Alan Bramwell on Blue Note

bluenoteI have a lot to thank Grant Green for.

As a fan of soul and funk music I have always loved the guitarist’s funkier sides for many years without knowing much about him or his story. But, after reading Richard Cook’s Blue Note Records- the Biography I now have a much fuller picture of the “Great Green” as I call him. I learned how Blue Note founder Alfred Lion had given the young Green an opportunity to lead his first debut session in November 1960 – but then rejected the session as unsatisfactory even though it included the pianist Wynton Kelly and drummer Philly Joe Jones. It would be left on the shelf gathering dust for forty years. By the time it was released in 2001, Green had recorded thirty solo albums for the label, was recognised as a genius and had been dead for over twenty years.

It was Grant Green’s story that was partly my inspiration for a series of radio shows currently being broadcast on Ipswich Community Radio (105.7FM and on Monday between 5-6pm. They tell the story of this much loved record label, started by two German immigrants (Alfred Lion and Max Margulis) which was to become one the greatest and most recognisable brands in musical history.

All that happened seventy years ago and in 2009 Blue Note will celebrate 70 years of inspirational jazz music. Today – after many transitions, trials and musical fashions – the label remains a powerful force in jazz.

Of course its roster of artists is very different. In Alfred Lion’s day you wouldn’t see a single vocalist but instead the instrumental talents of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Kenny Burrell and the ubiquitous Art Blakey‘s Messengers were at the heart of Blue Note.
Today the label is home to the most diverse range of artists a label could have – from vocalist Norah Jones to hip hop producer Madlib. Hundreds of rap artists have sampled Blue Note grooves over recent years, giving the label a hip profile with a new younger generation.

Within months of its launch, in May 1939, an early flyer described Blue Note as “a musical and social manifestation”. And that’s the spirit that current Director Bruce Lundval has skilfully managed to maintain. Blue Note lives!

[Blue Note covers by Reid Miles – graphic artist]

Alan Bramwell

Tune into Cosmic Jazz every Thursday between 8 and 10pm on

Playlist – 18th December 2008 – Best of 2008

Our first ever best of the year show with some great tracks from 2008.

We started with the new CD from Harry Beckett, produced by dub maestro Adrian Sherwood. This is a really contemporary sound for the great Barbadian/British trumpeter and worked well followed by Nigeria’s Seun Kuti and the Ethiopian dub of the Dub Colossus project, led by Nick Page. Derek and I have really enjoyed a couple of the cover mount CDs from Jazzwise magazine this year – vocalist Ruby Wood’s version of Coltrane’s Africa featured on the latest one and so it seemed appropriate to follow with a contemporary classic – Jack deJohnette’s unique take on ‘trane’s India from one of the many ECM Touchstone reissues which came out this year.

New music from rising stars like Arun Ghosh and Jamil Sheriff was matched by brilliant new material from Holland and Arve Henriksen but there just wasn’t time for all our favourites in this two hour special. So, there will be more in our first live show of 2009 – including EST’s amazing Leucocyte, the live CDs from Charles Lloyd and Kenny Garrett and the dubstep collection Steppa’s Delight.

Listen in on 08 January for great new music from 2008, and on New Year’s Day extend the party mood with a jazz dance special!

1. Harry Beckett – Ultimate Tribute
2. Seun Kuti – Mosquito Song
3. Dub Colossus – Azmari Dub
4. Ruby Wood – Africa
5. Jack deJohnette’s Special Edition – India
6. Arun Ghosh – Bondhu
7. Zoe and Idris Rahman – Sanctuary
8. Claudia and Brazilian Octopus – Gosto de Ser Como Sou
9. Arve Henriksen – Migration
10. Tabu Ley with Onaza – Likambo ya Mokanda
11. Sleep Walker – Brotherhood
12. Quasimode – Raw Cotton Field (live)
13. Joe Zawinul – Scarlet Woman (live)
14. Celestine Ukwu and his Philosophers National – Okwukwe Na Nchekwube
15. Dave Holland – Pass It On
16. Jamil Sheriff Octet – The Happy Ending
17. Dave Douglas – Tough (live)
18. Hajime Yoshizawa – Yoake -Dawn-

Playlist – 11th December 2008 – McCoy Tyner 70th Birthday Special

When we discovered that it was McCoy Tyner’s 70th birthday today we had to do a feature. We’ve featured Tyner since the show began and his muscular, pounding style (especially in his Milestone recordings of the 70s) is always a great sound.

1. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
2. McCoy Tyner – Sahara
3. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things
4. McCoy Tyner – Horizon
5. McCoy Tyner – Indo-Serenade
6. John Coltrane – Song of the Underground Railroad
7. McCoy Tyner – Mode for Dulcimer
8. John Coltrane – Olé
9. McCoy Tyner – Groove Waltz
10. McCoy Tyner – Fly With The Wind
11. McCoy Tyner – Man From Tanganyika
12. McCoy Tyner – T ‘n’ A Blues
13. John Coltrane – The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost

Playlist – 4th December 2008 – Blue Note Special

This was our Blue Note show with special guest Alan Bramwell whose History of Blue Note programmes currently go out on ICR on Monday between 17.00 and 18.00 hrs. He’s half way through the series so there’s still plenty of great music to listen to! Alan chose some of his favourites and we added a few too – all showing the range and diversity of recordings for this most famous of jazz labels. If you want to find out more, check out Richard Cook’s Blue Note: the Biography, published in paperback by Pimlico or try and track down Francis Wolff’s greatest photos for the label in Blue Note: the Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff.

The music ranged from one of the first artists to record for the label – stride pianist James P Johnson – through to the more contemporary rap sounds of Pieces of a Dream mixed with classic tracks from John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Grant Green. Thanks again to Alan for an inspirational show – and look out for his own thoughts about Blue Note in our feature article.

1. Hank Mobley – No Room For Squares
2. Lee Morgan – The Rajah
3. Art Blakey – Amuk
4. John Coltrane – Blue Train
5. Grant Green – It Ain’t Necesssarily So
6. Rachelle Ferrell – My Funny Valentine
7. James P Johnson – After You’ve Gone
8. Donald Byrd – Lanasana’s Priestess
9. Wynton Marsalis (feat. Dianne Reeves) – Feeling of Jazz
10. Lo Borges – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser
11. Dr. Lonnie Smith – Scream
12. Tommaso Starace Quintet – Keep Moving Please!
13. Horace Parlan – Us Three
14. Andrew Hill – Grass Roots
15. Pieces of a Dream – Mt Airy Groove
16. Sabu – El Cumbanchero

Youtube clips thisweek come from Horace Parlan playing with the Jackie McLean Quintet at the Mt Fuji Jazz festival in 1988 and Lee Morgan with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers playing the tribute to trumpeter Clifford Brown, I Remember Clifford from thirty years earlier. Listen to Lee Morgan’s tone and control and check out Parlan’s wacky style!

Just one click and you’re in – enjoy!

Jackie McLean:

Lee Morgan:

Playlist – 27th November 2008

This was a solo show from Derek, with some help from Jacob. There were two themes to the show tonight. Firstly, tracks from jazz CD compilations including A Sense of Direction, African Spirits and the CD that comes with the current December/January edition of Jazzwise – The Yamaha New Jazz Sessions. I have only just received my copy, but from the first few samples that I have heard, I can tell you that it is definitely worth the cost of Jazzwise. I played the Gwilym Simcock tune A Typical Affair that mixes intricate piano with strong drumming – reminiscent of EST [Yes – adds Neil – a great track and a great example of the best of the new British jazz]. There was a brief introduction, also, to the long track by the Julian Joseph Trio at the end of the show.

The second feature was an intense five track extended feature on Japanese jazz. The brief for Jacob was to find me five tunes that he liked at the moment, but they still included some old favourites. The beginning of the mix was slower in tempo than we have come to associate with the genre, but by the end things were up tempo and hot. Japanese jazz as we have come to know and love it. Good, though, to have that time for calmer reflection at the start.

Tune in next week (4 December) for our Blue Note record exchange special with Alan Bramwell, who is currently presenting a series of programmes on ICR between 17.00 – 18.00 hrs on Monday nights. This series covers the story of Blue Note to celebrate the label’s 70th birthday. On 11 December we celebrate another 70th birthday – that of the pianist and jazz legend McCoy Tyner – which happens to be on that very day!!!

1. Sathima B. Benjamin – Africa
2. Michael White – Blessing Song
3. Grant Green – Ain’t it Funky Now
4. Brecker Brothers – Jacknife
5. Don Byron – “Auf einer Burg”
6. Gwilym Simcock – A Typical Affair
7. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Hahen
8. Quasimode – Raw Cotton Field (Live at Liquidroom)
9. Fumio Itabashi – Symphonic Poem “Watarase” with Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra feat. Yuki Kaneko
10. Sleep Walker – Kaze
11. What’s Up? – Telemundo
12. Abram Wilson – Pedal Herlin
13. Sabrina Malheiros – Terra De Ninguem
14. Cocoa Tea – Barack Obama
15. Azar Lawrence – Theme for a New Day
16. Julian Joseph Trio – The Reverend Back Home to Glory

Neil adds: Look out for our best of 2008 Christmas party show broadcast on Christmas Day with a bonus of more great music from 2008 on our New Year’s Day show. What were the best new releases and reissues you heard this year? Use the comment feature on the blog to let us know – then listen in and compare!

Playlist – 20th November 2008

If there was a theme tonight we could take it from listener Simon’s text to the studio (text us on 07797 800712) about trumpeter Lee Morgan’s thick, chunky playing. Yes, this was a show with some hard-edged jazz – from Julian Priester’s blistering trombone solo on Force of Nature to the appropriately named Tough from Dave Douglas’s new CD Keystone.

But we also played the funky Nigerian vinyl instrumental version of Fela Kuti’s Suffering and Smiling and a great Masters at Work take on a retro classic – Atmosfear’s Dancing in Outer Space. The Japanese jazz tonight came from What’s Up? and quasimode (both tracks influenced by the sound of Blue Note) and we ended with an authentic Blue Note classic, John Coltrane’s Blue Train.

We must also pay homage to another great cutting edge Offworld show from Smoothgroove. On heavy rotation at the moment are the Motor City Drum Ensemble and the track You & I. Check out their Myspace pages and find out more.

Tom ended the show with Madnus & Scogil’s Carpet Vole (on limited promo only) and a nod to a great Carl Craig moment from the past – the Innerzone Orchestra’s Bug in the Bassbin. Tune into Offworld every week for more great music and check out the track we chose to reflect these new music stylings – Kiruna’s Black Widow. You can see the video below – one click and you’re in.

1. Kiruna – Black Widow
2. Terri Lyne Carrington – Jazz Is
3. Lee Morgan – Once in My Lifetime
4. Joe Zawinul – Scarlet Woman
5. Azar Lawrence – Force of Nature
6. Dave Douglas – Tough
7. Grant Green – Hurt so Bad
8. Scott Hill – Needs a Bridge
9. What’s Up? – Which One is True
10. McCoy Tyner – Sama Layuca
11. Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Suffering and Smiling (instumental)
12. Atmosfear – Dancing in Outer Space (Masters at Work remix)
13. N’Dambi – Soul from the Abyss
14. Tony Remy & Bluey – See No Evil
15. Eddie Cano – I Can’t Cry Anymore
16. Barrington Levy – Here I Come
17. quasimode – Percussion Revolver
18. John Coltrane – Blue Train

Our second Youtube video is from the king of dancehall, Barrington Levy – it’s not jazz but it is fun!

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!:


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

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

Cosmic Jazz on Ipswich Online Radio