Tag Archives: John Coltrane

Week ending 30 November 2019: jazz in the 1970s

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.

  1. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
  3. Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
  4. Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  5. John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
  6. Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Derek is listening to… 

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 22 June 2019: ‘trane tracks

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.

  1. John Coltrane – One Up, One Down from Both Directions At Once
  2. Cecile McClorin Salvant – Growlin’ Dan from For One to Love
  3. Max Roach – All Africa from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  4. Horace Parlan – Home is Africa from Happy Frame of Mind/African Rhythms
  5. Adam Jarznik Quintet – On the Way Home from On the Way Home
  6. Ondrej Stveracek – Sketches from Sketches
  7. Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe from To Believe
  8. Jane Bunnett – Spirits of Havana from Spirits of Havana

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 24 November 2018: Coltrane’s heritage

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.

  1. Tubis Trio – Flashback from Flashback
  2. Monosies – Passages from Stories of the Gray City
  3. Harold Lopez-Nusa – Contigo en la Distancia from Un Dia Cualquiera
  4. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane
  5. Nat Birchall – Tunji from single release
  6. Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol from Heaven and Earth
  7. Kaidi Tatham – I See What You See from Hard Times

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 18 August 2018 – old, new and even (sort of) classical

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.

  1. Carmen Lundy – You’re Not In Love from Live at the Madrid
  2. Keith Jarrett – When I Fall in Love from After the Fall
  3. Jamie Saft Quartet – Words and Deeds from Blue Dream
  4. Nat Birchall – Wisdom Dub from Sounds Almighty
  5. Nicholas Payton – Jazz is a Four Letter Word from Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
  6. Tony Burkill – Beginning and End from Work, Money, Death
  7. John Coltrane – Vilia Take 3 from Both Directions At Once
  8. Maisha – Inside the Acorn from We Out Here

Week ending 11 August 2018: new versions and jazz classics

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.

  1. Lo Borges – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from A Via-Lactea/Blue Brazil 1
  2. Sean Khan – Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser from Palmares Fantasy
  3. Kostov Panta Konrad Trio – Recado Bossa Nova from The Conversation
  4. Toshio Matsuura – Change from LOVEPLAYDANCE – 8 Scenes from the Floor
  5. Jamie Saft Quartet – Mysterious Arrangement from Blue Dream
  6. Tony Burkill – Work, Money, Death from Work, Money, Death
  7. Ezra Collective – Pure Shade from We Out Here
  8. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Nanny of the Maroons from Your Queen is a Reptile
  9. John Coltrane – Impressions from Both Directions at Once
  10. Timo Lassy – Northern Express from Lassy Moves

Derek is listening to…..

  1. The Brothers Johnson – Strawberry letter 23
  2. Slave – You And Me
  3. The Blackbirds – Walking in Rhythm
  4. Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You
  5. Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine

Week ending 04 August 2018: reggae, Braziliance and a jazz master

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.

  1. John Coltrane – Untitled Original 11386 from Both Directions At Once
  2. Pawel Kazmarcz Audio Feeling Trio – Along the Milky Way from Deconstruction (Vars and Kaper).
  3. Sean Khan featuring Hermeto Pascoal – Palmares Fantasy from Palmares Fantasy.
  4. Sean Khan feat Hermeto Pascoal – Moment of Collapse from Palmares Fantasy
  5. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Mamie Phipps Clarke from Your Queen is a Reptile
  6. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
  7. Binker and Moses – Trees On Fire from Journey to the Mountain of Forever

Derek is listening to…

  1. Trio HLK & Evelyn Glennie – Extra Sensory Perception part ii
  2. Etana – Destination (Reggae Forever)
  3. Beres Hammond – I’m Alive
  4. Protoje – Who Knows feat Chronixx
  5. Timo Lassy – Northern Express (live)

Week ending 28 July 2018: some recent favourites

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.

  1. Otis Brown III – Stages of Thought from The Thought Of You
  2. Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Mirrors from Nihil Novi
  3. Piotr Wojtasik – Escape Part 3 from We Want to Give Thanks
  4. Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to My Unborn Daughter from When the Heart Emerges Glistening
  5. Sabrina Malheiros – Celebrar from Clareia
  6. Joyce Moreno – Desafinado/Aquarela do Brasil from Raiz
  7. Jorge Ben – Boiadero from Salve Simpatia
  8. Jazzmeia Horn – Lift Every Voice and Sing/Moanin’ from A Social Call

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 14 July 2018: Brazil and beyond

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of music in this week’s show. Cuba, USA, Brazil, Poland, Japan, France and the UK are all represented.

Our first tune is a family affair. Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill, along with pioneers Mario Bauza and Machito, were leaders in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz music. Bebo was a composer and pianist and Chico a composer and bandleader and now their sons have worked together to perform in concert and then to record as a tribute to their fathers. In this 2CD set even a third generation – their respective children – feature on the second CD. Ecucaion was composed by Bebo Valdes and has both Arturo and Chucho on piano. The CD notes describe it as demonstrating the elegant compositional style of Bebo with a rich soaring melody, sophisticated arrangement and lush harmonies. It is hard to disagree.

Our CJ music stayed Latin but shifted to Brazil. Wilson Simonal was a singer from Rio de Janeiro and Nana, recorded in 1964, is one of those Brazilian tunes that you wish had been embellished and lengthened. The instrumental break is exciting but I find myself wishing the musicians had been given the freedom to continue.  Although short and very sweet it’s a wonderful tune, and one that has you humming along and tapping your feet. Keyboard player/composer/arranger  Marcos Valle came next. Throughout his long career he has had a wide range of influences – bossa, soul, pop, electronica – but always with a Brazilian spirit. His music has been recorded by several Brazilian artists including Wilson Simonal. His excellent 2001 release Escape on the British Far Out label has some electronica moments but is a strong and recommended release that really captures Valle’s compositional qualities. Our Brazilian sequence this week ended with a jazzy piece recorded in 1968 by alto sax player and clarinetist Paula Moura who appeared on Cannonball Adderley’s 1962 Bossa Nova release and recorded music through to his death in 2010. This is his take on Milton Nascimento’s classic Tardes – try this version with Wayne Shorter from the excellent Native Dancer album.

The show continues to feature what appears to be the endless stream of exciting, young musicians from Poland. Emil Miszk is a trumpeter who leads the wonderfully named eight-piece Sonic Syndicate. The tune Chorale (Ballad No. 31) has a beautiful soaring chorale effect with Miszk’s trumpet at the head taking the lead. It was quite a change from the music of Brazil but its rapturous sounds soon take you to other interesting places. We followed this with more Polish music from the Confusion Project trio. The album Primal is divided into chapters and also takes you on a journey – this time to follow your instincts to discover primordiality!  Deep, soul-searching music.

There was a Polish-British connection with the piece from Alina Bzhezinska, a harpist brought up in Poland but now based in London, where she teaches harp at Goldsmith’s College. Bzhezinska is accompanied on her debut album Inspiration by British musicians – the fine and seemingly these days ever present saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer John Prime – on this version of another Coltrane favourite, his original composition After the Rain. This beautiful tune has been recorded by many jazz artists – compare with this respectful tribute from guitarist John McLaughlin (which features original Coltrane quartet drummer Elvin Jones vocalising over his kit).

Traditional British folk music is not something one would usually associate with jazz, Japan or spirituality but there’s a long traditional in jazz of improvising from traditional melodies – think of John Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves, for example – and these three elements certainly come together in a track from the excellent new(ish) Jazzman compilation Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan. The quartet Four Units deliver their take on that traditional folk club favourite Scarborough Fair – and very good it is too.

We ended Cosmic Jazz this week with Kamasi Washington and another track from his latest Heaven and Earth release. It’s very encouraging to see both this jazz album and the John Coltrane reissue Both Directions at Once placed high in worldwide music charts. The jazz renaissance continues apace!

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Ecuacion from Familia: Tribute to Bebo + Chico
  2. Wilson Simonal – Nana from Blue Brazil 2
  3. Marcos Valle – O India E o Brasil from Escape
  4. Paulo Moura Hepteto – Das Tardes Mas SOS from Mensagem/Bossa Jazz
  5. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Confusion Project – Upstream from Primal
  7. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration
  8. Four Units – Scarborough Fair from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  9. Kamasi Washington – Can You Hear Him from Heaven and Earth

Derek is listening to …..

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 30 June 2018: cosmic sounds and spiritual vibes

This week’s Cosmic Jazz featured five new releases and one old favourite. Check them all out by clicking on the tab left. First up was the opening track from Nat Birchall’s latest jazz release, suitably titled Cosmic Language. Birchall is an expert on Jamaican dub (check this out via his Sound Soul and Spirit website right here) but we should now add Indian ragas to his musical influences. Man from Varanasi replaces piano with the Indian harmonium, a small pump organ. The idea for the album came from a one-off performance at the Maharishi Golden Dome meditation centre in West Lancashire. Birchall brought along his own harmonium, an instrument he hadn’t previously used in his music. From this came the music that makes this latest release on the Jazzman label rather different from Birchall’s previous output.

Man from Varanasi is dedicated to Bismillah Khan, one of Birchall’s Indian influences, and sees him taking cues from the Indian raga tradition which underpinned Khan’s music. Like another clear influence, Birchall’s music travels along the path of Alice and John Coltrane in exploring jazz that is informed by Indian religious music and – like much of the music we feature on this show – Birchall explains that, for him, The whole act of making music is a spiritual experience. It’s during performance and when playing music that I look for a kind of truth. It’s with music where I find myself feel closest to attaining that ‘enlightened’ kind of feeling. On rare occasions I’ve actually felt as though I was listening to the music being played rather than being involved in making it, almost like an out-of-body experience. 

It’s worth adding that Birchall has moved even further way from jazz  with his second release this year. Sounds Almighty is an instrumental roots reggae dub LP featuring legendary Jamaican trombonist Vin Gordon who has played with Bob Marley and The Wailers, Burning Spear, Yabby You and many more. All original tunes on the album were recorded old school style on vintage analogue equipment and mixed by dub master Al Breadwinner at the Bakery Studio in Manchester. The vinyl edition is limited to 500 copies.

It was inevitable given his current status in the contemporary jazz world that Kamasi Washington had to be included in this week’s show following the recent release of his Heaven and Earth record. Anyone who loved Washington’s first release, the suitably titled 3CD set The Epic, will go for this record too. It has all the familiar elements – the full-blown orchestra, that choir and Washington’s rasping sax sounds. But this new one is more than just a rerun of The Epic. First thing is a surprise addition – on both vinyl and CD versions there’s a third disc hiding in the packaging. It wasn’t in the pre-release review copies and so we’ve focused on it in this week’s show. This third disc is called The Choice and includes some notable covers, including Ooh Child, originally recorded by Chicago soul group The Five Stairsteps.

There is also a cosmic feel to Chip Wickham’s The Mirage – and a connection to Nat Birchall in that it features another Manchester musician, trumpeter Matthew Halsall, in whose band Birchall used to play. In fact, I have witnessed them playing together.

We followed this with two tunes that went back to the roots of rather contrasting locations and sounds. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials were part of a heathy 1990s New York club scene that fused jazz, rap, and funk and their 1995 album Cool and Steady and Easy introduced their great take on Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has a Master Plan. Behind the collective of over 20 musicians was legendary producer Arthur Baker, whose great 12″ house single It’s Your Time I am listening to as I write [notes Derek]. Brooklyn Funk Essentials are due in London soon – it should be quite a party.

Rooted in a different way is Joachim Mencel, a Polish pianist who also plays the hurdy gurdy and fuses Polish and Slavic folk music with modern jazz. Each tune on his latest album Artisena is named after a Polish traditional dance and whilst Mencel’s music has an authentic traditional sound, it is definitely modern jazz. One has to treat fusions with caution but this one – like Nat Birchall’s – really does work. With Mencel are Weronika Plutecka (violin), Syzon Mika (guitar), Pawel Wszolek (double bass) and Syzmon Madej (drums). As with much of the excellent Polish jazz we play on the show, this album comes direct from Steve’s Jazz Sounds – check out their superb stock.

To end the show we focused on a new/old release. The list of ‘bootleg’ sets uncovered by Columbia Records from the Miles Davis vaults continues to surprise. The 4CD set Volume 6 features Davis with Coltrane in his final concerts with the band and we included one of the most famous tunes in all jazz, Davis’s composition So What, recorded live in Paris. The tensions on this final tour created some stunning performances from both artists and whilst many of the tunes may be familiar to listeners, these new versions will surprise. It’s difficult to guess what will be next in this seemingly inexhaustible series but I’m personally waiting for the craziness of Miles in Japan on his last tour before retirement in 1975. Some of this fractured, angry music has been released already but there is undoubtedly more. You can see and hear music from the Osaka show right here.

  1. Nat Birchall – Man from Varanasi from Cosmic Language
  2. Kamasi Washington – My Family from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  3. Kamasi Washington – Ooh Child from The Choice/Heaven and Earth
  4. Chip Wickham feat. Matthew Halsall – The Mirage from Shamal Wind
  5. Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Take the L Train (To Brooklyn) from Cool and Steady and Easy
  6. Joachim Mencel Quintet – Kojawiak F – Moll from Artisena
  7. Miles Davis and John Coltrane – So What (Olympia Paris, France, March 21 1960 Final Concert) from The Bootleg Series Vol. 6

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 23 June 2018: leftfield jazz and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was big on new leftfield sounds – and some of them may not even be jazz. As always, you decide. We began with Quin Kirchner and his six piece band. Drums and Tines Part 2 comes from his surprising new release that shuttles between big band jazz of the kind that could have come from Charlie Mingus at his peak to more outre stuff like our opening track, which reflects Kirchner’s background as a drummer with – among others – Nomo, who employ centrestage the kind of African kalimba (or thumb piano) sounds you heard here. This excellent album – a full 90 minutes of invention – is titled The Other Side of Time. We recommend that you check out and buy the whole thing here on Bandcamp.

More from Kirchner to follow – his straightahead reading of Sun Ra’s Brainville, a composition from an early album (1957) called Sun Song – and then, to complete our leftfield start, Ornette Coleman and the title track from his album Broken Shadows (1971). With Coleman on alto sax was Don Cherry on trumpet, Dewey Redman on tenor,  Charlie Haden on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.

Next up was a chance to head back to the current BritJazz scene with the rather unexpected lilting choice from Kokoroko, a UK ensemble with an all-female horn section led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey. Abusey Junction ends the Brownswood collection We Out Here which we’ve showcased heavily over the last couple of months. The solo guitarist is Oscar Jerome. The show continued with a last listen (for now) to these new British sounds with a track from Nubya Garcia and her 12inch single release When We Are with its powerful drumming from Femi Koleoso. The vinyl is (of course) now sold out, but you can still download digitally from the Bandcamp site here.

Staying very much on the left side we next checked out a remix project. Santuri’s Embaire Umeme from the Mugwisa International Xylophone Group has been reconstructed by Soundthread’s Sam Jones from village recordings in Uganda. He described the process: Having captured the instrument in its natural habitat we set about finding the appropriate producers to then re-articulate the sessions. For my construct I was keen to keep the essence of the instrument and its players as true as possible. Borrowing from the cyclical nature true to its original played style, adding minimal classic old synths, tape delays, guitar stabs and some vocals.

The newest album from Californian trio Bitchin’ Bajas includes a Sun Ra cover and so we had to air it here on Cosmic Jazz. The band creates sprawling soundscapes that mix psychedelia, drone music, kosmiche and cosmic jazz and their take on Ra’s Angels and Demons at Play is a fascinating take on Ra’s 1960 track from the album of the same name. It dramatically slows down the melody and creates something unique. It seemed appropriate to follow this with a cut from French DJ Blundetto’s latest on the ever-creative Heavenly Sweetness label. Max Guiguet is a programme planner on the excellent Radio Nova and World Of… is his third release and features soulful reggae vibes with guest vocalists including Biga Ranx, New York MC Jahdan Blakamoore and newcomers John Milk and Marina P.

We ended the show this week with a return to more mainstream jazz from altoist Art Pepper. Much of Pepper’s work from the 1950s is well known but this take on Red Car is from the end of Pepper’s troubled career in jazz. By the spring of 1981 Pepper was riding what would be the last creative wave of his checkered career. Just over a year later he was to die of a stroke. Incarcerated several times as a result of his heroin addiction, Pepper enjoyed a prolific period through the mid1970s to the turn of the decade, and – in this reviewer’s opinion – was playing some of the most creative, spiky music of his career. The story behind the track is that Pepper decided he wanted a new car, and Les Koenig (owner of the record label Contemporary Records) advanced him the money for a bright red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Pepper’s widow Laurie Pepper has been curating her husband’s many live releases from these years and this 12 minute version of Red Car comes from one of his last albums, recorded live in Japan in 1981. The quartet features Pepper on alto sax, George Cables on piano, David Williams on drums and Carl Burnett on drums. What a way to finish!

  1. Quin Kirchner – Drums and Tines Part 2 from The Other Side of Time
  2. Quin Kirchner – Brainville from The Other Side of Time
  3. Ornette Coleman – Broken Shadows from Broken Shadows
  4. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
  5. Nubya Garcia – When We Are 12inch single
  6. Mugwisa International Xylophone Group – Santuri’s Embaire Umeme EP
  7. Bitchin’ Bajas – Angels and Demons at Play from Bajas Fresh
  8. Blundetto – Hands for Silver from World Of…
  9. Art Pepper – Red Car from The Complete Abashiri Concert, 1981

Neil is listening to…