Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA at the Barbican, London 10 March 2009

The sound of the universe where space really is the place.

This was the night that the Barbican went truly cosmic and allowed the man from Saturn (or at least his newly appointed ambassador in the gap toothed shape of former Special Jerry Dammers) to visit some of his earthbound fans.

AliceColtrane01Dammers has been piloting his Spatial AKA Orchestra for a couple of years now but this was their major concert hall outing in London. Billed as Cosmic Engineering, the choice of music reflected Dammers’ interest in other ‘musical mavericks’ on the fringes of jazz – Sun Ra, Martin Denny, Alice Coltrane and ‘Sir’ Coxone Dodd were his unlikely partners in this journey through the spaceways.

To make this ambitious project happen, Dammers has chosen a big band lineup that’s conventional enough. Some of the leading players on the UK jazz scene have been brought together in a terrific frontline – Mercury nominee Zoe Rahman on Fender Rhodes and piano, Nat Facey (most recently with Empirical) on alto, Finn Peters on flute and Larry Stabbins, Denys Baptise and Jason Yarde on tenors. With the vocalists and percussionists this was a stage full – eighteen in total – and I wasn’t counting the various costumed mannequins less than artfully placed on the edges of the stage alongside Captain Scarlet’s spacecraft, African masks, a glitterball or two and assorted Arkana. Add to this a back projection screen which featured cheesy 1950s space travel images alongside rare footage of Sun Ra, Marshall Allen and others dancing around the Pyramids and the scene really was set.

As Dammers positioned himself in front of a bank of 1970s synthesizers – none of which did anything other than squawk and rumble – the band walked onstage through the audience just like the real thing – space costumes and Pharonic headdresses, flowing robes and painted masks.

SunRaNothingIsAs perhaps one of the few people in the audience who saw the very last visit of Sun Ra to the UK – at the Brixton Fridge in November 1985 – this looked and felt much like the real thing. And the band were convincing too. There might not have been enough solos of the calibre of Sun Ra’s longtime sidemen but Facey’s long and impassioned outing on a deep and dark version of Where Pathways Meet was awesome. This was Pharoah Sanders with the volume set at 11.

Classic Sun Ra tunes predominated – but there was also space for a twisted version of Nelson Riddle’s Batman theme, Salah Rageb’s Egypt Strut and Moondog’s Bird’s Lament. Throw in a couple of Alice Coltrane classics (including the hypnotic Journey in Satchidananda) and some Cedric Im Brooks and you have a mix made in – well – Saturn, I guess. Remarkably, it all came together: the band were authentically ragged in places, the sound mix was muddy and the graphics primitive but the experience was total. To mix the Specials’ Ghost Town with Ra’s Nuclear War was inspired and Alice Coltrane’s Armageddon managed to be both chilling and celebratory.

Dammers explicitly linked the Sun Ra cosmic sound to the deep jazzy grooves of Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Im Brooks (who always acknowledged his debt to Ra), the Cairo Jazz Band of Salah Rageb (who once dedicated a song to Ra) and Coxone Dodd (whose Studio One sound had Leroy Sibbles’ locked in basslines not a million miles away from the cyclical bass figures of Ronnie Boykin, the Ra bass player). Dammers seemed to have achieved the impossible: bringing all this passionate, deep and spiritual music together into a holistic soup that simply worked.

This wasn’t music for everyone but if you were new to the Sun Ra experience it was as close to the real deal as anyone is likely to get following Ra’s departure back to Saturn in 1993. Ending with – of course – Space is the Place, this was a concert experience that few would forget – even if they tried to. As they walked out of the hall they were met with the horn section who had gone out as they came in and who now put a smile on everyone’s face as they carried on playing more choruses of what is probably now the Sun Ra theme tune – “space is the place, yes space is the place…”

Playlist – 19th March 2009

As promised, tonight’s show featured a special mix of Sun Ra inflenced material – all music either played at the Spatial AKA Orchestra concert at the Barbican or linked to the man from Saturn in some way. Music included Alice Coltrane’s classic Journey in Satchidananda, a track from Jamaica’s Cedric Im Brooks (who consciously acknowledged the influence of Sun Ra on his sound), music from Egypt’s Salah Ragab who played in concert with Sun Ra at the pyramids outside Cairo, Monk’s masterpiece Well You Needn’t (which undoubtedly influenced Jerry Dammers’ arrangement of the Specials’ Ghost Town), a composition by New York street maverick Moondog and finally Sun Ra’s concert anthem Space is the Place.

The rest of the show featured new music from Japan, an extended cut from Lee Morgan’s last recording, three strage little tracks from Word Jazz maestro Ken Nordine and a current iPod favourite from Neil to end the show – Marcos Valle’s summery Escape. Derek’s inclusion of bassist Buster Williams’ tune Fortune Dance prompted Neil to find his vinyl copy of the great album from which this track comes – more in coming weeks!

1. Quasimode feat. Carmen Lundy – Object in the Mirror
2. Grant Green – Blues for Juanita
3. Donald Byrd – Kofi

Sun Ra special mix
4. Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
5. Cedric Im Brooks – Silent Force
6. Salah Ragab – Egypt Strut
7. Thelonius Monk – Well You Needn’t
8. Moondog – Bird’s Lament
9. Sun Ra – Where Pathways Meet/Space is the Place

10. Hank Mobley – East of the Village
11. What’s Up? – Vanity
12. Tomasz Stanko – Suspended Variations II
13. Buster Williams – Fortune Dance
14. Ken Nordine – White/Flesh/Azure
15. Lee Morgan – In What Direction Are You Headed?
16. Jafrosax – In the Morning
17. Marcos Valle – Escape

Playlist – 12th March 2009

While Neil is still on re-entry after that sensational Spatial AKA gig at the Barbican on Tuesday, it seemed like time for what turned out to be a more reflective show this week. Derek’s iPod provided the inspiration for the incusion of Wynton Marsalis and Miles Davis, and live Quasimode is always welcome especially with the divine Carmen Lundy on vocals. A track from Tim Collinson’s new CD was a real highlight and we think we have found the inspiration for Common’s beautiful It’s Your World from his inspirational Be album. It’s the little known Nation/African Liberation Arts Ensemble who use the same children’s chorus of “Be what you want to be.”…

Also in the mix tonight was the astounding take on Ain’t Necessarily So from Grant Green, some powerful Michael Brecker on the Impulse label and a close out track from Jazzanova’s new release.

1. Wynton Marsalis – From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
2. Don Pullen – El Matador
3. Nicola Conte – The Nubian Queens
4. Grant Green – Ain’t Necessarily So
5. Quasimode feat. Carmen Lundy- Object in the Mirror (live)
6. Miles Davis – So What
7. Michael Garrick Sextet – Salvation March
8. Chick Corea – Night and Day (live)
9. Nation/African Liberation Arts Ensemble – Children
10. Tim Collinson Quartet – AfroBlue
11. Miles Davis – Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)
12. Zakir Hussain – Zakir
13. Michael Brecker – Two Blocks from the Edge
14. Jazzanova – Rocking You Eternally (feat. Leon Ware and Dwele)

Next week, Neil will feature a special Sun Ra inspired mix and there will be new releases from Tim Garland, Nigel Price and the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio.

Playlist – 5th March 2009

Tonight we welcomed Stephen Mynott from the Milestones Jazz club in Lowestoft. Lots of big jazz names have passed through their doors over the years and it was a pleasure to have Stephen with us – together with his great choice of music. This included some old favourites like the Yorkshire group Back Door but also some performers new to us like the late Pete Jacobsen and Simon H Fell, both ex-Suffolk residents.

We all wanted to play tribute to the late and very great Ian Carr – jazz trumpeter, broadcaster and biographer of Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett. We have championed his music since the start of Cosmic Jazz in February 2008 and we shall continue to play the inspiring music of the Ian Carr/Don Rendell Quintet and Britain’s finest jazz-rock group, Nucleus. Three tracks tonight and more in coming weeks.

1. Persephone’s Jive – Neil Ardley, Ian Carr and Don Rendell
2. Jackie McLean- Melody for Melonae
3. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Boy, Dog and Carrot
4. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Shades of Blue
5. Peter Jacobsen – Microcosmo 1/Microcosmo 2/Microcosmo 3
4.Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio – Save Your Love for Me
5. Back Door – Vienna Breakdown
6. Barcode Trio – Meercat
7. Jerry Reed – Sittin’ on Top of the World
8. Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band – Neveen
9. Mark Murphy – We’ll Be Together Again
10. Beat Out Shrine – Pinkie
12. Tim Collinson – Magic Number
13. Sun Ra – I Could Have Danced All Night
14. Nation of Multiverse – African Village
15. Simon H. Fell – Part II
16. J Dilla – Over the Breaks/Simon H Fell (unknown)/Ornette Coleman – Lonely Woman
17. Patrick Naylor’s Sound Dial – Good Air

Neil is off to see Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA at the Barbican on Tuesday in a tribute to Sun Ra – watch out for a review soon.

Cosmic Jazz Festival News!

The first of the year’s big festivals kick off next month with the Gateshead International Jazz Festival from 20-22 March. It may be just a long weekend but organisers have packed in some big names – Courtney Pine, Guy Barker, Joshua Redman and an ECM double bill with Nik Bartsch’s Ronin and the Marcin Wasilewski Trio.

Neil from Cosmic Jazz went along last year and saw Robert Glasper’s amazing hip hop influenced trio – and got a chance to catch up with him afterwards. The new Sage Centre is a dramatic venue and if you’re not local to the north east you can have a look at what the Tyneside regeneration has done for the whole of this dramatic riverside area.

For more information, tickets and full listings call 0191 4334661 or check out the website at www.thesagegateshead.org

For more great jazz try the Cheltenham Festival which this year is between 28 April and 04 May. New names are still being added, with latest recruits being clarinettist Don Byron and guitarist Pat Martino. Already confirmed are Jack deJohnette (see our feature article on this great drummer), Dave Liebman and two of our favourite trumpeters – Dave Douglas and Arve Henriksen. British artists at Cheltenham include Julian Arguelles, the Robert Mitchell 3io, and last year’s Mercury Music Prize nominees the Portico Quartet. Cheltenham uses a wide range of venues arond the town and there’s a great atmosphere across the whole week.

For more information, tickets and full listings go to the Festival website at www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Listen to all these artists on Cosmic Jazz over the next couple of months.

Playlist – 26th February 2009

More great jazz tonight on the show kicking off with an amazing Sun Ra track from 1958. This music sounds 30 or more years ahead of its time. No one was making this kind of music then – and they’re still trying to catch up. We mixed this in with a track from the Heliocentrics first CD released in 2007 and a little touch of Brazil from Offworld – a suitable namecheck for DJ Smoothgroove’s great show on ICR – 6 -8 pm every Thursday.

We also played tribute to altoist Hank Crawford who died last week, wigged out with some deep jazz from Coltrane acolyte David S Ware and played some retro Japanese sounds from What’s Up? before ending with a jazz dance combination of Corky McClerkin and Jazzanova. Apologies to all listeners at the end of the show who after a couple of minutes of Mwele, Mwele heard just silence. A CD error was the problem – we’ll not be playing that track again.

1. Offworld – Black Magic Power Ride (Roc Hunter edit)/Sun Ra – Ancient Aethiopia/Heliocentrics – Sirius B
2. Horace Silver – The Jody Grind
3. Hank Crawford – Mr Blues
4. Max Roach – St Louis Blues
5. Hugh Masekela – Part of the Whole
6. Peter King – African Dialect
7. Lee Morgan – Capra Black
8. What’s Up? – Get into Trouble
9. David S Ware – Aquarian Sound
10. Miles Davis – All Blues
11. Don Pullen – Ah George, We Hardly Knew Ya
12. Indigo Jam Unit – Dooinit
13. Stacey Epps – Floatin
14. Corky McClerkin – Searchin’ for the Soul
15. Jazzanova – Mwele, Mwele (Here I Am) (Bugz in the Attic remix)

Next week look out for a tribute to trumpeter and jazz writer Ian Carr, who sadly died on 25 February, along with more classic Blue Note and Black Saint reissues together with the music choices of Stephen Mynott of Milestones Jazz Club.

Playlist – 19th February 2009

We’re excited already!

Advance notice of tonight’s playlist is appearing on the blog because we’ve got so much great new music to play. There will be an exclusive Japanese mix (including a jazzy take on Common’s Be track), some great tracks from the recent crop of Black Saint reissues now available for the first time on CD and cuts from two new CDs receiving hugely favourable reviews around the world – Ambrose Akinmusire’s album Prelude to Cora and Finn Peters’ second CD Butterflies.

Add to that a track from Don Ellis’s tripped-out 1967 album Electric Bath which was actually released as a single, a cut from John Coltrane’s rare live in Japan album and – of course – more classic Blue Note.

Join us and listen to two hours of music that’s out of this world on Cosmic Jazz between 8 and 10 pm UK time here on ICRFM.

1. Lee Morgan – Afreaka
2. Ambrose Akinmusire – Dreams of the Manbahsniese
3. Big Bang – Spiral Waltz (Indigo Jam Unit remix)
4. Aaron Parks – Nemesis
5. Indigo Jam Unit – Be
6. Donald Fagen – New Frontier
7. Quasimode feat. Valerie Etienne – Little B’s Poem
8. Finn Peters – Butterflies
9. Donald Byrd – Elijah
10. the Don Ellis Orchestra – Indian Lady (single version)
11. Beat Out Shrine – Pinkie
12. Kahil El’Zabar Ritual Trio – Fatsmo
13. Nation of Multiverse feat Monday Michiru – Butterfly
14. Miles Davis – So What (live)
15. What’s Up? – Vanity
16. John Coltrane – Peace on Earth (live)

Playlist – 12th February 2009

Tonight Cosmic Jazz welcomed Dave Rutherford from the Ipswich Jazz Club into the studio to chat about the club and the Kate Williams gig on Sunday 15 February. We played tracks from Kate’s new CD (and really liked it!) and talked about some upcoming events. We’ll have a link to the club site soon.

Other music tonight included a track from Dusty Groove’s reissue of the Dorothy Ashby classic, the Rubiyat of Dorothy Ashby – a long lost classic on Cadet Records, more from Yoshizawa’s solo CD Music From the Edge of the Universe (an obvious Cosmic Jazz title!) and a tribute to Cuban bass player Cachaito who died this week.

Favourites played again included the Heath Brothers (Smiling Billy Suite part 2) and the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet (Dusk Fire) and we bookended the show with more from Freddie Hubbard and Grant Green.

1. Freddie Hubbard – Cunga Black
2. Jazz Warriors – Blak Flag
3. Hajime Yoshizawa – Arpeggio in the Forest
4. Dorothy Ashby – For Some We Loved
5. A Taste of Honey – I Love You
6. Jordi Sabates – Ocelis del mes Enlia (part 3)
7. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Dusk Fire
8. Orlando Cachaito Lopez – Tumbanga/Bobby Hutcherson – (Se Acabo) La Malanga
9. The Heath Brothers – Smiling Billy Suite (part 2)
10. Elizabeth Shepherd Trio – Start to Move
11. Sleep Walker – Wind (feat. Yukimi Nagano)
12. Kate Williams Quintet – Elements of Five
13. John Coltrane – Bahia
14. Kate Williams Quintet – Round Trip
15. Jez Franks’ Compassionate Dictatorship – white label
16. Kate Williams Quintet – Window to a Dream
17. Roy Haynes – Dorian
18. Grant Green – Cease the Bombing

More blog news – we’ve reached Brazil and Poland!

If you’re accessing Cosmic Jazz let us know – register and make a comment on the blog. Tell us about the music mix and the features – and what you’re listening to. We’d really like to hear from you.

Cosmic Jazz went live!

What a night! Cosmic Jazz live celebrated the 70th anniversary of Blue Note in style last night at Saints wine bar in Ipswich – and the joint was jumping! The bar was packed and the floor was full. We proved that there is an Ipswich audience for jazz dance and we’re looking forward to another jazz night soon. Watch this space.

Cosmic Jazz would like to thank Malcolm and the team at Saints for superb tapas and a great vibe, Mel and Ewan at ICR for organising the event, Alan Bramwell for joining us to play some great Blue Note tracks and all those who joined in the fun.

Playlist – 29th January 2009

An interesting show with music rather more reflective than last week. We started with a favourite Pharoah Sanders track and continued with a brand new cut from Nicola Conte’s new CD, featuring vocalist Jose James. It was great to hear the percussive brilliance of Sabu Martinez on another reissue of his great Afro Temple CD, recorded in Sweden just the year before Martinez died. Find out more about this album at another good music blog (!) –

We also featured a stand out track from Bugge Wesseltoft – Change – and more from Jack deJohnette, this time on a classic from Bitches Brew Miles Runs the Voodoo Down before ending with a short tribute to jazz-influenced folkie John Martyn who died on 29 January.

1. Pharoah Sanders – Greetings to Idris
2. Nicola Conte (feat. Jose James) – The Nubian Queens
3. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa Sousse, Tunisia
4. Art Blakey – Alamode
5. Hank Mobley – Bossa De Luxe
6. Stanley Clarke – Children of Forever
7. Hajime Yoshizawa – Waltz for Jason
8. Shirley Horn – Return to Paradise
9. Bugge Wesseltoft – Change
10. Harry Beckett – Spiral Feelings (live)
11. Fredddie Hubbard – Hub’s Nub
12.Pieces of A Dream – Signed, Sealed, Delivered
13. Tabu Ley Rochereau – Mongali
14. Miles Davis – Miles Runs the Voodoo Down
15. Phillip Clouts Trio – white label
16. Eddie Harris – Mean Greens
17. Nils Petter Molvaer – On Stream/John Martyn – Solid Air

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio