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 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.


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.


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

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…


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


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

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 Free Image Hosting at

Playlist – 23th October 2008

Lots of new music this week including tracks from avant gardist Bill Dixon, Japan’s new jazzers What’s Up and quasimode and Detroit keyboardist Amp Fiddler’s collaboration with Jamaican rhythm masters Sly and Robbie. But there was also time to revive an old favourite on vinyl – the beautiful final movement from Mike Westbrook’s masterpiece Metropolis with its haunting trumpet theme played by Harry Beckett.

Shout outs to all our listeners and callers including Pete who will be coming next week to play his latest selection of music old and new.

Two more related Youtube links this week for you – check out

Paul Motion:

Joe Henderson:

1. Bill Dixon and Exploding Star Orchestra – Constellation for Inner Light Projection
2. Paul Motian – Ch’i Energy
3. Sun Ra Arkestra – Call for all Demons
4. Sarah Webster Fabio – Sweets Songs
5. Harmonizing Four – Motherless Child
6. Max Roach with the J C White Singers – Motherless Child
7. What’s Up? – Which One is True
8. J Life – Afro Blue
9. N’Dambi – People
10. Defunkt – For the Love of Money
11. Mike Westbrook – Metropolis IX
12. Ceu – Roda
13. Yvette – Preconceito (live)
14. Amp Fiddler with Sly and Robbie – Paint the White House Black
15. quasimode – Jeannine

Stan Tracey at the Fleece, Kersey Mill 17 October 2008

“Does anyone here know how good he is?” said Sonny Rollins after working with Stan Tracey on the soundtrack to the film Alfie in 1966. Er, yes – they do now!

This was a blistering set from an extended Stan Tracey Trio with special guests Guy Barker on trumpet and Dutchman Benjamin Herman on alto sax. I thought Barker was a revelation – endlessly inventive, powerful playing that underscored his status as one of the finest trumpeters Britain has produced. Herman is just a youngster in this company and his playing initially seemed to lack confidence but by the end of the first set he had established himself as an integral part of the group. Clark Tracey has had nearly thirty years playing with his dad – and it shows. His tiny drum kit belied the power and scope of his playing and the obvious empathy with Tracey senior was apparent in every texture.

What about Tracey himself? Well, the piano playing of the godfather of British jazz (now 81) is as dynamic and vibrant as ever. This was a largely Thelonius Monk set – understandable as Monk and Ellington have been the biggest influences on Tracey. He plays with the quirkiness and odd time signatures of Monk but his arrangements (most notably in the classic Under Milk Wood suite from 1965) have the sweep and scope of the Duke. It’s a great mix, and at this intimate venue you got a chance to see how Tracey creates these rich chords, sudden darting percussive runs and Monkish stabs at the keyboard – left hand crossing over his right with dazzling accuracy.

The tunes tonight included Well You Needn’t, Pannonica, Blue Monk and – unexpectedly – a fabulous interpretation of I Want to Be Happy. Now if only this was available on a CD….

Tracey’s backstory is amazing and worth repeating briefly here. In the 1950s he played on cruise liners, knew Tony Hancock and toured with Cab Calloway. In the 1960s he was the house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s (where he obviously picked up some of Scott’s dry wit as well as a debilitating heroin addiction) and so he backed visiting jazz royalty including Ben Webster and Sonny Rollins. In the 70s his fortune waned and he retrained as a postman but by 1978 he was supporting Gil Evans in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall.

More new commissions for large group suites followed and he started the quartet with son Clark that would form the basis of his current group. By 2008 he was an OBE and CBE – a rare honour for any musician – let alone one from the world of jazz.

This Suffolk show was something special with the constant feeling that you were in the presence of unassuming greatness. A real joy.

Watch Tracey playing with Ben Webster here:

And check out his own comprehensive website at where you will be greeted by the opening chords of Starless and Bible Black from the magnificent Under Milk Wood suite – a house favourite here at Cosmic Jazz.

Try out Benjamin Herman’s MySpace site here and listen to a great tune called Bootlicker featuring Stan Tracey.

Playlist – 16th October 2008

Great music this week with a focus on the Coltrane heritage and new Japanese jazz.  Tracks from Kenny Garrett, Pharoah Sanders, Alberto Favero and Coltrane himself followed by two tracks from the brand new Quasimode album Sounds of Peace.  Japanese group What’s Up debuted on the show with a wonderful long track.  We loved this!
We also commemorated the sad death of Jamaican vocalist Alton Ellis with a beautiful version of Ain’t That Lovin You.
Shout outs to Tom (brilliant OffWorld show this week), Pete, Susan, Simon and all our listeners and callers.
Two more related Youtube links this week for you – check out
John Coltrane –

[This is beautiful music – a live in the studio version of Alabamaa song dedicated to four young girls who were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Listen and be moved…]

quasimode –

1. Terri Lyne Carrington – Jazz is
2. Dub Colossus – Azmari Dub
3. Morris Wilson/Beau Bailey Quintet – Paul’s Ark
4. Mor Tiam – Ayo Ayo Nene
5. John Coltrane – My Favourite Things (live edit)
6. Kenny Garrett – The Ring
7. Pharoah Sanders – Jemenja
8. Sun Ra – Door of the Cosmos
9. quasimode – Sounds of Peace
10. What’s Up – Telemundo
11. Art Pepper – Mambo Koyama (live)
12. Alton Ellis – Ain’t That Lovin’ You
13. Zoe and Idris Rahman – Sanctuary
14. N’Dambi – Ode 2 Nina
15. Cassandra Wilson – Suite Trane – first movement
16. Alberto Favero – Mr Kenyatta
17. Wayne Shorter – Sweet Pea
18. Elvin Jones – Pollen
19. quasimode – The Young Black Horse

Playlist – 9th October 2008

No theme – just great music. Some new jazz from Hajime Yoshizawa and a couple of tracks from the first batch of ECM budget reissues in the Touchstone series including Jack de Johnette’s magical take on Coltrane’s India. A 70s rarity from Hadley Caliman, a favourite from Soil and Pimp Sessions and an unusually soulful track from one of our favourites – Andrew Hill. Longer tracks included McCoy Tyner’s magnificent Message from the Nile and a new one from Seun Kuti, Fela’s youngest son.

Thanks to our callers and emailers this week – especially Pete for a few crumbs from his competition sized knowledge pie! Your contributions are always welcome.

We’ve added a couple more Youtube links this week for you – check out

Seun Kuti –

Andrew Hill –

1. As One – Anyana
2. Uncle Sam – Round the World Girls
3. Hajime Yoshizawa – Satellite Dancer
4. Dave Holland – Black Hole
5. Andrew Hill – Soul Special
6. Hadley Caliman – Quadrivium
7. Ramsey Lewis – Eternal Journey
8. McCoy Tyner – Message from the Nile
9. Soil and Pimp Sessions – Hype of Gold
10. Val Bennett – Take Five (aka the Russians are Coming)
11. Pepesito Reves feat. Estrella Morente – El Manicero
12. Charles Earland – Spinky
13. Seun Kuti – Many Things
14. Lee Morgan – Mr Kenyatta
15. Jack de Johnette – India
16. Don Rendell and Ian Carr Quintet – Dusk Fire
17. Terri Lyne Carrington – Jazz is a Spirit

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