Tag Archives: John Coltrane

25 January 2016: Neil’s pre-Singapore selection

This week’s CJ was a last chance for Neil to cram in some of his current listening before he heads off to Singapore. We started with more tracks from recent albums – the 2015 sophomore release from bass player Ben Williams and that excellent collection of Sun Ra singles on the Strut label which emerged at the end of last year.

We followed this with a real delight. Creating a convincing remix of the iconic A Love Supreme has to be one of the tougher remix assignments, but skinnerbox has achieved the near impossible with his take on Coltrane’s finest work. Of course, this isn’t the real thing, but it undoubtedly captures the spirit and grace of the original. Well worth hearing in its 14 minute entirety too – listen on Soundcloud here. Take in that cool twist on McCoy Tyner’s piano at 8:25 onwards.

It made sense to follow skinnerbox with another remix project – this time from Kiwi musician and producer Mark de Clive-Lowe who has put together a very convincing melange of Blue Note tracks into an impressive two part remix. You can download Part 1 of the project here for free, or buy a limited edition vinyl version from Bandcamp, Juno and other outlets. Want more new de Clive-Lowe? Then check out a track from his latest release in Neil’s listening choices below.

You might have through the next track on the show was part of de Clive-Lowe’s project (especially as we didn’t credit it on air!), but this was in fact vibesman Dave Pike, giving a refreshingly contemporary twist to the classic Besame Mucho. What really lifts the track is the drum break – shades of Joe Morello’s break on Take Five I think, but – whatever – Walter Perkins achieves something great here.

It was time to check out two singers I never tire of hearing, Mark Murphy and Gregory Porter. I’ve written elsewhere on this website about Murphy: his lyrical invention, rich tone and perennially cool demeanour will ensure he will remain one of the key jazz vocalists. I chose the excellent take on Milton Nascimento’s Nada Sera Como Antes that is one of the many killer tracks from the Muse years, although it doesn’t feature on the recently released compilation from Soul Brother Records. Instead, you can find it on the excellent Songbook collection or the indispensable 1984 album Brazil Song.

And – in many ways – Gregory Porter has inherited something of the Murphy mantle. There’s the tone, the space he gives his band and – something special – his own songs. Murphy was a genius at vocalese – the art of adding lyrics to existing jazz tunes or solos – but Porter is a great songwriter too. Don’t Be a Fool is an excellent example from his 2016 release Take Me to the Alley. Porter is an enigma: whilst much of his music might function as pop music it resolutely isn’t in the arrangements,  extended solos and (sometimes) challenging lyrics that don’t seem to put off his huge popular demographic. That’s right – no sell out!

We ended the show with some fun from Marcos Valle. He composed the soundtrack to a film portrait of 1970s Brazilian F1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi and if you’re unfamiliar with the huge sideburns of Brazil’s finest pre-Senna driver you can see the opening credits of Roberto Farias’s film here. We played the title music from the film but the complete soundtrack is also available on YouTube.

Before this came two jazz originals – neglected alto player Arthur Blythe and iconic pianist McCoy Tyner. The huge rolling wave that is Tyner’s Horizon and the rollicking Blythe original Down San Diego Way are both tunes that stay in the memory long after they’ve ended. Both are ones you will want to hear again – so check out the Listen Again feature on this week’s show and enjoy the music.

  1. Ben Williams – Black Villain from Coming Of Age
  2. Sun Ra – Mayan Temple from Sun Ra Singles
  3. Skinnerbox – A Love Supreme from Bandcamp download
  4. Mark de Clive-Lowe – extract from Blue Note Remixed from Bandcamp download
  5. The Dave Pike Quartet – Besame Mucho from Pike’s Peak
  6. Mark Murphy – Nothing Will Be As It Was Tomorrow from Songbook
  7. Gregory Porter – Don’t Be A Fool from Take Me to the Alley
  8. McCoy Tyner – Horizon from Horizon
  9. Arthur Blythe – Down San Diego Way from Lenox Avenue Brengakdown
  10. Marcos Valle with Azymuth – Fittipaldi Show  from O Fabuloso Fittipaldi original film score

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Neil is listening to:

05 October 2016: Polish jazz – a musical journey

So what is it with jazz in Poland? Since the end of the Second World War, jazz has been a leading cultural identity in Poland in a way that can’t be said of most other European countries. What’s the origin of this adoption of American’s greatest art form in old world Europe? For a concise history of jazz in Poland, check out this All About Jazz primer, Polish Jazz for Dummies.

Krzysztof Komeda Trzcinski, ur 1931 Poznan, zm 1969 Warszawa, kompozytor, pianista jazzowy, studia medyczne Poznan, tworca znanych na calym swiecie standardow jazzowych i muzyki filmowej

It’s impossible not to mention the single most important influence on the direction of Polish jazz – Krzysztof Komeda. One of the founders of the legendary band Melomani, Komeda began his jazz career in 1956 and continued to dominate the burgeoning Polish jazz scene until his early death at the age of 38 in 1968. Komeda’s role in Polish jazz cannot be explained in just a few sentences. He was a composer, visionary, collaborator and leader – but this doesn’t fully explain how he came to wield such influence. There’s more than a touch of Miles Davis in what fellow musicians who played with him have said about the overwhelming impact his music and personality made on them. Komeda’s long time collaborator, tomasz-stanko-wislawatrumpeter Tomasz Stanko, is typical: Komeda was a very quiet man. At rehearsals he told us nothing, nothing. He would give us a score and we would play and the silence was very strong and intense. He wouldn’t say if we were right or wrong in our approach. He’d just smile…. He showed me how simplicity is vital, how to play the essential. Look at Komeda in action with his group here in 1967. Stanko is on trumpet and this performance is a tribute to John Coltrane.

If you’re looking to start listening to Polish jazz, any Tomasz Stanko release on ECM would be a good place to begin, whether an early album like Balladyna or one of his later releases – perhaps Wislawa with his superb New York Quartet. Our show this week began with possibly our favourite Polish jazzer at the moment, Piotr Wojtasik, 0004367745_350who for us here at CJ, is is right up there with the best European saxophonists. Indeed, we think he’s the equal of better known artists like Louis Sclavis (France), Jan Garbarek (Norway), Shabaka Hutchings (UK) and Jonas Kullhammar (Sweden). Derek played three stunning tracks from his recent album Old Land and then linked Poland and the new world with a track from a new release by saxophonist Boris Janczarski with veteran American drummer Stephen McCraven, father of hot new Chicago-based drummer Makaya McCraven.

Coltrane ended the show. We’ve been on something of a ‘trane tip over the last couple of weeks but Derek was moved to play this particular track after enjoying it on a late night car drive. Not all ‘lost’ live jazz recordings are worth investigating – but this one undoubtedly is. The broadcast recording is incomplete – the opening title track One Up, One Down had already been playing for 35 minutes and goes on to feature Coltrane’s longest ever recorded solo of 27 minutes. This sounds indulgent even by comparison with – for example – the extended performances on Coltrane’s Live in Japan release, but it’s not. The performances here are sensational with all four members of the classic quartet delivering dramatic solos. One Up, One Down is an essential record in the Coltrane canon with an unusually good live recording sound. On a good system, you are there in this tiny New York club listening to the finest quartet jazz has so far produced. We cannot recommend it highly enough.

Derek chojohn-coltrane-live-at-the-half-notese My Favorite Things with Coltrane uniquely uses the tenor sax to introduce the tune before switching to the soprano. Again, after around 23 minutes the broadcast fades but not before radio presenter Alan Grant has captured Coltrane on peak form. That’s Cosmic Jazz this week: a saxophone journey from eastern Europe to the western new world. Clock on the block arrow left to enjoy the music.

  1. Piotr Wojtasik – Old Land from Old Land
  2. Piotr Wojtasik – Blackout from Old Land
  3. Piotr Wojtasik – Dr. Gachet from Old Land
  4. Janczarski and McCraven Quintet – Travelling West from Travelling East West
  5. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things from One Down, One Up – Live at the Half Note

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Neil is listening to…

28 September 2016: Cosmic Jazz favourites revisited

jazz-vinyl-spines

From time to time we like to play again some of our all-time Cosmic Jazz favourites. How do we select them? It’s difficult – there’s so many to choose from but here’s another selection for you to enjoy. We started with Black Renaissance, the masterpiece from keyboardist Harry Whitaker that became well known on its reissue in 2002. Recorded in 1976, this masterpiece fuses the influences Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and the Last Poets in a unique soblack-renaissance-cvrund that simply refuses to date. This legendary session was recorded by Roy Ayers’ keyboardist Whitaker working here as the leader of the Black Renaissance group, a one-shot ensemble that featured Woody Shaw on trumpet, Azar Lawrence on saxes, Buster Williams on bass, and Mtume on percussion. The music appeared on a rare bootleg that came out briefly in Japan but eventually appeared 25 years later on the Ubiquity label – and was immediately cited by DJs and souljazzers as a a key recording. And it is. The album features just two long tracks, both of them strong ensemble numbers that build Strata East-like with spoken and singing voices in a hip, socially conscious mode.  It’s a reminder of a time in music when – across the genres – exploration was the norm and so should still be celebrated as a pioneering work.

jimmy-heath-the-gap-sealerProbably uniquely, the three Heath brothers were each jazz stars – Percy on bass, Albert (Tootie) on drums and Jimmy on tenor saxophone. When performing as the Heath Brothers, they latterly recruited Jimmy’s son Mtume on drums and percussion – and he appears on this album from 1972 along with uncle Albert on drums and the great Kenny Barron on piano. In addition to the title track, the other standout is Alkebu-Lan (Land of the Blacks) which also appeared on Mtume’s first outing as leader in the same year. This extremely rare Strata East outing is a free jazz double album recorded at iconic New York venue The East, perhaps best known for an almost equally
challenging Pharoah Sanders live album that captures Sanders at his 1970s best in three lengthy track, the best of which is the opener, The Healing Song. It’s not easy to get this album now, but the whole thing is here on YouTube in a good transfer. Thematically, Alkeb
u-Lan (Land of the Blacks) – Live at the East links closely with Black Renaissance and features an all star lineup of Carlos Garnett, Leroy Jenkins, Gary Bartz, Stanley Cowell, Buster Williams and Billy Hart.  Criminally, it is still to be reissued but, in the meantime, you can hear the album in full right here.

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Particularly in this 90th anniversary of his birth, CJ thinks that you never have too much John Coltrane. So what could be more appropriate than the epic Song of the Underground Railroad from the Complete Africa Brass Sessions? We have featured this track several times on the show – it’s from Coltrane’s first album for the Impulse! label and features radical brass arrangements. Africa, the core piece of the initial release,  was a huge influence on composer Steve Reich who said Africa, which was the piece that made the biggest impression on me, is a half an hour on E. And you would say, ‘Well, it’s impossible. It’s going to be boring, You can’t sustain that.’ But he did. You can hear the whole piece here and listen to a mesmerising performance of Reich’s celebrated Drumming here.

gary-bartz-ive-known-riversUp next was saxophonist Gary Bartz. Like many great saxophonists, he first appeared with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers before Miles Davis recruited him on Live/Evil (1971). It wasn’t long before he established himself as a leader with the Ntu Troop and recorded some excellent albums, including I’ve Known Rivers and Other Bodies (1973) – a live set from the Montreux Jazz Festival. Bartz had a long association with pianist McCoy Tyner and appeared on several of his albums. Look out for a more recent album from 2012 called Coltrane Rules: Tao Music Warrior which features classic Coltrane tunes, including an extended modal reading of I Concentrate on You.

dollar-brand-african-marketplacePianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) recorded the classic African Marketplace in 1979 and it remains one of his finest records. The opening track Whoza Mtwana sets the scene: a series of South African folkloric anthems which play tribute to Ibrahim’s childhood, all perfectly realised in the beautiful cover art of the original vinyl sleeve. The album features alto player Carlos Ward, longtime saxophonist stalwart with Ibrahim and a 12-piece group including trombonist Craig Harris and bass player Cecil McBee.  Every tune has a memorable melody but especially The Homecoming Song, Anthem for the New Nation and The Wedding. Check out the full length version of the title track here and, for a perfect encapsulation of Carlos Ward’s emotive alto playing, listen to 1:45 of sheer bliss from Don Cherry’s Relativity Suite album.

The final selection this week was a CJ favourite who also got an airing on the show last week. Joe Henderson was extensively joe-henderson-our-thingrecorded throughout his playing career – first with Blue Note, then Milestone and finally with Verve. Derek’s selection was from Henderson’s second album on Blue Note, recorded in 1963. It’s classic Blue Note in every way – engineered by Rudy van Gelder, with cover art and design by Reid Miles and photography by Blue Note founder Francis Wolff. That’s CJ this week – are any your favourites too?

  1. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Body Mind and Spirit
  2. Jimmy Heath – The Gap Sealer from The Gap Sealer
  3. John Coltrane – Song of the Underground Railroad from Complete Africa Brass Sessions
  4. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – I’ve Known Rivers from I’ve Known Rivers and Other Bodies
  5. Abdullah Ibrahim – Whoza Mtwana from African Marketplace
  6. Joe Henderson – Our Thing from Our Thing

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Neil is listening to…

21 September 2016: keeping jazz in the family

ravi-coltrane

This week’s CJ features music chosen by Neil before his departure to Singapore. We started the show with a very different version of a tune familiar to Cosmic Jazz listeners. This week saw the 90th anniversary of John Coltrane’s birth (23 September) and so we featured two classic ‘trane compositions – Alabama and Tunji. We have played the impassioned Alabama before on the show – and told the essential backstory. If you don’t know, then check out this radio feature on Alabama which suggests that (just as with the suite A Love Supreme) Coltrane based the cadences and rhythms of the tune on the spoken word – in this case, Martin Luther King’s funeral eulogy on the four girls killed in the Montgomery firebombing. Our other two versions will be much less familiar to CJ fans.

In Movemdejohnette-in-movementent, the new ECM album from Jack DeJohnette is a stunner. It’s a collaboration between DeJohnette and the sons of two musicians who featured in the classic Coltrane quartet – Ravi Coltrane (pictured above) and Matthew Garrison, bass playing son of Jimmy Garrison – so it seems appropriate that they should cover Alabama. In fact, all three of the album cover tunes are inspired – how about EWF’s Serpentine Fire?! The whole thing is suffused with subtle electronics from Garrison and sounds like a reinvigoration for DeJohnette who – at 74 – is arguably
on his best ever form.

The late Bernie Worrell was not just the keyboard player behind George Clinton’s funk groups Parliament and Funkadelic but an bernie worrell elevationadventurous jazz pianist in his own right. He committed only one solo piano album to disc and Elevation: the Upper Air was stunning result. There are no keyboard histrionics here – just quiet reflective versions of some tunes old and new that could now be called standards. One of them is our second look at Alabama. Other surprising inclusions on this gentle album are Carlos Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. It won’t be easy to find this album but it’s worth tracking down – and the excellent sound quality (thanks to producer Bill Laswell) is a bonus.

arthur-blythe-illusionsIn between these two impassioned performances was alto player Arthur Blythe. With a tone all his own, Blythe is one of the most underrated alto players in jazz. When he emerged in New York aged 37, he was already fully formed as a player. For me, Blythe has the same quality of sound as trumpeter Lester Bowie – a free-influenced player who is also capable of playing older styles in an utterly personal and borderline iconoclastic way. This new four album, two CD reissue on enterprising British label BGP is highly recommended. All four albums were the result of Blythe’s contract with Columbia Records – until they dropped him in favour of rising star Wynton Marsalis. The rest – as they say – is history… I bought Blythe’s Lenox Avenue Breakdown album when it when it first appeared in 1979 – but I didn’t get Illusions, this later one.  I should have done. My Son Ra is from is a blast from start to finish. Bob Stewart’s tuba is there still and James Blood Ulmer is on guitar too. This is another tribute title – it’s for his son Raschid.  

I just had to follow this with some authentic John Coltrane and so chose Tunji from Coltrane (the Deluxe Edition). This version is one of the several alternative versions on the extra disc and is taken rather faster than the one which appears on the initial album release. The title is a tribute to percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, of course – and he appears here in an updated performance of his classic Drums of Passion, this time adding modern beats with the help of Airto Moreira and Mickey Hart.

massive-attack-blue-linesEarlier this month, I was inspired by watching a rather good BBC4 television documentary on Massive Attack and their origins in the Bristol music scene of the late 1980s. It was a fascinating portrait, largely told through the eyes of the Wild Bunch collective founder Milo Johnson. Watch the full documentary Unfinished: The Making of Massive Attack along with these photographs of Bristol in the 1980s by Beezer. As Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines played over the end credits, I thought that this would make an excellent CJ opening track. Of course, it’s a great song but I think this version tops the excellent William DeVaughn original. By the way, Vince Montana of the Salsoul Orchestra played vibes on that original version. Here he is with the extended sextet version of the classic Heavy Vibes from a 1982 edition of Soul Train. Love the dancing…

Pianist Ahmad Jamal appears to be having a late career revival at the moment – but the reality is that he’s never gone away. Stolen Moments from The Awakening (1970) on the Impulse! label is a surely a tune that you can’t get wrong – and Jamal doesn’t disappoint, twisting and turning round the tune once he gets going with that really chordal percussive stye of his. About half way through he just runs off on another journey but is soon back with the theme – this version is just a delight. You can catch Jamal on fine live form at Marciac, France here with a radical version of Blue Moon

Wayne Shorter is one of the greatest living jazz artists. Now in hiswayne-shorter-odyssey-of-iska 80s, he is still at the top of his game – for example, delighting audiences at this year’s September Monterey Jazz Festival. Here he is on his very last outing for the label with the tune Joy from Odyssey of Iska. It’s quite difficult to get hold of this one on either vinyl or CD but look out for the album and its equally elusive predecessor Mato Grosso Feio. Both albums feature that Shorter’s unique elipical compositions and his radically different playing style on tenor and soprano saxes – the former gruff and rasping, the latter lean and clear. Odyssey of Iska features two drummers and two percussionists, along with vibes too, and yet the whole feels very light and airy. Interesting. A footnote: Iska was named after Shorter’s young daughter.

joe-henderson

Shorter began on the iconic Blue Note label and so did his contemporary Joe Henderson, one of CJ’s long time heroes. Even if you dip your musical toes into something more obscure from the extensive Henderson back catalogue (like Terra Firma from Black is the Color) you won’t go wrong. Easily dateable from the drums and the little bits of synth, this outing on Milestone is still pure deep Henderson – overdubbed on both tenor and soprano saxes along with flute too. Yes, there’s some wah wah style guitar and some synthesizer decorations,  but there’s some punchy electric bass too (unusually) from Ron Carter. That’s CJ this week – keeping it in the family.

  1. DeJohnette/Coltrane/Garrison – Alabama from In Movement
  2. Arthur Blythe – My Son Ra from Illusions
  3. John Coltrane – Tunji from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Bernie Worrell – Alabama from Elevation: the Upper Air
  5. Massive Attack – Be Thankful for What You’ve Got from Blue Lines
  6. Ahmad Jamal – Stolen Moments from The Awakening
  7. Wayne Shorter – Joy from Odyssey of Iska
  8. Joe Henderson – Terra Firma from Black is the Color

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Neil is listening to…

07 September 2016: Rudy van Gelder special

Rudy Van Gelder used his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.
Rudy Van Gelder used his parents’ living room in Hackensack, N.J., as his recording studio in the mid-1950s.

This week’s Cosmic Jazz was all about one man – Rudy van Gelder, whose death was announced late last month. Van Gelder was, without doubt, one of the most important figures in the history of jazz music – but he wasn’t a musician. As an engineer, he helped to define the sound of recorded jazz from his two iconic recording studios – first in Hackensack at his parents’s home and then at his own custom built studio (and home) at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

herbie-hancock-maiden-voyageVan Gelder always said that he was not a record producer but a recording engineer. He had the final say in what Englewood Cliffs records sounded like, and he was, in the view of countless producers, musicians and listeners, better at that than anyone. Van Gelder engineered albums for four key labels – Prestige, Blue Note, Impulse and CTI – and was responsible for so many jazz classics, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and Horace Silver’s Song For My Father.

In 1988, van Gelder told the New York Times that he believed he had been associated with more records, technically, than anybody else in mccoy-tyner-horizonthe history of the record business – and any look at the list of records engineered at Englewood Cliffs endorses this. So, here at CJ, we’ve tried to condense some of the Englewood Cliffs experience into an hour of classic jazz recordings. We began with the title track from Horizon, one of the best of McCoy Tyner’s many recordings for Milestone. This record is a stonecold classic – find it and buy it if you can. The inspired choice of John Blake on violin and saxophonist George Adams complement Tyner perfectly as he weaves through a series of superb compositions, of which Horizon is the most exceptional. Up next was a more familiar recording – Oliver Nelson’s Impulse! label classic Stolen Moments from his 1961 album The Blues and the Abstract Truth. This standard has now been recorded by dozens of artists including a celebrated vocal version by Mark Murphy that we have featured previously on CJ.

John Coltrane was much recorded at Englewood Cliffs, from the early days with Prestige to his long tenure at Impulse! Records. We chose a classic from 1962 – the studio recording of Impressions. This track is pure Coltrane – although it uses the same chord sequence as john-coltrane-coltraneMiles Davis’s So What, it couldn’t be more different. Impressions is modal piece featuring what had become known by the time of this recording as Coltrane’s sheets of sound. Listen to the free-flowing drumming of Elvin Jones and how he is tuned to the pulse and energy of Coltrane’s saxophone tones. For us at CJ, this is one of those timeless Coltrane recordings that belong with Blue Train, Ole and A Love Supreme. Seek out the deluxe version of the Impulse! album just called Coltrane and you’ll find the recording we featured.

There are some great records that feature recipes – one of my favourites is Don Cherry’s Rappin’ Recipe on his little known album Home Boy, Sister Out. Check out the track Alphabet City here. We larry-coryell-barefoot-boywedged in the comic double act of trumpeter Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill with their 1966 recipe Spanish Rice before the arrival of Gabor Szabo’s Gypsy Queen, a track recorded by Santana on their excellent Abraxas album. But it’s a tune that has a jazz pedigree as well – I’ve always enjoyed the version by guitarist Larry Coryell.

Rudy van Gelder was reluctant to reveal too many specifics about sam-rivers-fuchsia-swing-songhis recording techniques. But he was clear about his goal: to get electronics to accurately capture the human spirit, and to make the records he engineered sound as warm and as realistic as possible. The
placing of microphones was crucial in this process and the result was that many of his recordings (particularly those from the late 1950s and early 1960s have a presence that often places the musicians in the room with the listener. That’s true of many of the recordings we featured in this week’s show and even on an MP3 file you can hear this. Listen closely to Sam Rivers’ tenor saxophone on Beatrice for a taste of this. Van Gelder wanted what he called
 a sense of space in the overall sound picture. He used specific microphones located in places that allowed the sonny-rollins-alfiemusicians to sound as though they were playing from different locations in the room, which in reality they were. This created a feeling of dimension and depth that few other recordings have. Whether it’s Sonny Rollins’s sax on Alfie’s Theme or Tommy Flanagan’s claves on Samba Para Bean you can hear it all so clearly.

WVANGR03
WVANGR03

As a former optometrist, van Gelder was particularly fussy about the small details of recording. He said I was the guy doing everything — setting up the chairs, running the floor cables, setting the microphones, working the console. I didn’t want to handle all of my fine, expensive equipment with dirty hands. It shows. Even more, van Gelder was involved in every aspect of making his records, from preparation rudy-van-gelder-run-off-grooveto mastering (the final stage in the process) in which the music on tape was transferred to disc for record-plant pressing. I always wanted to be in control of the entire recording chain, he said. Why not? It had my name on it. This – of course – was true: if you look at the run off groove on any Rudy van Gelder vinyl recording you will see his initials.

  1. McCoy Tyner – Horizon from Horizon
  2. Oliver Nelson – Stolen Moments from Stolen Moments
  3. John Coltrane – Impressions from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  4. Clark Terry and Chico O’Farrill – Spanish Rice from Spanish Rice
  5. Gabor Szabo – Gypsy Queen from Spellbinder
  6. Jackie McLean – Francisco from Capuchin Swing
  7. Horace Silver – Home Cookin’ from The Stylings of Silver
  8. Sonny Rollins – Alfie’s Theme from Alfie
  9. Sam Rivers – Beatrice from Fuchsia Swing Song
  10. Coleman Hawkins – Samba Para Bean from Desafinado

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Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to…

22 June 2016: jazz with a message

Jazz and protest go hand in hand, and this week’s theme of jazz with a message seems particularly timely. As always, click the MixCloud button (left) to hear this week’s CJ and check out the embedded links below. 19th century writer and social john_coltrane_order_is_everythingreformer Harriet Martineau said, If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power. Well, after a decision that has literally split the UK, we too will soon find out how one half treats the other. Of course, we are not comparing the post-Brexit environment with the social circumstances that generated the radical, fierce equal rights messages so powerfully conveyed in our music this week. But we can always reflect on the power of music to help define where we are and what we feel.

Radical music will not – by definition – be easy listening. Good. Stay with it and appreciate the part that great black music played in achieving social change in the USA. To begin with there were marion brown vistaVisions: Have I lived to see the milk and honey land,
Where hate’s a dream and love forever stands?
This is Stevie Wonder filtered through alto player Marion Brown from his album Vista, released on the Impulse! label in 1975. The track features two ‘engine room’ greats – Reggie Workman on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums in addition to Allen Murphy on vocals. The vocals on this track might give you a misleading impression of Marion Brown’s music: here he is in a very different context – music from his album Sweet Earth Flying with Muhal Richards Abrams and Paul Bley on piano.

We followed this with two well known and haunting tunes. Firstly, John Coltrane’s Alabama: his response to the 1963 Baptist church john coltrane live at birdlandbombings in Birmingham, Alabama in which four girls (the oldest only 14 years old) were mercilessly murdered at the hands of white supremacists. Then the chilling, explicit Strange Fruit written in 1939 by schoolteacher Abel Meeropol and delivered with unrivalled intensity and emotion by Billie Holiday. Meeropol was apparently haunted by a photograph of the lynching of two black men and wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday.

frank foster loud minorityUp next was a Cosmic Jazz favourite – this time in its original form – from Frank Foster. The Loud Minority (1974) is a long and, at times, free piece with impassioned vocals from Dee Dee Bridgewater supported by an approving crowd. The message is clear: We are the loud minority and, as such, we are a part of those concerned with change. On this track, Foster’s big band is a powerhouse with terrific performances from Marvin Peterson on trumpet, Jan Hammer on piano, Earl Dunbar on guitar and Elvin Jones on drums. This track is, of course, the inspiration for a favourite tune from Japanese jazzers United Future Organization – here’s their take on Loud Minority (with its original video too).

gil scott heron and brian jackson bridgesMore mellow in delivery, but still delivering a powerful message were Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. From their 1977 album Bridges came the almost inevitable choices for such a theme. Scott-Heron reminds us that We say that since change is inevitable, we should direct the change/Rather than simply continue to go through the change. Seems appropriate. Bt the way, Bridges also contains the anthemic We Almost Lost Detroit, a track sampled by Common on his The People track from Finding Forever.

Wild, free and unpredictable could describe another musical appeal to the rights of minorities. This was Triumph of the Outcasts, R-2377721-1280502406.jpegComing from pianist Adegoke Steve Colson, whose music carries social, political and spiritual messages. Again, it is a tune with a distinctive, unique vocal that accentuates and drives home the message, from vocalist wife Iqua. Colson was a member of the influential Black Artists Group (BAG) in Chicago but following his move to New Jersey, the Newark City Council named 13 November as Steve Colson Day! The proclamation honoured the premiere of his multimedia work, Greens, Rice, And A Rope and Colson has gone on to work with many avant garde jazz artists, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Hamiet Bluiett, Oliver Lake and Henry Threadgill. The penultimate track on this week’s show was from another revolutionary jazz figure, Philip Cohran. Along with his Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Cohran has ploughed a singular furrow meshing elements of John philip cohran on the beachColtrane, James Brown and Fela Kuti into what Thom Jurek in his Allmusic review of the album On the Beach calls a seamless solidarity of black consciousness. The track Unity tells us how things should be and complemented the name chosen for Steve Colson’s band (The Unity Troupe). To end this week’s we dived back into the spiritual realm with the Charles Gayle Trio, recorded live in Poland, and invoking the way to Eternal Life. 

  1. Marion Brown – Visions from Vista
  2. John Coltrane – Alabama from Live at Birdland
  3. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit from Jazz Greats Bille Holiday
  4. Frank Foster – The Loud Minority from The Loud Minority
  5. Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson – Delta Man (Where I’m Coming From) from Bridges
  6. Steve Colson and the Unity Troupe – Triumph of the Outcasts, Coming from Triumph!
  7. Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble – Unity from On the Beach
  8. Charles Gayle Trio – Eternal Life from Christ Everlasting

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

03 February 2016: from Krakow to Kingston

CJ is globetrotting again this week – from Krakow to Blackburn, Porsgrunn (check it out!) to Montevideo and more. As always, just click the MixCloud tab on this page to hear for yourself.

algorhythmThe show began with with some of the excellent Polish jazz around. One of my favourite groups at the moment are Algorythm and we started with a tune from their impressive Segments album. Emil Miszk is on trumpet, Piotr Chęcki on tenor, Szymon Burnos on piano, Krzysztof Słomkowski on bass and (despite what I said on the show!) Sławek Koryzno on drums. High Definition Quartet are one of those quirky, unpredictable, up-front bands – and the track V is typical of the music on their new release Bukoliki. Since their formation, they have built up quite a reputation and have played with many other musicians, including Randy Brecker in 2012.

Last week, saxophonist Nat Birchall featured on CJ – both with music from his latest album on Jazzman Records, but also here on the website where we looked at one of the many excellent features on his own website. This week on the show we feature another tune from Invocations but also the track Ethiopia from one of the14921 musicians who has influenced Birchall, Jamaican tenor player Cedric Im Brooks. For more, check out the album Cedric Im Brooks and The Light Of Saba reissued a few years ago on the excellent Honest Jon label. I’m lucky enough to have a copy on the original double vinyl. 

don rendell:ian carr phase IIIAfter the death of the distinguished British sax/flute player Don Rendell last year it seemed appropriate to play again Black Marigolds by The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet.  This wonderful piece, written by pianist Michael Garrick, still sounds as fresh and interesting as it surely did when issued in 1966. Sadly, there’s almost no video available of this iconic band – but here they are at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1968 (and still in suits!).

We have recently featured music from Norway and will be playing more in our next show. This week it was more of a re-visit to the album Bugge and Friends from Bugge Wesseltoft. The friends on this record include Erik Truffaz whose new album Doni Doni features Rokia Traore. You can check out a live version of the title track here from the WorldStock Festival in Paris.

I’ll be playing a few older latin jazz tunes, many for jazz dancers, over the coming week. I began with Opa from Uruguay. The Fattoruso brothers from Montevideo formed the band in the 1970s and theiropa magic timetwo records were both produced by Airto Moreira. The track I featured came from their second album Magic Time, released in 1977. Both Airto and his then wife, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim can be heard. Both albums have been reissued on Milestone and the first – Goldenwings – on BGP Records here in the UK. You’ll find Montevideo on the widely available BGP compilation – details below.

Below, as usual, is this week’s playlist – but also something I hope to do from time to time. It’s five of the records we’re currently listening too – whether on the move or at home. As you’ll see, it’s not all exclusively jazz. Neil will be doing the same while he’s in Beijing – check out his top five below. We’ve linked either the tune or the album to a YouTube video. Enjoy!

  1. Algorythm – Sorry For the Delay from Segments
  2. High Definition Quartet – V from Bukoliki
  3. Nat Birchall – A Luta Continua from Invocations
  4. Cedric Im Brooks – Ethiopia from Studio One Rockers
  5. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Black Marigolds from Phase III/Impressed II
  6. Bugge Wesseltoft – Make It from Bugge & Friends
  7. OPA – Montevideo from Magic Time/BGP presents Jazz Funk

Derek’s currently listening to…

Neil’s currently listening to…

 

 

24 November 2015: jazz icons live

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playlist – 01 July 2015: featuring Kamasi Washington

the epic4This week’s show featured the young saxophonist Kamasi Washington. He’s already been featured on the show in an earlier programme and his 3CD release The Epic is one of our favourite records of 2015. Find it in your local independent record store (mine is Soundclash in Norwich – see our link) and pay around £13 for over three hours of excellent music.

Washington leads a big band with, at times, singers and a choir as well as several musicians all from Los Angeles, many of whom have known each other for a long time. They state that they Want to make jazz new, unexpected and mysterious again. The rapper Common has said: These guys remind me why I listen to music and Flying Lotus, (although related to the Coltrane family) said referring to Washington I don’t want to hear ‘My Favourite Things… What I hear is a leader among artists. The two tunes played on this week’s show Askim and Re-Run Home are long, intense, spiritual and uplifting.

John-Coltrane-Stellar-Regions-1967-FLACI am sure the quote above from Flying Lotus is not intended as a slight to John Coltrane. Cosmic Jazz this week showed where we stand by opening with Seraphic Light from Stellar Regionsmusic from Coltrane’s late period and discovered only after his death. The track features Alice Coltrane on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Free, heavy, intensely spiritual and moving jazz.

There was more from stevesjazzsounds.co.uk, but this time from Sweden. Veteran saxophonist Nisse Sandstrom with a quintet featuring young Swedish musicians, played a calypso-inspired tune to make the hips sway, or perhaps wine as they would say in the Caribbean. Shades of Sonny Rollins to be heard here. Also from Sweden came REQ – another young group, this time a quartet, led by bass player Robert Erlandsson.

groove orchestraFinally, to show that Kamasi Washington is not the only young black American leader of a jazz big band that we have featured recently on Cosmic Jazz, there was another play for Samuel Prather and his Groove Orchestra. They, however, are from Washington – a long, long way from LA.

  1. John Coltrane – Seraphic Light from Stellar Regions
  2. Kamasi Washington – Askim from The Epic
  3. Kamasi Washington – Re-Run Home from The Epic
  4. Nisse Sandstrom Quintet – Calypso Bulbosa from Live at Crescendo
  5. REQ – News from News
  6. Samuel Prather – Fela Snarky from Groove Orchestra

 

 

 

Playlist – 25 March 2015: some tough tunes

The theme of this week’s show, available on the MixCloud tab is Tough Tunes. This was inspired by the deep and demanding tunes that have started the show off for the last two weeks.

message from the tribeThe context I chose for the selection was either tough in the sense of being musically challenging or tough in terms of music with a powerful message, or in some cases, a combination of both these criteria. Such choices will always evoke a response as to what has been left out or, indeed, whether or not this collection of tunes can truly be described as ‘tough’. Posts in response on this blog will be welcome.

  1. Kenny Garrett – Welcome Earth Song from Seeds from the Underground
  2. Otis Brown III – Stages Of Thought from The Thought Of You
  3. Max Roach – Freedom Day from We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
  4. John Coltrane – Africa (first version) from the Complete Africa Brass Sessions
  5. Tribe – What We Need from Message From The Tribe
  6. Michael Brecker – Two Blocks From The Edge from Two Blocks From The Edge
  7. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew Live from Bitches Brew Live

coltrane africa brass

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