Tag Archives: Miles Davis

12 December 2020: jazz – intense, deep and religious

After the edgy diversity of our last show, this new Cosmic Jazz focuses more on what might loosely be called spiritual jazz – a term we have commented on in previous blogs (see here for example). But we begin with an artist that crossed many arbitrary jazz boundaries and was often judged to be less of a true jazz musician for doing so. Perhaps it was Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley’s misfortune to have a bright, happy sound on his alto saxophone – none of the acidic tone of Ornette Coleman or Jackie McLean. Add to this his talent for writing catchy, memorable melodies like Mercy, Mercy Mercy and he was never going to be seen as a heavyweight like John Coltrane. But listen to what Adderley brought to what is one of the most famous tracks in all of jazz – So What from Miles Davis’ seminal Kind of Blue. You can immediately tell Coltrane and Adderley apart on this tune – Coltrane’s solo has those characteristic flurries of fast notes while Adderley adopts a more measured bluesy tone. But one is not better than the other. Sadly, Cannonball Adderley was dead at 48 following a stroke, but the range and diversity of his musical legacy is profound: there are some artists you can always rely on in terms of their music having something to say and always being worth a listen. Adderley was a key player of hard bop, he recorded an album of Brazilian sounds and he convincingly explored the axes of jazz and funk – but there was always soul in his music.

  1. Cannonball Adderley – Psalm 54 from Soul of the Bible

A few years back a local DJ guesting on Cosmic Jazz introduced me to the double vinyl album Soul of the Bible. After spreading the word, I was fortunate to receive the record shortly afterwards as a present and it remains right up there among my favourites. There is soul, there is gospel, there is spiritual jazz. The music is deep and meaningful and is, indeed, a religious and spiritual experience. Adderley is joined by his brother Nat on cornet and the band features George Duke, Walter Booker and Airto Moreira along with a bunch of vocalists, including Fleming Williams from the group the Hues Corporation (remember Rock the Boat?). DJ Rick Holmes provides narration, following up his role on Adderley’s earlier Soul Zodiac record with some truly religious-sounding readings in the style of a chapel preacher. Later on, Holmes would provide the intonation on the Roy Ayers-produced Remember to Remember with its inspiring litany of influential creatives and their epithets: Pass the information/Extend the knowledge/Martin Luther King said – I have a dream/Stevie Wonder said – Innervisions, interpretation, watch with your ears…/Cannonball Adderley said – Sometimes, we are not prepared for adversity, mercy, mercy, mercy. Never before has Cosmic Jazz started with a Psalm, but this week it begins with no less than a take on Psalm 54 – Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.2. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Ephemeral Pleasures from Ephemeral Pleasures 

3. Kasia Pietrzko Trio – Intimacy from Forthright Stories 

As promised on the show last week, there are two tunes from the young 26 year old Polish pianist Kasia Pietrzko and her trio – a track from her first album Forthright Stories, released in 2007, and the title tune from her new 2020 release Ephemeral Pleasures. Moreover, this week she is playing on both tunes – as opposed to that extraordinary bass solo from Andrej Swies from Ephemeral Pleasures on our previous show. Pietrzko studied at the Academy of Music in Krakow and spent time in New York, learning from Kenny Garrett and Aaron Parks among others. In 2018 she played in Krakow with the great Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and the plan was for a European tour. Sadly, Stanko died later that year and after this it was not until 2020 that she was able to release Ephemeral Pleasures.

Her music is essential listening; it is expressed with deep emotion, it is communicated with considerable intensity and it is organic, honest and deep. These two albums provide promise of a future career with many exciting and creative works to come. I like to think that female jazz musicians are an essential and integral part of the jazz scene, and to draw attention to them is to highlight the exception that in sad reality it so often is. On this occasion, however, I will make the observation that for me two of the best East European albums to reach the UK via Steve’s Jazz Sounds this year included The O.N.E. Quintet, a group of young female musicians, along with this Trio led by a young woman. Add to this the music we have featured from Artemis, the award winning female group, led by pianist Renee Rosnes. Are things slowly changing?

4. Lee Morgan – Absolutions from Live at the Lighthouse

Next up is trumpeter Lee Morgan from an album that’s not easy to find. Like many Blue Note artists, Morgan negotiated his way through the transition from hard bop to the two strands of jazz that were emerging in the late 1960s – a conscious, black awareness sound and the links to funk and rock styles. The seeds of the first of these had already been sown in the lengthy superb title track from Search for the New Land (1964) but a more eclectic, electric approach began with the album Taru (recorded in 1968) and ended with the two final albums – Live at the Lighthouse and The Last Session. Taru includes George Benson on guitar – listen to him here on Durem. Live at the Lighthouse has been available as an extended 3CD set but this is difficult to come by – examples on Discogs can be found here.  Our choice of tune, Absolutions, is only available on this version. Morgan is joined by Bennie Maupin on tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute, Harold Mabern on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass and Mickey Roker on drums. Morgan’s music is much more modal at this point and all tracks on the 3CD version are extended outings. The final tune is a revision of Morgan’s hit The Sidewinder but all others are original to this recording. There’s a real dynamism to the group’s playing here with Bennie Maupin putting in some of his finest playing on record.

The Last Session is just that: it’s the final recording before Morgan’s murder at the age of just 33. 1972 was a really creative time for Morgan as he began to follow the more electrified sounds of his peers. Bobbi Humphrey is on flute and the great Billy Harper is on tenor sax. The two disc album includes tunes that have become almost standards in the modern jazz repertoire – Croquet Ballet and Capra Black. All soloists are on fine form and the record is a tantalising glimpse of the directions that Morgan was taking at this time. On the 17 minute Inner Passions Out, written by drummer Freddie Waits, there’s even an Arabic feel with a Yusef Lateef shenai-sounding instrument accompanied by mbira (thumb piano) – all underpinned with a little studio trickery. On first hearing, you’d never guess that this was Lee Morgan.  All this and a great cover with a very cool looking Morgan staring into the camera. This is an album to search for – and then revel in the new sounds from a very forward-looking Lee Morgan. The double vinyl album is getting pricey now – the CD set is not difficult to find.

5. Matthew Halsall – Harmony with Nature from Salute to the Sun

And so we come right up to date with the latest release from another trumpeter, Matthew Halsall. We have featured his music right from the beginning – and so welcome his new 2020 release, Salute to the Sun. In fact, the album pays homage to earlier sounds – Halsall is increasingly influenced by the music (and beliefs) of Alice Coltrane – and this could certainly be said to be music for meditation. Some reviews have been rather disparaging – Daniel Spicer in Jazzwise magazine called it “almost offensively inoffensive”, but in fact Halsall is looking for a rather different soundworld. He has never been a virtuoso soloist, but rather a player focused on a purity of tone developed through a series of themes that often do indeed blend into one another. This is apparent here too – so best to sit down, light a joss stick or two and chill out. But remember: buy the rather beautiful clear vinyl version and you’ll have to get up to change sides – and that’s three times across this 2LP set.

6. Nubya Garcia – Source (Makaya McCraven remix)

Remixes can go two ways – a disastrously clunky beat-heavy produced-by-numbers extension that misses all the subtlety of the original – or an exploration of defining features that induces nods of appreciation. Chicago-based drummer, producer and beat-maker Makaya McCraven’s version of saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s Source is one of the latter. This remix appeared in November this year and is well worth seeking out. Unusually, it’s just less than half the length of the original track, and adds in bass-heavy production to elevate what is an already uplifting tune. A genuinely creative interchange between two musicians who have a fine appreciation of each other’s talents. You can find it right here on – of course – Bandcamp.

7. Booker Ervin – A Day to Mourn from The Freedom Book 

I am trying to go through my record shelves to dig out interesting records that I haven’t played for some time (or even forgotten about) with the intention to bring them to the show. A recent examples was this 1963 Prestige hard bop album by American saxophonist Booker Ervin – The Freedom Book. The tune we selected, A Day to Mourn, seemed to fit well with the spiritual, religious and intense emotions in much of the music on this week’s show. Booker Ervin had already come to be noticed through his work with Charlie Mingus on some of his classic albums, but from 1963 to 1966 he released solo albums on the Prestige label. The musicians were assembled specifically for this record, rather than being part of a working group. Booker had played together with pianist Jaki Byard during his work with Mingus and here he was also joined by the much-recorded Richard Davis on bass and Alan Dawson on drums. The album was recorded by no less than Rudy Van Gelder at his studios on 3 December, 1963.

8. Emma-Jean Thackray – Yang from Um Yang 

This is the tune on the second side of a vinyl record from British multi-instrumentalist Emma-Jean Thackray. It is on the new Night Dreamer label and the records are made at their Artone Studio in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Night Dreamer specialises in direct-to-disc recordings, a process whereby the music is cut onto acetate from single live performances. The label takes its name from the Wayne Shorter album of the same name – here’s the superb title track. “Its a paradox, in a way, like you’d have in a dream – something that’s both light and heavy” noted Wayne Shorter speaking to Nat Hentoff who compiled the liner notes for his 1964 Blue Note release. The Night Dreamer label aims to produce music that incorporates the essence of what Wayne Shorter conveyed, and it’s interesting to note that one of the other records on the label is a collaboration between Cosmic Jazz favourites Maisha and Gary Bartz. You can find it here. As we’ve commented before, it’s worth noting that the Thackray record on vinyl is less good value in terms of price per minutes of music than some of the other releases on the label. But that shouldn’t deter you from exploring the wide range of music on this excellent new British label. Their latest release is from Sarathy Korwar, another British musician we have championed here on the show. You can listen to and then order his new 2LP release right here. More great new jazz coming soon here on CJ

01 December 2020: Black Jazz and beyond to the outer edges…

This week is an example of how we mix things up on Cosmic Jazz – there’s music from some of the jazz greats but also some surprises for you as we travel down a latin road in the second part of the show before making diversions into more electronic territory.


  1. John Coltrane – Lonnie’s Lament from Crescent

But we begin with a jazz master. Saxophonist John Coltrane will never be far from our thoughts and ears: he always provides us with music that touches heart, soul and mind – and there are times when we need just that. His instantly recognisable tenor sound is simply life affirming and this ability to provide musical transcendence is epitomised by a tune like Lonnie’s Lament from the Crescent album.  The Impulse! label embarked on a ‘vital vinyl’ reissue programme in 2019 and included Coltrane’s 1964 recording Crescent as one of the titles. This reissue retains the original gatefold cover with liner notes by Nat Hentoff. The music was recorded in April and June 1964, produced by Bob Thiele and engineered by Rudy van Gelder. The personnel on the album is the classic Impulse! quartet – Coltrane is supported by McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. While familiar with some of the key tunes on the album, Derek did not own the record – until now. If you don’t have Crescent, then now is the time to get a copy that truly reflects the deep intensity of the music. Lonnie’s Lament is the longest track on the album and includes a bass solo from Jimmy Garrison as well as some beautiful quartet playing. We can’t help but recommend that you also listen to this version of Lonnie’s Lament from the Pharoah Sanders Crescent With Love tribute which also includes versions of Wise One, Naima, Crescent and After the Rain – all Coltrane compositions. We’ve mentioned this album before on CJ but it is an essential one, with some of the most poignant playing of Sanders’ career and wonderful support from William Henderson, Charles Fambrough and Sherman Ferguson.

2. Kazia Pietrzko Trio – Episode II from Ephemeral Pleasures 

More Polish music from our friends at the excellent Steve’s Jazz Sounds (and don’t forget to check out the new website!). Pianist Kazia Pietrzko is an immense talent and the serious nature and depth of her music makes her an appropriate follow-up to Coltrane. She studied in Krakow and New York, including classical studies of Prokofiev. She has original compositions that are intense and full of emotion: fellow pianist Aaron Parks (whose own new music was included in the show a few weeks ago) has written the sleeve notes and comments on the music as “patient, inquisitive, bold”. The trio includes Peter Budniak on drums and Andrzej Swies on bass. In fact the tune Episode II is one of several episodes on the album and contains the second amazing bass solo of the show – this time by trio member Andrej Swies. We’ll feature more music from this new release in our next show and may well return to her excellent debut album Forthright Stories.

3. Open Trio – To the Moon and Back from Heal the World

Also at Steve’s Jazz Sounds you’ll find an album whose title Heal the World sounds like an anthem for our times, even though it was recorded in 2017. It’s from the Swedish Open Trio, led by pianist Joakim Simonsson with Daniel Olsson on drums and Par-Ola Landin on bass. We have come across the words ‘Polish melancholy’ to describe much Polish jazz but – not to be outdone – the Open Trio have been described as ‘Nordic melancholy’ – I’d rather describe them as lyrical and melodic… The jazz piano trio has  been a staple format since the 1950s and – for more Scandi-jazz trio music – the wonderful EST (or, more accurately, e.s.t) should not be ignored. Esbjörn Svensson led the trio until his untimely death in a scuba diving accident in 2008 and the excellent Live in Gothenburg was released last year. Here’s the official video of the superb From Gagarin’s Point of View from the album of the same name.

4. Cleveland Eaton – Moe, Let’s Have A Party and Kaiser from Plenty Good Eaton 

Last week we featured music from the Black Jazz Records label with the exciting news that the label Real Gone Music have obtained the rights to re-release the entire catalogue from this label run by and for black musicians. On 08 January 2021 they will re-release the 1975 album Plenty Good Eaton from bass player Cleveland Eaton, who sadly died in the summer of this year. It was recorded shortly after he had left the Ramsey Lewis band and illustrates how he crossed over from jazz to soul/funk to R’n’B to blaxploitation sounds and on to a unique jazz fusion. The two tunes on this show illustrate this variety. Playing with Eaton on this album are (from the Chess label) keyboardist Odell Brown and percussionist Morris Jennings, with Steve Galloway and Arie Brown from the Black Jazz group The Awakening. The album will be re-released on all three formats – we think it’s essential music to start the new year.

5. Jack DeJohnette – Salsa for Luisito from Sound Travels

We love latin music here at CJ and we recognise the many connections between all its many variants and the world of jazz. To mark this, we’re starting something new as a regular feature in the show. The Latin Quarter will provide a dose of latin music as an integral part of the show. We start with Jack deJohnette, usually known as a drummer but also a pianist on this album. He featured in last week’s show as part of Keith Jarrett’s trio but this week the music comes from his own Sound Travels album, recorded in 2011 and which we played on the show at that time. Scanning his music collection, Derek came across the record again and wanted to play a track. It is a superb album with a stellar line-up including Esperanza Spalding on vocals and acoustic bass, Lionel Loueke on electric guitar and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Salsa for Luisito is dedicated to the captivating percussion player on the album – Luisito Quintero. The Caracas-born player has played on over fifty records to date including those of Fania stars Willie Colon, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente. His jazz links are many and various – George Benson, Herbie Hancock, and Ravi Coltrane to name a few. More recently, he has been an integral part of Louie Vega’s Elements of Life group (see more below).

6. Louie Vega presents Luisito Quintero – Quintero’s Jam (feat. Hilton Ruiz) from Percussion Maddness Vol I

As if to illustrate this link and the careful planning that goes into each Cosmic Jazz show (!) the next tune is from Quintero himself. Now an essential part of the New York latin scene, this album is produced by another stalwart of NuYorican sounds, producer and DJ Louie Vega. We loved this album on its release in 2006 (and the remix album which we included in our CJ live shows) and there has since been a further follow-up: eight years later, Part 2 of Percussion Maddness was released along with two 7in singles.  The package is available here on Bandcamp. For Quintero’s Jam, the piano maestro Hilton Ruiz is featured.  One of Neil’s favourite piano players, Puerto Rican-born Ruiz stood astride the latin and jazz worlds with no compromise. His 1970s albums on SteepleChase and the 1980s ones on Novus are uniformly excellent, with the trio of El Camino (1988), Strut (1989) and Doin’ It Right (1989) being the place to start. Here’s Soca Serenade from Strut. Sadly, Ruiz was found dead in 2006 in mysterious circumstances in New Orleans.

7. The Hermes Experiment – The Linden Tree from Here We Are

We make no excuses for playing this tune again. For one thing its individuality fits the boundary crossing of this particular programme but we also simply love it. “Meticulously nuanced, witty and chic” says a quote from The Times on the album cover – and we won’t disagree with that. The record is comprised mainly of contemporary classical compositions from, for example, Errolyn Wallen and Anna Meredith but The Linden Tree is jazzy with classical and folk mixed in there too. It is a composition by the jazz bass player, composer and arranger Misha Mullov-Abbado, son of the classical conductor Claudio Abbado. As Gramophone noted in their review of this record, “The Hermes Experiment’s main strength lies in its ability to adapt to the particular needs, demands and peculiarities of each piece contained on this deeply engaging collection.”

8. Jackie McLean and The Cosmic Brotherhood – Camel Drive from New York Calling/Spiritual Jazz Vol 11: Steeplechase Records

McLean was one of Blue Note’s finest alto sax players but this record is from later in his career when he was working with his son René McLean and a new generation of jazz talent. The Cosmic Brotherhood’s take on 1970s advanced hard bop is full of good tunes, several by pianist Billy Gault. René McLean is on tenor, alto, and soprano sax and is a fine performer in his own right. The elder McLean doesn’t dominate the session and The Cosmic Brotherhood come across as a tight group of equals. Great percussion from drummer Michael Carvin whose duet album with McLean – Antiquity – provided the cult jazz favourite De I Comahlee Ah. In his later years, Jackie McLean may not have equalled his superb run of Blue Note classics but he was never afraid to experiment and he stands out as a Blue Note artist who changed his alto tone into something more contemporary in his later albums for the label. The turning point was his essential Let Freedom Ring album from 1962 but McLean continued to explore new sounds throughout his career. In his later years he established the African American Music Department at Hartford University in Connecticut and was celebrated as a jazz educator as much as performer. Anyone new to McLean could start with the new Blue Note bargain audiophile Tone Poet release of the 1964 It’s Time album – here’s the superb title track. You can find all the excellent Tone Poet albums here – and all are worth investigating as among the best vinyl pressings available at the moment.

9. DJ Krush and Toshinori Kondo – Mu-getsu from Ki-oku

Trumpeter Toshinori Kondo died last month. He should be better known to jazz fans. Restlessly experimental to the end, Kondo recently released a series of electronic-centred online releases (many available here on Bandcamp) but much of his earlier work is not easy to get hold of. In 1978 he moved to New York, and began performing with Bill Laswell, John Zorn and others in the New York loft scene. Back in Japan in the 1980s he worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kazumi Watanabe and Herbie Hancock. Kondo’s expansive solo discography is more fusionesque – Nerve Tripper, from 2003, incorporates drum programming and strobing synthesizers. Here’s the track Open the Gate, which comes across like a fusion of Miles Davis and Jon Hassell – and that’s no bad thing. Kondo never stopped exploring and this continues in those new releases and on recent tours. His duet with turntablist DJ Krush is a likeable (if rather lightweight) release from 1996 and the golden age of trip hop. Kondo’s tone has always been Miles-like but much of this record could easily be outtakes from the posthumous Doo-Bop album of 1992 – the tone is very similar to Mystery right here.

10. Maria Joao/OGRE Electric – Respiros from Open Your Mouth 

By now in the show we had strayed from any straight and narrow jazz path, and so it made sense to continue forging ahead. Here we are talking about an artist who has worked with the likes of Joe Zawinul, Egberto Gismonti, Bobby McFerrin and Manu Katche among others but Portuguese vocalist Maria Joao appears to have gone more experimental as she has got older. Now 64, her latest release Open Your Mouth is an excursion into electronic music via her group OGRE Electric . As she says “to explore, never settle, and be on the lookout for new things will always be our motto, so sometimes it may not be so easy to label us. But who needs labels anyway?” Well, maybe they are helpful sometimes – but we’re no fan of carelessly generalised labels ourselves. On Cosmic Jazz, the music speaks for itself. 

11. Lettuce – House of Lett (jackLNDN remix) – Resonate from Resonate Remixed EP 

And so we end this show with the genre-breaking US band Lettuce. They’ve been busy over the last couple of years releasing two albums – Elevate (2019) and Resonate (2020) – but then following this up with an excellent EP of remixes from Resonate. This is typical of their experimental and unpredictable approach to music and so fits the feel of this programme perfectly. On this show we have now reached out beyond any arbitrary jazz boundaries and this tune is an excellent example. As aware as we are of those casually generated labels referred to above, the promotional material for Lettuce suggests that their music is (quote) “[a] Funk-jazz-soul-hiphop-psychedelic-jam”. Sounds reasonable to us. More soon.

Jazz photos No.3 – Miles Davis 1970

Miles Davis, lounging on a bed of skins with an unidentified woman, wearing suede-patched, zip-front vest from Hernando’s New York, and canvas built-up-heel, slip-on shoes by Franco Pachetti.

This photo heads an excellent feature on the interesting Burning Ambulance website. It dates from a few back – in fact, 2014 when the Complete Live at the Fillmore box set was released – but it’s a good introduction to this most fertile of periods in the vast Davis chronology. You can read the whole thing right here – and if you’re new to the music of Miles in the 1970s then this is one place to start. The sheer volume of music from that first year of the decade is now staggering. Thanks to box sets, official reissues, lost concert recordings and a bunch of bootlegs you could listen to music from this most fertile period for hours. And you should. We should now recognise that 1970 was a creative peak for Miles – but where to start with this music?

Let’s begin with the albums released in the two years before – 1968 and 1969. July 1968 gave us Miles in the Sky, a stepping stone into a new era for for the trumpeter. There’s a new interest in electric instruments and the two recording dates take us from the twisted modality of Paraphernalia to Stuff, recorded five months later. The former track includes a guest slot from guitarist George Benson who sets the tone of the track with a defining riff right at the start. It sound like bebop but it’s been turned inside out. Drummer Tony Williams (then just 23) is all over this track and the elliptical Wayne Shorter (writer of this piece) even references his own Footprints at one point. The remaining three tracks are more typical of this quintet’s zenith of collective improvisation – perhaps some of the most ‘together’ music ever recorded. This is rightly regarded as an epitome of small group jazz: often termed the Second Great Quintet, the interplay between this group over six studio albums and one live box set (The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel) is extraordinary. The music is always about the group and never just Miles. There’s a telepathic fluidity about this music – and never more so than on the Plugged Nickel sets – that is unique in jazz. Perhaps paradoxically, you should start with the last of these records – the aforementioned Filles de Kilimanjaro. The new Mrs Davis, Betty Mabry, appears on the cover and Miles apparently titled the record after his recent investment in the Kilimanjaro African Coffee company. All track titles are in French and the music forms a kind of organic suite in the key of F. It’s an album to listen to as one continuous piece: some of the music is more chilled with Ron Carter on electric bass and Herbie Hancock’s Fender Rhodes being responsible for some of this, but it’s also that Miles’s trumpet is also more restrained throughout. Less well known is that Miles’ old collaborator Gil Evans had a hand in two of the tracks – Petit Machins is his composition and the introduction to Madamoiselle Mabry owes something to Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary which had been recorded the previous year. Perhaps it was all an indication of what was to come on the truly ground breaking It’s a Silent Way album from the following year.

This is as essential as Kind of Blue: it’s a record that anyone interested in contemporary music of whatever genre needs to hear – again and again. But the reason isn’t Miles Davis – it’s Teo Macero, Miles’ longtime producer who here creates an indefinable magic from a pile of studio recordings from one day – 18 February 1969. Macero created a kind of electric sonata from hours of tape, splicing together music from one three hour long session. The result was entirely unique at the time – two long tracks, each with three ‘movements’ containing repeated musical elements synthesised into something magnificent. Rolling Stone writer Lester Bangs described In A Silent Way as “the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music. It is not rock and roll, but it’s nothing stereotyped as jazz either. All at once, it owes almost as much to the techniques developed by rock improvisors in the last four years as to Davis’ jazz background. It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality”. Listen to the groove on It’s About That Time around nine minutes into the track – a sound that will stay with you long after the music has ended. This version is from the Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, one of the Legacy box sets that are now so collectable.

So what could possibly follow that? The answer this time is Bitches Brew, the 1970 double album – and the very first Miles record I bought. Davis assembled an even bigger group of musicians than on It’s A Silent Way and Teo Macero spliced and edited with yet more aplomb than before. Recorded across three days in September 1969, the music takes giant steps towards a rock idiom without ever becoming rock. The core band of Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Chick Corea and Jack DeJohnette was augmented by Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Larry Young, Lenny White, Juma Santos and Bennie Maupin. Miles had written simple chord charts but he told the musicians to play anything that came to mind as long as they used his chosen chord. The musicians were confused – but this very loose structure certainly inspired Davis: his trumpet playing is aggressive and explosive across much of the double album and the closing solo on Miles Runs the Voodoo Down is simply breathtaking.

In his superb book Miles Beyond, the Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991, Paul Tingen paved the way for a critical re-assessment of the prolific 1970-75 era prior to Miles’ five year retirement from music. Tingen notes that “Bitches Brew also pioneered the application of the studio as a musical instrument, featuring stacks of edits and studio effects that were an integral part of the music.” Tape loops, delays, reverb and echo were all used along with intensive tape editing, Pharaoh’s Dance, for example, contains 19 edits – its famous stop-start opening is entirely constructed in the studio, using repeat loops of certain sections. As Tingen notes, the editing is amazingly precise – “a one-second-long fragment that first appears at 8:39 is repeated five times between 8:54 and 8:59… Bitches Brew not only became a controversial classic of musical innovation, it also became renowned for its pioneering use of studio technology.” It’s a gateway to the increasingly challenging music that Miles Davis was to make over the next five years – there’s always more to explore…

Week ending 20 April 2019: from Miles to Ra

There are no themes for this week’s show but if you click the Mix Cloud tab you can listen to some great jazz from around the world – the USA, Finland, Italy, Poland, the UK, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Egypt.

It is a while – probably too long – since we  heard from Miles Davis on the show but we put this right with the opening tune. Bitches Brew is familiar enough to many jazz listeners but nearly 50 years after the original recording was made, it still has the power to surprise. This version of Bitches Brew was recorded at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 with an audience of over 600,00 people. Davis was the only jazz act amid a host of rock and pop acts, including Jimi Hendrix, the Moody Blues, Chicago, the Doors and Joni Mitchell. It must have been quite a surprise!  Davis’s music was now moving faster than most of his audience could deal with, and the music from this 2011 release documents that change.  Andy Gill of The Independent newspaper commented in his review of the time that the music “capture[s] Davis on the cusp of creating another jazz revolution” and described its music as “jazz reconstituting after meltdown, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis: free-wheeling, edgy, unpredictable and coruscating, and about as hot as this legend of cool ever got.” Saxophonist Gary Bartz had just joined the band – and he will be performing at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here Festival in August here in the UK.

Still in the US, there was another track from the new album by pianist/keyboard player James Francies. The quality of his playing is in no doubt and is reinforced by Chris Potter – one of the most respected sax players of the moment – selecting him to play on his recent album and to tour with him in the US. On last week’s Cosmic Jazz I enjoyed the DJ Khalab tune Dense featuring the ubiquitous Shabaka Hutchings and Italian saxophonist Tommaso Cappellato and so it seemed a good reason to play it again this week. Moving from Italy/the UK to Northern Europe, the show visited Finland and trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski and his group Nuance. Besides leading his band he is a freelance musician and composer who has played with a number of artists, including Dave Liebman and Peter Erskine. In 2017 Sarikoski moved to New York City for postgraduate study at the Julliard School of Music.

Now, it’s a while since the show made one of its regular visits to Europe. We began with trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski from Finland and a track from his new album Essence and followed this with a first play for Michal Kobojek, a sax player from Warsaw. The tune Seven Steps (and, no it’s not the Miles Davis Seven Steps to Heaven tune) showed this is an artist we have missed out on – great solos from Kobojek and his guitarist too. We will explore more. He is also a session musician and has played with other Polish artists familiar to Cosmic Jazz such as Urszula Dudziak and Michal Urbaniak. And for more information about Polish jazz and a whole bunch of incredible musicians that you’ve probably not heard of before check out this excellent Polish Jazz blogsite.

There was an indulgence with another play for the much-loved tune Tiffany’s Dodo from the Belgian drummer Jelle Van Giel and his band. The track comes from van Giel’s very accomplished debut album Songs for Everyone, released in 2015 and it’s highly recommended. For this and so much more, your ever-reliable source of new jazz from Poland and beyond is Steve’s Jazz Sounds. This excellent website will introduce to a wide range of new jazz that doesn’t often make the UK jazz press. Arve Henriksen is a Norwegian trumpet player who established links with the port city of Hull in Yorkshire UK. Alongside Elvind Aarset and Jan Bang they  produced a commissioned work for the Hull City of Culture year in 2017. The music accompanied a sound walk crossing the River Humber in Hull. Apparently, 15,000 tickets were sold – exposing more people to Henriksen’s uniquely atmospheric sound on trumpet.

Don Cherry spent much time in Scandinavia in the 1970s where he perfected his vision of world music, living in the country with his wife Moki Karlsson (who created the album cover you can see left). His Organic Music Society album  was recorded  and released in Sweden in 1972 and includes an interesting take, with some different and mysterious sounds, of the Pharoah Sanders 1969 tune The Creator Has A Master Plan. A fine example of how it is possible to add something to a tune composed by another musician. Organic Music Society was reissued in 2012 on CD for the first time and whilst it’s a diffuse collection of live and studio recordings that won’t appeal to many other than Cherry completists, it’s impossible not to like this take on a Pharoah Sanders classic.

We ended the show with another curiosity – this time from another jazz outsider Sun Ra, this time recording in Egypt with one of Cairo’s most famous musicians, Salah Ragab. Sun Ra had actually first performed with his Arkestra at the foot of the pyramids in a celebrated concert in 1971, but the two tracks that form this EP were recorded in a Cairo studio while Sun Ra was on a second tour of Egypt two years later. And if you’re thinking that the opening melody sounds very familiar, the tune does appear to owe a lot to trumpeter Lee Morgan’s classic The Sidewinder. Compare for yourself here. If you like this Sun Ra track, then the second much longer tune Dawn will also be worth exploring. Like much great music, you can find it here on Bandcamp.

  1. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew from Bitches Brew Live
  2. James Francies – ANB from Flight
  3. DJ Khalab feat. Shabaka Hutchings and Tommaso Cappellato – Dense from Black Noise 2084
  4. Kasperi Sarikoski – The Payment from Essence
  5. Jelle Van Giel Group – Tiffany’s Dodo from Songs for Everyone
  6. Michal Kobojek – Seven Steps from The Outside
  7. Arve Henriksen – Pink Cherry Trees from The Heights of the Reeds
  8. Don Cherry – The Creator has a Master Plan from Organic Music Society
  9. Sun Ra & his Arkestra – Egypt Strut from Egypt Strut/Dawn EP

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 08 December 2018: chilled new beatz!

This week marks the return of Neil back from Singapore and live on the show with more of his carefully considered and impressive selections. Hit that MixCloud tab to hear some exciting new jazz and jazz-related music. Expect to be surprised!

The first tune this week though was Derek’s choice – more from Polish drummer/composer Jacek Kochan and his new release Ajee. He has resided in Poland, the US, Canada before returning to Poland. While in North America he played with an impressive range of musicians, including Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Joey Calderazzo and Eddie Henderson. His new album has that unpredictable, even wild edge at times. It’s an album that demands to be noticed. As always with much of the excellent new music from Poland, we are indebted to Steve’s Jazz Sounds as our source.

From that point it was all Neil with some of the music he has been listening to in the last few weeks. Overall a chilled, forward looking vibe with Matthew Halsall up first. If there is a current jazz musician that you can instantly associate with the word cosmic, it’s Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall.  He’s had a long association with our Cosmic Jazz show and we’ve promoted his music for many years now. The reissue of his 12in single Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile is a homage to cosmic icon Alice Coltrane and very good it is too.

British keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones released his first album Starting Today earlier this year. We have played the tune Mollison Dub from it and there is now an extended 12in further dubbed out vocal version with Asheber. Armon-Jones records for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, an important source for the new British jazz. Also on the label are Glasgow’s Auntie Flo whose Cape Town Jam appears on this week’s show. Brian d’Souza is a central figure in the new strand of club music fusing electronic and world influences alongside the likes of Daphni, Four Tet, Romare, Sinkane and more. The new album Radio Highlife was released earlier this year. This may not be jazz but this club-based music is undoubtedly informed by jazz and other music from around the world.

EABS are in some ways a Polish equivalent of the new British wave. They are a septet of young musicians whose reach goes beyond that of traditional jazz audiences. They experiment, they cross musical genres and their sounds come not only from traditional instruments but also turntables. They are innovative, contemporary and interesting. The music this week comes from their excellent cassette tape/download release Puzzle Mixtape which features the widest range of collaborators EABS have yet deployed including a whole bunch of US artists – Jesse Boykins II, MED, Jeru The Damaja and Ben LaMar Gay. We selected Paulina and Natalia Przybysz (former Sistars).

Makaya McCraven is definitely still one of the musicians of the moment. He produces tunes that by jazz standards are short but have no need to be longer. He collaborates with musicians both in the US and the UK and this week’s choice comes from his excellent 2018 release Universal Beings.  Like all of his music, the basis is live recordings that are then remixed via Ableton, with McCraven doing what he calls fixing the music – editing, looping, pitching, layering, and ultimately producing the tracks. Universal Beings is an album recorded at four separate sessions in New York, Chicago, London and Los Angeles, and featuring an A-list of new jazz players from those hotbed cities – Brandee Younger, Tomeka Reid, Dezron Douglas, Joel Ross, Shabaka Hutchings, Junius Paul, Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry, Josh Johnson, Jeff Parker, Anna Butters, Carlos Niño and Miguel-Atwood Ferguson. It’s an impressive line up and the music is equally rewarding. We highly recommend this and McCraven’s other releases. For more information and a chance to listen to the music, checkout McCraven’s Bandcamp pages here.

The show this week featured several singles and EPs, as opposed to album tracks. The last three tunes were more examples of this. We began with Chip Wickham, a UK flautist and saxophonist who has toured with Matthew Halsall and others, and then Miles Davis from the lost Rubberband sessions EP released for this year’s Record Store Day in April. Finally, from East London, self-taught pianist and some time grime and hip-hop artist Alfa Mist working with Yussef Dayes and featuring some superb guitar work from Mansur Brown. There will be more from Brown’s own first solo album in upcoming shows.

  1. Jacek Kochan – Chinese Boomerang from Ajee
  2. Matthew Halsall – Blue Nile from Journey in Satchidananda/Blue Nile 12in single
  3. Joe Armon-Jones – Mollison Dub vocal version (feat. Asheber) from 12in single
  4. Auntie Flo – Cape Town Jam from Radio Highlife
  5. EABS – Kawalek O Zyciu from EABS Puzzle Mixtape
  6. Makaya McCraven – Wise Man, Wiser Woman from Universal Beings
  7. Chip Wickham – Snake Eyes (Ishmael Ensemble remix) from Shamal Wind Remixed EP
  8. Miles Davis – Rubberband of Life from the Rubberband EP
  9. Yussef Dayes and Alfa Mist feat. Mansur Brown – Love Is the Message from single

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 24 November 2018: Coltrane’s heritage

Available to you this week at the touch of the Cosmic Jazz MixCloud tab – music from Poland, Cuba, the US and UK.

Poland is the first stop. We have said it before, but it is worth repeating that there is a wealth of new music coming out of Poland and much of it getting recognised beyond the borders of the country. Stockists such as Steve’s Jazz Sounds have done much to make easy access to the music possible. Many of the bands are young too and their influences are many and diverse – like many of the current jazz musicians we feature here on CJ. There are two examples this week. The Tubis Trio are led by pianist Maciej Tubis and Flashback (great album cover!) is their second release. The title tune comes complete with its own flashback moments... Monosies are a quintet led by guitarist/composer Lukasz Komala and Stories of the Gray City is their debut album. Do these tunes present further examples of what is often referred to as Polish melancholy? I am not sure – we leave that judgement to you.

From Cuba came more music this week from pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his new trio album Un Dia Cualquiera – which translates as Just another day. In some ways the music is firmly in the tradition of the piano/bass/drums trio tradition, but with this record the Cuban flourishes are integral to Lopez-Nussa’s sound. The music references back to a number of Cuban styles, including Yoruba chants, rumba, descarga and – on our choice this week – an old bolero-style classic from 1946. But don’t think that all this roots referencing has created a traditional album – far from it. It’s a joyous contemporary celebration of a deep musical heritage that is an ongoing musical exploration

Ok, so we all know John Coltrane was a genius – it’s a naive truism in jazz – and, of course, his influence is still with us through many of the younger generation of jazz soloists. But, listening again to the 2018 Impulse! release Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album, made me stop and simply say, yes – this music really does take us to another place. But what is it about Coltrane’s music that’s so influential?  Well, a good place to start might be with this Earworm analysis of Coltrane’s iconic Giant Steps, surely an influence on pretty much every contemporary jazz musician. Why? Well, you don’t need to be a musician to understand the significance of the circle of fifths – a musical principle that guided ‘trane’s musical explorations – but the video will give you renewed sense of John Coltrane’s musical mastery. The image here is Coltrane’s own hand-drawn annotated circle of fifths – and check out Derek’s Coltrane listening choice below which features a graphic based on this musical principle.

All of this suggested it was a good time to play Coltrane again and follow this with a contemporary musician who has clearly been influenced by him. Coltrane’s classic quartet released the tune Tunji in 1962 as part of the album just called Coltrane. McCoy Tyner is on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It’s simply a masterpiece and you owe it to yourself to check out the complete version of this Impulse! album as it contains five alternate versions of the tune.

One of our CJ favourites, Manchester-based saxophonist Nat Birchall has just released his version of Tunji as a single. You don’t get the piano and bass features of the Coltrane version – rather Nat Birchall blows his sax all the way through on what is a much shorter version. But it stands up well – a praiseworthy achievement. Respect is due, as they say. You can still get the 7inch single or download Tunji along with Mode for Miles (also from the Coltrane album) from the ever-reliable Bandcamp site here. It’s also well worth seeking out all of Birchall’s work from his earliest albums like Akhenaten through to his most recent release Cosmic Language on the Jazzman label.

While in the groove of playing those influenced by Coltrane it seemed appropriate to feature something more from Kamasi Washington and his most recent release Heaven and Earth album. Washington has been championed in Cosmic Jazz for a good few years now, and his 2018 3CD release doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of lengthy, sometimes overblown tracks but the spiritual jazz legacy of Coltrane and others is undoubtedly there and Washington is a powerful force in the jazz new wave. Heaven and Earth is highly recommended as is The Epic from 2016 and – a really good place to start for Washington novices – the Harmony of Difference EP.

We ended the show with a tune by UK DJ/producer/musician Kaidi Tatham, formerly of the influential Bugz in the Attic collective. As producers and remixers to many in the London broken beat scene, the Bugz released a couple of excellent compilations of their work – both worth looking out for. Tatham is now a prolific artist and producer in his own right having worked with Amy Winehouse, Slum Village, Mulatu Astatke, Soul II Soul, Amp Fiddler, Macy Gray, King Britt and DJ Spinna, Like the two Tunji selections, I See What You See was one of Neil’s selections and – at last – it got an airing. It’s an example of one of those many tunes we play on the show, without apology, which stretch beyond the boundaries of what some might call jazz. We love it. Tatham’s newest EP (released in October 2018) can be found here – again on Bandcamp.

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

Derek is listening to…

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 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…