Tag Archives: Miles Davis

Week ending 28 July 2018: some recent favourites

This was a pre-recorded show and on such occasions I tend to select some Cosmic Jazz favourites from albums we have played before. This week proved to be no exception.

We regularly celebrate emerging jazz artists from across the globe on this show and so we began with two contemporary Blue Note artists – Otis Brown III and Marcus Strickland – and both found themselves in the company of more well known CJ regulars. The 2014 (was it really that long ago?) release on from drummer Otis Brown III The Thought Of You has been a particular favourite and features some notable guests including vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Keyon Harrold – whose recent solo record we have featured – and keyboard player Robert Glasper. It’s tough, contemporary urban jazz. Next up was saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his 2016 album Twi-Life which – surprise, surprise, also included Keyon Harrold and Robert Glasper, this time alongside regular Robert Glasper Trio drummer Chris Dave and a rising star on the skins, Charles Haynes (no relation), who occasionally steps outside of the jazz world to tour with the likes of Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

There were records from two trumpeters on the show this week. First up was the long-established Polish musician Piotr Wojtasik, whose music we continue to play on the show simply because it deserves to be heard as widely as possible. Wojtasik is a star who is not heard anything like as frequently as he should be on UK (and US) radio. All the more inexcusable when he surrounds himself (as here) with musicians of the calibre of Gary Bartz, Vincent Herring, Billy Harper, George Cables, Reggie Workman and Billy Hart. Yes – all appear on this album! As always, you can track it down at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds.

Much more celebrated is US trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who, on his album When the Heart Emerges Glistening, did not surround himself with a bunch of starry sidemen but rather introduced a complete band – and it feels like it too. Although piano star Jason Moran (he of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet) produced the album and appears on a couple of tracks, this album has reflective, sensitive playing throughout from all personnel. Akimusire has continued to plough his own furrow: his 2017 live 2CD collection is as uncompromising as ever with alternately introspective and fiery music that bears extended listening. Like many jazz artists before him, Akinmusire appears to have been inspired by his recording venue – New York’s iconic Village Vanguard.

As often on Cosmic Jazz, we changed the tone with a Brazilian sequence. Singer/songwriter Sabrina Malheiros – daughter of the Azymuth bass player Alex Malheiros – produces cool but joyful samba/ jazz influenced music, and her record Clareia (released on the UK’s Far Out label in 2017) is a wonderful example of the genre. The record was produced in London by Daniel Maunick, son of Incognito founder Bluey Maunick, and a hit (again) at this year’s SingJazz Festival. Malheiros was born in 1979 so she may not now be a young Brazilian voice but she’s certainly the junior of a clear influence on her sound, Joyce Moreno. Here on Cosmic Jazz we admit to something of an infatuation with Joyce’s music. And – by the way – it’s not that which allows first name familiarity: in the tradition of her compatriots (Ceu, Cibelle and Simone), Joyce has gone by her first name since her earliest recordings. Born in 1948, her classic album Clareana was released a year after Sabrina Malheiros was born and she has continued recording for Far Out since the 1990s. The tune this week came from one of her more recent recordings for the label, the excellent Raiz. All of her work is highly recommended and there is a fine Mr Bongo compilation available to introduce her earlier music. To end our Brazilian sequence we featured another Brazilian veteran – singer/songwriter/guitarist Jorge Ben, master of an afrosamba style that has influenced many more contemporary Brazilian artists. Boiadero comes from one of Ben’s more disco-influenced albums (check the cover!) but is still a great tune. Check out an interesting Ben meets Fela with rap track in Neil’s listening choices (below) and for more Jorge Ben, new listeners should go straight to a mid70s classic, simply called Ben. It features two of his most enduring compositions Taj Mahal and Fio Marahvila, a musical ode to the 1970s star of the Brazilian soccer team Flamengo.

To end the show this week, it was back to the USA and another favourite. Jazzmeia Horn is a young singer born in Dallas, Texas but now  based in New York. She won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition in 2015 and her excellent first album A Social Call emerged last year. It may be a record of jazz standards, but it is how Horn – ably supported by some superb musicians – transformed these tunes that made this album a real 2017 highlight.

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

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 30 June 2018: cosmic sounds and spiritual vibes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

 

Week ending 23 June 2018: leftfield jazz and more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 16 June: BritJazz sounds

Gilles Peterson @ FieldDay 01 June 2018 [Neil MacRae}
Music this week with a BritJazz flavour – something at the moment we can’t get enough of here on CJ. Six of our nine tracks this week are part of the new British jazz revolution. To check out the sounds, click the MixCloud tab on the left. Starting with the flute-driven vibe of BB Davis’ Mysteries of the Revolution band, we eased into drummer de nos jours Moses Boyd and one of the many bands he plays with in the rotating door of British jazz artists. With Theon Cross on tuba and Binker Golding on sax, we featured Axis Blue from the Time and Space EP, available here on the ever-reliable Bandcamp.

33 year old Shabaka Hutchings could be the token leader of this scene and Sons of Kemet is one of his most interesting bands. Now with an album on the Impulse! label, Hutchings has made perhaps his strongest recording yet. It’s certainly his most polemical – and that’s a good thing. We’ve commented before on how contemporary jazz – particularly in the US and UK – now reflects and responds to the social justice issues that have sat alongside the music since the beginning of jazz. It was then into one of the newest of the current crop of UK jazz releases and a tune from keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones’s new album Starting Today on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Records.

It’s not easy to capture that effortless Brazilian vibe but UK pianist Jessica Lauren has done it with Chicourlette, a track from her brand new release Almeria. We both loved this summery tune and it’s certainly going onto repeat play over the UK summer. To complement that we followed up with the latest from Larry Heard (or Mr Fingers) – truly the godfather of Chicago house, and so listeners might reasonably expect to question his inclusion in Cosmic Jazz. But just listen to the chilled summery vibe of Sao Paulo from his excellent new album Cerebral Hemispheres and you may be converted.

GoGo Penguin were one of the star turns at the Singapore Jazz Festival this year, and Strid from the new album A Humdrum Star a centrepiece of their set. It was great to see an acoustic bass player (Nick Blacka) leading the band and the excellent Strid showcases his imaginative bowed and plucked style.

Herbie Hancock is, of course, a longtime favourite on CJ and this week we featured a track from his excellent album, Mr Hands. Why? Well, it was the tune that Gilles Peterson chose to end his excellent Friday set at the Field Day Festival in London a couple of weeks ago (check out the photo above) and, with Peterson’s mixing tweakery, Just Around the Corner was brought up to date for a wildly enthusiastic audience. A delight to see! And that led us to the end of this week’s show with a return to BB Davis’s Big Buddah for more BritJazz.  BB Davis plays the Rahsaan Roland Kirk-like flute, Dan Biro is on keys and and the late and great Mark Smith is on bass. For more, check out the track below in my music choices for this week. You can bet there will be more from the endlessly exciting UK jazz scene on next week’s show.

  1. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 1) from Mysteries of the Revolution
  2. Moses Boyd’s Exodus – Axis Blue – from Time and Space EP
  3. Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
  4. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub from Starting Today
  5. Jessica Lauren – Chicourlette from Almeria
  6. Mr Fingers – Sao Paulo from Cerebral Hemispheres
  7. GoGo Penguin – Strid from A Humdrum Star
  8. Joey Alexander – Space from Eclipse
  9. Herbie Hancock – Just Around the Corner from Mr Hands
  10. Mysteries of the Revolution – Big Buddah (part 2) from Mysteries of the Revolution

Neil is listening to…

27 September 2017: Mercury Music and more

 

 

 

 

 

 

A programme inspired by the Mercury Music Prize, small independent labels and jazz from Poland, New Zealand, the USA, the UK – including not far from where Cosmic Jazz is recorded. Check some great tunes out via the Mixcloud tab.

The Mercury Music Prize in the UK always includes a token jazz group who are never going to win. All you can hope for is that the exposure will enhance their career in some way. This year that token mantle was held by Dinosaur, a Cosmic Jazz favourite.  On the first programme I recorded since the prize I wanted to play the tune Dinosaur performed at the live event. The introduction they received from the programme presenter seemed to be less enthusiastic than the others I saw, but the reception from the audience to their truncated version of Living, Breathing sounded loud and enthusiastic – quite right too. That was not the only reference to this year’s Mercury on the show as the eventual winner Sampha appeared on a tune that Neil contributed. It’s not strictly jazz – but it does include Kamasi Washington and that gave us reason to play this excellent track from a forthcoming EP by Richard Russell’s group Everything is Recorded. Incidentally, the sample that provides the inspiration for the track is from Nightclubbing by Grace Jones from her magisterial 1981 album of the same name. For more Kamasi Washington, his new EP Harmony of Difference is just out on the new Young Turks label. You can listen to the superb 14 minute final track Truth right here.

Birnam CD, an independent Scotland-based record company, were represented by the tuneful London Jazz players and the Italian-born but London-based guitarist Giulio Romano Malaisi.

As well as independent labels we like to support independent stockists and Steve’s Jazz Sounds is one we turn to regularly, particularly for some wonderful Polish jazz. Algorythm play music that is fresh, contemporary and uplifting. EABS have a record that pays homage to a Polish jazz legend, the pianist and composer Krzystof Komeda. However, the tunes often bear little apparent relationship to the compositions of Komeda. His music featured on some of the classic soundtracks to Roman Polanski’s earlier films including Knife in the Water, Cul de Sac and the celebrated Rosemary’s Baby – the recording of which has recently been reissued on vinyl. EABS are more grounded in hip hop and so their twist on Komeda is singular – none more so than on the unpredictable vocal tune God is Love which we included this week’s show.  Listen and you’ll hear what we mean.

Mammal Hands – a group you could almost call local to Cosmic Jazz and one we have promoted since their inception – have a new album out at the end of October. We featured Black Sails, the first release from the album which is titled Shadow Work. Look out for it in your local record stores soon. Mammal Hands will promote the album in major European cities beginning with Istanbul – a major move forward from their early gigs in small Norwich pubs and clubs!  We also played Transalpine Express, one of two tracks from The Elder Statesman, a trio from New Zealand with producer Lord Echo on percussion. It’s a tune that’s catchy, enticing and certainly one to play again. I loved it and we’ll feature its partner Montreux Sunrise in a future programme.

An encouraging aspect of jazz vocalists these days is the way they not only employ top musicians but give them the scope to play – we’ve often commented on how Gregory Porter and Cecile McClorin Salvant are adept at this. Perhaps it’s because the core of their touring bands are usually musicians they have held onto since their rise to fame. In a recent performance here in Singapore [writes Neil], Porter showed how much space he can give to his musicians in a live context too. And that’s not just in obligatory solos around his vocals: the band are presented as very much integral to the show and (largely) in a full-on jazz ensemble performance. Young vocalist Jazzmeia Horn is another example of this encouraging trend in the new generation of jazz singers. CJ this week paired her alongside an earlier example of someone to whom she has been likened and compared – Rachelle Ferrell. I never tire of Ferrell’s outstanding album First Instrument. For me, it is up there among our Cosmic Jazz essentials. Like Jazzmeia Horn, Ferrell draws on some standard tunes, with this week’s selection one both written and made famous by peerless soul singer Sam Cooke in 1957.

  1. Dinosaur – Living, Breathing from Together As One
  2. The London Jazz Players – The News Where You Are from CD single/download
  3. Guilio Romano Malaisi – Randagio from Unexpected Ride
  4. Algorythm – Deep Dive Narcissus from Segments
  5. EABS – God is Love from Repetitions: Letters to Krzystof Komeda
  6. Mammal Hands – Black Sails from Shadow Work
  7. Everything is Recorded – Mountains of Gold feat. Sampha, Ibeyi, Wiki and Kamasi Washington
  8. The Elder Statesman – Trans-Alpine Express from Montreux Sunrise/Trans-Alpine Express
  9. Jazzmeia Horn – Music Makes the World Go Round from A Social Call
  10. Rachelle Ferrell – You Send Me from First Instrument
  11. Somi – Midnight Angels from Petite Afrique

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Neil is listening to…

22 February 2017: jazz with attitude

A mixed show this week of the old and the new-ish with some Cosmic Jazz favourites included. Click the MixCloud tab to enjoy the show.

Florian Pellisier is a French pianist who leads a quintet including tenor, trumpet/flugelhorn, double bass and drums, with a guest vocal and trumpet on one tune from Leron Thomas, who we always remember from his guest appearance on Zara McFarlane’s last album. Their music is warm, modal and comforting. It’s perhaps not the most challenging you will ever hear, but is a really good listen nonetheless.

Soul jazz is still with us again this week in the form of pianist/Fender Rhodes player Walter Bishop Jr. with Soul Turnaround from Soul Village. This inevitably led to a repeat of the tune Soul Village from Blue Mitchell that I have been enjoying so much.

There were more links. Excellent Swedish composer and saxophonist Jonas Kullhammer has worked with many famous musicians including Mulatu Astatke, Goran Kajfes, Chick Corea, Jason Moran – and Carlos Garnett, sent us on a Journey To Enlightenment in a record of its era, but one that still holds up.

Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is something special. He played on last year’s Dhafer Youssef album which we have been featuring in recent weeks. This week, though, he was the leader. Akinmusire plays with great sensitivity and it was quite fitting that he should appear on Youssef’s mystic music providing a spiritual depth (and really interesting album titles too).

The show ends with a return to Cecile McClorin Salvant who illustrates, like Gregory Porter, that the best vocalists have top-rate instrumentalist to support them but also that they give plenty of space for the musicians to feature in their own right.

  1. Florian Pellisier Quintet – Cap de Bon Esperance from Cap de Bon Esperance
  2. Walter Bishop Jr – Soul Turnaround from Soul Village
  3. Blue Mitchell – Soul Village from Feeling Good
  4. Jonas Kullhammer – Hommage to George Braith from Gentlemen (original motion picture jazz track)
  5. Carlos Garnett – Journey to Enlightenment from Journey to Enlightenment
  6. Ambrose Akinmusire – Confessions to my Unborn Daughter from When the Heart Lies Glistening
  7. Cecile McClorin Salvant – Something’s Coming from For One to Love

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Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

31 August 2016: old masters and young lions

 

arthur blythe
This week’s Cosmic Jazz kicked off with saxophonist Arthur Blythe during perhaps the most fertile period of creativity for this always distinctive alto player. He’s performing here with a terrific band that features Bob Stewart on tuba and CJ favourite Jack de Johnette on drums. Has Blythe ever been better than this? The band sound as if they have been playing together for years but this was their first time together on Columbia and – along with Blythe’s timarthur blythe lenox avenue breakdowne with the Italian Black Saint label – it would produce some of his best music. You can find four of these CBS albums, including this one (Lenox Avenue Breakdown) on one new BGP reissue. The late and great Richard Cook identifies this as an essential recording, noting that it’s a superlative piece of imaginative instrumentation. Perhaps the other stand out track on this excellent album is Odessa – listen to it here. The BGP reissue is available now and is highly recommended by CJ of course. We followed this with more newly reissued music, this time from Spain and saxophonist Pedro Iturralde in a flamenco-meets-jazz project that works. The guitarist here is a young Paco de Lucia in gilles peterson mpsone of his first professional recordings. The prolific Peterson has a new compilation of music from the German MPS label. that – as usual with Gilles – features music that most of us are unlikely to have encountered before. Like ECM’s Manfred Eicher, MPS was founded by jazz enthusiast Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer – usually just known as HBGS. In his Black Forest home studio, the label recorded hundreds of jazz artists from around the world including Oscar Peterson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lee Konitz, George Duke and Charlie Mariano.

jacob collier in my roomYoung multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier is one of the brightest new stars in the jazz firmament and he’s just released his first album, In My Room. Pretty much everything was recorded in his home music room, but we chose to play the final live track Don’t You Know that features group of the moment Snarky Puppy. This track can also be found on the latest Snarky Family Dinner album in which they have a featured vocalist on each number – check out the excellent official video here and listen to Jacob Collier talking about his very impressive debut here. He comments on his adolescent Stevie Wonder crush, citing Talking Book as a favourite album and noting that this was recorded by a 21 year old – the age Collier is right now. It’s no wonder that he’s quincy jones back on the blockcurrently being mentored by Quincy Jones whose music we featured next in his stunning recreation of Weather Report’s celebrated Birdland from the album Back on the Block. This is a slice of pure 1980s jazz –  there’s even syndrums in there! This record was the last studio recording for both Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Elder jazz statesman Jones has been in the news recently – you can listen to the complete UK Prom celebration of his music with the Metropole Orkest which features Jacob Collier and others.

Up next was Bobby Hutcherson with a terrific track that we played in its entirety (all 18 minutes) – juswayne shortert because we didn’t want to break the spell of this superb music. Here was Hutcherson with a top 1970s band featuring Harold Land on tenor and William Henderson on Fender Rhodes – all backed by the fatback drums of Woody Sonship Theus. We also celebrated Wayne Shorter’s 83rd birthday with a track from his rare final Blue Note album, Odyssey of Iska. If you find this record anywhere on vinyl, grab it. You won’t be disappointed. Scots vocalist Laura Mvula featured on the excellent Silence is the Way from the Robert Glasper/Miles Davis azymuth brazilian soulEverything’s Beautiful album and the show ended with a return to Brazil and Azymuth’s O Lance from their Far Out album Brazilian Soul. Catch them here performing a Brownswood Basement session in 2013. We’ve enjoyed the music in our two Brazil specials and we’ll continue to feature the uniquely diverse musical styles from this extraordinary country. Look out for news too of an upcoming CJ Live! outing focusing on Brazilian music.

  1. Arthur Blythe – Down San Diego Way from Lenox Avenue Breakdown
  2. Pedro Iturralde Quintet – Cancion Del Fuego Fatuo from Music Sunshine Peterson
  3. Jacob Collier – Don’t You Know from In My Room
  4. Quincy Jones – Birdland from Back on the Block
  5. Bobby Hutcherson – Hey Harold from Head On
  6. Wayne Shorter – Calm from Odyssey of Iska
  7. Robert Glasper (feat. Laura Mvula) – Silence is the Way from Everything’s Beautiful
  8. Azymuth – O Lance from Brazilian Soul

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Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to:

 

13 July 2016: Piotr Wojtasik and Polish jazz

Last week I delved into more of the Polish jazz available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds. In particular, it was Old Land – the title tune from a 2013 album by Polish trumpeter Piotr Wojtasik. This excellent release left Neil and I wondering why we had not picked up on such superb music much earlier. We needed to hear more and felt strongly that Cosmic Jazz listeners piotr wojtasikneeded to as well. As a result there are two more tunes from the album available this week via the MixCloud tab (left).

Wojtasik recorded his first album as leader in 1993 and since then has recorded with leading Polish jazzers along with significant jazz artists including CJ heroes Dave Liebman, Buster Williams and Gary Bartz. His longest association has been with US saxophonist Billy Harper. They met in the late 1990s when Wojtasik was working on his album Quest and they continue to tour and play together. Harper features prominently on Old Land.

Now 20 years into his career,  Wojtasik has became one of the most celebrated trumpeters of his generation in Poland. For this latest album, he has assembled a large and international group of musicians accompanied by choral voices and some celebrat0004367745_350ed American artists – drummers John Betsch and Billy Hart for example. Kirk Lightsey (who also plays with Billy Harper in the celebrated Cookers band) is on piano and NY-based Essiet Essiet anchors the whole project on bass. Old Land has the feeling of Kamasi Washington opus The Epic – although it was recorded earlier. Sadly, Old Land has not received anywhere near the same level of recognition. It receives, though, the highest accolade from us here on Cosmic Jazz – an essential album.

Also from Poland was pianist Pavel Kazmarczk and his Audiofeeling Trio. He has been described as one of the young guns of Polish jazz and as EST with a Polish melancholy. He’s also in the UK this week, performing on 15 and 16 July at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Invitation, one of the tunes I played, is from his 2016 album Deconstruction while the second choice came from the earlier Something Personal.

Ameen SaleemI returned to The Groove Lab from bass player Ameen Saleem, this time to one of the strictly jazz tunes on the album that features Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn. Hargrove describes Saleem as “one of my favourite musicians” and identifies his talent for “knowing how to pick the right tempo, which is something we learn from the great masters like Theolonius Monk”. High praise indeed!

The Janet Lawson Quintet raised the tempo with some Brazilian inflected rhythms and we followed this with two more examples of non-German artists on the MPS label – Mark Murphy from the US and Francy Boland from Belgium. Here’s Murphy with one of the stand out tracks from his MPS album Midnight Mood – Sconsolato – and check out this version of the same by the aforementioned Francy Boland, this time with Kenny Clarke and their big band.

manny oquendo and libreFinally, came a descarga, a  Latin jam of wild playing and irresistible dance rhythms from the New York born percussionist Manny Oquendo and his band Libre. It is quite simply as good a dance tune as you are likely to hear. Oquendo may have lived in New York but the Puerto Rican roots are infused throughout his playing – there’s salsa, jazz and so much more.

  1.  Piotr Wojtasik – Blackout from Old Land
  2. Piotr Wojtasik – Hola from Old Land
  3. Pavel Kaczmarczk Audiofeeling Trio – Invitation from Deconstruction (Vars & Kaper)
  4. Pavel Kaczmarczk Audiofeeling Trio – Something Personal from Something Personal
  5. Ameen Saleem – For Tamisha from The Groove Lab
  6. Janet Lawson Quintet – Dreams Can Be from Kev Beadle’s Private Collection Vol 2
  7. Mark Murphy – Why and How from Magic Peterson Sunshine
  8. Francy Boland – Lillemor from Magic Peterson Sunshine
  9. Manny Oquendo & Libre – Major Que Nunca: Salsa Jam from Manny Oquendo & Libre

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

25 May 2016: jazz from the Czech Republic and France

Click the MixCloud tab (left) to hear a selection of mainly contemporary jazz from continental Europe with a couple of oldies from elsewhere thrown in.

sun ra arkestra a song for the sunRecently I heard the Sun Ra Arkestra live led by the 92 year old Marshall Allen. It was quite a spectacle with Allen’s sax well to the fore and reminiscent of Pharoah Sanders’ loud rasping tone.  It seemed appropriate to start with a piece from the Arkestra under Allen’s direction – but not a free jazz blow-out as might be expected but rather The Way You Look Tonight, written by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern in 1936 but given an Arkestra rethink.

It was long overdue that CJ featured more music from Steve’s Jazz Sounds, so there were a couple of gems from the Czech Republic. As is so often the case, there were musicians linking across the tracks. First off was tenor player Ondrej Sveracek and the title tune from his album Calm. The Dutch drummer Erik Ineke on hearing  Sveracek’s music commented that Coltrane’s in the house – sounds interesting. The album also features the US drummer Gene Jackson whose CV includes work with Kevin Eubanks, Hugh Masekela, Andrew Hill, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

petr benes quartetThe Petr Benes Quartet (+1) are also based in the Czech Republic. The tune Unusual Neighborhood is as interesting as the title and tenor player Ondrej Sveracek features here alongside his bass player Tomas Baros. From Poland came the excellent Algorythm: having heard them on my iPod selection during the week, they had to be circulated more widely. Check out their excellent album Segments – we’ve featured tracks from it before on Cosmic Jazz.

I once saw the trumpeter Erik Truffaz perform at Norwich Arts Centre to an audience of about 25 people – something of an embarrassing insult to a fine jazz adventurer who changes personnel, draws on many outside influences and yet maintains a pitch-perfect ambient calm in his playing. His new release Doni Doni includes contributions from Malian singer Rokia Traore, but the tune tonight featured the hip hop artibending new cornersst Oxino Puccino. I added another Erik Truffaz tune which included another rapper – this time Nya –  from the 1999 Blue Note album Bending New Corners which first introduced me to his work. Check out Truffaz performing Doni Doni Part 2 at the World Stock Festival in Paris.

ameen saleemOne of my favourite musicians was the enthusiastic comment made by trumpeter Roy Hargrove about bass player Ameen Saleem. You can see why from the tune Possibilities on Saleem’s new album The Groove LabHis bass provides a firm and prominent beat throughout the tune which has Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Greg Hutchinson on drums and Stacy Dillard on tenor sax. Hargrove is featured on the album but not on this track. The music throughout is varied – expect to hear soul and funk as well as jazz.

spiritual jazz 4Finally on tonight’s show, an excerpt from a long tune I heard during the week. A co-operation between radical vibes player Bobby Hutcherson and sax player Harold Land recorded in what was then Yugoslavia, now Serbia. It is a deep, deep cosmic tune and is available on the superb compilation Spiritual Jazz 4.

  1. The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen – The Way You Look Tonight from A Song for the Sun
  2. Ondrej Sveracek – Calm from Calm
  3. Petr Benes Quartet – Unusual Neighborhood from Pbq + 1
  4. Algorhythm – Sorry for the Delay from Segments
  5. Erik Truffaz feat Nya – Sweet Mercy from Bending New Corners
  6. Erik Truffaz Quartet feat Oxinno Puccino – Le Complement du Verbe from Doni Doni
  7. Ameen Saleem – Possibilities  from The Groove Lab
  8. Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet – The Creators from Spiritual Jazz Vol 4

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Derek is listening to:

  • Thomas Stronen – Pipa
  • Thomas Stronen – Lost Souls
  • Erik Truffaz – Siegfried
  • Papa Wemba feat. Barbara Kanam – Triple Option
  • Misty in Roots – Oh! Wicked Man

Neil is listening to:

Miles Ahead – a film by Don Cheadle

Miles Davis is the jazz superstar. It’s remarkable that there’s never been a biopic before. But wait – this very definitelyMiles is always cool isn’t a biopic. Director and lead Don Cheadle has been very clear about that from the start. Anyone coming to this film and expecting a cool-fest of decorative advertising images with A Kind of Blue soundtrack will be very disappointed.

Miles Ahead ploughs a very different furrow. It’s said that ten years ago Miles’ nephew Vince Wilburn told Don Cheadle that only he could play Davis in any film of his life, and now – thanks to crowdfunding through Indiegogo – it’s happened. Cheadle has said I want to tell a story that Miles himself would have wanted to see, something hip, cool, alive and AHEAD. 

don cheadle as miles 02So – does the film deliver? In some ways, yes it does. This is Cheadle’s directorial debut and it’s a visually arresting one. He’s taken what Ian Carr in his excellent biography calls ‘the Silent Years’, when Davis was holed up in his Queens apartment unable to play. When Cheadle flashes back to earlier periods (for example, the recording of Sketches of Spain with Gil Evans or Miles’ fascination with boxing and black world champion Jack Johnson) we’re gripped by the authenticity.  Cheadle creates a completely believable Miles – angry, frustrated, washed up and ready to quit music.

miles davis jack johnsonAnd the music! There’s no reliance on hackneyed ersatz coolness: instead Cheadle confidently lets the film buzz with the best of Davis’ music from the 1970s and 1980s. We get to hear Back Seat Betty, Go Ahead, John (which turns out to be perfect car chase music) and Prelude from Agharta. This is adventurous stuff, and as a result the film throbs with a visceral tension that’s delivered by the pacey direction and this powerful score.

So what’s wrong? Cheadle has admitted that the only reason the film was fully financed was because he agreed to have a white co-star. Enter the MacGuffin that is Ewan McGregor as Dave Braden, Rolling Stone reporter – and the stolen tapes of a Davis studio session. Enter Starsky and Hutch car chases, Miles firing shots at his Coludon cheadle as miles 03mbia record boss and night club police beatings. No – hang on, that last one really did happen. And here’s another problem: there’s so much in this eventful life that could have been the basis of a much more credible plot. With this, and Cheadle’s startingly original direction and central performance, the result would have been a five star film. As it is, go and see this Miles Ahead. You may be disappointed, but you’ll come away with a wholly believable snapshot of the most important musician of the 20th century.