Bass player Reggie Workman is now 83 and living in Harlem, New York. In an interview for the Vulture online magazine he reminisced about his time with John Coltrane, the recent deaths of some jazz greats (and his friends) and what he thinks about life right now. Through all of this, and while stuck at home, Workman has tried to maintain his cosmic outlook. “Our bodies are on the planet for a longer time or a shorter time depending on how we live, what things that we’ve done through our life,” he says. “Whatever that is, whatever time that is, our contributions are significant, their contributions are significant. And we have to be thankful for what they give.” And here’s one of Workman’s stellar contributions to the Complete Live at the Village Vanguard set – John Coltrane’s classic Spiritual with John Coltrane on soprano and tenor sax, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Garvin Bushell on contrabass bassoon, Workman on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. This twenty one minute take on Spiritual was recorded on the last of four nights on 05 November 1961.
Sadly there are occasions when we have to remember the lives and music of jazz artists. Recently, the late Jimmy Heath (who incidentally can be seen in the new – and excellent – Miles Dayis documentary, Birth of the Cool) was remembered on Cosmic Jazz and this week it was time for Tyner. Pianist McCoy Tyner was a hugely influential figure in the history of the music whose influence extended long beyond his tenure with John Coltrane.
McCoy Tyner (1938-2020) was, of course, a member of one of the greatest jazz quartets in history and an influential pianist in his own right. This classic quartet featured John Coltrane on tenor and soprano sax, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums and Tyner on piano – with their ultimate achievement being the masterpiece A Love Supreme – recorded over the course of one evening in December 1964 and released in January 1965.
McCoy Tyner met John Coltrane in 1957 at a club in Philadelphia, the city in which he was born, and he joined Coltrane’s new quartet in October 1960, staying with him until 1965, by which time he complained that the music had grown so loud he could not hear the piano. During this time, he made his own records for the Impulse! label including the superb Nights of Ballads & Blues which featured Tyner’s sensitive interpretation of Ellington’s Satin Doll. We began the show with Passion Dance from the The Real McCoy, his first solo album for the Blue Note label from 1967. The wonderful tenor playing on the track is from Joe Henderson, one of our CJ favourites and the album also features the beautiful Tyner original Contemplation.
We had to reflect Tyner’s time with the John Coltrane Quartet and rather than focus on A Love Supreme, we instead chose Slow Blues, a tune from the album Both Directions At Once – The Lost Album, recorded in 1963 and released until 2018. Tyner then went on to record his own albums from Impulse!, Blue Note and Milestone. This week’s CJ included two tunes from that Blue Note period. The Real McCoy features an impressive quartet with the aforementioned Joe Henderson on tenor, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, while Time For Tyner has Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Herbie Lewis on bass and Freddie Waits on drums. The later album (recorded in 1968) has both original compositions and the standards that Tyner often returned to and we chose the superb African Village. There’s a great Japanese jazz festival trio live version right here. There’s no information on the band but this was recorded in 2009 with Christian McBride on bass and an unknown drummer.
In all his music Tyner stayed with acoustic instruments only and never used electric keyboards or synthesisers. This reflected his unique piano style – particularly on his original compositions – with the left hand pounding out the chords while his right hand explored runs up and down the keyboard. Tyner always made his presence felt but he was also prepared to allow for spaces in between as evidenced in his beautiful ballad playing. He told Nat Hentoff “I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can’t predict what kinds of experiences I’m going to have, I can’t predict the directions in which my music will go, I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel”. John Coltrane said: “McCoy Tyner holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them. He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off the ground from time to time.” We shall return to this wonderful pianist in later shows.
By contrast, there is a first play for a band that sounds rather different. J Z Replacement are loud – verging at times on the frantic, with a bundle of experimental energy. It’s original music performed by hey are original and they include three excellent musicians who cleverly put together sounds that blend together as a whole despite all the chaos that is seemingly going on. They are two London-based musicians, Jamie Murray on drums who has played with the Sun Ra Arkestra and Zhenya Strigalev on sax who has played with Ambrose Akinmusire and Eric Harland. They are joined by in-demand LA bass player Tim Lefebvre. If you want some music that is edgy, contemporary and could even get you dancing round the room, check out their album Disrespectful, the title of which is probably very appropriate.
Ana Mazzotti was described as “a supermusician” by her distinguished fellow Brazilian Hermeto Pascoal. Sadly, she died in her thirties with only two albums as her heritage. The first was recorded in 1974 and involved Jose Robert Bertrami from Azymuth. It did not sell well and in 1977 she tried again with re-workings of the same tunes. Both albums have been now re-released by specialist UK Brazilian label Far Out. The show includes a tune from the 1977 version. Both albums are worth checking out – and it’s fascinating to compare the different versions of the same songs. Great arrangements too. Up next was a track from Cuban singer Dayme Arocena. At the end of 2019 she released Sonocardigram on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label ,from which we played Para el Amor: Cantar! Arocena was first associated with an artist we really like here on CJ – Canadian Jane Bunnett – singing in her Maqueque group in 2015 and then releasing her own debut EP Nueva Era later the same year. Sonocardiagram takes things a whole step further with Arocena supported by current Cuban masters including pianist and arranger Jorge Luis Lagarza Pérez, bassist Rafael Aldama Chiroles and drummers José Carlos Sánchez and Marcos Morales Valdés.
The show ended with yet another great artist that my colleague Neil has introduced to me. Muriel Grossman was born in Paris, grew up in Vienna and has lived for some time on an island that is noted for its music but maybe not jazz – Ibiza. She plays spiritual/modal jazz that is deep, warm and engaging. There is no doubt she knows the music of Coltrane, McCoy Tyner et al. Her music is released on the Dreamland Records label and the title track of the album Golden Rule was featured this week. She’s another artist we shall return to in coming weeks. I need to find more of her music and any Cosmic Jazz follower would be well advised to do so too.
- McCoy Tyner – Passion Dance from The Real McCoy
- John Coltrane – Slow Blues from Both Directions at Once – The Lost Album
- McCoy Tyner – African Village from Time For Tyner
- J Z Replacement – Five Cymbals for Jamie from Disrespectful
- Ana Mazotti – Agora Ou Nunca Mais from Ana Mazotti
- Dayme Arocena – Para el Amor: Cantar! from Sonocardiogram
- Muriel Grossman – Golden Rule from Golden Rule
This week’s Cosmic Jazz is – as always – available on the Mixcloud tab (left). Open it for an hour of great music – mostly from Neil’s ECM label collection which has recently celebrated 50 years of jazz and more. Neil began collecting ECM music after going into a Zurich record store in 1973 and hearing the recently released Keith Jarrett 3LP Bremen/Lausanne Concerts – in the days when you shut yourself in a listening booth and heard 30 minutes of music for free before making your decision to purchase (or not). He walked away with that Keith Jarrett box set and started on a musical journey that still continues.
We began the show with the ethereal sounds of the Norwegian Tord Gustavsen Trio who appeared at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2003 just after the release of their debut album for ECM, Changing Places. Live, the textural quality of this music was sharpened further – the silences between the notes almost as important as the music itself. Gustavsen and his trio (including extraordinary drummer Jarle Vespestad) conjure floating melodies with a real verse/chorus structure that linger in your consciousness long after the music ends. Listen out, too, for the bass playing of Harald Johnsen on our choice from this album – the track title Where Breathing Starts could not be more apposite.
Another memorable live performance experienced by both Neil and Derek in the suitably resonant acoustic of Norwich Cathedral came from our second ECM artist, trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Ever since Miles Davis began using the Harmon mute and then wahwah pedals, trumpeters have realised the totally different sounds that can be created with this instrument. There’s a current trend for a much more breathy sound on trumpet – and perhaps this all began with the fourth world/ambient sounds of Jon Hassell almost 45 years ago. On his debut recording Vernal Equinox in 1973, Hassell experimented with echo and envelope filters, sometimes muti-tracking his trumpet to create a sound that was almost vocal. Listen to the 22 minute title track here for one of the inspirations of this style. You can hear this in Henriksen’s approach but also in the music of Nils Petter Molvaer whose music we have featured previously on Cosmic Jazz. Migration is, however, an exceptional and evocative track from the stunning release Cartography.
Up next was English saxophonist John Surman from his curiously titled 1981 ECM outing The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon, a duo album with drummer Jack DeJohnette. On Nestor’s Saga, Surman is featured on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. Surman would add more electronics in later albums for ECM, including the excellent The Road to St Ives which continued Surman’s fascination with his Devonian/Cornish heritage.
There are many albums on the ECM label that could be considered essential – but Dave Holland’s Conference of the Birds is undoubtedly one of these. A free jazz masterpiece, it really belongs in any self-respecting collection. Remarkably, this was Holland’s first album as a leader – and what a group he assembled! Holland had worked with saxophonist Anthony Braxton and drummer Barry Altschul in the group Circle (along with pianist Chick Corea) and his partnership with Altschul made for one of the most dynamic rhythm sections of the decade. Saxophonist Sam Rivers was over twenty years older than his colleagues, and he had briefly been a member of Miles Davis’ quintet in the early 1960s, before being ejected in favour of Wayne Shorter. The title track of Conference of the Birds is a surprisingly gentle, almost pastoral piece that opens with a lyrical bass solo from Holland, demonstrating how just how versatile a player he is. Holland explained the inspiration for the title in the album liner notes: While living in London I had an apartment with a small garden. During the summer around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, just as the day began, birds would gather here one by one and sing together, each declaring its freedom in song. It is my wish to share this same spirit with other musicians and communicate it to the people. Whether Holland knew it or not (and he probably did), Conference of the Birds is also the title of the most famous collection of poems by the Persian Sufi poet Attar…
Our final ECMfest drew to a close with another title track, this time from the late Canadian flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler. The album is an all-star affair with Holland again on bass, veteran Lee Konitz on alto sax and Bill Frisell on guitar. Unusually, there is no drummer on the record but that hasn’t prevented this timeless recording from achieving something of a cult status. It’s a remarkably restrained, lyrical recording that grows on any listener prepared to stay with it. For more Wheeler, check out the extended waltz Heyoke from the 1975 recording Gnu High. The album features Dave Holland once more but also includes Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette.
We ended the show with two very different sounds – but both artists we have seen live over the years. Joey Alexander is the extraordinary talented young pianist from Jakarta, Indonesia who just gets better and better. Now aged 16 and with a new album out soon, we featured another track from his download only collection of outtakes released at the end of 2019. This was his take on John Coltrane’s Equinox – and a very fine version it is too. The album is available from all download sources – listen here on Bandcamp.
Just as Fela Kuti was influenced by the jazz he heard while studying in the UK, there’s no doubt that jazz musicians have in turn been influenced by him. Listen to Brandford Marsalis’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and check out his stunning sampled use of Fela’s Beasts of No Nation. We chose to end the show this week with an album and title track new to Neil’s Fela collection: Fear Not For Man appears on a 2018 vinyl reissue on Knitting Factory Records and was located in one of the many excellent vinyl stores in Singapore. The island state (where Neil is based) is something of a haven for record lovers – including those looking for jazz releases old and new.
- Tord Gustavsen Trio – Where Breathing Starts from Changing Places
- Arve Henriksen – Migration from Cartography
- John Surman – Nestor’s Saga from The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon
- Dave Holland Quartet – Conference of the Birds from Conference of the Birds
- Kenny Wheeler – Angel Song from Angel Song
- Joey Alexander – Equinox from In a Sentimental Mood
- Fela Kuti – Fear Not For Man from Fear Not For Man
Neil is listening to…
Full service is resumed! Cosmic Jazz is back on the Mixcloud tab once more. Tonight’s show was a pre-record and – as is so often the case in these circumstances – we take a journey back to some great tunes from the past.
A good place to start is the 1970s – often seen as a decade of watered down jazz subject to the corrupting influences of soul, funk and disco. The reality is far from this. Whilst some artists clearly ‘sold out’ and sought to popularise their music through a tokenistic application of these outside influences, other musicians created new sounds whilst remaining in the tradition. From that decade much music has been re-released, often on independent British labels. It’s not always the well-known names that are featured either. A case in point is keyboard player Walter Bishop Jr. Raised in Harlem, Bishop played with the likes of Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. From the early 60s he led his own band and recorded two albums for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s. After a spell teaching in Los Angeles he returned to New York and signed with Muse records for whom he made five albums between 1975-79. The Soul Village album of 1977 was one of these. Re-released in 2014 by the superb Soul Brother Records in the UK, Soul Turnaround was one of four tunes on the album that he had previously recorded on Black Jazz.
Saxophone elder Gary Bartz has raised his profile in recent years, thanks to some excellent recordings and an appearance at this year’s inaugural We Out Here festival where he shared the stage with British newcomers and CJ favourites Maisha. Back again in the UK this month, he headlined at the London Jazz Festival and is apparently currently in the studio with Maisha. We await the results with interest! In the 1970s Bartz was recording with Miles Davis – most notably on the Live Evil album. The full 6CD Cellar Door set has Bartz throughout and, whilst it’s not the most indispensable of the Davis box sets, it’s worth a listen. Separately at this time, Bartz was recording with his Ntu Troop band on Milestone Records – including two excellent Harlem Bush Music albums, now available on one BGP label compilation. Celebrated vocalist Andy Bey is featured on Celestial Blues, a tune he recorded again on his Experience and Judgment album. You can compare it here.
The Black Jazz label has its own story to tell. For a label that lasted only a little over five years, it has a sizeable footprint in the world of jazz. Founded by Oakland based pianist and producer Gene Russell, the Black Jazz imprint stood apart from bland middle of the road jazz styles and aligned firmly to the rise of black consciousness and the electric experimentations of Miles Davis and others.
More than that, Black Jazz records of the 1970s were all issued in a surround-sound Quadraphonic version and so the recording quality was often much higher than for other independent labels. Gene Russell died young in 1981 and left the catalogue in limbo but tracks were already being adopted by UK acid jazzers and hip-hop musicians in the early ’90s before the whole catalogue was reissued by Japanese speciality label Snow Dog Records between 2012-13. Label compilations from Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish (which we have sourced for this week’s CJ selection) have spread the word and you’ll find a great selection of ten excellent Black Jazz albums in this Vinyl Factory feature.
From the Peterson record Black Jazz Radio, we have chosen a Henry Franklin track and from Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature there is a tune from Rudolph Johnson. Both compilations are essential listening.
It is easy in jazz to leave out the greatest and try to spread the word of those that have been forgotten or overlooked, but here on Cosmic Jazz we try to do both. There is always time for John Coltrane and we try to represent the many phases of his work. The album Stellar Regions was recorded in February 1967 and so is among Coltrane’s last recordings. Not released until 1995, it showcases some of the more lyrical music Coltrane was making in his later years. We chose the fire and fury of the alternate take of Sun Star with Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Our illustration is a take on the album cover by Danish artist K Pakula.
The show ended with more from a DJ compilation and music released originally on the Muse label. Colin Curtis has been based in the North-West of England but has travelled far beyond and has been playing what the title of his 2CD compilation calls Jazz Dance Fusion for many years. The final two tunes came from Disc One of this release and featured firstly guitarist Ron Eschete , with Carol Eschete on vocals and then percussionist Emmanuel K. Rahim and his band The Kahliqs.
- Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
- Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
- Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
- Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
- John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
- Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
- Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
Derek is listening to…
- Mulatu Astatke – Yegelle Tezeta
- Ryan Porter – Strugglesville
- Jonas Kullhammer Quartet – Live at the Pomigliano Jazz Festival 2010
- J.S. Bach – Christmas Oratorio rec. Trinity College Cambridge
- Fela Kuti – Roforofo Fight
Neil is listening to…
The choice of artist for the star of the show this week was simple. All morning I had been playing John Coltrane records. Every time I do, I am entranced and left in awe of what this great man achieved so many years ago and what an influence he has had on other musicians since. In 2018, lost tracks were discovered and collected onto the album Both Directions At Once and it seemed appropriate to return to this must-have music, recorded on 06 March, 1963, and featuring Coltrane’s classic quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. The seven tracks include five Coltrane originals (including one of his most popular compositions, Impressions) and two standards, Nature Boy and Vilia. We love this record on Cosmic Jazz but almost anything by Coltrane is an essential listening experience. Perhaps the more significant matter is where these recordings stand in Coltrane’s œuvre, and how they illuminates his art and the trajectory of his too-brief career. Coltrane died, at the age of forty, in 1967 but not before leaving a legacy of music that moves between the melodic and the monumental – all with his unique tone on both tenor and soprano saxophones. Our view is that this lost album presents Coltrane in transition, and so is somewhat restrained compared with the live performances recorded around the same time. However, this makes it a great place to start a Coltrane journey. If you do not possess it in your collection, click the Mixcloud tab to hear the track One Up, One Down and find out why you need this record – best chosen on vinyl and in the two disc set which features seven interesting out-takes.
So often selections revolve round ‘shuffle’ tunes that I have come across recently. This week, vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant appeared with a tune I have not played on the show before – Growlin’ Dan. Salvant certainly does some growlin’ of her own on the tune to make the point of what Dan must have been like. What a strong and versatile voice! It also seemed appropriate to play one of her records to respect Lawrence Leathers, the drummer on this excellent album who sadly died recently.
There have been references on the show recently from jazz to the continent of Africa – for example, Randy Weston on last week’s show. There was more this week. Firstly, from Max Roach and his essential 1960 album We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. A prominent part in the tune All Africa is played by the Nigerian conga player Michael Olatunji who in the introduction answers Abbey Lincoln’s voice as she chants the names of African tribes. Throughout the tune he is the leading drum voice.
The second came from pianist and composer Horace Parlan. The title of the number makes the purpose plain to see – Home is Africa, It was recorded for Blue Note Records in 1963, originally on an album entitled Happy Frame of Mind, but I have it on a Blue Note compilation called African Rhythms.
Eastern European jazz has different priorities but still stretches out across continents both for its musical influences and for some of the personnel in the bands. The latter is illustrated by the pianist Adam Jarznik Quintet, whose newly released record On the Way Home features guitarist Mike Moreno. Jarznik himself was trained at the Katowice School of Music. From the Czech Republic came sax player Ondrej Strevacek whose album Sketches is one of three currently available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds . The title tune features some strong piano and sax playing, a powerful number.
The debate from last week regarding Cinematic Orchestra was offered more evidence by the inclusion of the title track from the recently released album To Believe. Look at the informed and perceptive comments from Neil in the notes to last week’s show to find his guidance on how to listen to this album and how his perception of it was changed.
To end there was a sample of Jane Bunnett, whose excellent Cuba – North American collaboration preceded the Buena Vista Social Club with an outcome that in my opinion was superior.
- John Coltrane – One Up, One Down from Both Directions At Once
- Cecile McClorin Salvant – Growlin’ Dan from For One to Love
- Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
- Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from Happy Frame of Mind/African Rhythms
- Adam Jarznik Quintet – On the Way Home from On the Way Home
- Ondrej Stveracek – Sketches from Sketches
- Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe from To Believe
- Jane Bunnett – Spirits of Havana from Spirits of Havana
Neil is listening to…
Available to you this week at the touch of the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab – music from Poland, Cuba, the US and UK.
Poland is the first stop. We have said it before, but it is worth repeating that there is a wealth of new music coming out of Poland and much of it getting recognised beyond the borders of the country. Stockists such as Steve’s Jazz Sounds have done much to make easy access to the music possible. Many of the bands are young too and their influences are many and diverse – like many of the current jazz musicians we feature here on CJ. There are two examples this week. The Tubis Trio are led by pianist Maciej Tubis and Flashback (great album cover!) is their second release. The title tune comes complete with its own flashback moments... Monosies are a quintet led by guitarist/composer Lukasz Komala and Stories of the Gray City is their debut album. Do these tunes present further examples of what is often referred to as Polish melancholy? I am not sure – we leave that judgement to you.
From Cuba came more music this week from pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his new trio album Un Dia Cualquiera – which translates as Just another day. In some ways the music is firmly in the tradition of the piano/bass/drums trio tradition, but with this record the Cuban flourishes are integral to Lopez-Nussa’s sound. The music references back to a number of Cuban styles, including Yoruba chants, rumba, descarga and – on our choice this week – an old bolero-style classic from 1946. But don’t think that all this roots referencing has created a traditional album – far from it. It’s a joyous contemporary celebration of a deep musical heritage that is an ongoing musical exploration
Ok, so we all know John Coltrane was a genius – it’s a naive truism in jazz – and, of course, his influence is still with us through many of the younger generation of jazz soloists. But, listening again to the 2018 Impulse! release Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album, made me stop and simply say, yes – this music really does take us to another place. But what is it about Coltrane’s music that’s so influential? Well, a good place to start might be with this Earworm analysis of Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps, surely an influence on pretty much every contemporary jazz musician. Why? Well, you don’t need to be a musician to understand the significance of the circle of fifths – a musical principle that guided ‘trane’s musical explorations – but the video will give you renewed sense of John Coltrane’s musical mastery. The image here is Coltrane’s own hand-drawn annotated circle of fifths – and check out Derek’s Coltrane listening choice below which features a graphic based on this musical principle.
All of this suggested it was a good time to play Coltrane again and follow this with a contemporary musician who has clearly been influenced by him. Coltrane’s classic quartet released the tune Tunji in 1962 as part of the album just called Coltrane. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s simply a masterpiece and you owe it to yourself to check out the complete version of this Impulse! album as it contains five alternate versions of the tune.
One of our CJ favourites, Manchester-based saxophonist Nat Birchall has just released his version of Tunji as a single. You don’t get the piano and bass features of the Coltrane version – rather Nat Birchall blows his sax all the way through on what is a much shorter version. But it stands up well – a praiseworthy achievement. Respect is due, as they say. You can still get the 7inch single or download Tunji along with Mode for Miles (also from the Coltrane album) from the ever-reliable Bandcamp site here. It’s also well worth seeking out all of Birchall’s work from his earliest albums like Akhenaten through to his most recent release Cosmic Language on the Jazzman label.
While in the groove of playing those influenced by Coltrane it seemed appropriate to feature something more from Kamasi Washington and his most recent release Heaven and Earth album. Washington has been championed in Cosmic Jazz for a good few years now, and his 2018 3CD release doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of lengthy, sometimes overblown tracks but the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane and others is undoubtedly there and Washington is a powerful force in the jazz new wave. Heaven and Earth is highly recommended as is The Epic from 2016 and – a really good place to start for Washington novices – the Harmony of Difference EP.
We ended the show with a tune by UK DJ/producer/musician Kaidi Tatham, formerly of the influential Bugz in the Attic collective. As producers and remixers to many in the London broken beat scene, the Bugz released a couple of excellent compilations of their work – both worth looking out for. Tatham is now a prolific artist and producer in his own right having worked with Amy Winehouse, Slum Village, Mulatu Astatke, Soul II Soul, Amp Fiddler, Macy Gray, King Britt and DJ Spinna, Like the two Tunji selections, I See What You See was one of Neil’s selections and – at last – it got an airing. It’s an example of one of those many tunes we play on the show, without apology, which stretch beyond the boundaries of what some might call jazz. We love it. Tatham’s newest EP (released in October 2018) can be found here – again on Bandcamp.
- Tubis Trio – Flashback from Flashback
- Monosies – Passages from Stories of the Gray City
- Harold Lopez-Nusa – Contigo en la Distancia from Un Dia Cualquiera
- John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane
- Nat Birchall – Tunji from single release
- Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol from Heaven and Earth
- Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times
Derek is listening to…
- Jah 9 – Steamers A Bubble
- John Coltrane – Untitled Original 11383
- Maisha – Azure (live in Brownswood Basement)
- Ashley Henry Trio – St Annes EZH Sessions
- Frank Morgan – Lullaby
Neil is listening to…
What do you want to see on an album cover? An aesthetically pleasing piece of artwork, a photo of the musicians or an image that grabs your attention? One of the records from which a tune of over sixteen minutes is included in this week’s Cosmic Jazz probably comes into the latter category. It is almost scary in appearance – see for yourself. The cover, along with playing the music, was brought to my attention by staff at Soundclash Records in Norwich. The record is Work, Money, Death by Leeds-based tenor saxophonist Tony Burkill.
The show this week includes the outstanding tune from Tony’s album, Beginning and End: an intense tune that builds and builds, with Tony’s sustained sax playing, the insistent rhythms of the Headingley Hand Choir and guest piano from Matthew Bourne (the jazz musician, not the dancer). It is good to see records emerging from across the UK and not just London. Manchester is well established through Gondwana records and Tony is not the only jazz musician to emerge from Leeds – the Roller Trio came out of the music college in the city.
The show opened with two of the artists that over the years rank among the most-played on Cosmic Jazz. The first came from Carmen Lundy, who over a number of years has been right up there among our favourites. She is widely respected but does she get the veneration she deserves, does she perform in the UK as often as we could expect? Probably not. You’re Not In Love is one of those tunes which illustrate her strength of purpose not only through the lyrics but also her voice which at the same time has a sultry, sensuous quality. It is a live version from a concert recorded at the Madrid Theatre, Los Angeles in February 2005.
The second artist in this category is pianist Keith Jarrett from another live album After the Fall recorded in Newark, New Jersey in late 1998 but released in 2018. The selection this week is a classic tune When I Fall In Love, the first version of which was recorded in 1952. Here Jarrett is accompanied by classic jazz musicians – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums. Recommended.
The cover of the Jamie Saft Quartet was mentioned last week. Perhaps best ignored for the oblique, idiosyncratic words but the visuals are interesting. The most important thing, though, is the music. It is really good and, at times, outstanding. One of the very best tunes on the album Blue Dream (available on CD or double vinyl) on the excellent Rare Noise label is Words and Deeds. Listen out as the tenor sax of Bill McHenry comes blasting in – a powerful moment.
There a further reggae connectionon the show this week – this time from Nat Birchall, another sax player from the North of England. He has always cited dub reggae as one of his true inspirations and for his album Sounds Almighty has enlisted the support of veteran Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon, whose contributions to vintage ska back in the day are legendary. Also linked to the Caribbean, although more in name and political intent than through the music, is the highly recommended album from Nicholas Payton – Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. Nicholas Payton is one of an increasing number of black jazz musicians who are using their music as a vehicle to express political viewpoints.
The classical connection comes from John Coltrane from the newly-released lost album Both Directions At Once. The tune Vilia Take 3 is Coltrane’s improvisation of a piece from the operetta The Merry Widow by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Christian Lehar.
The show ends with another contribution from the British New Wave. The excellent Maisha from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood compilation We Out Here exemplifies the approach of these new groups.
- Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Live at the Madrid
- Keith Jarrett – When I Fall in Love from After the Fall
- Jamie Saft Quartet – Words and Deeds from Blue Dream
- Nat Birchall – Wisdom Dub from Sounds Almighty
- Nicholas Payton – Jazz is a Four Letter Word from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
- Tony Burkill – Beginning and End from Work, Money, Death
- John Coltrane – Vilia Take 3 from Both Directions At Once
- Maisha – Inside the Acorn from We Out Here
It is interesting how some music is more appropriate to re-interpretation than others. We have all heard some awful cover versions, in fact, some musicians seem to make a living out of it. Classic Brazilian music, however, does not suffer from this. I have found countless examples of different recordings of the same Brazilian tune – both past and present – and most of them seem to work. The show began this week with a fine example of this. Firstly, an original 1979 recording of Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser (All That You Could Be) from guitarist/composer Lo Borges, and then a 2018 version from London saxophonist Sean Khan with, among others, Brazilian singer Sabrina Malheiros on vocal, Jim Mullen (the veteran guitarist from Scotland) and Andy Noble prominent on Fender Rhodes and piano. The original is a heavenly, soaring piece while new version is exciting and sounds like one of those interpretations you would like to see live. Compare both with the first appearance of this classic in 1972 on the classic Clube da Esquina album from Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges. If you don’t have this masterpiece – invest now…
There was a reference to Brazil in the title of the next tune, Recado Bossa Nova from Bulgarian pianist Kostov Panta Konrad and his trio comprising a Polish drummer and bass player. Their album manages to combine original compositions with interpretations – and good ones too – of classical composers Albinoni, Chopin and Gershwin.
Japan is never far away from the programme and this week’s contribution came from DJ/musical director/former member of United Future Organisation Toshio Matsuura. It was from an album released by the Gilles Peterson’s label Brownswood under the direction of UK drummer Tom Skinner. Change a really interesting take on Bugge Wesseltoft’s tune from his superb album of the same name. Compare with the original here.
In fact, Tom Skinner was to appear later in the programme as a member of Sons of Kemet, the band led by sax player Shabaka Hutchings. This is such an original and politically significant album. The tuba of Theon Cross is prominent and provides almost a New Orleans sound but there is much else going on – in particular, the overt political messages as Shabaka Hutchings identifies some of the queens that are important to him. The example this week was Nanny of the Maroons. It has not always been recognised that the enslaved in the Caribbean resisted and fought their colonial oppressors. The Maroons were a community of the formerly enslaved who escaped to the hills of Jamaica, where they lived in freedom and resisted the British. Nanny of the Maroons was one of the leaders of that resistance.
Some of us can remember record sleeve notes that reached the land of the fanciful (to put it mildly) in terms of the way they described the music. There is a recent album cover where the notes verge towards this. Apparently “They’re on a chessboard, grading on, trading off”. Unlike, however, many of the past examples, the music is excellent. The album in question is Blue Dream by the Jamie Saft Quartet. Great musicians led by Jamie Saft on piano. Bill McHenry on tenor sax, Bradley Christopher Jones on acoustic bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Trivia point: Saft is undoubtedly the man with the longest beard in jazz.
The rest of the programme included another contribution from the lost John Coltrane album Both Directions At Once. It was a version of Impressions – surely one of ‘trane’s best, whichever interpretation you hear. That album will continue to feature on the programme in the coming weeks and probably beyond.
Someone whose sound suggests that he was influenced by Coltrane is Tony Burkill – but are there many tenor sax players who have not been? Burkill hails from Leeds, UK with contributions on his album Work, Money, Death from the Headingley Hand Choir, Neil Innes and Matthew Bourne. We followed up with more British music from the Ezra Collective, and then an upbeat ending from Finnish saxophonist Timo Lassy.
- Lo Borges – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from A Via-Lactea/Blue Brazil 1
- Sean Khan – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from Palmares Fantasy
- Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – Recado Bossa Nova from The Conversation
- Toshio Matsuura – Change from LOVEPLAYDANCE – 8 Scenes from the Floor
- Jamie Saft Quartet – Mysterious Arrangement from Blue Dream
- Tony Burkill – Work, Money, Death from Work, Money, Death
- Ezra Collective – Pure Shade from We Out Here
- Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons from Your Queen is a Reptile
- John Coltrane – Impressions from Both Directions at Once
- Timo Lassy – Northern Express from Lassy Moves
Derek is listening to…..
This week’s show has music I am really excited about. I enjoy every show but, almost inevitably, the music in some is extra special. It was one of those weeks.
After having just acquired the music there was only one place to start – the recently released ‘lost’ album from John Coltrane. What a joy for a new album to be released from the classic quartet of John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Both Directions At Once has 90 minutes of previously unheard music recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio on 6 March, 1963. The tapes of this album were found only recently in the possession of the family of Coltrane’s first wife Juanita Naima – the Impulse! label had no copies. There are versions of well-known pieces from the Coltrane repertoire such as Impressions and One Up, One Down but two of the tunes are untitled and it was one of these – Untitled original 11386 that was included in this week’s show. It should not be necessary to say this but at Cosmic Jazz we’d simply say that this album is essential for any jazz lover.
Often on the show I play tunes that have appeared on my iPod during the week and to which I give particular notice. This week it was another group discovered through Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the Audio Feeling Trio led by pianist Pawel Kaczmarczk. They have been described as like EST with Polish melancholy. Certainly on the tune Along the Milky Way you can hear the EST influences, but I’m not sure about that melancholy.
My favourite contemporary album of the moment comes from UK alto & soprano sax/flute player Sean Khan. Palmares Fantasy is released on the wonderful UK label Far Out and was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with additions in London. The album includes Brazilian royalty, featuring Hermeto Pascoal playing a variety of instruments – for example, Fender Rhodes and vocals on the title tune and melodica on Said, the two tunes played this week. There is also Azymuth drummer Ivan ‘Mamao’ Conti, described by Far Out publicity as Brazil’s answer to Tony Allen, plays on several tunes and Sabrina Malheiros is on vocals for a magnificent version of a classic Brazilian tune. There are also appearances from a doyen of the UK jazz scene, Glasgow-born guitarist Jim Mullen and former Cinematic Orchestra vocalist Heidi Vogel. It is essentially a jazz album but the sounds and feelings of Brazil are definitely in there.
It was after Sean Khan that the reggae began to appear. Anyone who knows me can vouch for my long-held love of reggae and any dub approaches in jazz-related music gets my attention. So it was great news to hear that Sons of Kemet – the band led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings – have been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize this year. Sadly they will probably end up as the token jazz-related group. [Neil notes] Hmm – I’m not so sure! With a relatively weak line up of competitors and the phenomenal popular interest in new British jazz, I think this could be the year when jazz breaks through. If so, then the will be the first ever jazz winner since the competition began in 1992. Whatever the outcome, it’s good news for sales of all the nominated albums. Watch this space…
Your Queen is a Reptile provides a powerful statement on British colonialism, history and nationality with Shabaka Hutchings creating tune titles which are a list of the ‘queens’ important to him. The queen in this week’s show is Mamie Phipps Clarke, who researched the detrimental effects of segregation on African-American school children. The toasting input came from Congo Natty.
Dub sounds continued with Mollison Dub, a track from young British pianist Joe Armon-Jones and his album Starting Today. The record includes contributions from Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, who appear also on Your Queen is a Reptile. Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are no strangers to reggae influences in their music and a track from their 2017 album Journey to the Mountain of Forever was a fitting end to this week’s show.
- John Coltrane – Untitled Original 11386 from Both Directions At Once
- Pawel Kazmarcz Audio Feeling Trio – Along the Milky Way from Deconstruction (Vars and Kaper).
- Sean Khan featuring Hermeto Pascoal – Palmares Fantasy from Palmares Fantasy.
- Sean Khan feat Hermeto Pascoal – Moment of Collapse from Palmares Fantasy
- Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Mamie Phipps Clarke from Your Queen is a Reptile
- Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
- Binker and Moses – Trees On Fire from Journey to the Mountain of Forever
Derek is listening to…
This was a pre-recorded show and on such occasions I tend to select some Cosmic Jazz favourites from albums we have played before. This week proved to be no exception.
We regularly celebrate emerging jazz artists from across the globe on this show and so we began with two contemporary Blue Note artists – Otis Brown III and Marcus Strickland – and both found themselves in the company of more well known CJ regulars. The 2014 (was it really that long ago?) release on from drummer Otis Brown III The Thought Of You has been a particular favourite and features some notable guests including vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Keyon Harrold – whose recent solo record we have featured – and keyboard player Robert Glasper. It’s tough, contemporary urban jazz. Next up was saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his 2016 album Twi-Life which – surprise, surprise, also included Keyon Harrold and Robert Glasper, this time alongside regular Robert Glasper Trio drummer Chris Dave and a rising star on the skins, Charles Haynes (no relation), who occasionally steps outside of the jazz world to tour with the likes of Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.
There were records from two trumpeters on the show this week. First up was the long-established Polish musician Piotr Wojtasik, whose music we continue to play on the show simply because it deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Wojtasik is a star who is not heard anything like as frequently as he should be on UK (and US) radio. All the more inexcusable when he surrounds himself (as here) with musicians of the calibre of Gary Bartz, Vincent Herring, Billy Harper, George Cables, Reggie Workman and Billy Hart. Yes – all appear on this album! As always, you can track it down at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.
Much more celebrated is US trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who, on his album When the Heart Emerges Glistening, did not surround himself with a bunch of starry sidemen but rather introduced a complete band – and it feels like it too. Although piano star Jason Moran (he of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet) produced the album and appears on a couple of tracks, this album has reflective, sensitive playing throughout from all personnel. Akimusire has continued to plough his own furrow: his 2017 live 2CD collection is as uncompromising as ever with alternately introspective and fiery music that bears extended listening. Like many jazz artists before him, Akinmusire appears to have been inspired by his recording venue – New York’s iconic Village Vanguard.
As often on Cosmic Jazz, we changed the tone with a Brazilian sequence. Singer/songwriter Sabrina Malheiros – daughter of the Azymuth bass player Alex Malheiros – produces cool but joyful samba/ jazz influenced music, and her record Clareia (released on the UK’s Far Out label in 2017) is a wonderful example of the genre. The record was produced in London by Daniel Maunick, son of Incognito founder Bluey Maunick, and a hit (again) at this year’s SingJazz Festival. Malheiros was born in 1979 so she may not now be a young Brazilian voice but she’s certainly the junior of a clear influence on her sound, Joyce Moreno. Here on Cosmic Jazz we admit to something of an infatuation with Joyce’s music. And – by the way – it’s not that which allows first name familiarity: in the tradition of her compatriots (Ceu, Cibelle and Simone), Joyce has gone by her first name since her earliest recordings. Born in 1948, her classic album Clareana was released a year after Sabrina Malheiros was born and she has continued recording for Far Out since the 1990s. The tune this week came from one of her more recent recordings for the label, the excellent Raiz. All of her work is highly recommended and there is a fine Mr Bongo compilation available to introduce her earlier music. To end our Brazilian sequence we featured another Brazilian veteran – singer/songwriter/guitarist Jorge Ben, master of an afrosamba style that has influenced many more contemporary Brazilian artists. Boiadero comes from one of Ben’s more disco-influenced albums (check the cover!) but is still a great tune. Check out an interesting Ben meets Fela with rap track in Neil’s listening choices (below) and for more Jorge Ben, new listeners should go straight to a mid70s classic, simply called Ben. It features two of his most enduring compositions Taj Mahal and Fio Marahvila, a musical ode to the 1970s star of the Brazilian soccer team Flamengo.
To end the show this week, it was back to the USA and another favourite. Jazzmeia Horn is a young singer born in Dallas, Texas but now based in New York. She won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015 and her excellent first album A Social Call emerged last year. It may be a record of jazz standards, but it is how Horn – ably supported by some superb musicians – transformed these tunes that made this album a real 2017 highlight.
- Otis Brown III – Stages of Thought from The Thought Of You
- Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Mirrors from Nihil Novi
- Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
- Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to My Unborn Daughter from When the Heart Emerges Glistening
- Sabrina Malheiros – Celebrar from Clareia
- Joyce Moreno – Desafinado/Aquarela do Brasil from Raiz
- Jorge Ben – Boiadero from Salve Simpatia
- Jazzmeia Horn – Lift Every Voice and Sing/Moanin’ from A Social Call
Derek is listening to:
- John Coltrane – Impressions
- Jamie Saft Trio – What Was It You Wanted
- Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile (promo video)
- Sean Khan – Palmares Fantasy feat. Hermeto Pascoal
- Ezra Collective – Enter the Jungle
Neil is listening to…