Tag Archives: John Coltrane

19 July 2017: an all Coltrane show

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 July saw a significant anniversary in jazz – it was exactly 50 years since the death of saxophonist John Coltrane, and so here on Cosmic Jazz we have been celebrating his life and work over the last three weeks. Tonight is our final look at Coltrane’s music – but this time through the interpretation of others.

We began the show with a track featuring the classic Coltrane quartet – Coltrane on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. Tunji comes from the 1962 album Coltrane and is dedicated to Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian percussionist who influenced Coltrane’s music.

CJ then celebrated the influence of Coltrane’s music on other musicians, beginning with one of our most underated British saxophonists Alan Skidmore on a 2CD set recorded live at the Boxford Fleece, here in Suffolk. We chose Skidmore’s take on Resolution, the second part of Coltrane’s most famous composition, A Love Supreme and followed this with a take on Countdown, first recorded by Coltrane on the Giant Steps album of 1960 – a virtual template of jazz standards including the title track, Naima and Mr P.C. The artist was the young Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander, whom we have featured on the show previously. Alexander is something of a phenomenon, having recorded his first album at the age of 11 – titled, My Favourite Things, it featured both this and his treatment of Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

We had to play at least one Pharoah Sanders tune and I chose a live version of Naima, recorded on the Crescent with Love album from 1994. Sanders was, of course, a member of Coltrane’s expanded groups of the mid and late 1960s. He first worked with Coltrane in 1965 on the Ascension album, perhaps the most free of Coltrane’s releases. His albums from the 1970s onwards featured Alice Coltrane. Now 76, Sanders continues to record although mainly as a featured artist on other’s recordings.

Dwight Trible’s rich, deep baritone voice has featured on several recent recordings – including his Living Water album of 2006 which featured a vocal version of one of Coltrane’s most beautiful tunes, Wise One. The track we featured – Dear Lord – is very much in the same tradition. It comes from Trible’s new release on Manchester based Gondwana Records and features Matthew Halsall on trumpet.  We will feature more from this excellent album in future programmes. British tenor player Denys Baptiste is one of a number of jazz musicians who have released albums celebrating the music of John Coltrane in recent months, and Late Trane appears on the excellent Edition Records – our label of the year for 2016. Baptiste is joined by Nikki Yeoh on piano and keys, Gary Crosby on bass and with special guest Steve Williamson on tenor on some tracks, including the beautiful After the Rain.

Nat Birchall’s excellent website indicates his debt to his first love – Jamaican dub. This is significant as Birchall makes clear he was an enthusiastic listener before becoming a musician – sound has always been the first and most important thing about music to me, he says. In this he shares much with John Coltrane who released an album simply called Coltrane’s Sound. Writer Ben Ratcliff refers to Coltrane’s continual search for a sound in his thought-provoking book Coltrane: The Story of a Sound, identifying the restless searching that puzzled so many of those around him. As Ratliff explains in his introduction, the book is about jazz as sound. I mean ‘sound’ as it has long functioned among jazz players, as a mystical term of art: an in, every musician finally needs a sound, a full and sensible embodiment of his artistic personality, such that it can be heard, at best, in a single note.  It’s easy to conclude that we have still not caught up with Coltrane’s journey, even fifty years after his death – something that’s not true now of his contemporary, Miles Davis, whose most out-there music (for example, On the Corner, released in 1972) is now appreciated as a ground-breaking work that has influenced so much modern music from Steve Reich to techno and trance. Much like those who worked with Davis at this time,  Coltrane’s own sidemen in the mid sixties had little idea of what Coltrane was up to. Elvin Jones simply shrugged and said Beats the shit outta me and for many listeners this is still what is often thought of Coltrane’s experiments in sound.

We ended the show with something of a contemporary favourite. Several remixers have tried to put their own stamp on Coltrane’s iconic A Love Supreme – but none have succeeded like Berlin duo Skinnerbox. It’s not easily available anymore as a download, but you can listen to the edited dub version here on Soundcloud. Highly recommended.

Finally, to expand your thinking about John Coltrane and his influence, read this feature from Jazzwise magazine by one of our favourite writers, Kevin le Gendre. Incidentally, he would never make Neil’s elementary mistake on the show of referring to Coltrane as an alto saxophonist – although it is true that ‘trane played alto on some of his earliest recordings as well as his final Japanese tour in 1965…

  1. John Coltrane Quartet – Tunji (alternate take) from Coltrane (Deluxe Edition)
  2. Alan Skidmore Quartet – Resolution from Impressions of John Coltrane
  3. Joey Alexander – Countdown from Countdown
  4. Pharoah Sanders – Naima from Crescent with Love
  5. Dwight Trible – Dear Lord from Inspirations
  6. Denys Baptiste – After the Rain from Late Trane
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Skinnerbox – A Love Supreme Remix download

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Neil is listening to…

12 July 2017: Jazzmeia Horn and more Coltrane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmic Jazz continues to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the death of John Coltrane on 17 July 1967. To start this week’s show we featured 18 minutes of ethereal, spiritual beauty in the form of the tune Ole.  Unbelievably, this was recorded as far back as 1961 and with a line-up of jazz heavyweights playing with Coltrane – Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Art Davis, and Reggie Workman. Quite simply, the album is a jazz lovers essential must-have release – but then again this is true of so many Coltrane records. There are two versions of this album currently available, but avoid the Complete Ole Sessions: it’s simply a marketing ploy, as the additional tracks were recorded in an unrelated session the previous year. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have an original vinyl copy of the 1961 release – and it’s still a personal favourite album.

Reggie Workman, one of the two bass players on Ole, is identified by Jazzmeia Horn (what a name!) on the sleeve of her new CD A Social Call as one of her mentors. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Horn (see photo above) relocated to New York where in 2013 she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz competition and then won the Theolonius Monk Institute International Jazz Competition. She describes the album as a call in peace about issues affecting peace and that her inspiration comes from the social issues that exist in the world today. The social issues are all listed at the start of the first of her tunes played on the show People Make the World Go Round. None of the songs on the album are originals but the songwriters selected include Betty Carter, Jimmy Rowles, Norma Winstone, Mongo Santamaria, Oscar Brown Jr and Norman Whitfield – an eclectic selection. Jazzmeia Horn serves them all up with an original treatment. She is also one of those vocalists who employ top-class backing musicians and gives them the scope to show that they can play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The social issues continued with another New York based singer Somi, who was raised in a family with Rwandan Ugandan descent. On the tune Black Enough she asks Am I black enough for you? I don’t talk the way you do as she explores the dilemmas of her identity. Petite Afrique, her sophomore album is a love letter to her parents for their sacrifices when leaving their home country and the extended, strong and generous immigrant community I was fortunate to be raised in. Marcus Strickland appears on the tune playing tenor sax.

One of the latest Polish gems available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds comes from a trio led by pianist Marcin Losik. This is an uplifting piece adding an energy and bounce that is not always found in the acoustic piano/bass/drums format. So often have I read comments on Polish jazz that describe a new release as yet another example of Polish melancholy. This album is anything but. Beside, is this not a huge over generalisation about the music from a country with many outstanding jazz musicians?

To end the show there was further buoyant and uplifting music via a tune from The Janet Lawson Quintet album recorded in 1980 but re-released on the British BBE label. Janet Lawson is a fine example of a jazz vocalist who used her voice as an instrument. So High is the title of the tune and that is where it takes you.

We’re going to feature more Coltrane music in a final feature on the legacy of his music in next week’s show.

  1. John Coltrane – Ole from Ole
  2. Jazzmeia Horn – People Make the World Go Round from A Social Call
  3. Jazzmeia Horn – East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) from A Social Call
  4. Jazzmeia Horn – Going Down from A Social Call
  5. Somi – Black Enough from Petite Afrique
  6. Marcin Losik Trio – Modal Enterprise from Emotional Phrasing
  7. The Janet Lawson Quintet – So High from The Janet Lawson Quintet

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Neil is listening to:

05 June 2017: ‘trane tracks and more

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 July 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of John Coltrane. His music is really at the heart of what we do here at Cosmic Jazz – always searching, sometimes on the edge, often lyrical and usually deeply emotional. Perhaps that’s why we’ve played so much of Coltrane’s music over the years – and, of course, he remains a huge influence and presence for many young musicians today.

Among these is Nubya Garcia who played the Singapore Jazz Festival this year with Gilles Peterson. Garcia is a young London-based saxophonist and her group includes Binker Moses, the drummer who featured on CJ last week and who – but for a slight technical problem – would have featured again this week.  We played Contemplation from her album Nubya’s 5ive – a highlight for me of her live performance in Singapore. It’s a McCoy Tyner composition and he was, of course, a prominent member of John Coltrane’s classic quartet. It’s an interesting example of how an interpretation should be done – new perspectives and a sound that is very much of now whilst retaining the modal heartbeat of the original.

For a take of the real deal we then featured the Coltrane tune Offering. Recorded in February 1967, a few months before his death, with ‘trane’s band now featuring Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums, this album wasn’t released until 1995. It gives no suggestion of where Coltrane might have gone in his musical exploration but his playing is as spirited and sharply defined as ever. Stellar Regions is an album well worth getting hold of.

But we began the show this week with more contemporary British jazz boundary stretching – perhaps a reflection that Cosmic Jazz is playing out this weekend at the Global Village in Christchurch Park Ipswich on Saturday and at 13:30 on Sunday afternoon at the Norwich Lanes Summer Fayre, outside the treasure that is the independent Soundclash record shop. The Comet is Coming has what has been described as combining elements of jazz, funk, electronica & psychedelic rock! Shabaka Hutchings is one of the core players and, with pure jazz credentials not in doubt, he’s one of many new(ish jazz musicians, who need to extend beyond the artificial boundaries that can sometimes contain any genre of music. Drummer Nick Woodmansey (aka Emanative) also provided an edgy, contemporary, electronic sound – and you can find much more of his music here on his Bandcamp site.

A trip around three European countries demonstrated that jazz – perhaps in more conventional form – is alive and well across the continent. Trumpeter Jerzy Malek sounded very melodic after what had been on the show up to that point and Belgian drummer Jelle van Giel led his band on a pleasantly uplifting number from his 2017 album The Journeymanaging to make what is not a large group sound like an orchestra. Talking of orchestras, from Finland came the Koko Jazz Orchestra, set up as a house band for the Helsinki Jazz Club. Its leaders are drummer Jussi Lehtonen and pianist Jussi Fredriksson and the band’s new album presents the music of these two. For another taste of this band, listen here to Chillin’, another composition from Jussi Lehtonen.

I loved The Lagos Music Salon album from New York based singer/composer Somi. The music has a jazz feel while incorporating other sounds too. The same feel is on her new album Petite Afrique – whilst it’s perhaps not as good as the last one there are still many interesting moments.

  1. The Comet is Coming – Final Eclipse from Death to the Planet
  2. Emanative – Black Enchantment from Black Enchantment
  3. Nubya Garcia – Contemplation from Nubya’s 5ive
  4. John Coltrane – Offering from Stellar Regions
  5. Jerzy Malek – Homeroad from Forevelle
  6. Jelle Van Giel Group – Bonito from The Journey
  7. Koko Jazz Orchestra – Chat With a Bass Drum from presenting the music of Jussi Lehtonen & Jussi Fredriksson
  8. Somi – They’re Like Ghosts from Petite Afrique

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

14 June 2017: in a silent way?

Silence is golden, except on a radio show. There is a silence in this show, albeit a short one towards the end. It’s ironic really as I was about to play a tune called He Who Talks Loud Says Nothing… Suffice to say no more than such problems are usually the result of the user rather than the equipment – sorry.  Do listen, though, to the show via the MixCloud tab (left) as there are some great tunes either side of the silence.

The aforementioned He Who Talks Loud Says Nothing did get played – and it is worth hearing. It’s by Polish trumpet/flugelhorn player Lukasz Korybalski from his remarkably mature debut album CMM released this year. It has been described as providing a musical journey into something like a trance. Certainly it has a very warm and inviting feel to it. There are lovely solos, but they are woven almost into the music  – and the backing throughout of drummer Lukasz Zyta is intricate and complex but in an understated way.

As so often on the programme, the show began with a tune that I had recently played and enjoyed. Cosmic Jazz seems to be going through yet another John Coltrane appreciation phase and why should I make apologies for that? 14 minutes and 09 seconds of India recorded live at the Village Vanguard on 03 November 1961, from the Impressions album was just such a perfect spiritual and uplifting way to begin. Coltrane was on soprano, Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, McCoy Tyner piano, Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman on basses and Elvin Jones on drums. I just listen and wonder in amazement that this was recorded so long ago and at its sophistication – especially if you compare it to some of the popular jazz of the time. We’re not alone here: it’s reported that American group the Byrds had only one cassette to listen to on their late 1965 tour and that one side featured Ravi Shankar while the other had Coltrane’s Impressions and the Africa/Brass albums. They acknowledged Coltrane’s influence in their celebrated Eight Miles High. Listen to this extended instrumental version from the 1970 Filmore concert which is powered by Skip Battin’s jazzy basswork and see what you think.

There was what I considered a sequence of tunes that complemented each other and sounded fresh, contemporary with an element of challenge. This began with Steve Lehman and Selebeyone, went into Dinosaur and ended with Led Bib, who have a new album recently released.

Poland holds an annual Jazz Day in April. Bands perform and there is a competition for band of the year. In 2017 the winner of the Grand Prix  was the pianist Adam Jarzmik and his Quintet of musical friends with their 2017 release Euphoria. Among the judges was the Cosmic Jazz favourite Piotr Wojtasik. The award was a good choice. It is a record of strong  emotional sounds, mixing the contemporary with the traditional and embracing a subtle intensity.

There was a trip to Brazil at the end of the show. The voice of Milton Nascimento  interwoven with the soprano sax of Wayne Shorter and the further presence on the record of Herbie Hancock, Raul de Souza and Airto Moreira among others. Finally came Baden Powell, the Brazilian guitarist who named himself after the British founder of the scout movement with a tune that epitomises the delicacy, intimacy and melodic beauty of much Brazilian bossa jazz of the 1960s/early 1970s. The album from which this track comes is something of a rarity. For a further taste, listen to one of my favourite tracks – Coisa No1 – which achieves miracles in just over three minutes…

  1. John Coltrane – India from Impressions
  2. Steve Lehman & Selebeyone – Laamb from Selebeyone
  3. Dinosaur – Living Breathing from Together As One
  4. Led Bib – Battery Power from Jazzwise sampler Babel Label 1994 – 2014
  5. Adam Jarzmik Quintet – Euphoria from Euphoria
  6. Lukasz Korybalski – He Who Talks Loud Says Nothing from CMM
  7. Milton Nascimento – Saidas e Bandeiras (Exits & Flags) from Milton
  8. Baden Powell – Rosa Flor from Swings with Jimmy Pratt

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Neil is listening to…

07 June 2017: featuring Steve Lehman and Selebeyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmic Jazz has always taken a broad definition of what constitutes jazz. Purists may not like some of the tunes we play, but here at CJ we believe that the influence of jazz is wider than any genre and that cross currents diversify and grow the music into new structures and styles.

The featured album this week from Steve Lehman & Selebeyone is an interesting exemplar of this. Selebeyone is a word in the Wolof language spoken in the West African country of Senegal – it means intersection. Kwami Coleman’s album sleeve notes explain how the word converges idiomatically with French and Arabic and conveys the intersection of forces in motion on the record from hip hop to emceeing and djing/electronic musical production to jazz. As  Coleman states “For Selebeyone, when distinct languages, musical idioms and cultural origins intermingle, the product is a confluence of words, sonic textures, and ideas”. In practical terms, this means alto sax player Steve Lehman is joined by Maciek Lasserre on soprano, Carlos Homs on piano and keys, Drew Gress on acoustic bass, Damion Reid on drums – and also two hip hop vocalists: Gaston Bandimic in Wolof and HPrizm in English. Check out this exciting music with an open mind and ears.

We began this week’s show with more Polish music from sax player Tomasz Wendt and his tune For D.  Also featured this week was yet another of the outstanding group of jazz musicians from Poland. Tomasz Chyla is a violinist who leads a quintet including musicians active with other Polish groups – among them Algorhythm whom we’ve featured on the programme. Chyla takes a clear lead on the this debut album Eternal Entropy, but there is much interplay with the other musicians, especially Szymon Burnos on piano and Piotr Checki on sax. The music is both delicate and strong, and on the tune Three Shades of Black builds up to great intensity.

The impending opening of the 2017 Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk UK – a festival founded by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears – marked an appropriate time to recognise the work of the Aldeburgh Foundation which has promoted musicians beyond the classical origins of the festival. Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance were the first jazz musicians to gain a music-making residency at the Snape Maltings home of the Foundation. Pianist Tim Lapthorn composed Solace to describe the ambience as he played solo in one of the rooms at Snape.

Finally, there is always room on the programme to play some of our favourite tunes – the first from veteran pianist Ahmad Jamal whose new album Marseille is just out and the second from legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, who is the subject of a new documentary film Chasing Trane out later this year. Interestingly, 86 year old Jamal features rapper Abd Al Malik accompanying his regular extended trio – listen here.

  1. Tomasz Wendt Trio – For D from Behind the Strings
  2. Steve Lehman & Selebeyone – Hybrid from Selebeyone
  3.  Steve Lehman & Selebeyone – Dualism from Selebeyone
  4.  Steve Lehman & Selebeyone – Bamba from Selebeyone
  5. John Coltrane – Stellar Regions from Stellar Regions
  6. Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance – Solace from Accident and Insurgency
  7. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Three Shades of Black from Eternal Entropy
  8. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Last Hope from Eternal Entropy
  9. Ahmad Jamal – Sunday Afternoon from Live in Marciac

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Derek is listening to:

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…