Tag Archives: Miles Davis

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 we chose comes from van Giel’s very accomplished debut album Songs for Everyone, released in 2015. It’s highly recommended. For this and so much more your ever-reliable source of new jazz from Poland and beyond. European music check out Steve’s Jazz Sounds, your ever-reliable source of new jazz from Poland and beyond.

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…

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…