Week ending 14 July 2018: Brazil and beyond

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of music in this week’s show. Cuba, USA, Brazil, Poland, Japan, France and the UK are all represented.

Our first tune is a family affair. Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill, along with pioneers Mario Bauza and Machito, were leaders in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz music. Bebo was a composer and pianist and Chico a composer and bandleader and now their sons have worked together to perform in concert and then to record as a tribute to their fathers. In this 2CD set even a third generation – their respective children – feature on the second CD. Ecucaion was composed by Bebo Valdes and has both Arturo and Chucho on piano. The CD notes describe it as demonstrating the elegant compositional style of Bebo with a rich soaring melody, sophisticated arrangement and lush harmonies. It is hard to disagree.

Our CJ music stayed Latin but shifted to Brazil. Wilson Simonal was a singer from Rio de Janeiro and Nana, recorded in 1964, is one of those Brazilian tunes that you wish had been embellished and lengthened. The instrumental break is exciting but I find myself wishing the musicians had been given the freedom to continue.  Although short and very sweet it’s a wonderful tune, and one that has you humming along and tapping your feet. Keyboard player/composer/arranger  Marcos Valle came next. Throughout his long career he has had a wide range of influences – bossa, soul, pop, electronica – but always with a Brazilian spirit. His music has been recorded by several Brazilian artists including Wilson Simonal. His excellent 2001 release Escape on the British Far Out label has some electronica moments but is a strong and recommended release that really captures Valle’s compositional qualities. Our Brazilian sequence this week ended with a jazzy piece recorded in 1968 by alto sax player and clarinetist Paula Moura who appeared on Cannonball Adderley’s 1962 Bossa Nova release and recorded music through to his death in 2010. This is his take on Milton Nascimento’s classic Tardes – try this version with Wayne Shorter from the excellent Native Dancer album.

The show continues to feature what appears to be the endless stream of exciting, young musicians from Poland. Emil Miszk is a trumpeter who leads the wonderfully named eight-piece Sonic Syndicate. The tune Chorale (Ballad No. 31) has a beautiful soaring chorale effect with Miszk’s trumpet at the head taking the lead. It was quite a change from the music of Brazil but its rapturous sounds soon take you to other interesting places. We followed this with more Polish music from the Confusion Project trio. The album Primal is divided into chapters and also takes you on a journey – this time to follow your instincts to discover primordiality!  Deep, soul-searching music.

There was a Polish-British connection with the piece from Alina Bzhezinska, a harpist brought up in Poland but now based in London, where she teaches harp at Goldsmith’s College. Bzhezinska is accompanied on her debut album Inspiration by British musicians – the fine and seemingly these days ever present saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer John Prime – on this version of another Coltrane favourite, his original composition After the Rain. This beautiful tune has been recorded by many jazz artists – compare with this respectful tribute from guitarist John McLaughlin (which features original Coltrane quartet drummer Elvin Jones vocalising over his kit).

Traditional British folk music is not something one would usually associate with jazz, Japan or spirituality but there’s a long traditional in jazz of improvising from traditional melodies – think of John Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves, for example – and these three elements certainly come together in a track from the excellent new(ish) Jazzman compilation Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan. The quartet Four Units deliver their take on that traditional folk club favourite Scarborough Fair – and very good it is too.

We ended Cosmic Jazz this week with Kamasi Washington and another track from his latest Heaven and Earth release. It’s very encouraging to see both this jazz album and the John Coltrane reissue Both Directions at Once placed high in worldwide music charts. The jazz renaissance continues apace!

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Ecuacion from Familia: Tribute to Bebo + Chico
  2. Wilson Simonal – Nana from Blue Brazil 2
  3. Marcos Valle – O India E o Brasil from Escape
  4. Paulo Moura Hepteto – Das Tardes Mas SOS from Mensagem/Bossa Jazz
  5. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Confusion Project – Upstream from Primal
  7. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration
  8. Four Units – Scarborough Fair from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  9. Kamasi Washington – Can You Hear Him from Heaven and Earth

Derek is listening to …..

Neil is listening to…


Week ending 07 June 2018: Kamasi Washington – then and now

Musician and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

This week Cosmic Jazz provided a spiritual and religious experience both in the title of the tunes and the feel of the music,  featuring deep, reflective music for both body and soul.

If you ever wondered what Kamasi Washington was playing before he became such a jazz superstar you can find out from a record released in 2008. In 2005, the birthday of Thelonious Monk (10 October), conductor and saxophonist Jesse Sharp welcomed a group of Los Angeles musicians to the Californian Institute of the Arts in Leimert Park to a musical gathering that reflected spirit of Harold Tapscott’s celebrated Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra.  It was a large group of musicians, both young and old, some of whom had played with Tapscott himself and included some names well-known to Cosmic Jazz – Dwight Trible, Azar Lawrence, Phil Ranelin – along with a young Kamasi Washington and his current pianist Brandon Coleman. The outcome was a superb record titled The Gathering which included a total of twenty-four musicians laying down some inspirational jazz. Released ten years ago,  it was the opening track that began this week’s show. Peyote Song III was written by Jesse Sharp in the 1970s and inspired by an, er, ‘mystical session’ with native Americans in New Mexico.

Sharp encouraged this gathering of musicians to take pride in their history and culture – “it keeps the spirit of the ancestors alive,” he affirmed. The younger ones were paired with older musicians “to preserve tradition and at the same time create something new.” Brandon Coleman and Kamasi Washington were among those younger ones but the spirit that imbued that historic session is undoubtedly present in the music you can hear in Washington’s The Epic set from 2016 and now his new release Heaven and Earth. We featured The Space Traveller’s Lullaby from the Heaven disc.

Alice Coltrane and her husband John have often been described as leaders and pioneers  of what might be called spiritual jazz. This was particularly through their interest and exploration of Indian music and religion. So it seemed appropriate in this week’s show to include an Alice Coltrane track from her Transcendence record – music merging Indian scales with jazz that ends up sounding like a service of joyous devotion.

Angelus Domini literally translates as the angel of the lord and is the Roman Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation. Traditionally this was held at 6 am and 6 pm and the angelus bell called people to prayer. Angelus Domini, therefore, invokes religious imagery but is also the title of a tune from the Polish Oles brothers, who play drums and double bass together with the German vibraphone player Christopher Dell. The chosen track comes from their record of jazz interpretations of music from the Polish contemporary composer Henryk Gorecki, who died in 2010. Most famous for his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Gorecki achieved huge popular success with audiences all round the world following the release of a recording of the symphony which featured soprano Dawn Upshaw.  You can hear the Lento e Largo movement here performed by Isabel Bayrakdaraian with the Sinfonietta Cracovia, conducted by John Axelrod. Listening to Angelus Domini is a similarly moving experience as befits the title and the intentions of the original.  All the music on this new release (called Gorecki Ahead) draws you into a meditative and reflective mood with its depth and meaning. Seek it out at Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

We ended the show this week with two groups informing us that The Creator Has a Master Plan. Firstly, French band Palm Unit whose record pays homage to French pianist Jef Gilson, born Jean-François Quiévreux and his Palm record label.  Gilson’s music was influenced by bebop, free jazz and West African sounds together with the unique music of Madagascar where Gilson spent several years at the end of the 1960s. He’s undoubtedly a musician who should be better known for as a talent spotter, Gilson may well have been the equal of Miles Davis, In the 60s, he introduced the jazz world to Henri Texier (who joined his orchestra when he was only sixteen), Jean-Luc Ponty, Michel Portal and Eddy Louiss along with many other celebrated French instrumentalists. Gilson was the man young American musicians in Paris turned to for help and collaboration. Lloyd Miller, Nathan Davis, Woody Shaw, Philly Joe Jones, Bill Coleman, Sahib Shihab, Hal Singer, Byard Lancaster and David Murray all recorded or toured with Gilson during their time in France. For more on Jef Gilson check out this feature on Bandcamp.

In 1965, during the Antibes/Juan Les Pins festival, it was Gilson who opened for John Coltrane and advised him backstage to perform the full suite of A Love Supreme. It was the only time Coltrane would play it onstage with his original quartet.

This new Palm Unit recording – Chant Inca – includes uKanDanZ’s saxophonist Lionel Martin, keyboardist Fred Escoffier from Le Sacre du Tympan, drummer Philippe ‘Pipon’ Garcia (who played with the Erik Truffaz Quartet), and special guest Del Rabenja, who played alongside Gilson in Madagascar on the valiha harp. We ended the show with another version of this Pharoah Sanders classic from The Brooklyn Funk Essentials. This  was more up-tempo, possibly less devotional in sound but brought a fitting and joyous end to the show.  To compare these two versions with Sanders, check out the 32 minute original from the album Karma recorded in 1969 and – to complete your listening pleasure – you might also like Carlos Santana exploring his jazz roots with his take from the Lotus live album (complete 3SACD version).  Both recordings have Leon Thomas on vocals.

  1. The Gathering – Peyote Song III from Leimert Park: Roots and Branches of Los Angeles Jazz
  2. Kamasi Washington – The Space Travellers Lullaby from Heaven of Heaven and Earth
  3. Alice Coltrane – Bhaja Govindam from Transcendence
  4. Oles Brothers and Christopher Dell – Angelus Domini from Gorecki Ahead
  5. Palm Unit – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Chant Inca, Hommage a Jef Gilson
  6. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials – The Creator Has a Master Plan from Cool and Steady and Easy

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 June 2018: cosmic sounds and spiritual vibes

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured five new releases and one old favourite. Check them all out by clicking on the tab left. First up was the opening track from Nat Birchall’s latest jazz release, suitably titled Cosmic Language. Birchall is an expert on Jamaican dub (check this out via his Sound Soul and Spirit website right here) but we should now add Indian ragas to his musical influences. Man from Varanasi replaces piano with the Indian harmonium, a small pump organ. The idea for the album came from a one-off performance at the Maharishi Golden Dome meditation centre in West Lancashire. Birchall brought along his own harmonium, an instrument he hadn’t previously used in his music. From this came the music that makes this latest release on the Jazzman label rather different from Birchall’s previous output.

Man from Varanasi is dedicated to Bismillah Khan, one of Birchall’s Indian influences, and sees him taking cues from the Indian raga tradition which underpinned Khan’s music. Like another clear influence, Birchall’s music travels along the path of Alice and John Coltrane in exploring jazz that is informed by Indian religious music and – like much of the music we feature on this show – Birchall explains that, for him, The whole act of making music is a spiritual experience. It’s during performance and when playing music that I look for a kind of truth. It’s with music where I find myself feel closest to attaining that ‘enlightened’ kind of feeling. On rare occasions I’ve actually felt as though I was listening to the music being played rather than being involved in making it, almost like an out-of-body experience. 

It’s worth adding that Birchall has moved even further way from jazz  with his second release this year. Sounds Almighty is an instrumental roots reggae dub LP featuring legendary Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon who has played with Bob Marley and The Wailers, Burning Spear, Yabby You and many more. All original tunes on the album were recorded old school style on vintage analogue equipment and mixed by dub master Al Breadwinner at the Bakery Studio in Manchester. The vinyl edition is limited to 500 copies.

It was inevitable given his current status in the contemporary jazz world that Kamasi Washington had to be included in this week’s show following the recent release of his Heaven and Earth record. Anyone who loved Washington’s first release, the suitably titled 3CD set The Epic, will go for this record too. It has all the familiar elements – the full-blown orchestra, that choir and Washington’s rasping sax sounds. But this new one is more than just a rerun of The Epic. First thing is a surprise addition – on both vinyl and CD versions there’s a third disc hiding in the packaging. It wasn’t in the pre-release review copies and so we’ve focused on it in this week’s show. This third disc is called The Choice and includes some notable covers, including Ooh Child, originally recorded by Chicago soul group The Five Stairsteps.

There is also a cosmic feel to Chip Wickham’s The Mirage – and a connection to Nat Birchall in that it features another Manchester musician, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, in whose band Birchall used to play. In fact, I have witnessed them playing together.

We followed this with two tunes that went back to the roots of rather contrasting locations and sounds. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials were part of a heathy 1990s New York club scene that fused jazz, rap, and funk and their 1995 album Cool and Steady and Easy introduced their great take on Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan. Behind the collective of over 20 musicians was legendary producer Arthur Baker, whose great 12″ house single It’s Your Time I am listening to as I write [notes Derek]. Brooklyn Funk Essentials are due in London soon – it should be quite a party.

Rooted in a different way is Joachim Mencel, a Polish pianist who also plays the hurdy gurdy and fuses Polish and Slavic folk music with modern jazz. Each tune on his latest album Artisena is named after a Polish traditional dance and whilst Mencel’s music has an authentic traditional sound, it is definitely modern jazz. One has to treat fusions with caution but this one – like Nat Birchall’s – really does work. With Mencel are Weronika Plutecka (violin), Syzon Mika (guitar), Pawel Wszolek (double bass) and Syzmon Madej (drums). As with much of the excellent Polish jazz we play on the show, this album comes direct from Steve’s Jazz Sounds – check out their superb stock.

To end the show we focused on a new/old release. The list of ‘bootleg’ sets uncovered by Columbia Records from the Miles Davis vaults continues to surprise. The 4CD set Volume 6 features Davis with Coltrane in his final concerts with the band and we included one of the most famous tunes in all jazz, Davis’s composition So What, recorded live in Paris. The tensions on this final tour created some stunning performances from both artists and whilst many of the tunes may be familiar to listeners, these new versions will surprise. It’s difficult to guess what will be next in this seemingly inexhaustible series but I’m personally waiting for the craziness of Miles in Japan on his last tour before retirement in 1975. Some of this fractured, angry music has been released already but there is undoubtedly more. You can see and hear music from the Osaka show right here.

  1. Nat Birchall – Man from Varanasi from Cosmic Language
  2. Kamasi Washington – My Family from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  3. Kamasi Washington – Ooh Child from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  4. Chip Wickham feat. Matthew Halsall – The Mirage from Shamal Wind
  5. Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Take the L Train (To Brooklyn) from Cool and Steady and Easy
  6. Joachim Mencel Quintet – Kojawiak F – Moll from Artisena
  7. Miles Davis and John Coltrane – So What (Olympia Paris, France, March 21 1960 Final Concert) from The Bootleg Series Vol. 6

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…


Week ending 23 June 2018: leftfield jazz and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was big on new leftfield sounds – and some of them may not even be jazz. As always, you decide. We began with Quin Kirchner and his six piece band. Drums and Tines Part 2 comes from his surprising new release that shuttles between big band jazz of the kind that could have come from Charlie Mingus at his peak to more outre stuff like our opening track, which reflects Kirchner’s background as a drummer with – among others – Nomo, who employ centrestage the kind of African kalimba (or thumb piano) sounds you heard here. This excellent album – a full 90 minutes of invention – is titled The Other Side of Time. We recommend that you check out and buy the whole thing here on Bandcamp.

More from Kirchner to follow – his straightahead reading of Sun Ra’s Brainville, a composition from an early album (1957) called Sun Song – and then, to complete our leftfield start, Ornette Coleman and the title track from his album Broken Shadows (1971). With Coleman on alto sax was Don Cherry on trumpet, Dewey Redman on tenor,  Charlie Haden on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.

Next up was a chance to head back to the current BritJazz scene with the rather unexpected lilting choice from Kokoroko, a UK ensemble with an all-female horn section led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey. Abusey Junction ends the Brownswood collection We Out Here which we’ve showcased heavily over the last couple of months. The solo guitarist is Oscar Jerome. The show continued with a last listen (for now) to these new British sounds with a track from Nubya Garcia and her 12inch single release When We Are with its powerful drumming from Femi Koleoso. The vinyl is (of course) now sold out, but you can still download digitally from the Bandcamp site here.

Staying very much on the left side we next checked out a remix project. Santuri’s Embaire Umeme from the Mugwisa International Xylophone Group has been reconstructed by Soundthread’s Sam Jones from village recordings in Uganda. He described the process: Having captured the instrument in its natural habitat we set about finding the appropriate producers to then re-articulate the sessions. For my construct I was keen to keep the essence of the instrument and its players as true as possible. Borrowing from the cyclical nature true to its original played style, adding minimal classic old synths, tape delays, guitar stabs and some vocals.

The newest album from Californian trio Bitchin’ Bajas includes a Sun Ra cover and so we had to air it here on Cosmic Jazz. The band creates sprawling soundscapes that mix psychedelia, drone music, kosmiche and cosmic jazz and their take on Ra’s Angels and Demons at Play is a fascinating take on Ra’s 1960 track from the album of the same name. It dramatically slows down the melody and creates something unique. It seemed appropriate to follow this with a cut from French DJ Blundetto’s latest on the ever-creative Heavenly Sweetness label. Max Guiguet is a programme planner on the excellent Radio Nova and World Of… is his third release and features soulful reggae vibes with guest vocalists including Biga Ranx, New York MC Jahdan Blakamoore and newcomers John Milk and Marina P.

We ended the show this week with a return to more mainstream jazz from altoist Art Pepper. Much of Pepper’s work from the 1950s is well known but this take on Red Car is from the end of Pepper’s troubled career in jazz. By the spring of 1981 Pepper was riding what would be the last creative wave of his checkered career. Just over a year later he was to die of a stroke. Incarcerated several times as a result of his heroin addiction, Pepper enjoyed a prolific period through the mid1970s to the turn of the decade, and – in this reviewer’s opinion – was playing some of the most creative, spiky music of his career. The story behind the track is that Pepper decided he wanted a new car, and Les Koenig (owner of the record label Contemporary Records) advanced him the money for a bright red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Pepper’s widow Laurie Pepper has been curating her husband’s many live releases from these years and this 12 minute version of Red Car comes from one of his last albums, recorded live in Japan in 1981. The quartet features Pepper on alto sax, George Cables on piano, David Williams on drums and Carl Burnett on drums. What a way to finish!

  1. Quin Kirchner – Drums and Tines Part 2 from The Other Side of Time
  2. Quin Kirchner – Brainville from The Other Side of Time
  3. Ornette Coleman – Broken Shadows from Broken Shadows
  4. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
  5. Nubya Garcia – When We Are 12inch single
  6. Mugwisa International Xylophone Group – Santuri’s Embaire Umeme EP
  7. Bitchin’ Bajas – Angels and Demons at Play from Bajas Fresh
  8. Blundetto – Hands for Silver from World Of…
  9. Art Pepper – Red Car from The Complete Abashiri Concert, 1981

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 June: BritJazz sounds

Gilles Peterson @ FieldDay 01 June 2018 [Neil MacRae}
Music this week with a BritJazz flavour – something at the moment we can’t get enough of here on CJ. Six of our nine tracks this week are part of the new British jazz revolution. To check out the sounds, click the MixCloud tab on the left. Starting with the flute-driven vibe of BB Davis’ Mysteries of the Revolution band, we eased into drummer de nos jours Moses Boyd and one of the many bands he plays with in the rotating door of British jazz artists. With Theon Cross on tuba and Binker Golding on sax, we featured Axis Blue from the Time and Space EP, available here on the ever-reliable Bandcamp.

33 year old Shabaka Hutchings could be the token leader of this scene and Sons of Kemet is one of his most interesting bands. Now with an album on the Impulse! label, Hutchings has made perhaps his strongest recording yet. It’s certainly his most polemical – and that’s a good thing. We’ve commented before on how contemporary jazz – particularly in the US and UK – now reflects and responds to the social justice issues that have sat alongside the music since the beginning of jazz. It was then into one of the newest of the current crop of UK jazz releases and a tune from keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones’s new album Starting Today on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Records.

It’s not easy to capture that effortless Brazilian vibe but UK pianist Jessica Lauren has done it with Chicourlette, a track from her brand new release Almeria. We both loved this summery tune and it’s certainly going onto repeat play over the UK summer. To complement that we followed up with the latest from Larry Heard (or Mr Fingers) – truly the godfather of Chicago house, and so listeners might reasonably expect to question his inclusion in Cosmic Jazz. But just listen to the chilled summery vibe of Sao Paulo from his excellent new album Cerebral Hemispheres and you may be converted.

GoGo Penguin were one of the star turns at the Singapore Jazz Festival this year, and Strid from the new album A Humdrum Star a centrepiece of their set. It was great to see an acoustic bass player (Nick Blacka) leading the band and the excellent Strid showcases his imaginative bowed and plucked style.

Herbie Hancock is, of course, a longtime favourite on CJ and this week we featured a track from his excellent album, Mr Hands. Why? Well, it was the tune that Gilles Peterson chose to end his excellent Friday set at the Field Day Festival in London a couple of weeks ago (check out the photo above) and, with Peterson’s mixing tweakery, Just Around the Corner was brought up to date for a wildly enthusiastic audience. A delight to see! And that led us to the end of this week’s show with a return to BB Davis’s Big Buddah for more BritJazz.  BB Davis plays the Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like flute, Dan Biro is on keys and and the late and great Mark Smith is on bass. For more, check out the track below in my music choices for this week. You can bet there will be more from the endlessly exciting UK jazz scene on next week’s show.

  1. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 1) from Mysteries of the Revolution
  2. Moses Boyd’s Exodus – Axis Blue – from Time and Space EP
  3. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
  5. Jessica Lauren – Chicourlette from Almeria
  6. Mr Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres
  7. GoGo Penguin – Strid from A Humdrum Star
  8. Joey Alexander – Space from Eclipse
  9. Herbie Hancock – Just Around the Corner from Mr Hands
  10. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 2) from Mysteries of the Revolution

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 June 2018: new music from Poland and Japan

Listen via the MixCloud tab to hear music from two of the countries that feature regularly here on Cosmic Jazz – Poland and Japan. Thanks to Steve’s Jazz Sounds for great new sounds from Poland and to Jazzman Records for the latest in their Spiritual Jazz series – Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – which we sampled at the end of this week’s show.

CJ began though, with one of those numbers that appeared on my iPod and made me determined to play it on the show. This was from another album available at Steve’s (he stocks much more than Polish music) from Belgian drummer Jelle Van Giel. Tiffany’s Dodo is one of those tunes you want to hum to yourself – it is tuneful, melodic and uplifting, brassy and yet carefully restrained. Once  heard it gets to you, in  the best possible way.

The 1980-90s jazz dance scene in London was enlivened by a number of groups from outside the UK – most notably United Future Organization (UFO). Their take on  Frank Foster’s classic Loud Minority was one of those hot jazz dance/nu-jazz numbers from back in the day – released as a single in 1992 and on album in 1993. I can even remember it being played in a village hall up country in South-West France as music to which local young people presented a dance performance. It still sounds fresh and is definitely still danceable. A key member of that group and producer of that album  (along with Frenchman Raphael Sebbag) was Toshio Matsuura. He left the group in 2002 but now has his own material out, which continues the tradition of a jazz basis with more than a nod to the dance-floor, hence the album title (see below). Neil notes: I first heard this track on the radio and thought it was strangely familiar – and yes, it is Matsuura’s take on Bugge Wesseltoft’s classic Change. The album also features classics like Rotary Connection’s Black Gold Of The Sun (feat. Daymé Arocena), Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma epic Do The Astral Plane and an excellent take on Carl Craig’s At Les. Perhaps best of all is that the band assembled for this recording are all members of the new London jazz scene – Yussef Dayes, Yazz Ahmed and Nubya Garcia – all under the direction of drummer and arranger Tom Skinner.

Next up on the show was an interesting and varied Polish sequence. including another tune from the excellent Lukasz Juzko Quartet. The music has the same effect as the Jelle Van Giel tune above. Juzko’s tenor sax is well to the fore, as are the gospel and soul influences, music that is warm and comforting and good for body and soul.

Kostov Panta Konrad is a Bulgarian pianist with a Grammy award-winning rhythm section. The tune Dizzy Con Carne Roots – great title! – is an original composition but also on the album are jazz interpretations of classical pieces from Albinoni, Chopin and Gershwin. Quite a mix!

There was another link to jazz interpretations of classical music. The Oles brothers (one a drummer, the other on double bass) have combined with German vibraphone player Christopher Dell firstly to re-interpret the music of Polish jazz musician Krysztof Komeda on Komeda Ahead, but now on Gorecki Ahead to re-interpret the music of Polish classical composer Henryk Gorecki. Very interesting it is too. On Old Polish Music Dell hammers out a great, pounding vibraphone lead with superb,  back-up from the Oles Brothers rhythm section.

Szymon Lukowski is an award-winning sax player, accompanied by Austrian guitarist Hannes Piepler – collaboration by musicians from across European borders being another feature of this week’s show. The quintet is completed with vibes, as above, marimba and bass – an innovative combination. Seventh Sense from the album Hourglass has a pleasing tone, with percussive drumming in the background.

The final contribution from Poland, or perhaps Poland and more, came from sax player Maciej Sihkala and his Septet. This is another live recording from Gdansk, to follow that of the previous week. The title A Bit Like Theolonius says it all.

Finally, it was back to Japan. One of the long-time Cosmic Jazz favourites has been the tune Watarase from pianist Fumio Itabashi. I have a 2CD album of different versions of this Japanese folk tune – most performed by Itabashi in different groups. The final version on this excellent compilation is included on the latest Spiritual Jazz compilation, Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan – another re-issue from this jazz-obsessed country. May the trend continue.

  1. Jelle Van Giel Group – Tiffany’s Dodo from Songs For Everyone
  2. United Future Organization – Loud Minority from Loud Minority
  3. Toshio Matsuura – Change from LovePlayDance: Scenes From the Floor
  4. Lukasz Juzko Quintet – One or Few from First Breath
  5. Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – The Dizzy Con Carne Roots from The Conversations
  6. Oles Brothers & Christopher Dell – Old Polish Music from Gorecki Ahead
  7. Szymon Lukowski Quintet – Seventh Sense from Hourglass
  8. Maciej Sikala Septet – A Bit Like Theolonius from Live in Club Zak
  9. Takeo Moriyama – Watarase  from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:


Week ending 02 June 2018: jazz from UK and Poland

This week there was only one way to start the show. In the previous week I had been to three shows which represented the very best of the new wave of jazz and jazz-related music in the UK – the sounds of young London and truly jazzre:freshed. Our photo shows UK tuba player Theon Cross performing with Moses Boyd at London’s Field Day Festival – more next week.

The 2018 Norfolk & Norwich Festival included three ambitious nights of late-night music in the Adnams Spiegeltent erected in a city centre park. On the first night there was the sax and drums combination of Binker & Moses who respectively blew and drummed with tough intensity and relentless energy to the amazement and appreciation of the crowd. The next evening saw the young keyboard player Ashley Henry with his trio, and joined later by vocalist Cherise Adams-Burnett. The repertoire included original compositions, a re-working of a tune from rapper Nas and one from indie band Enemy. Ashley Henry is an exciting and developing talent with a debut album forthcoming. The third night brought a performance from the six-piece Maisha led by drummer Jake Long. There was added excitement by the inclusion in the band of my pianist/keyboard of the moment Sarah Tandy. She plays with seeming nonchalance, with constant surprise and invention and with total involvement in the group. Another highlight was the deep interplay between Jake Long on drums and Tim Doyle on Percussion. Maisha played non-stop with no break for introductions or song titles until the end of the set. What a welcome change from the tedium of many jazz nights of the past.

There was more from Timo Lassy’s 2012 album In with Lassya joyful and uplifting work. The Finnish saxophonist has come long way since his days with the Five Corners Quintet and the tune It Could Be better has a soulful, gospel feel with pleasing contributions on the Hammond organ from Georgios Kontrafouris and Timo Lassy himself on tenor sax. As with Lassy’s great new album Moves, this one is recommended.

Gospel is a major inspiration for Polish tenor sax player Lukasz Juzko on his new album Breath from the Noise. He is one of the latest exciting East European discoveries we have come across from Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Juzko is from the Gdansk Academy of Music and included in the quartet is the pianist Michal Wroblewski, who we have come across already on Cosmic Jazz. There will be more from this a record in future on Cosmic Jazz.

Also with a Gdansk connection is the live album Copy & Insert from pianist Leszek Kulakowski and his Quintet. The Quintet includes another Polish musician familiar to Cosmic Jazz in Jerzy Malek on trumpet. Kulakowski himself has collaborated with a number of players both from Poland and the US, including Tomasz Stanko and Eddie Henderson. This album features American saxophonist Andy Middleton and was recorded in Gdansk at the XXIII Komeda Jazz Festival, commemorating the Polish jazz icon Krzysztof Komeda.

The Kulakowski track is entitled Japanese Tune and this prompted the inclusion of another tune from the J-Jazz album of great deep, modal jazz from Japan from 1969-1984. It came from guitarist Kigoshi Sugimoto. The track has a great bass line running through with contemporary sounding drums in the background.  There’s a revival of interestin this golden age of Japanese jazz at the moment with a number of compilations for listeners to look out for. We’ve featured a number of tracks from the great J-Jazz compilation and  in upcoming shows we’ll move on the Jazzman label’s contribution to this genre – Spiritual Jazz Volume 8: Japan, another masterwork of crate digging.

This week’s show ended with another piece from the newly-released Mark Springer album Diving. The music was recorded live at a series of concerts and the tunes were composed on the spot in response to the ambience, audience and the settings in both the UK and Italy. The selection this week was from a UK concert. Springer might be unknown to some listeners but he was a key player in a much earlier British jazz movement in the early 1980s when he led the group Rip, Rig + Panic. Their first album God was one of my introductions to contemporary jazz and the band went on to complete two more albums before disbanding in 1983. The first album featured Neneh Cherry on vocals and the second her father, Don Cherry on trumpet.

  1. Binker and Moses – The Valley of the Ultra Blacks from Journey to the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry – Deja Vu from Ashley Henry’s 5ive
  3. Maisha – Welcome to a New Welcome from Welcome to a New Welcome
  4. Timo Lassy – It Could Be Better from In With Lassy
  5. Lukasz Juzko Quartet – Breath from the Noise from First Breath
  6. Leszek Kulakowski Quartet – Japanese Tune from Copy & Insert
  7. Kigoshi Sugimoto – Long Neal from J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984.
  8. Mark Springer – Winstone Leys Concert Hall II from Diving

Derek is listening to …

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 26 May 2018: deep jazz from Japan and more

Over the years we have played a lot of jazz from the 1970s on Cosmic Jazz. In retrospect, there’s every indication that this was something of a golden age for the music. Many of the albums we’ve featured have been re-released and tunes have appeared on the numerous compilations that have emerged over the last decade, Some of these had previously been accessible only to a limited audience and so a wealth of treasures have been opened up to a new and wider audience. We have not always played much Japanese jazz from that period but this week’s featured release from British based BBE Records redresses the balance. Check out the music by clicking the MixCloud tab where you can hear this week’s show.

The album in question is called J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984It is deep, it is modal and much of it has a spiritual quality and we featured three tracks from it. The first was from Takeo Moriyama, a musician who played the piano as a child but became a drummer as an adult. The tune Kaze was played again because the previous week’s show provided only a brief excerpt from it. Terumasa Hino is one of the most celebrated of Japanese jazz musicians – a trumpet/cornet/flugelhorn player who settled in New York in 1975. He played with a number of prominent US jazz musicians and among these was bass player Reggie Workman who not only had a tune in his praise but also played on it. As with all of the tunes this week we love this one. There’s always been a strong affinity between Japanese jazz-related music and the influence of Brazil music and a veteran musician of twenty-four albums, bass player Eiji Nakayama, is represented on the album by the track Aya’s Samba. J-Jazz is one of those albums on which every track is superb and so is a very definite CJ recommendation. Buy or download and enjoy this inspiring music.

There was, in fact, much in the programme that sounded spiritual.  Diving is a new album from pianist Mark Springer, released in May this year. Springer is a contemporary composer/musician whose work ranges from solo piano to chamber works for piano to a forthcoming opera. The album features music recorded in solo piano concerts in Italy and the UK and spontaneously recorded in front of a live audience. At these concerts Springer compares himself to a swimmer diving into different pools and that he is trying to challenge my audience’s perception of what a piano concert is and the surprises that can lead to a completely new work composed in that moment. The outcome is impressive – what an experience for the audience. There will be more from this new release next week.

Quin Kirchner is featured via his track The Ritual which from single hearing you will recognise as an appropriate title. Saxophonist Nate LePine blows like a young Coltrane on this one and across this double album Kirchner has assembled a superb group to perform a mix of original compositions and jazz covers (including tracks from Charles Mingus and Sun Ra). He’s a drummer/percussionist from Chicago who spent time in New Orleans before returning to the windy city. Kirchner is perhaps most noted for his time with Nomo – check out their postrock/afrobeat/Sun Ra sound on this track. The Other Side of Time is his first solo release and it has – rightly – garnered a number of very favourable reviews. Another excellent artist that my colleague Neil has unearthed and made available to CJ.

There was more current music from Polish sax player Marcin Stefaniak with his trio. It is cool, contemplative, contemporary jazz – yet another of those many Polish jazz musicians whose work is recommended to our followers. There is a rich, varied and constantly evolving scene in Poland that is not always reflected in the jazz press here in the UK – on CJ we redress the balance where we can.

The one tune on the show that might struggle to gain the description as spiritual in feel came from Kaidi Tatham, UK multi-instrumentalist/DJ/producer and core member of Bugz in the Attic. Tatham was a influential presence in the West London broken beats/nu-jazz scene and he continues to fuse jazz with own twisted funk, boogie and electronica. He has done much to bring a jazz sensibility to club audiences and we applaud this here on Cosmic Jazz. For a sample of his current musical style, listeners are recommended to download Kaidi’s 5ive from the jazzre:freshed site.

  1. Takeo Moriyama – Kaze from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  2. Mark Springer – Castello Di Potentino II from Diving
  3. Quin Kirchner – The Ritual from The Other Side of Time
  4. Marcin Stefaniak Trio – Wheelers from Unveiling
  5. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times
  6. Terumasa Hino – Ode to Workman from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
  7. Eiji Nakayama Aya’s Samba from J-Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984

Derek is listening to …

  1. Binker & Moses – At the Feet of the Mountain of Forever
  2. Ashley Henry Trio – @ jazz re:freshed
  3. Maisha – The Night Trance
  4. Common – Be
  5. The Ruts DC – In A Rut

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…

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio