Tag Archives: Charles Lloyd

Cosmic Jazz: 20 for 20 – the best of 2020

It’s not been easy. Cosmic Jazz pays tribute to all those worldwide first response heroes who have saved  the lives of others with little thought of their own; we mourn all those many Covid-19 deaths in the jazz world; we feel the loss of the jazz venues forced to close this year; and we celebrate the amazing jazz on record and online that has sustained us through these dark months. It’s the last of these that we want to single out in our 20 for 20 feature. We’ll write at length about our ten favourite releases from this year and list ten others that we’ve both really enjoyed listening to. As always, we urge you to listen to the music on the show and then support the musicians by buying in your chosen format – preferably through a site that pays a decent rate. We continue to recommend the journey of discovery that is Bandcamp along with the constant inspiration from Steve’s Jazz Sounds along with independent record stores – like our UK local Soundclash Records and Vinyl Hunter and the Singapore havens of The Jazz Loft, the Analog Vault and Hear Records. Check them all out via the links and support and other these essential independent outlets.

Whittling down a long shortlist hasn’t been easy for for either of us, but we have each finally settled on five top choices each – four new releases and one reissue. For Neil, the year has been dominated by the arrival of two vinyl audiophile series from Universal – the new Tone Poets from Joe Harley/Don Was on Blue Note and the more recent parallel series from from Chad Kassem on Verve and associated labels. The vinyl revival does indeed continue apace with all major labels reissuing great jazz recordings on on high quality pressings. Yes, there are opportunist companies out there who churn out very poor digital CD transfers that should be avoided – but the best of the rest (Blue Note, Verve, Sam, Gearbox and others) – are giving us the best opportunity to hear the magic of vinyl. It’s all backed up by a revitalised turntable industry that has seen the launch of a number of new brands and models as well as the return of some established favourites.

Let’s begin Neil’s list with five essential purchases – starting with Nubya Garcia and her first full length album, Pace. We reviewed this record on its release in and it still stands up as one of the best from the wave of new British jazz artists. Alongside the excellent (if quirkily titled) 2019 album from saxophonist Binker Golding – Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers – Pace has real variety, great solos, deep studio production and some thumping, dub-sounding bass throughout from UK player Daniel Casimir. The production on this album is very much a step up from Garcia’s first EPs: recorded with producer Kwes, whose credits include Solange and Bobby Womack, Garcia is pushed into new territory that really demonstrates her diversity.  It all remains firmly rooted in jazz but there’s a range of other influences here too – from the afore-mentioned dub to cumbia and Ethio-jazz. Here’s the title track. It all works and the album is highly recommended. Garcia’s strongest influence is tenor player Joe Henderson but she has her own distinctive sound too. This one won’t disappoint.

Over the course of a career spanning six decades, veteran drummer Jerry Granelli has worked with many jazz artists – most notably with Vince Guaraldi (appearing on the landmark A Charlie Brown Christmas album in 1965) and with blues vocalist Mose Allison. Now Granelli has revisited these two collaborations from the vantage point of a more exploratory ‘now’ perspective. Never one to dwell on the past, Granelli has never revisited earlier music in this way but the opportunity to try a modern urgency with collaborators Jamie Saft and Brad Jones was clearly too good to ignore. Both Saft and Jones have worked across a broad range of musical genres, with their musical orbit including saxophonists John Zorn, Ornette Coleman and Dave Liebman, trumpeters Dave Douglas, Cuong Vu and Wadada Leo Smith, bassist Steve Swallow, drummer Bobby Previte, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams as well as collaborations with rock artists such as Elvis Costello and Iggy Pop. Granelli notes “You’re letting go of the past, you’re letting go of the present, and you’re just in the music. That’s the place you want to play from at all times. Then your whole vast experience is available to you and you can discover something new you’ve never played before. This record is a wonderful celebration of that coming together of now”. So, no room for nostalgia here as the take on Cast Your Fate to the Wind exemplifies. Mose Allison’s Your Mind is On Vacation receives a similarly free treatment with Saft coming across as the missing link between Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor.  Highly recommended. You can buy this RareNoise label album here on Bandcamp – listen and then go for the vinyl – stunning packaging and terrific sound.

Up next is Chicagoan percussionist Kahil El’Zabar who has been rather prolific with releases over the last year. We’ve featured two albums from him in recent months on Cosmic Jazz but it’s the timely and ironically titled America the Beautiful that makes the cut into Neil’s top five. It’s a relatively large ensemble joining El’Zabar this time with Corey Wilkes on trumpet and the late Hamiet Bluiett on baritone saxophone. There are two versions of the title tune, Charles Wright’s Express Yourself and a twist on Afro Blue but we’ve selected the hypnotic Jump and Shout (For Those Now Gone)There’s no doubt about the focus for this music – “Now’s the time for us to collectively invoke a confluence of trust and imagination that will enlighten a future path towards ethical humanity,” El’Zabar writes in the album’s statement of purpose.  The album is on the new UK Spiritmuse label and, not surprisingly, our recommendation is to get it on vinyl. It’s beautifully produced and a joy to look at too with great cover art from Nep Sidhu.

The Grammy Award-winning big band of Maria Schneider has produced several superb records in recent years, all emerging exclusively on the ArtistShare label, and this year’s 2CD Data Lords is another master work. Schneider started out as an assistant to noted arranger Gil Evans – and it shows. Her music has a similar depth of arrangement and an intensity that is all her own. Her long-standing opposition to big data companies and digital streaming has been well documented in articles, interviews, and congressional testimony and, since 2003, she has relied on the original crowdfunding label ArtistShare to finance her 18-piece orchestra recordings. Data Lords is the fifth of these. The first record offers warnings of the power and influence of the digital world through track titles like Don’t Be Evil (a reference to Google’s original motto) while the second record is in sharp contrast and features more of the harmonic depth of previous Schneider releases. Sanzen is named after a Japanese Buddhist temple and Look Up includes the beautiful piano of the late Frank Kimbrough who died suddenly earlier this month. Check out this Jazziz magazine streamed interview feature with Maria Schneider.

Neil’s final choice is a reissue – a record first bought on vinyl many years ago but released in 2020 as part of Blue Note’s superb Tone Poet series. Blue Note label boss Don Was has recruited analogue remastering guru Joe Harley (the Tone Poet) and engineer accomplice Kevin Gray to oversee a new series of titles, all re-engineered, remastered and repressed with extreme care. Find out more here and then check out the current titles here. The result is some awesome music, much of which has either not been previously obtainable or can only be found at extortionate prices on sites like Discogs. There are no easy recommendations here as all of the titles have something special to offer but (if you can find them) start with Chick Corea’s superb Now He Sings, Now He Sobs or Jackie McLean’s It’s Time! – but, truth be told, you won’t go wrong with any of them. So choosing just one of the new Tone Poets wasn’t easy as any of them could have been included in a Best of… list but the super-trio of Duke Ellington, Charlie Mingus and Max Roach is really something special. Money Jungle (1962) was their only recording together and it’s stunning. Apparently, there were personal tensions in the studio and perhaps this contributed to the fireworks on disc. Whatever, the music from this session is tremendous throughout. Ellington wrote some tunes especially for this date and revisited other pieces, like the beautiful Fleurette Africaine and Warm Valley. The title track is a thunderous opener and there’s a wild take of Ellington’s much-recorded Caravan. This new version is the copy to have – the original pressing is too muddy by half.

These Tone Poet records may be more expensive than your standard vinyl issue, but with a decent turntable you’ll hear the difference immediately. BTW, if you’re looking for a new deck simply avoid any briefcase or console style packages and the cheaper offerings from Pioneer, Marantz and Denon as these companies have just leased their name to some very poor products that could actually damage your precious platters. Instead, start with the trusted Rega or Pro-ject ranges or, if you fancy a bit of Djing on the side, then the better offerings from Audio Technica and Technics are your starting points.

So what didn’t make this final list from Neil? Well, here’s the best of the rest of this year’s new albums – four new releases and one reissue:
  • Charles Lloyd – 8: Kindred Spirits (Blue Note)
  • Aaron Parks – Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man (Ropeadope)
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Axiom (Stretch Music/Ropeadope)
  • Sun Ra Arkestra – Swirling, Swirling (Strut)
  • Art Taylor – A T’s Delight (Blue Note)

And so on to Derek’s best of the year. It’s four new releases and one reissue here too. Let’s start with young Polish pianist Kasia Pietrzko and her trio’s superb Ephemeral Pleasures album. This new record and her previous release Forthright Stories are both essential listening: the music is expressed with deep emotion, communicated with considerable intensity and is organic, honest and endlessly rewarding. Pietrzko studied at the Academy of Music in Krakow and spent time in New York, learning from Kenny Garrett and Aaron Parks among others. In 2018 she played in Krakow with the great Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and the plan was for a European tour. Sadly, Stanko died later that year and after this it was not until 2020 that she was able to release Ephemeral Pleasures with the track For T. S dedicated to Stanko.

We like to think that female jazz musicians are an essential and integral part of the jazz scene, and to draw attention to them is to highlight the exception that in sad reality it so often is. But for this Best of 2020 fix it is interesting to note that five of our ten are groups of/led by women. It’s a really encouraging trend and one we shall see more of in 2021. Second up on Derek’s turntable is a female-led quintet, again from that jazz powerhouse that is Poland. We have marvelled before at the amount of excellent new music that emerges from this east European country but it’s really a reflection of a long jazz tradition. The O.N.E. Quintet are a group of young musicians with a debut album called – unsurprisingly – OneThere are seven tunes on this release: three by sax player Monica Muc, two by pianist Paulina Almanska, one traditional tune and one composition by Krzysztof Komeda – one of the founding fathers of jazz in Poland. The quintet includes violinist Dominika Rusinowski, who is prominent on the up-tempo number Drozina. So often, Polish jazz appears to attract a melancholy tag – in much the same way as music on the German label ECM. But this is very much not the case with O.N.E Quintet – the sounds are warm and embracing, but there is still the opportunity for soloists to take off. Checkout, for example, sax player Monica Muc here on As Close As Light.

Pianist Renee Rosnes leads a new band as producer, pianist and composer in the Blue Note septet Artemis. This is something of an all star band with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Melissa Aldana on tenor sax, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Norika Ueda on bass, Allison Miller on drums. Members of the band come from the US, Canada, France, Chile, Israel and Japan. Two of the tracks on the self- titled album add in vocals from Cecile McLorin Salvant.  If It’s Magic is, of course, a Stevie Wonder composition from Songs in the Key of Life but there’s also a take on Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and Lennon and McCartney’s Fool on the Hill. Check out the interview with band members and Blue Note CEO Don Was right here.

We have followed the course of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire since his arrival on the scene in 2007. on the tender spot of every calloused moment (yes, it’s all in lower case) Akinmusire features his regular quartet of Justin Brown on drums, Sam Harris on piano and Harish Raghavan on bass. This band have been playing and recording for over a decade – and it shows. Akinmusire writes and performs what may well be a cerebral take on jazz but the music never lacks emotional intensity, with the occasional vocals from Jesus Diaz only adding to the experience. This is music with depth and meaning and comes highly recommended. Our selection is roy – a heartfelt tribute to fellow trumpeter Roy Hargrove, a similarly eclectic performer with a wonderful tone, who sadly died in 2018.

Saxophonist John Coltrane will never be far from our thoughts and ears here on Cosmic Jazz: he continues to provides us with music that touches heart, soul and mind – and there are times – like now – when we need just that. His instantly recognisable tenor sound is simply life affirming and this ability to provide musical transcendence is epitomised by a tune like Lonnie’s Lament from the Crescent album. Beginning in 2019, the Impulse! label embarked on a ‘vital vinyl’ reissue programme and included Coltrane’s classic 1964 recording Crescent as one of the titles. This reissue retains the original gatefold cover with liner notes by Nat Hentoff. The music was recorded in April and June 1964, produced by Bob Thiele and engineered by Rudy van Gelder. The personnel on the album is the classic Impulse! quartet: Coltrane is supported by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. While familiar with some of the key tunes on the album, Derek did not own the record – until now. If you don’t have Crescent, then now is the time to get a reissue copy that truly reflects the deep intensity of the music. Lonnie’s Lament is the longest track on the album and includes a bass solo from Jimmy Garrison as well as some beautiful quartet playing.

So what didn’t make Derek’s final list? Here’s the best of the rest of his 2020 album choice – again, four new releases and one reissue:

  • Hermes Experiment – Here We Are
  • Jarrod Lawson – Be the Change
  • Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble – Polska
  • Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band – Hold On
  • Ana Mazotti – Ana Mazotti

Look out for a brand new 2021 show coming soon…

Week ending 19 January 2019: jazz vocalists old and new

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured tracks from some of the Jazzwise best of 2018 releases along with a focus on female vocalists, including the recently departed Nancy Wilson. We began with a little cracker of a track though – Harold Land’s In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark originally from his 1972 album Damisi, but now available on of one of two recent Mainstream Records compilations. This gem has Land on tenor sax, Oscar Brashear on trumpet, Buster Williams on bass and Ngudu on drums. Then we travelled in a more mellow direction – but rather controversially in that neither Derek nor I are convinced by the current approach being taken by one of our jazz heroes, Charles Lloyd. His Vanished Gardens may have secured the overall top spot in Jazzwise this year but we’re not so sure. It’s certainly a bold move: Lloyd is accompanied by vocalist Lucinda Williams on several of the tracks and Greg Liesz on pedal steel joins with guitarist Bill Frisell. The group have certainly integrated their sound since a first collaboration in 2016 but this melange of Lloyd’s post-Coltrane accents and Frisell’s Americana tendencies is still something of a curiosity. We shall keep listening…

Next up were vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant and Nancy Wilson. The former has a new album in which she is accompanied only by pianist Sullivan Fortner. Like Lloyd’s new direction, this is a bold move, but the quality of McLorin Salvant’s arrangements and the vocal risks she takes make her new album Windows an unalloyed success. Elsewhere on the record is a stunningly original take on West Side Story’s Somewhere and an equally adventurous reading of Dori Caymmi’s Obsession. We ended our show this week with a second track, Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks – made famous in this version by Stan Getz. McLorin Salvant presents it in the version with lyrics by Norma Winstone and there’s additional tenor sax from Melissa Aldana. For another interesting twist on this almost-standard, try this take on John McLaughlin’s underrated album The Promise. But perhaps the best interpretation (not unexpectedly) is that of pianist Bill Evans on the posthumous album You Must Believe in Spring.

Singer Nancy Wilson sadly died in December 2018. She recorded over 70 albums and won three Grammy awards, but she is still less well known than she should be. We presented two cuts from her celebrated 1962 collaboration with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet which featured a great take on the standard A Sleeping Bee.  Heretical it might be, but I love this more Broadway version from Barbra Streisand too!

Benin singer Angelique Kidjo performed her exciting new project in in London and elsewhere  in 2017 before releasing it on record last year. It’s her take on Remain in Light, Talking Heads’ seminal album from 1980, which showed the NY artpunk band stretching out with the help of producer Brian Eno and a bunch of additional musicians. We played the opening cut on both versions of the album – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On). If you don’t know the Talking Heads original, here it is… It’s a bonafide classic and a worthy listen for anyone who likes great music in any genre. What Kidjo has done is – to some extent –  reclaimed the African influences of the original, enhancing them with New York afrobeat band Antibalas and, on a couple of tracks, recruiting Tony Allen himself, the magisterial creator of afrobeat rhythms. It seemed appropriate then to follow this with a track from the septuagenarian drummer’s latest collaboration – this time with Detroit techno master Jeff Mills. Most of their new EP works really well and our featured track Seed is a good example.

We’ve enjoyed a lot of Indian-inflected music over the last year, and none more so that the superb live recording created by Sarathy Korwar that we’ve featured over the last few weeks. But back in the day, many jazz artists were exploring similar territory. A relatively rare 1974 release on ECM Records, Dave Liebman’s Drum Ode featured tabla from Badal Roy and Collin Walcott. We played Satya Dhwani (True Sound).

Another well received new release from 2018 was pianist Brad Mehldau’s new album Seymour Reads the Constitution!, the title apparently a reference to a Mehldau dream. The quality of performance is typically universally high with Mehldau’s usual trio collaborators Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard in fine form.

We ended the show with more from our featured vocalists Nancy Wilson and Cecile McLorin Salvant along with a new original composition from that Charles Lloyd and the Vanished Gardens album.

  1. Harold Land – In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark from Damisi/Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems
  2. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Monk’s Mood from Vanished Gardens
  3. Cecile McLorin Salvant – Visions from Windows
  4. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – A Sleeping Bee from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  5. Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) from Remain in Light
  6. Tony Allen/ Jeff Mills – The Seed from Tomorrow Comes the Harvest
  7. Dave Liebman – Satya Dhwani (True Sound) from Drum Ode
  8. Brad Mehldau – Almost Like Being In Love from Seymour Reads the Constitution
  9. Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley – The Masquerade is Over from Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
  10. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Blues for Langston and La Rue from Vanished Gardens
  11. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Peacocks from Windows

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 09 December: focus on Keyon Harrold and Charles Lloyd

Click the Mixcloud tab to hear this week’s show with two great jazz artists featured. One is Keyon Harrold from his new 2017 release album and the other is another example of our current feature to re-visit Cosmic Jazz favourites – and particularly to play tunes we may not have played before. This week the selections came from master saxophonist Charles Lloyd.

The show began with more from the labels described as the Italian equivalent of Blue Note – Black Saint and Soul Note. The tune this week was a wonderful modal piece from US saxophonist John Stubblefield who was a member of the Mingus Big Band, but who also played with a long list of top US jazz artists.

Trumpeter Keyon Harrold – as we mentioned last week – is one of the young US jazz players of the moment and someone who collaborates with other artists, both on their record and his own. His album The Mugician includes several collaborations, including the Wailer’s vocalist Josh David Barnett on a tune with reggae influences which we have played previously. There is a different collaboration on one of this week’s tracks: Her Beauty Through My Eyes features rapper Pharoahe Monch. Overall, The Mugician is not the uptempo album you might expect and MB Lament, our first tune from this recommended album, provides some calm and gentle playing. Other guests on this sophomore release include Robert Glasper, Bilal and Gary Clark Jnr.

The Charles Lloyd album selected for a re-visit was the superb Rabo de Nube – truly one of our all time favourite recommendations here on CJ. This ECM album was recorded live in Basel Switzerland on 24 April 2007. Besides Charles Lloyd on tenor saxophone and flute, the musicians are the superb Jason Moran on piano, (who somehow doesn’t sound so interesting on a solo album of his that I have), Reuben Rogers on double-bass and Eric Harland on drums and percussion. Normally, I cannot resist playing the wonderful Booker’s Garden which includes Moran at his very best but, in the spirit of what I set out to do with this feature of old favourites, I resisted the temptation and played two other equally absorbing tunes.

There was another track from the highly recommended Blue Note All-Stars album – an extended version of Wayne Shorter’s classic Witch Hunt. We have featured several tracks from this excellent 2CD release: the track lengths are frequently self-indulgently long but somehow the quality of the ensemble playing ensures that it all works. We ended this week’s CJ with another cut from the excellent John Armstrong presents Afro-Beat Brazil, one of our favourite re-issue compilations of 2017.

  1. John Stubblefield – Confessin’ from You Need This: an Introduction to Black Saint and Soul Note
  2. Keyon Harrold – MB Lament from The Mugician
  3. Keyon Harrold – Her Beauty Through My Eyes from The Mugician
  4. Charles Lloyd – Prometheus from Rabo de Nube
  5. Charles Lloyd – La Colline de Monk from Rabo de Nube
  6. The Blue Note All-Stars – Witch Hunt from Our Point of View
  7. Lucas Santtana – Musico from John Armstrong presents Afro-Beat Brazil

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 28 October 2017: 100 years of Dizzy

Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is seen performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, June 30, 1967. (AP Photo/Frank C. Curtin)

Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was born on 21 October 2017. He died in 1993 aged 75, but to celebrate 100 years since his birth his music was a key inclusion in this week’s programme.

Gillespie made many important contributions to jazz – most significantly being one of the original bebop musicians along with  alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. But it’s his collaborations linking jazz and Latin musicians through Afro-Cuban jazz that were celebrated in this week’s show.  The 1975 album Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods featured five compositions by Chico O’Farrill in big band arrangements led by Machito and featuring Gillespie, Mario Bauza, Jorge Dalto, Mario Rivera and more. Chico O’Farrill is not celebrated enough in jazz: his often complex arrangements are always striking,  usually owing more to jazz than Cuban rhythms, and because his work was under-recorded there are fewer great recordings than you’d expect. For more great O’Farrill music check out the 1995 comeback album Pure Emotion and the superb documentary Calle 54 which also showcases a host of Latin performers.

On his death in 1991, Arturo O’Farrill took over his father’s band and they continue to perform worldwide. I hope to bring a recent tribute from Arturo to the programme soon. Oro, Incienso Y Mirra, the opening tune on Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods is all of 15 minutes 38 seconds but we just had to play it in its entirety. Look out for more Latin Jazz next week.

The programme this week began with more from Avishai Cohen and his 2017 release Cross My Palm With SilverThe tune includes a beautiful and clear solo from Cohen towards the end, the assurance of which contrasts with the tune’s title Shoot Me In The Leg. This and other titles suggest statements about the US today – make of that what you will…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Lloyd, the masterful sax player, is  still playing and touring aged 79 – and releasing interesting Facebook posts including one recently on Dizzy. He appears with regularity on Cosmic Jazz and rightly so, he is right up there for us. His most recent Blue Note release Passin’ Thru celebrates ten years of his New Quartet featuring the superlative Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. It includes an extended version of Dream Weaver, a tune that he first recorded in 1966 – wonderful! There’s also a superb film portrait of Charles Lloyd, Arrows Into Infinity and, although it’s not available on Youtube, you can see a trailer for the film right here.

Pawel Kazmarczy is a Polish pianist born in  Krakow and former student of the Katowice Academy of Music. He is one of what appears to be many outstanding young Polish pianists whose work can be obtained via Steve’s Jazz Sounds. He leads the Audio Feeling Trio which has performed at several international festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival. The tune this week is from the trio’s 2016 release. The playing has been described as EST with Polish melancholy!

Finally, I returned to the new Zara McFarlane album Arise. I played  Pride which is one of the better tunes on the album, but – sorry – I remain unconvinced. From the album reviews I have seen and its inclusion on Jazzwise playlists it looks like I may be the only one. Is this really so? Comments gratefully received!

  1. Avishai Cohen – Shoot Me in the Leg from Cross My Palm With Silver
  2. Dizzy Gillespie y Machito – Oro, Incienso Y Mirra from Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
  3. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  4. Pawel Kazmarczy Audio Feeling Trio – Mister John from Deconstruction
  5. Zara McFarlane – Pride from Arise

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to…

30 August 2017: a (mainly) spiritual thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For much of this week’s programme there were tune titles and sounds with a distinctly spiritual feel. Dream Weaver, Om Rama and Zen are the titles of the first three tunes on the show – and there indeed the next tune Totem continued this trend.

Some of the selections this week came from Neil and if there is one artist that I always associate with him it is Charles Lloyd. Now 79,  he is still touring and playing and from the evidence of this re-visiting of the tune Dream Weaver recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2016, the tone of his playing is as rich and full as ever. It marked a 10th anniversary reunion of the special quartet he formed with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. The sound is resonant, deep and spiritual and when the main Dream Weaver melody kicks in around the six minutes mark into this extended version, you know you are witnessing a musician very much at the top of his game.

Alice Coltrane may not have been a favourite of every jazz lover, either in the work she produced with husband John or in her solo projects. Her music was, however, definitely spiritual and the recent release by Luaka Bop of music produced in her later years and unearthed recently by her family comes from a time when she was leading an ashram in California. This is evident in the titles of the tune and the album and the ecstatic sounds produced. The music isn’t strictly jazz (we shouldn’t expect much improvisation on the Wurlitzer keyboard favoured by Coltrane) but the intense spirituality is evident in the first track – and it doesn’t let up. The music invokes both Hindu Vedanta devotional songs and – more surprisingly – the Detroit church choirs of Alice Coltrane’s youth. It’s a heady brew and one that’s impossible not to be (literally) swayed by.

From New York, The James Brandon Trio have an excellent first album released entitled No Filter. It is tough and contemporary in sound, it makes excellent use of hip-hop artists on some of the tunes and has a cool CD sleeve which is minimalist in terms of the information provided about the musicians and music. It does, though, have a tune Zen which continued the spiritual path of the programme.

Kajetan Borowski is a teacher of jazz piano at the Katowice Academy of Music. He leads a trio that produces music that could be described as classic jazz but with a contemporary feel. This was followed by another tune from the impressive album The Journey from the Belgian Jelle Van Giel Group.

The show ended with a trip to Brazil. Both Neil and I have recently seen Brazilian artists perform. In Neil’s case it was the great Marcos Valle in London and for me it was the British-based Monica Vasconcelos performing at a free festival in a park in Ipswich. Vasconcelos is a Sao Paulo native but has headlined here at Ronnie Scott’s, the Jazz Cafe and many other UK venues since moving to the UK. She returns to Suffolk on 07 October for the Flipside Festival at Snape Maltings.

  1. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  2. Alice Coltrane – Om Rama from The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  3. James Brandon Trio – Zen from No Filter
  4. Kajetan Borowski Trio – Totem from Totem
  5. Jelle Van Giel Group – Lullaby for Nelle from The Journey
  6. Marcos Valle – Apaixonada por Voce (In Love With You) from Escape
  7. Monica Vasconcelos – Quadras de Roda from Nois

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

18 May 2017: Cosmic Jazz plays cosmic jazz

This week’s show, available now via the Mix Cloud tab (left), is made up of four long, Old School tunes. An identifying feature of two of them at least (and maybe elements of a third) is that they are not only on a Cosmic Jazz show they are cosmic in sound, ambience and effect!

Saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders is a name many would associate with cosmic jazz. His tone is one of the most distinctive voices in jazz – full of raw, rasping overtones one moment and warm, rich and deep at others. The fire of his eleven Impulse! label albums recorded from 1967-1974 gave way to an often more lyrical exploration of jazz standards but still with that commanding tone that remains uniquely strong. For more on that golden age at Impulse! Check out this Red Bull Music Academy feature for more information – and then search out some of the albums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now 76, Sanders is still performing, although his most recent record releases tend to be as guest slots on other albums. Some of these are well worth seeking out: we have featured two on CJ over recent years – The Voyage with Japanese band Sleep Walker and his live recording with alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett on the Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium album. Listen to the deep Intro to Africa track here.

Both sides of Sander’s unique tenor saxophone voice can be heard on the track Love is Everywhere played in full on the show this week. It comes from one of the last of the albums Sanders recorded for Impulse! and features the under-rated piano of Joe Bonner. This is truly music that encompasses freedom and gentleness and speaks deeply of peace and understanding. Sanders, of course, played with John Coltrane in his last years – and in his more recent recordings Sanders channels ‘trane so convincingly that if you close your eyes… You can hear this clearly on this excellent 2011 live concert from London’s Jazz Cafe (here presented in full) – for example, on  the Sanders composition Nozipho that begins the show.

The Pharoah Sanders world of cosmic spirituality could apply equally to the music of  Alice Coltrane. This week’s show featured the tune Blue Nile – which includes Sanders on tenor saxophone and alto flute. Recorded in 1970, this harp/piano/tenor saxophone combination has become a template for many more recent cosmic jazz heroes, including the UK’s Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall. Just listen to Halsall’s Tribute to Alice Coltrane here to see what we mean. Coltrane’s soaring, modal sounds can be found on Ptah, the El Daoud or the excellent Impulse! compilation Astral Meditation which is an excellent place to start your Alice Coltrane journey. Joining Coltrane and Sanders here are Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Ben Riley (drums).

Last week I played the tune Black Renaissance by the band of the same name led by Harry Whitaker. The CD has two tunes only and normally I am so enraptured and mesmerised by the first that I play it over and over again. Last week, however, I left the CD playing and gave the second track some attention. Magic Ritual does not match Black Renaissance – I doubt if there is much that can – but it is good, deserves to be heard and has that same feeling of spontaneity, joy and the search for  African-centric expression.

To end the show I played as much as time would allow of what is currently my favourite Fela Kuti tune, Just Like That. You can find it on a number of Fela releases including the excellent compilation, The Two Sides of Fela,  French Barclay release and distributed here by none other than Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label. It’s not that easy to find now but you can also get Just Like That on the Underground System album.

  1. Black Renaissance – Magic Ritual from Black Renaissance: Mind, Body and Soul
  2. Pharaoh Sanders – Love is Everywhere from Love In Us All
  3. Alice Coltrane – Blue Nile from Astral Meditations
  4. Fela Kuti and Africa 80 – Just Like That from The Two Sides of Fela – Jazz and Dance (from Jazz CD 1)

So – having whetted your appetities – would you like to listen to twelve hours of spiritual jazz? For much more of this music, listen to this magisterial, extended review of the genre from London’s NTS Radio. Thanks to Kalamu ya Salaam and his excellent Neo Griot blog for this one.

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

10 February 2016: Norway and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz show, easily available via the MixCloud tab on this page, has three tunes to demonstrate the variety of contemporary jazz available from Norway.

shela simmenesThe prompt came from Sheila Simmenes, who fronts the Love Extra Orchestra, and who contacted CJ. The band has a jazz core but Sheila herself has an interest in reggae and Brazilian music too – much in keeping with the Cosmic Jazz presenters! Sheila has worked in Brazil and with Brazilian musicians. I played the current single Darling, It’s Over, with a breathy vsheila simmenes darling its overocal that seductively draws you in to listen before giving space for the band to feature too. Watch out for the new single Don’t Get Me Wrong coming out in March and find out more about the band here. We shall be featuring more from Sheila and her different musical projects in future shows.

Staying Norwegian, there was another tune from Bugge Wesseltoft. bugge wesseltoft and friendsAll the tunes on the recent album Bugge and Friends have an It in the title – this week it was Faz It. Wesseltoft intersects the worlds of jazz and electronica with ease, creating memorable melodies that spinout from programmed backgrounds. Check out this track from his collaboration with computer whiz, producer and remixer Henrik Schwartz. The final tune from Norway came from old friends of the programme Lucky NovakThis band is based in Oslo but has a British musician, alto player Tim Lowerson included in the bugge wesseltoft henrik schwartzband. They are original, experimental and unpredictable,  A case of art school meets jazz? The tune I played this week – Kul’an – was by their standards quite conventional; it’s simply a beautiful piece of music. Check them out on this video – they look and sound like they just love playing.

I returned to Gregory Porter’s first album Water, where he sings and the musicians seem to play with greater freedom than on his later Blue Note albums. It was in respect and memory of Cheryl – a good friend of this programme – who once set up a memorable interview we held with him in which Porter – then just starting to become well known – answered our questions with interest, energy and grace.

st germainSt. Germain sounded a good prelude to the Bugge tune. Both are jazz inspired musicians using a blend of modern and traditional sounds and instruments. In St. Germain’s case it’s the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins (here from the song You Caused My Heart to Weep), merged with traditional Malian kora sounds from Mamadou Cherif Soumano and behind it all the programming of Ludovic Navarre, the Parisian who is St Germain. You can hear Soumano on kora here playing live in a trio with bass and soprano saxophone. This is a beautiful musical combination that works.

The Polish contribution this week came from Vehemence black fire new spirtQuartet (love the name!) who provided a fierce and forthright opening to the programme. There was also another tune from Nat Birchall’s stunning Invocations album and the show ended with a fiery contribution from Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee blending blues and gospel sounds. This is the title track from a 1969 BYG album which will be difficult to find so check out the excellent Soul Jazz double CD compilation where you will find this tune and more great music from Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef, Richard Davis (the excellent track Dealin’) and many more.

  1. Vehemence Quartet – Gabry’s from Anomalia
  2. Gregory Porter – Black Nile from Water
  3. St. Germain – Real Blues from St. Germain
  4. Bugge Wesseltoft – Faz It from Bugge & Friends
  5. Love Extra Orchestra – Darling, It’s Over from single release
  6. Lucky Novak – Kul’an from Up! Go!
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Archie Shepp & Jeanne Lee – Blase from New Spirits: Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82

Derek is currently listening to:

Neil is currently listening to:

charles lloydFinally, it won’t have escaped regular listeners that here at CJ we are bonafide paid up members of the Charles Lloyd Appreciation Society. With a new band and a new album out this month, it seems appropriate to give listeners a chance to hear and see Lloyd performing this new direction live at NYC’s Lincoln Centre just two weeks ago. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels now features Bill Frisell on guitar and Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel.  The album – out on Blue Note – is called I Long To See You.  Be prepared – the music really is rather different!

09 December 2015: best of 2015 part 1

st germainThis week I needed to start the programme with a tune from an album that is not a jazz record but is one that I love and cannot stop playing. Sure, there are elements of jazz in the record but there is also electronic programming and, most importantly, the sounds of Senegal and Mali flowing throughout the recording. I am talking of the 2015 release of Ludovic Navarre better known as St. Germain and St. Germain is the title of this new record. It is truly rooted in the eclectic spirit of Cosmic Jazz; I am sure any of our followers and listeners will love it – essential. For a different take on the first single released from the album, try this Atjazz remix of Real Blues.

The UK magazine Jazzwise has published its Albums of the Year 2015the epic4 in the December 2015/January 2016 edition. I played four tunes from albums that appear in that list and which we have featured this year. Top of the Jazzwise list and probably high on any jazz lovers list for 2015 was Kamasi Washington’s triple CD The Epic. I chose the opening track from CD1 which exemplifies the mix of large orchestral sounds with spiritual, choral voices that is a distinctive feature of the album. Ironically, it hasn’t featured at all in Grammy nominations which have just been announced. Washington was one of the stars of two sell out shows at the London Jazz festival this year – for a taste of the festival listen to this podcast.

I was delighted to see a favourite record of mine, Ahmad Jamal’s Live in Marciac at No. 6= in the chart. I have said, played and written so much about this record that I will not add more. The same goescharles lloyd for Charles Lloyd whose Wild Man Dance is at 4=. Finally, to complete my quartet of tunes and to make a neat combination of two from long-established jazz greats and two from young artists who should be around for years to come, I played Cecile McLorin Salvant who is at 6= alongside Ahmad Jamal. She has the ability through her vocal delivery to make a familiar song sound fresh, unique and original in its presentation and is backed by top-rate musicians. The record has been a surprise and a delight to me.

This edition of Jazzwise has published a Top 20 list of new releases and a Top 20 list of reissues. There are many more great albums on these lists and we’ll be featuring more in future shows. Buy the magazine to find out more and check out articles – including one on Kamasi Washington. A conversation at the end of last week with someone who has played music with saxophonist Steve Williamson persuaded me to play a tune from Black Top which features Steve Williamson alongside Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas. Watch them on our video below. Here they play at the Jazz in the Round shows at the Cockpit Theatre, London. Finally, to continue our mission to feature Polish jazz musicians the show ended with a piece from the wonderful, flowing pianist Michal Wroblewski.

  1. St. Germain – Family Tree from St. Germain
  2. Kamasi Washington – Changing of the Guard from The Epic
  3. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac
  4. Charles Lloyd – Flying Over the Odra from Wild Man Dance
  5. Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Trolley Song from For One to Love
  6.  Black Top – Nubian Archaic Step Dub from #One
  7. Michal Wroblewski – Warsaw Blues from City Album

24 November 2015: jazz icons live

This week’s CJ featured only four selections – but what powerful performances they were! We began with John Coltrane performing live at Temple University in 1966 from a recording that john coltrane offeringfinally emerged last year on Impulse! Records. The saxophonist was relentlessly exploring his music during the last the last two years of his life, frequently deploying extra musicians in expanded groupings. On this night in Philadelphia, he had some additional musicians on stage – a couple of extra saxophone players he knew from the area as well as Umar Ali, Algie DeWitt, and Robert Kenyatta on percussion. But they don’t really intrude into the the performance – Coltrane himself is at the heart of it (there was, after all, only one microphone recording all of this) and the performance is full of explosive atonal blowing – as you can hear on the 26 minutes of Crescent.

As the excellent Pitchfork review attests, ‘trane’s playing is unbearably intense, the brittle shrieking egged on by someone yelling “Hey!” in the background. Melody and harmony are sacrificed at the altar of texture and feeling, anger and joy bleed into sadness. Once in a while you can hear a cowbell in the background, and you get a glimpse of what it might have been like to be here on this night. “

Next up was Miles Davis, perhaps the most iconic of all jazz artists and another restlessly exploring musician. Coltrane didn’t embrace the growth of electric music in jazz in the way that his one time boss did – the intensity of his playing didn’t need any additions. But by the time of this second live track in 1970, Miles was fully electric,bitches brew live playing his trumpet through a wah wah pedal and using two electric keyboards on stage. This performance is from the Isle of Wight Festival where Davis shared the bill with such artists as Chicago, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix. This was exactly the audience Miles wanted to bring his new music to and this was to be the biggest audience (600,000 people) ever played to by a jazz artist. The first ten minutes of the continuous set is a version of Bitches Brew, released the previous year as as a double vinyl album.

CJ next played Charles Lloyd whose 1966-68 quartet featured Keith Jarrett on piano, who was earlier heard wreaking havoc on a Fender electric organ with Miles Davis. But this 2007 band is altogether different. Lloyd is very much the elder statesman here leading his rabo de nubeyoung band through a set of mostly Lloyd originals at a Basel concert. Here on CJ we come back to this recording time and again – why? It’s probably the centrepiece of Lloyd’s many recordings for the ECM label and a great place to begin to investigate his music. He had recorded several albums for the German label by time this one was released in 2008 and here he invests several earlier tracks with a new spirit thanks to a superb band. High school classmates Eric Harland on drums and Jason Moran on piano are joined by Reuben Rogers on bass and each pushes their leader to new heights of improvisation. Start with Rabo de Nube and you’ll want to experience all of Lloyd’s work with this astonishing quartet.

The final track in this very special show came from an artist that Miles Davis had huge respect for. Ahmad Jamal, now , is here jamal marciacrecorded last year at the Marciac festival in France. Another elder leader invigorated by a young band featuring bassist Reginald Veal,  percussionist Manolo Badrena and drummer Herlin Riley, this live show (available with a DVD) captures warmth and good nature of a band who know how to work around Jamal’s quirky take on both standards and originals. Check out our video below which shows Jamal revisiting his Poinciana original in Paris in 2012 with this same quartet.

  1. John Coltrane – Crescent from Offering: live at Temple University
  2. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew from Bitches Brew Live
  3. Charles Lloyd – Migration of Spirit from Rabo de Nube
  4. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac

Playlist – 23 September 2015: Charles Lloyd and more

More new jazz from Scandinavia on tonight’s show along with a touch of afrobeat influenced jazz and another Cosmic Jazz essential track.

This week’s CJ essential is the most played Charles Lloyd track on the
imagesshow. We’ve featured it many times since its release in 2008 and we’ll continue to – it’s that good. For us, the standout track is Booker’s Garden, Lloyd’s tribute to his childhood friend and classmate, the trumpeter Booker Little who died tragically young at the age of 23. Little was a player who straddled the hard bop and free jazz worlds not unlike Lloyd – he appeared on Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now and Eric Dolphy’s Five Spot club albums, for example.

Rabo de Nube was recorded in Basel during the band’s European tour in 2007 and with the best incarnation of Lloyd’s groups on the ECM label. The first key element is pianist Jason Moran whose very physical, percussive style with style is all over this music. There’s the hard-blowing Prometheus, on which Lloyd and Moran are pushed towards free jazz by Eric Harland’s exceptional drumming. Sweet Georgia Bright has been recorded by Lloyd several times but never like this. Here it showcases Lloyd’s powerful tenor playing whereas our featured cut Booker’s Garden is a workout for some beautifully lyrical alto flute. But partway through, the groove deepens and in comes Moran with a breathtaking piano solo – you can actually feel him making decisions about where to go.  But this isn’t to forget the contribution from bassist Rueben Rogers and drummer Harland who hold the whole together with a pulsating backbeat. Listen to the track on Rabo de Nube if you can but if not, check out this different but similarly powerful version recorded in 2011. Here’s the groove cuts in at 8:00 and although the whole track is both more restrained and reflective (and incomplete) than the recorded version there’s still a tangible energy. The four remaining long tracks on the album are all equally good, with the title track a version of Cuban balladeer Silvio Rodriguez’s famous song . Fore more remarkable interplay between Lloyd and his quartet listen to Ramanujun – or, indeed any of the other cuts on this outstanding album.

It appears that – like many jazz artists who have earned their bus passes – Lloyd’s sense of adventure is greater than ever and, as he nears his eighth decade, he shows no signs of slowing down. He was a highlight at the 2014 London Jazz Festival and this year he played the WOMAD Festival here in the UK. Catch him if you can.

We have featured Kamasi Washington since the release of his first
the epic4album, the 3CD monster The Epic, and in May we provided a link to the launch concert in Los Angeles. Washington plays at this year’s London Jazz Festival in November but the gig is already sold out – so for a two hour taste of what you’ll be missing, here’s that Jazz Night in America show from earlier this year.

  1. Jachna and Buhl – Miles Space from Synthomatic
  2. John Lumpkin – The Conqueror from The Devotion
  3. Joanna Koncharczy – More from More
  4. Stockholm Jazz Orchestra – The Oracle  from Today
  5. Charles Lloyd – Booker’s Garden from Rabo de Nube
  6. Kamil Pitrowicz Quintet – Birth from Birth
  7. Jimi Tenor and Tony Allen – Three Continents from Inspiration Information