Playlist – 13th November 2008

Read this intro quickly so that you can click on the Youtube clip of Tomasz Stanko performing a section of Suspended Night– you’ll soon see why we like his music. Now go out and buy the CD on ECM records!

Very varied choices this week from an orchestrated McCoy Tyner with a turbocharged Billy Cobham on drums through to Mike Westbrook’s delightful Love Song No.1 and a lovely swinging track from Clifford Brown and Max Roach.

Thanks to our many emailers and texters tonight – your contact always helps to bring the show alive.

Two more related Youtube links for you to enjoy this week – one click and you’re in…

First this week is an unfortunately sharply edited video of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko in concert. It’s a pity that we can’t find a longer version of this performance on Youtube:

As a complete contrast try this version of Afro Blue – poor video quality but the sound is fine. That’s Wayne Shorter on tenor, Ravi Coltrane on soprano and Chick Corea on keyboards along with Carlos Santana (and in the background John McLaughlin and Herbie Hancock).

1. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
2. McCoy Tyner – Fly with the Wind
3. John Coltrane – Stellar Regions
4. Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin – A Love Supreme
5. Eric Dolphy – Something Sweet, Something Tender
6. Azymuth – Butterfly
7. Brecker Brothers – Not Ethiopia
8. Eddie Henderson – Kudu
9. Jazztronik feat Shacho – Heat
10. Shirley Eubanks Ensemble – The Blessing Song
11. The Mike Westbrook Concert Band – Love Song No. 1
12. The Harlem Experience – Harlem River Dance
13. Luisito Quintero feat Francis Mbappe – Gbagada, Gbagada, Gbogodo, Gbogodo
14. Dub Colossus – Ophir Dub
15. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Summer Goddess
16. Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Suspended Variations 2
17. Donald Byrd – Flight Time
18. Clifford Brown and Max Roach – Jordu
19. Chuck Flores – Padali
20. Tenorio Jr. – Samadhi
21. Nelsinho e sua Orquestra – Upa Neguinho

Empirical at the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, 9th November 2008

empiricalThere’s been a lot of hype about the British jazz group Empirical. The entire front line of Nat Facey, Jay Phelps and Kit Downes were each nominated in the rising star category in the recent BBC jazz awards – what are the chances of that happening again? A quartet tonight (no Phelps on trumpet) – with alto saxophone, piano, bass, and drums – Empirical are young and sharply dressed in a post-Wynton kind of way. Does that affect the music? Answers on a postcard or better still comment in a blog – preferably ours…

So, with such rising reputations, I had high expectations of their visit to Ipswich. Were they fulfilled? Not entirely, but the longer the performance went on, the better it got. They are accomplished musicians and play collectively, a welcome change from the all too frequent and predictable head-solo-applause-solo-applause pattern which can lessen one’s appreciation of some jazz clubs. They play original compositions and they play tunes by Eric Dolphy. There is nothing wrong with that, especially when you have an intriguingly deep alto player like Nathaniel Facey in the band. In fact, a tribute album to Eric Dolphy is planned for release next month.

The size of the crowd was encouraging for a Sunday night in Ipswich and although playing in a theatre, the rapport between audience and band felt good. The band at the start of the night commented on the quality of the sound following sound checks and their enthusiasm for playing. And yet, the first set left me disappointed. Was it good in individual parts rather than a whole, was it disjointed, was it too academic and clever? Not sure, maybe it was all of these things – but it left me unsure.

But what a transformation for the second set! More extended tunes, fire instead of ice, involvement replacing distance, emotion where there had been coldness. I felt engaged. The audience were happy and their applause brought an Eric Dolphy’ tune as an encore.

For me, this had been a night of two halves rescued by an enhanced and more unified team performance after the break. Must have been those half time oranges… We will be checking them out again in the New Year when they come to Fleece Jazz – this time with young vibes star Lewis Wright in tow.

Playlist – 6th November 2008

Wow! Weird mix but it all worked. Kicking off with Benga’s dubstep from earlier this year mixed straight into a classic Weather Report track from 1973. This session also brought you brand new jazz from Azymuth, Dave Holland and McCoy Tyner with some reggae, classic Fela and Brownswood basement style jazz along the way. Lots of vinyl tonight and some really cool Japanese jazz.

Two more related Youtube links for you to enjoy this week – one click and you’re in…

First up is Freddie Hubbard with his tribute to trumpet player Clifford Brown – a Benny Golson tune that has now become a jazz standard in its own right:

Now have a listen to this very smooooth classic Azymuth track – enjoy!:

Sayonara!

1. Benga – B4 the Dual
2. Weather Report – Non-Stop Home
3. What’s Up? – Telemundo
4. Azymuth – Os Cara La
5. McCoy Tyner- Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit
6. Cocoa Tea – Barack Obama
7. Sly and Robbie – Miles (Black Satin)
8. Aflex Combo – Dazzling
9. Jamaladeen Tacuma – The Creator has a Masterplan
10. Hajime Yoshizawa – Arpegio in the Forest
11. Freddie Hubbard – Little Sunflower
12. Fela Kuti – Zombie
13. Seu Jorge – Burguesinha
14. Grand Union Orchestra All Stars – white label
15. Empirical – Blessing
16. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Boy, Dog and Carrot
17. Dave Holland – Pass It On
18. Common – U, Black Maybe

Jazz on UK Radio

With Jazz FM’s relaunch there’s a little more jazz on the radio. Most of it is smooth rather than cosmic but worth listening to are Mike Chadwick’s weekend programmes – Latin Party (Friday 19-00 to 21-00), Saturday Night Experience (Saturday 20.00 – 23.00) and Cutting Edge (Sunday 22.00 – 00.00).

Check out Jazz FM at www.jazzfm.com

For more jazz on radio try BBC R3 and Jez Nelson’s excellent Jazz on 3 programme.
More details here.

The London Jazz Festival


If it’s November, it must be time for the London Jazz Festival. This year it’s bigger than ever and shared between far more venues – including the Barbican Centre and the Royal Festival Hall. Herbie Hancock is playing both venues – and they’re already sold out!The jazz tradition lies at the heart of the Festival and major figures who are linked through the music of Miles Davis – Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin – headline with inspired new bands. A number of artists introduce projects that provide a fresh perspective on the music, and include leading British saxophonist Courtney Pine, young British band Empirical, jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, guitar maestros Martin Taylor and Biréli Lagrène, plus award-winning saxophonist Alan Barnes. The strong relationship between the spirit of jazz and the art of voice is highlighted by Jazz Voice, the celebratory opening concert at the Barbican that pays homage to a century of song with vocal stars and emerging talent re-interpreting classic songs, accompanied by a specially created London Jazz Festival Orchestra directed by Guy Barker. Others taking their own innovative approach to the vocal tradition include Melody Gardot, a cappella sensations Take 6 and Queen of South African jazz Sibongile Khumalo with drumming legend Jack DeJohnette.

The love affair between jazz and Latin music can be traced through three outstanding pianists – Chucho Valdés, Danilo Pérez and Gonzalo Rubalcaba – as well as Milton Nascimento’s bossa nova project and Alex Wilson’s Salsa con Soul Orchestra.

The global flavour of jazz is marked by performances from a number of major artists including Cameroonian singer-songwriter Richard Bona, Sami artist Mari Boine, afrobeat exponent Femi Kuti, new flamenco phenomenon Buika and Turkish master instrumentalists Taksim Trio.

European jazz is brought into sharp focus by a festival within the Festival that celebrates Norway’s extraordinary cultural scene – Scene Norway brings over some of the nation’s leading musicians including Nils Petter Molvær, Sidsel Endresen, Arve Henriksen and Eivind Aarset.

Check out the Festival website for more details.

There are some free downloads available via classicsandjazz.co.uk. Click on the link for more information and to download tracks from the UCJ website. There’s some Herbie Hancock, Nils Petter Molvær, Taylor Eigsti, Jeff Neve and David Sanchez – all worth listening to if you like the music on Cosmic Jazz.

Playlist – 30th October 2008

Pete was in the house tonight and there was a definite Japanese feel to the proceedings. We kicked off with two tracks from Sleep Walker and then went into one of Pete’s 80s favourites from Nobuo Yagi – Mi Mi Africa. There was a reggae inspired interlude before we went back into the Japanese scene with a track from quasimode and more from Hajime Yoshizawa. We discovered the Alsace producer and DJ Kira Neris (he takes his name from a Star Trek character!) thanks to Pete and so it was fitting that we ended the show with the Mel Torme’s original version of Moonlight in Vermont that was sampled on the lovely Neris track Open Doors. Our favourite track tonight? It had to be David Sanborn’s live take on the theme from Love is Not Enough live at Montreux – great stuff!

Thanks to Pete for inspiring music as always – come back soon! Mention too of Smoothgroove’s great Offworld show – it’s 6-8pm before Cosmic Jazz and is always worth a listen. Two more related Youtube links for you to enjoy this week – one click and you’re in…

Try this version of Take Five from Nobuo Yagi –

We couldn’t get a clip of David Sanborn playing Love is Not Enough live at Montreux but here he is on Jools Holland’s Later show in 2005 playing Horace Silver’s Senor Blues.

1. Sleep Walker – Brotherhood
2. Sleep Walker – Ai no Kawa
3. Nobuo Yagi – Mi Mi Africa
4. Middlewood Sessions – Fall Back
5. Regina Belle – God is Good
6. N’Dambi – Call Me
7. Ken Boothe – Is it Because I’m Black?
8. Dub Colossus – Entoto Dub
9. Prince Buster & Allstarts – City Riot
10. Quasimode feat. Masato Nakamura – One Possibility
11. David Sanborn – Love is not Enough
12. DJ Takemura – Dedicate for the Sun
13. Players Association – Turn the Music Up
14. Jackie McLean – Appointment in Ghana
15. Praful – Teardrop Butterfly
16. Jackson Conti – Brasilian Sugar
17. The Radiants – Hold On
18. Hajime Yoshizawa – Impulse
19. Mel Torme – Moonlight in Vermont

The blog is live!

We’re up and running! Our new Cosmic Jazz blog is now live and we welcome your comments. We hope the site is easy to navigate and you enjoy the content.
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There will be lots more in future months – our regular weekly playlists, CD and live music reviews, Youtube clips and more. The next stage will be to have the show as an easy access podcast for you to listen to and download to your iPlayers. Watch this space for more news on this.
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Derek and Neil

What is Jazz?

You want to find out more about jazz but you’re not really sure where to start.

You’re not even sure what jazz actually is.

Here’s where Cosmic Jazz can help.

We think the best thing you can do is just listen and explore.

aboujazz1

We didn’t choose the word cosmic by accident. Jazz is all kinds of music not one; it’s everywhere around us and yet often completely hidden; it doesn’t have much of a presence on the radio, on television or in the music stores – and yet it’s one of music’s greatest inventions.

aboujazz2

So what is jazz? There are no good definitions – just good music.
But try this for size:


Jazz is. The most vibrant, kick-ass creative music to emerge in the 20th century. It is the musical soul of America, if America possesses such a thing, and is every bit as radical, funky, deeply venal and cut-throat, yet ethereal, roots-obsessed, flashy, hip (it’s practitioners invented every bit of the language the whole English-speaking world now regards as it’s very own of-the-minute slang) and outrageously larger than the country itself.
Jazz is. The source, the mother-lode, for all popular strands of music which have emerged since the late 1940s. If you think something in the world of rock, rap, dance or even further afield is new, then dig a little deeper than its high-gloss finish and you’ll find someone listening very closely to an innovation made in the jazz field of another decade. As Leroi Jones once wrote of John Coltrane: “If you can hear, this music will make you think a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even become one of them.”

Jazz is. The ultimate hybrid, the outcast mongrel of music which, in the beginning decades of the last century, was recognised as music only fit to be played for whores, gamblers, cocaine addicts, drunks and criminals. …No wonder so much of this music was loud, full of buzz and nervous energy, busting with the search for personal and creative freedom.

Jazz isn’t. Some sad bunch of middle aged men wearily negotiating ‘tough’ chord changes with all the enthusiasm of a knitting circle in Milton Keynes. Equally, it’s not some smart-ass rinky-dink pianist playing juked-up cocktail music with a smile on his face and a heart the size of a pea.

Jazz matters. It matters so much it hurts when the music really connects with you. Just listen to what the greats of the genre can do with a single phrase, with one single gut-wrenching note: they can grab your attention like a smack around the face, then turn your heart and your soul inside out while you’re trying to catch your breath. This is startlingly honest music which opens you up inside, sizzles through your nervous system and gives you a second chance at life.
[from Tower Jazzguide – Keith Shadwick – 1999]
So now’s the time. Let your journey begin here.
Tune into Cosmic Jazz every Thursday between 8 and 10pm on www.icrfm.co.uk

Writing about Jazz

Jazz has inspired some great writing. Whitney Balliett, who died in 2007, wrote on jazz for the New Yorker magazine for many years and bought real style to his writing. Here’s a couple of examples – the first on tenor sax player Ben Webster and the second some thoughts about pianist Thelonious Monk.

Ben Webster:


He would start a medium-slow blues solo very softly with a weaving five-note phrase, pause, play a high, barely audible blue note, and duck back to his opening phrase, still as soft as first sunlight. He would harden his tone slightly at the start of his next chorus, issue an annunciatory phrase, repeat it, insert a defiant tremolo. His tone would grow hard, he would growl and crowd his notes, he would shake his phrases as if he had them clamped in his teeth. As the years went by he would close certain phrase endings by allowing his vibrato to melt into pure undulating breath—dramatically offering, before the breath expired, the ghost of his sound.

Thelonious Monk:


His improvisations were attempts to disguise his love of melody. He clothed whatever he played with spindly runs, flatted notes, flatted chords, repeated single notes, yawning silences and zigzag rhythms. Sometimes he pounded the keyboard with his right elbow. His style protected him not only from his love of melody but from the love of the older pianists he grew out of – Duke Ellington and the stride pianists. All peered out from inside his solos, but he let them escape only as parody.

You can get more of Balliett’s brilliant writing in his book The Sound of Surprise. Amazingly, it now seems to be out of print – there’s a photo of the Pelican paperback version published in the 1960s below. Imagine this as a coffee table book with great black and white photos of jazz musicians…

writingaboutjazz1

To hear this writing in action, listen to Ben Webster’s Soulville or Thelonius Monk’s Brilliant Corners.

writingaboutjazz2

As always, just listen and explore.

Now’s the time. Let your journey begin here.

Tune into Cosmic Jazz every Thursday between 8.30 and 10pm on www.icrfm.co.uk

Sleep Walker at the Jazz Café, London 26 October 2008

Sleep Walker returned to the Jazz Café on Sunday with a blistering set. Although a classic quartet lineup, their music is a loud, colourful synthesis of the best of soul jazz and Pharoah Sanders style spiritual vibes. There’s no samples and no electronic wizardry – just extended grooves that feature the soprano and tenor of Masato Nakamura and Hajime Yoshizawa on acoustic piano. Playing here to a largely young – and Japanese – audience they made club jazz deeply funky again.Live, Nakamura took on more of the sound of his obvious idol Pharoah Sanders with lots of overblowing on tenor and long, sinuous improvised lines on soprano. On record a tune like Brotherhood is more relaxed with trumpet and flute solos – here it was stripped down into a powerful remix that really worked.

Yoshizawa stretched out too, and on the Steinway grand at the Jazz Café (rather than the Fender Rhodes of their earlier Paris show at the Batofar) he created lyrical figures that gradually built into great grooves recalling the extended piano work on another one of Sleep Walker’s stand out tracks on CD, Eclipse.

Drummer Nobuaki Fujii was a revelation. His convincing rock style applied to a jazz sensibility allowed him to move effortlessly from straight 4/4 bombast into a swinging 3/4 jazz waltz – great solos too.

No vocalist at this set but – for me – this only tightened up their sound, allowing them to avoid obvious soul jazz clichés and create a new and deeper sound that was truly convincing. No ballads either and so no let up on the deep grooves. This focus on just one aspect of their music only made a more convincing case for Sleep Walker as one of the best of the current Japanese jazz groups.

For an idea of Sleep Walker’s power live, check out the Youtube clip on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood blog. Visuals and sound are poor but the energy comes across well.

Photos from the Jazz Café show below:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio