superb and is one of those covers that brings a contemporary feel to a well-established tune.

The show ended with another musician who travelled from her home country to make Latin Jazz music. Canadian soprano sax/flute player Jane Bunnett has had a 25 year association with Cuban musicians on her excellent Spirits of Havana album. This 1991 recording is now available as a double CD with her 1997 recording recording, Chamalongo, and confirms Bunnett as one of the greatest non-Cuban interpreters of Afro-Cuban music. This reissue is surely another essential purchase for CJ listeners.

  1. Joe Armon-Jones – Go See from We Out Here
  2. Koichi Matsukaze Trio – Earth Mother from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  3. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah feat. Elena Pinderhughes – Encryption from The Centennial Trilogy
  4. Kasia Pietrako Trio – Brown from Forthright Stories
  5. Andrew Hill – Passing Ships from Passing Ships
  6. Fredrick Kronkvist – Manteca from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  7. Jane Bunnett – La Luna Arriba from Spirits of Havana

Neil is listening to..

Week ending 31 March 2018: crossing boundaries

Welcome to this week’s Cosmic Jazz, where just clicking on that Mixcloud tab (left) opens up a world of contemporary jazz. It involves musicians from different countries and continents working together, stretching the boundaries of jazz and creating new sounds as they do so. As always, comments are welcome from our registered users.

For a second week, the show begins with one of our favourite Polish jazz groups of the moment, the Marcin Stefaniak Trio. The combination of sax, drums and bass is familar but here it’s woven into something fresh, sharp and modern.

At last I found time to play something that Neil has recommended for some time – a tune from the recent album Black Notes from the Deep by British sax player Courtney Pine. His lyrical take on Herbie Hancock’s Butterfly features vocalist Omar. Swedish alto player Fredrik Kronkvist (above) is someone who appears regularly on Cosmic Jazz – and rightly so. He has travelled from Sweden to the US where he is now based and – over the years – he’s played with a number of prominent US jazz musicians. To me [writes Neil], his tone and style is sounding even more like one of our CJ favourites – Kenny Garrett. Check this out for yourself by listening to one of Garrett’s earlier recordings in Neil’s listening choices for this week – all of which feature great alto sax performances. Kronkvist’s recent album On the Move features another Swede, Martin Sorjstedt – a bass player who also plays piano. This album also features bass player Ameen Saleem as well as drummer Gregory Hutchinson. There’s more from the first two later in the show.

There were links to these artist on Cosmic Jazz as the show gave further attention to both Sorjstedt and Saleem as band leaders in their own right. Martin Sorjstedt definitely plays piano on his album Whereaboutswith an ensemble that includes musicians from Germany, Denmark and the US as well as Sweden. Check the tune Bueno on the show for some interesting trumpet playing from Axel Schlosser. Sorsjstedt is quite a veteran – more than one hundred record productions and six solo albums – and he’s still only thirty-nine – while bass player Saleem was featured on CJ last year with his 2017 album The Groove Lab. It is a varied record and one that crosses and fuses musical genres – of which more later.

There was a contribution to the show from Cubans who have themselves crossed boundaries. Daymé Arocena is an exciting young Cuban vocalist who recorded her second album Cubafonia for the UK Brownswood label under the direction of DJ Gilles Peterson. She first came to his attention as part of the Havana Club music promotion during Peterson’s first visit to Cuba, that Daymé improvised a head-turning rumba show with Edrey, from Grammy nominated group Ogguere. Two years later, the Havana Cultura Mix: The Soundclash! album saw the beginning of her work with Gilles and the Havana Cultura platform. Arocena also released an EP of cover versions – titled One Takes – in early 2016.

Luis Nubiola is a Cuban-born sax player and composer who moved first to Costa Rica and then to Poland. His album Global Friendship (surely an apt description of his life experiences) was made with Polish musicians. It is essentially a good jazz record with some nods towards Cuba.

Fusion was once a dirty word for many jazz lovers – and perhaps because so many lacklustre records were released by jazz musicians (particularly in the 1970s) as they tried to make jazz ‘relevant to today’ with disco and fusion leanings. The same happened in the 1990s as jazz took on hiphop and rap to ‘stay in tune’. I can remember a presenter of a local radio jazz show railing against Miles Davis when he included rapping from Easy Mo Bee on his Doo-Bop album.

In that case, perhaps justifiably so – but thankfully things have moved on and much of todays new jazz musicians start from the simple premise that they grew up listening to nu-soul, hip hop and rap. It’s not an add on, but rather an integrated part of their cultural and musical development. The result – much of their music is hip, cool and undoubtedly the place to be. From the US the likes of Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Christian Scott, Keyon Harrold and our bass player Ameen Saleem have attracted new and younger admirers for jazz through their work in these current idioms. We’ll continue to feature the music of these trailblazers in upcoming CJ shows.

And, of course, in the UK there are many young musicians now following the same aesthetic. For those of us UK jazz lovers who like to think we have a progressive and open outlook to the music, these are exciting times. There were two examples in this week’s show to illustrate what is happening. Firstly, drummer, composer, producer  Moses Boyd and then sax/flute player Nubya Garcia, a beneficiary of support from the Foundation set up in memory of drummer Steve Reid. I am looking forward to seeing both of these musicians at the end of May at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival – Moses Boyd with partner Binker Golding and Nubya Garcia as a member of Maisha. Open musicians, with open minds opening further adventurous paths into the music we love.

  1. Marcin Stefaniak – Wheelers from Unveiling
  2. Courtney Pine – Butterfly from Black Notes from the Deep
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist feat Martin Sjostedt, Ameen Saleem & Gregory Hutchinson – Essential from On the Move
  4. Martin Sjostedt – Bueno from Whereabouts
  5. Ameen Saleem – Love Don’t from the Groove Lab
  6. Dayme Arocena – Mambo Na Ma from Cubafonia
  7. Luis Nubiola – The New One from Global Friendships
  8. Moses Boyd – The Balance from We Out Here
  9. Nubya Garcia – When We Are from When We Are EP

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 24 March 2018: drummers and the UK scene

Here on Cosmic Jazz we’ve been playing some of the bands that make the current UK jazz scene so exciting. Many of these are based in London, but there’s a thriving scene in many UK cities and all represent the diversity of these locations, their wealth of musical talent and the range of musical influences – from hip hop to house and beyond. What really exciting is how these bands are being promoted at some major festivals – whether it’s May’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival or London’s Field Day Festival in June. In Norwich you can catch Maisha (check them out on this week’s show), Ashley Henry and Binker and Moses. All will be performing from 10 pm in the Adnams Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Park. Field Day features a huge line up of British jazz musicians including Zara McFarlane (also on this week’s CJ), Sons of Kemet and Mammal Hands.

Maisha are led by drummer Jess Long and play spiritual and cosmic jazz, with Pharaoh Sanders and Alice Coltrane as major influences. You’ll hear West African and Afrobeat rhythms too: it’s music to make you move, music for contemplation and music for the soul all in one. Do try to get to see them if you can. The band includes Nubya Garcia on sax and Shirley Tetteh on guitar and you can download their free EP from the jazzre:freshed Bandcamp site.

The show began with the Marcin Stefaniak Trio – this time in full. This young Polish sax trio provides the sort of tough, contemporary sound that we like to feature here on Cosmic Jazz. There’s lots of new Polish jazz and more from our friends at Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Up next on the show were selections from my colleague Neil. Emanative are part of a more established jazz scene but one also led by a drummer – in this case, Nick Woodmansey, himself the son of Woody Woodmansey, David Bowie’s drummer in the Spiders from Mars band. They’re the second of three bands led by drummers to be featured on Cosmic Jazz this week. Pianist Jessica Lauren – whom we’ve played on previous shows – is also a member.

Neil and I agree about most music we feature on CJ, but Portico Quartet may be one where we diverge. Endless is the opening track from their 2017 release Art in the Age of Automation. The band have been busy touring since July last year and they’ll be playing Norwich, Gateshead, Cheltenham, London and Manchester as part of their dates this spring and summer. I can see that the technical qualities of the sounds they create are impressive, but the music is too clinical for me and leaves me cold. Whereas I [writes Neil] think that this music is progressive, melodic, uncategorisable new jazz working in the same way that Bugge Wesseltoft’s ground-breaking albums did almost 20 years ago. Just as Wesseltoft explored the hinterland between jazz and house, so Portico merge jazz and Reichian minimalism with real dexterity. The recording sessions for Art in the Age of Automation were clearly a fertile period for the band as they are now about to release AITAOA #2, largely recorded at the same time in London. The new album is intended as a companion piece to last year’s AITAOA but it works equally as well as a stand-alone, exploring similar areas of enigmatic, widescreen minimalism alongside the more hard-hitting sounds that have become a notable part of their live shows. I think there’s no lessening of quality here – album opener Double Space is now available to download from Bandcamp here, with the rest of the album emerging at the end of next month. For a listen to this key influence, check out a mesmerising performance of Reich’s masterpiece Music for Eighteen Musicians below. Whilst Portico are not attaining this level of complexity, much of their overall sound now derives from this kind of music.

Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik is a player whose music provides joy and inspiration. His album Tribute to Akwarium pays homage to a former Polish jazz club and on the show this week there is the tune Tribute 3. Like so much of his music, it featured complex, spiritual and cosmic rhythms. It’s undoubtedly more music for the body and soul.

Our third drummer/leader was Tony Allen, the man Brian Eno called perhaps the greatest drummer and probably the most important musician of the last fifty years.  This new album from the founder of Afrobeat follows on from his tribute to Art Blakey and is pure jazz. Recorded in Paris – where Allen is now based – and with excellent French musicians. Cruising features bassist Matthias Allemane. There was more from the new London jazz scene with the Ezra Collective. We’ve already played their superb version of Fela Kuti’s Colonial Mentality and this week’s tune featured the vocals of Zara McFarlane. It really shows what her voice is capable of – and we think rather more so than on much of her recent solo album. The track comes from their debut EP simply called Chapter 7.

Finally, in a show full of exciting, contemporary music, there was a tune by sax player Hamiet Bluiett from a recent re-release compilation of music from the Italian Black Saint/Soul Note label.

  1. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Proxima Centauri from Unveiling
  2. Emanative – Ominous Shanti from single
  3. Portico Quartet – Endless from Art in the Age of Automation
  4. Piotr Wojtasik – Tribute 3 from Tribute to Akwarium
  5. Tony Allen – Cruising from The Source
  6. Maisha – Africa from Welcome to a New Welcome
  7. Ezra collective feat. Zara McFarlane – I Have a God from Chapter 7
  8. Hamiet Bluiett – Oasis from You Need This! An Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note Recordings 1975-1985

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 17 March 2018: Latin connections

We often talk on Cosmic Jazz about the connections between jazz and Latin music and the musicians who play both forms of music either separately or as a fusion. The show this week has some fine examples of music to illustrate this. Just click the MixCloud tab (left) to listen and enjoy.

The double album Familia released at the end of last year says it all. This is a  celebration of tradition and innovation in Afro-Latin jazz featuring the music of three generations: the grandfathers – Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill – some of whose compositions and arrangements are to be found on the album and the musicianship and compositions of the sons – Chucho Valdes and Arturo O’Farrill. And that’s not forgetting the grandchildren – Jessie and Leyanis Valdes and Adam and Zack O’Farrill. It’s a family affair as Sly Stone once said. We featured two contrasting tunes from the album – Con Poco Coco which translates to with little coconut or with little money features the sons Arturo and Chucho on piano and grandson Adam O’Farrill on trumpet. It is a classic up-tempo latin jazz excursion and is in contrast to the next track, Recuerdo. This translates as memory but it veers more towards musicians of Latin heritage playing jazz. Grandchildren Jessie and Leyanis perform on piano and drums respectively with Jessie as composer and arranger.

Fredrik Kronkvist is another of the musicians introduced to us by Steve from Steve’s Jazz Sounds. He is a superb alto sax player, born in Sweden but now  New York-based where he has been able to play with and be joined by other first-rate musicians.  His repertoire is a wide one, ranging from innovative compositions, to standards – and now to Afro-Cuban music.  Not surprisingly, Kronkvist is inspired by Dizzy Gillespie who did so much to popularise the links between jazz and Latin music. He chose 2017 – the centenary of Dizzy’s birth – to release this album.

There was a final acknowledgement of classic Afro-Cuban music with a tune from an artist we have turned  to frequently on Cosmic Jazz. Percussionist Manny Oquendo was a long time member of Eddie Palmieri’s La Conjunto Perfecta band before he left to lead the quintessential New York Latin band Libre. Oquendo was born in Spanish Harlem, Brooklyn, to parents of Puerto Rican heritage and his three 1990s albums for the jazz label Milestone are all worth getting hold of. Mejor Que Nunca includes our featured track – a latin take on Kurt Weill’s jazz standard Speak Low.

Some aspects of Brazilian music also have close links to jazz and many musicians, such as Airto Moreira and Hermeto Pascoal have  have played across the genres and fused them. Indeed, Miles Davis called Pascoal one of the most important musicians on the planet and for a while he featured on some of Miles’ 1970s albums including Live Evil. This week we featured another Hermeto Pascoal track from the recently released  Viajando Com o Som: the Lost ’76 Vice-Versa Studio Session released by UK-based Far Out Records. It is another long tune that builds intricately and emotionally. Hermeto – who contributes electric piano, flute and voice to this album – was quite simply an innovative genius.

There was time for one more Brazilian tune from Neil’s selections – this time vocalist Patricia Marx featuring Seu Jorge on the excellent compilation Tokyo Moon put together by Japanese DJ Toshio Matsuura.

At this point the show moved away from Latin influences but saw the return of Fredrik Kronkvist in one of his other guises with an uplifting tune from his album On The MoveHe calls upon some influential musicians, as the album features in-demand Swedish bass /piano player Martin Sjostedt. I presume he plays piano as bassist Ameen Saleem, whose album released last year we featured on Cosmic Jazz, is also featured as is drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

Next was a touch of class from a duo of two classic jazz musicians on classic jazz label Impulse. Pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland on their duo album The Art of Conversation play with all the subtlety, beauty and devotion that players of their experience can bring. The album features compositions by both of them as well as a couple of standards. Another of Neil’s choices and one I had previously missed. Finally, there was time for an excerpt from one of our favourite Polish musicians of the moment, sax player Marcin Stefaniak and his trio – we’ll return to this new album in upcoming shows.

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Con Poco Coco from Familia
  2. Jessie and Leyanis Valdes – Recuerdo from Familia
  3. Fredrik Kronkvist – Gillespiana from Afro-Cuban Supreme
  4. Manny Oquendo and Libre – Speak Low from Mejor Que Nunca (Better Than Before)
  5. Grupo Vice Versa and Hermeto Pascoal – Danca do Paje from Viajando Com o Som: the Lost ’76 Vice Versa Studio Session
  6. Patricia Marx feat. Seu Jorge – Espelhos d’Agua from Tokyo Moon
  7. Fredrik Kronkvist feat .Martin Sjostedt, Ameen Saleem and Gregory Hutchinson – Glowing from On the Move
  8. Kenny Barron and Dave Holland – The Oracle from The Art of Conversation
  9. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Proxima Centauri from Unveiling

Derek is listening to…..

  1. Luciano – Its Me Again Jah
  2. Maisha – The Night Trance
  3. Binker and Moses – The Departure
  4. Mark Murphy – Speak Low
  5. George Frideric Handel – Israel in Egypt

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