Tag Archives: Nat Birchall

07 March 2021: classic and contemporary sounds

Welcome to a new Cosmic Jazz. This show visits two classic jazz labels – Blue Note and Black Jazz Records – and two independent contemporary UK ones – Edition Records and Far Out Recordings (see the links below for more on each). The musicians featured come from the USA, Brazil, Scotland, Poland and Jamaica (yes, even on a jazz-related show, a tribute to the late Bunny Wailer could not – and should not – be avoided). It’s essential music from both past and present.

1. Lee Morgan – The Rajah from The Rajah 

This fantastic Lee Morgan album has been re-released on vinyl via the highly recommended Blue Note Tone Poet Series, although the recording we used on the show is from the original mono version on vinyl record. The re-release is welcome. The Rajah is an album Derek goes back to frequently – probably the first  record he turns to  among several, when he wants to hear Lee Morgan. Not only is the music good, there is a powerful image of Morgan on the cover which needs the size of vinyl to be appreciated to the full. If you’d like your own copy of this mono version – good luck! Check out Discogs for the only two copies currently available on the site or enjoy the audiophile vinyl quality of the brand new Tone Poet edition. The record has not had an easy history.  It was recorded in 1966 but was not released until 1985, twelve years after Morgan’s death.  On the record, trumpeter Morgan  is accompanied a stellar group of Blue Note regulars – Hank Mobley on tenor, Cedar Walton on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Billy Higgins on drums.  As on The Rajah, the title tune played on the show and the only Morgan composition on the album, there are frequent solo blasts of power from Morgan and Mobley and it goes without saying that the other musicians are great too. This is definitely a record every Blue Note fan – no, every jazz fan – must have.

2. Gene Russell – My Favorite Things from Talk to My Lady

The twenty albums recorded for Black Jazz Records – and now all re-released via Real Gone Music – are represented in this show by keyboard player Gene Russell, who recorded two albums for the label as well as producing every album in the catalogue.  The album Talk to My Lady includes two other musicians who released music on the label – bassist Henry Franklin (a memorable performance on this track) and guitarist Calvin Keys – and includes a version of My Favorite Things which contrasts with the classic Coltrane version that followed on the show. It is much faster in tempo and considerably shorter in length than the Coltrane version but is led by some really imaginative Fender Rhodes playing from Russell himself.

3. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things from My Favorite Things

The Coltrane version had to follow: it is simply the definitive version of the tune – but which one? A recent excellent BBC Radio 4 programme, made Derek realise that although he had a few live Coltrane recordings of the tune (and there are many available), he did not have the original studio version. But he does now and so here it is. Apparently, a music  publisher brought the tune to Coltrane’s attention and, while pianist McCoy Tyner was not sure at first – Coltrane was convinced. It became both his most commercial-sounding and commercially successful release, going on to sell over 500,000 copies, and for the musicians in the band perhaps some relief after the complexity of the earlier Giant Steps from 1960, particularly the celebrated title track. That is not to say this version is not free, complex and experimental: the original Rodgers and Hammerstein melody is heard numerous times throughout, but instead of playing solos over the written chord changes (as would have been more typical), Tyner and Coltrane take extended solos over just two chords and in waltz time. Yes, this is where the modal jazz innovations of Miles Davis on Kind of Blue first met the spiritual jazz extensions of John Coltrane for the first time. Interestingly, this was not the classic Coltrane quartet that would go onto record for the Impulse! label as the bass player for this session was Steve Davis – brother in law to McCoy Tyner! In this original 1961 quartet release, Coltrane plays soprano sax for the first time on record – it had been bought for him by Miles Davis. Other live versions of My Favorite Things (of which there are many) extend Coltrane’s improvisations further – most notably in the incredible version on Coltrane’s Live in Japan album which is a challenging 57 minutes in length, but the original studio recording is the best known. According to biographer Lewis Porter, Coltrane cited  the tune as “my favorite piece of all those I have recorded”.

4. Bobby Hutcherson – Verse from Stick-Up!/Spiritual Jazz Vol 9 Blue Note Part 1

Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson was a Blue Note star for decades. He first recorded for the label with Jackie McLean in 1963 and went on to deliver over twenty records with them. Hutcherson had an original sound and style on vibes, developing complex but sometimes memorable melodies (like his much covered Little B’s Poem) along with new tones and textures. Throughout the mid-60s, he appeared on numerous celebrated records – Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, Anthony Williams’ Life Time and Andrew Hill’s Judgement – but also featured alongside many classic Blue Note artists like Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon and Grant Green. His album Stick-Up! also includes McCoy Tyner on piano and Billy Higgins on drums and is one of the very best from this prolific mid-60s period. All tracks (bar a version of Ornette Coleman’s Una Muy Bonita) are Hutcherson compositions and the album was the final one to receive a classic Reid Miles cover. The album is still widely available, but you can also find the track on the excellent Spiritual Jazz Blue Note compilation which includes another excellent Hutcherson tune, the modal Coltrane tribute Searchin’ the Trane from his 1976 album Waiting.

5. Grupo Batuque – Tauruma from O Aperto Da Saudade/Africa Brazil

Joe Davis and his Far Out Recordings label rarely fail to deliver the goods when it comes to music from Brazil – and O Aperto Da Saudade is no exception. Each track has been selected from their prolific output for that sense of saudade. It’s a word with no direct English translation but in Portuguese describes a sense of nostalgia for something that may never return. But in longing for that certain something, whether it’s a person, a place or a time gone by, saudade holds the thing you miss close, and keeps it present despite its absence. Portuguese author Manuel de Mello calls it “A pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy.” In Brazil, there is an even deeper resonance: as a nation steeped in slavery, the vibrance of African culture in Brazil amplified Saudade, and it became something even more painful, but at the same time a little more rhythmic, perhaps even upbeat.

O Aperto da Saudade (translated as “the grip of saudade”), is a 2020 compilation which attempts to translate the word through the music itself. While saudade is traditionally equated with bossa nova and samba, the music here ranges from 1965 to the present day, and spans psychedelic folk, samba jazz, bossa nova and MPB. We chose the laid back Tauruma from Grupo Batuque, a constantly shifting samba collective of veteran Brazilian percussionists, drummers and musicians assembled by Joe Davis. Members have included Ivan Conti, Wilson das Neves, Robertinho Silva, Cidinho Moreira and many more. Grupo Batuque have gone on to release five albums with Far Out, including their third album, the Grammy nominated Africa Brazil which documented samba’s African roots and included the popular Tauruma.

6. Arthur Verocai – Tudo De Bom from Encore

We stayed with Brazil and Far Out for a genuine classic – Arthur Verocai and a tune from his second album Encore, which features 11 original Verocai compositions with guest musicians including Azymuth, Ivan Lins and a nine-piece string section. This record came in 2007, some 35 years after his neglected eponymous debut album  and it’s well worth chasing down. Thankfully, Far Out have recently released it again, but on vinyl too this time – and it’s available from the label right here.

Born in Rio de Janeiro on 17 June 1945, Arthur Verocai began his professional music career in 1969 and over the next few years was responsible for the orchestration of albums by Ivan Lins, Jorge Ben, Gal Costa, Quarteto em Cy, MPB 4 and Marcos Valle. In the 1970s he was hired by Brazil’s biggest TV station, TV Globo, as musical director and wrote the arrangements for many of the station’s biggest shows. In 1972, Verocai recorded his self-titled debut album on Continental Records but the combination of Brazilian influences with folksy soul and lo-fi electronica experimentations didn’t go down well – and both the album and artist subsequently vanished into obscurity. Verocai had to wait until 2004 when Joe Davis and and Dave Brinkman from the label travelled to  Brazil and began recording Encore. They recruited many of the artists who had appeared on that first 1972 record – Robertinho Silva, Paulinho, Bigorna, and this time, all three members of Azymuth. Tudo De Bom (or All the Best) is another memorable tune – with a gorgeous arrangement reminiscent of Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova.

7. Fergus McCreadie – Cairn from Cairn

Now we turn to one of Britain’s best jazz labels, the ever-enterprising Edition Records who are just about to release Chris Potter’s new trio album with James Francies and Eric Harland. Founded in 2008 by pianist Dave Stapleton, Edition has grown in recent years to include a raft of celebrated jazz artists – The Bad Plus, Kit Downes, Tim Garland, Ivo Neame, Chris Potter, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler and The Snow Poets. We’ve played many of their records from the outset – including the celebrated trio Phronesis who were selected to support the Wayne Shorter Quartet at the Barbican Hall in 2011 – a truly memorable show. Now comes another piano trio led by Scots pianist Fergus McCreadie. Cairn is his second record and is chockful of beautiful melodies and arrangements. We chose the the title track with its debt to the lyricism of one of our favourite innovative trios, EST. Fergus McCreadie has won numerous prizes and was the under-17 Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the year and a Jazzwise magazine One to Watch in 2018. Backed by bassist David Bowden with Stephen Henderson on drums, McCreadie blends jazz and Scottish traditional music and – just as with his first record, the music is inspired by the diversity of the Scottish landscape.

8. Mariusz Smolinski – Who’s Next from Ten Minutes Later 

One of the top albums currently featured at Steve’s Jazz Sounds a specialist in jazz music from continental Europe and more besides, Ten Minutes Later is the debut album from the young Polish trio led by Mariusz Smolinski. There are eight original compositions from Smolinski, who plays both acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes. There are soloing opportunities for bass player Bartosz Kucz and drummer Piotr Budniak, both who come from the Polish jazz fusion scene. Polish-Jazz Blogspot, a key source of information on Polish jazz recordings, describes the music as reminiscent of Chick Corea’s recordings of the 1970s and 1980s and praises the record as yet another example of the many fine young jazz musicians emerging in Poland.

9. Jazzpospolita – Kwaty Cite from Przyplyw 

It’s refreshing to come across a Polish jazz release where the band does not feel it has to have title tunes and an album title in English – but, unfortunately, this means we will need to apologise for pronunciation errors with reference to both tune and album. Apologies. This is the seventh album from Jazzpospolita who are led by bass player Stefan Nowakowski. Released in 2020, it was the first album from the group for some time after personnel changes. Jazzpospolita is a quartet with bass, piano/keyboards,  drums and the driving guitar of Lukasz Borowicki which adds ambient, fusion and even rock elements to the music.

10. Lyle Workman – Noble Savage from Uncommon Meeting 

Lyle Workman is another artist who combines jazz with fusion and rock/pop. A guitarist, keyboard player and composer, Lyle Workman has some serious jazz credentials include composing a tune for the final release from drummer and jazz icon Tony Williams. Workman was invited to the session and found he was among Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock as well as drummer Tony Williams. The wholly instrumental album Uncommon Measures is, not surprisingly, stylistically diverse and features a 63-piece orchestra. The music has some fine arrangements and melodies and is occasionally Zappa-esque in its rich complexity – as here on our choice Noble Savage. The record is available through Blue Canoe Records.

11. Bunny Wailer – Liberation from Liberation

We believe we can apply the principle “If you like this, you will like that” on Cosmic Jazz, and that this certainly applies to reggae for many jazz lovers – including both of us. We are not alone: British saxophonist Nat Birchall is an example of a jazzer obsessed with reggae and he has released the music to prove it. Do check out this blogpost on how much reggae is important in his life and music. Throughout its history, and particularly in its early stages, jazz-feeling horns have been a prominent part of reggae. Following the death of Bunny Wailer – the member of the original Wailers trio whose music Derek plays the most – he felt that he had to put the above principle into practice. Bunny Wailer (born Neville Livingson in 1947) was strong of conviction – check out the film Fire in Babylon to see this exemplified in his spoken word as well as his music. The voice was so sweet – so gentle, yet so strong. His percussion work had the same effect and his lyrics often included a powerful Rastafarian commitment and a plea for liberation – as in this title tune from his landmark 1989 album. His albums could command the support of the very finest Jamaican musicians, with this one including no less than Sugar Minott, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare with a horn section that provides an uplifting, stirring  and joyful backdrop. For a further taste of Wailer’s beautiful tenor voice at its best try This Train from his 1976 first solo release Blackheart Man. We reckon that jazz lover needs this music too. More from Cosmic Jazz soon.

What is it about spiritual jazz?

Following on from the Tony Allen feature with a similar title, this CJ post takes a long hard look at spiritual jazz. As we have noted in a previous CJ, this blanket term seems to be applied to almost any reissue which features a dashiki-wearing tenor saxophonist who recorded in the 1970s for a private press label and has just had his album reissued on Soul Jazz Records, Jazzman or similar labels.

Well – and mentioning no names here – that may or may not be bonafide spiritual jazz. So what are we talking about? We were probably not using the term ‘spiritual jazz’ in 1965 but that’s as good a starting date as any and, of course, we’re talking John Coltrane and A Love Supreme – an album of deliberate transcendence, an entry into the world of musical mysticism and a record that has been lauded as one of the greatest jazz records ever. The thing is, it’s true. A Love Supreme is a work that has been both enjoyed and analysed for over 50 years and the more we investigate, the more there is to explore. For the deepest understanding of this truly awesome record, check out Ashley Kahn’s authoritative study at the book’s website here and for a superb investigation of Coltrane’s sound, read Ben Ratliff’s absorbing book Coltrane: the story of a sound.

In his final years Coltrane was moving forward at a dazzling pace, fusing the intensity of free jazz on such records as Ascension (1966) and Eastern-influenced experimentations like Om (recorded 1965, released 1968). A new world of exploration was opening up in jazz: the African heritage was being explored, Indian time signatures revealed new possibilities. Sound and space was now as important as music. Like-minded artists like Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, and Philip Cohran were each in their different ways exploring music both meditative and primal.

So what is spiritual jazz today? You’ve been crate digging for Don Cherry et al and you’ve come up with some great music – some celebrating the ‘trane tradition, and some not. But what of contemporary musicians? This post looks at three artists, each with a debt to Coltrane but with their own unique voices too. We’ll start with UK tenor saxophonist Nat Birchall who has been quietly releasing his own albums over the last few years and gathering acclaim from the jazz press. Best start with the 2011 album Sacred Dimension which superficially creates a Coltrane sound world (that’s Alice and John) with the use of bells, shakers and harp in addition to the more conventional quartet instrumentation. There’s Corey Mwamba on vibes too – and so the result is very definitely influenced by Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner and more. Of course, there are modal bass grooves, rolling drum figures and tenor sax solos that are Coltrane influenced but what come across with all of Birchall’s releases is the sheer confidence of his sound. As reviewer Daniel Spicer noted in his online BBC music review It’s a deeply sincere homage to a master, presented with an open heart, full of passion and love. The lead track is Ancient World – presented here in this alternative take from the Live at Larissa album, recorded in Greece in 2013. Available on a double vinyl release, this album is also a must. In fact, any Birchall album from this point is recommended as are Birchall’s recent excursions into dub reggae – a long held passion that’s fully explained on Birchall’s own website, Sound Soul and Spirit where some of his favourite records includes a list of dub classics, like the glorious Java Plus from Prince Buster. Birchall has now achieved what must have been a long held ambition of recording with reggae masters Al Breadwinner and Vin Gordon on two dub recordings, Sounds Almighty (2018) and the soon to be released Upright Living. You need vinyl copies of both – head to Birchall’s Bandcamp site for more information. And – by the way – Birchall’s new jazz release, Mysticism of Sound, is a lockdown solo recording that’s as much Sun Ra space jazz as Coltrane’s Interstellar Space. All instruments – tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, Korg Minilogue synth, bass, drums, hand drums, bells, shakers – are played by Birchall. It’s essential listening!

Up next is Vancouver-born pianist Cat Toren, now resident in New York (rather than the UK’s northwest) and soon to release her new album Scintillating Beauty. We’ve championed Toren’s music here before on Cosmic Jazz and with advance notice of the new release here on Bandcamp it’s time to check out her take on the spiritual jazz tradition. Toren’s music is influenced by the free-form, socially conscious jazz of the late 60s but she’s also a passionate advocate of the current (and much needed) civil rights agenda. Indeed, inspiration for the music came from two quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. that Toren includes in the liner notes. The first, from Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, gave the album its title as well as a pointed social imperative: Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. The second quote, from the sermon Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, begins We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality and that thought provided the title for the second track on the new album, Garment of Destiny.

Toren’s previous album, released in 2017, was an inspirational one for us here at CJ and cuts featured on several shows. Human Kind was the debut of Toren’s band of that name, and the same lineup has recovened for the new album. Toren on keys, saxophonist Xavier Del Castillo, oud player Yoshie Fruchter, bassist Jake Leckie and drummer Matt Honor. Buy here from Toren’s site and the proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). You can check out all tracks before you buy, including the superb Legacy (for A.C.) and right here listen to an excellent live version from the Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Cat Toren’s music is highly recommended and the new album is highly recommended. Cat assures me that there will be a CD version as well as the download – both available in September from her own site or the ever-reliable Bandcamp.

Finally, we come to Muriel Grossmann, a tenor player now based in Ibiza, but born in Paris and a long time resident in Vienna. Her current quartet is very much international with Radomir Milojkovic (Belgrade) on guitar, Gina Schwarz (Vienna) on double bass and Uros Stamenkovic (Belgrade) on drums and is recently augmented by Llorens Barcelo (Mallorca) on Hammond organ. Grossmann’s quartet/quintet is very much influenced by Coltrane but – as with Toren – the bands have their own sound. You can hear just how different that is when you compare Grossmann’s take on Coltrane’s Traneing In, a track he first recorded with the Red Garland Trio in 1958. The Coltrane original is right here – and Grossmann’s soprano sax take is here on her Bandcamp site. This is intense music and – whatever we want to call it – has a spiritual deepness that truly does inherit the questing, yearning qualities of Coltrane’s unique sound. Traneing In comes from her album Golden Rule and is available from Bandcamp in all three formats – vinyl, CD and download.

The new album Reverence takes a different direction. The African influence is stronger and as Grossmann says, What jazz and African music have in common and what makes it so unique is that at its very core, as the strongest part of its foundation, each musician is dealing with a particular rhythm that contributes to the whole, therefore generating multidirectional rhythms also known as polyrhythms. The addition of Llorens Barcelo allows interplay between guitar and organ and the churning percussion maintains the kinds of locked groove over which Grossmann’s solos twist and turn. Check out this live take on Light, the final reflective track from Golden Rule.

So that’s three exploratory musicians and their bands: firmly embedded in a jazz tradition, but consciously searching for new sounds and influences from around the world to extend and develop their sound. Please support each of these artists by listening to and buying their music in whatever format you choose. Our preference remains vinyl: that symbiotic relationship in which the medium influences how the message is perceived (McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’) is never more true than when the disc is on the turntable, visibly in contact with the stylus and the listener is checking out the gatefold images or liner notes while listening to the music. As always, we promote Bandcamp whose heritage of supporting and paying artists is exemplary. It’s a service that values ownership, connects listeners directly to the artists and even rewards you with a message if someone buys music after finding it through you. Make lockdown more bearable and support those jazz musicians creatively enhancing your life.

Music is the healing force of the universe…

Week ending 23 February 2019: Wayne and Sarah

More excellent music available on Cosmic Jazz this week at a touch of that MixCloud tab. In recent shows we have played almost exclusively new music, or newly re-released music, but it was one of the re-releases that suggested maybe we need to go back into the past more often…

The show began with the summery sounds of the ever-youthful Marcos Valle and a stand out track from his Far Out Records come back album Nova Bossa Nova. Now re-released on vinyl 20 years after its original emergence, it still sounds as cool and fresh as it did in 1998. Valle is a Brazilian keyboard player, vocalist and composer who mixes bossa nova (with an emphasis on the nova) with jazzy keyboard sounds. is an essential album for your collection – Valle’s new tunes (like this one, Bar Ingles) sounding as good as the retreads of some of his favourites from the 1970s. The ‘half drop’ on this track when the music fades at the six minute point and then leaps back into life is truly life-affirming. Bar Ingles is one of those tunes that never fails to spread the feel good factor. The perfect opener to any show. And for those of you who haven’t seen Valle in concert, make sure you catch him if you can. His 2017 show at London’s Jazz Cafe was a real highlight of over 30 years of live gigs.

Still keeping that Brazilian vibe, UK keys player Jessica Lauren was up next. Simba Jike is a track from her most recent album – and very good it is too. It’s contemporary jazz with a a range of Brazilian influences. Almeria features a range of instrumentalists on percussion, woodwinds, marimba, flugelhorn, bass and drums with Tamar Osborn a standout on baritone sax. Next up, drummer and band leader Nick Woodmansey, aka Emanative, digs in deep on his track from the excellent double vinyl album Earth, released last year. Reflection features one of our homegrown heroes Nat Birchall, along with vocalist and frequent Emanative collaborator Liz Elensky. Also appearing on this excellent track is  Lauren was followed by a musician she has collaborated with – Emanative and another selection from his album Earth.

Here at Cosmic Jazz we love the lightness of touch demonstrated by UK group Me and My Friends on their track You Read My Mind. There’s a Ghanaian highlife influence here with Emma Coleman’s cello at the heart of this infectious track – it’s short, sweet and one you will keep on humming to yourself. It’s a tune we premiered here on CJ and it’s now been picked by none other than Gilles Peterson on his UK BBC6 show…

It’s Cannonball Adderley style but our next track this week was from Kenny Clark and Francy Boland’s brilliant 1963 classic Jazz is Universal. As Derek noted in the show, this was a jazz dance favourite back in the day and the kind of track that would get the Jazzcotech crew on the floor.  The band was created in 1961 by the US drummer Kenny Clarke and the Belgian pianist/composer Francy Boland. Many notable musicians passed through the ranks, including on this album the great Sahib Shihab, Zoot Sims and Jimmy Deuchar. Playing the track was a reminder of the jazz heritage that’s so important to us – there will always be more than contemporary jazz releases on CJ. Our show has no set format, we are bound to no-one and these freedoms will always be an encouragement to play great music from the past.

Some of those seminal artists from the jazz canon are still very much with us. Once such is saxophonist Wayne Shorter, one of the great jazz composers. Several of his tunes have entered the realm of jazz classics – we think of Footprints, Infant EyesTom Thumb and Adam’s Apple from his Blue Note years; Nefertiti and ESP for Miles Davis and Palladium and Plaza Real for Weather Report. Here he is from last year’s stunning 3CD + comic strip cartoon book release, Emanon, with a superb reworking of Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean (originally found on 2005’s Beyond the Sound Barrier album). Listen to how that spare, lyrical soprano tone matches perfectly with Danilo Perez’s latin piano. And it’s worth here trying to put into words what it is that Shorter is doing. The first thing is that, unlike some players, he has two completely different sounds on tenor and soprano saxes – but both are (perhaps uniquely) easily identifiable as Wayne Shorter’s sound. Tenor is gruff and thick while soprano is clear and liquid. If there’s a strong melody, he like’s to improvise around that – little ostinatos, lots of big intervals and spiralling chunks of sound. Shorter is one of the giants of jazz and will always be worth exploring.

There are violin players in jazz but they are not too common. A new name to many will be the Polish violinist Tomasz Chyla who leads a quintet. He is yet another of the young musicians on the burgeoning Polish scene and Circlesongs is his second album. The music is inspired by a variety of musical traditions – including choral music, with which Chyla is strongly associated. The track Stanko can only be a tribute to the great Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko who died last year.

This was followed by another young Polish artist Irek Wojitczack is a saxophone player, composer, arranger and a tutor at the Academy of Music in Gdansk. It is not right that European musicians should be judged by their association with more universally famous US musicians but it is irresistible to note that he has played with Dave Douglas and toured with David Murray. The sound of this young quintet has more than a touch of ECM artist Tord Gustavsen – see what you think.

This week’s show ended with more Polish jazz – this time from one of our favourites, Piotr Wojtasik, a CJ regular who was introduced to us by the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. The trumpeter’s latest album To Whom It May Concern is another quality release. There will undoubtedly be more from this album in week’s to come.

Finally, regular CJ readers will note that there’s an unusual degree of linkage in our listening choices this week. That’s because we were thrilled to get a copy of Sarah Tandy’s new album, Infection in the Sentence (out on 08 March) along with some thoughts on artists and tracks that have been important to her. We’ll be doing a feature on Sarah next week on the show – but, for now, enjoy below a taster of the new release and (in Neil’s choices) three of her favourite tracks.

  1. Marcos Valle – Bar Ingles from Nova Bossa Nova
  2. Jessica Lauren – Simba Jike from Almeria
  3. Emanative – Reflection from Earth
  4. Me and My Friends – You Read My Mind from Look Up
  5. Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band – Charon’s Ferry from Jazz is Universal
  6. Wayne Shorter – Adventures Around the Golden Mean from Emanon
  7. Tomasz Chyla Quintet – Stanko from Circlesongs
  8. Irek Wojitczack – Weselny from Play It Again
  9. Piotr Wojtasik – Backatcha from To Whom it May Concern

Derek is listening to….

Neil is listening to…

Week ending 01 December 2018: including UK artists Evelyn Laurie, Me & My Friends, Camilla George, Nat Birchall and Maisha

This week sees an emphasis on contemporary UK based artists with additional contributions from the US and Poland.  All exciting stuff available at the touch of the MixCloud tab (left).

Me and My Friends are a group who cross many boundaries – and that’s clearly evident on their new album High as the Sun to be released on 06 December via Split Shift Records. Their tune You Read My Mind provided a jaunty, lively opening to the show with its catchy riff on jazzy Ghanaian highlife. On this new album, the band reference other styles as well – Jamaican roots, soul, Afro-beat and the Ethiopique jazz of Mulatu Astatke. It was an uplifting and joyous way to start the show.

The sense of uplift continued with another tune from an artist based in Scotland. Evelyn Laurie has paid her dues over many years as an artist performing professionally around Scotland. Now she has put together her own self-produced album. She too has a love of many genres of music as seen in the interesting collection of songs from other artists to whom she’s given her own unique interpretations on the album  A Little Bit Of Me. The tune selected this week, though – I Love Your Smile – ione of her own compositions.

As usual, there were some music selections from Neil in Singapore, including this week the new release from UK alto sax player Camilla George titled The People Could Fly.  It’s a project based thematically around the Nigerian folk tales that George’s mother would read to her as a child. Of these, her favourite was one called The People Could Fly. In a recent interview, Camilla George commented: The cover illustration showed men and women flying over the cotton fields. The idea behind it was that some Africans were magical and had the ability to fly, but through long enslavement lost that ability to fly away. This image is bitter-sweet for me as it is a fantasy tale of suffering and is a powerful testament to the millions of slaves who never had the opportunity to fly away.” The new album is certainly a development from her first release Isang and extends her former quartet to include additional players. Many in the band are making quite a name for themselves in their own right,  Drummer Winston Clifford is pretty much a veteran of the scene but names such as Daniel Casimir on bass, Femi Koleoso on drums, Shirley Tetteh on guitar, Cherise Adams-Burnett on vocals and Sarah Tandy on piano/Rhodes should be familiar to regular listeners of Cosmic Jazz.

Up next on the show was a spiritual interlude featuring Nat Birchall’s Eastern (or perhaps Western depending on where you live) influenced A Prayer from the  excellent Cosmic Language album and Sarathy Korwar’s take on Abdullah Ibrahim’s classic Hajj from his superb new release Your East is My West. If you don’t known Ibrahim’s iconic original, check it out here. The late Hamiet Bluiett is on oboe and baritone saxophone, with the under-rated Carlos Ward on alto and the distinctive sounds of Don Cherry on his pocket trumpet.

We followed this with some interesting music from Poland.  Drummer Jacek Kochan is a veteran of the scene. Born in Poland, in the early 1980s he went to the US and then Canada before returning to Poland in 1995. There is an impressive list of US musicians with whom he has played and the tune Drop from the album Ajee is a free, unpredictable, exciting piece. Lukask Kokoszko leads a quartet of musicians from Krakow and Katowice in Poland that won the Grand Prix in an International Jazz Improvisation Competition.

Finally, another tune from current Cosmic Jazz favourites Maisha and their first full album There is a Place. Maisha are led by drummer Jake Long and on this recording the band also features – yes – Shirley Tetteh on guitar and Nubya Garcia on sax. This UK Jazz scene is certainly bringing out some versatile, world class jazz musicians.

  1. Me & My Friends – You Read My Mind from High as the Sun
  2. Evelyn Laurie – I Love Your Smile from A Little Bit Of Me
  3. Camilla George – The People Could Fly from The People Could Fly
  4. Camilla George – Carrying on the Runnings from The People Could Fly
  5. Nat Birchall – The Prayer For from Cosmic Language
  6. Sarathy Korwar – Hajj from Your East is my West
  7. Jacek Kochan – Drop from Ajee
  8. Lukask Kokoszko Quartet – Soulmate from New Challenge
  9. Maisha – Kaa from There is a Place

Neil is listening to…

Derek is listening to: 

  1. Gnonnas Pedro – Kandevie
  2. Africando feat Gnonnas Pedro – Azo N’Kplon
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland
  4. Yasmine Kyd – Mandalay
  5. James Francies – Sway

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 21 July 2018: the British scene is hot!

Cosmic Jazz explores the world of improvised music – as always, click on the Mixcloud arrow (left) to hear some great music and then check out our links to hear more and download or buy vinyl and CD. As we often do, we’re championing music from independent sources rather than the more usual global suppliers.

We began with the Jelle van Giel Group from Antwerp, Belgium and a track from their debut 2015 album Songs for Everyone. Van Giel on drums leads a septet with trumpeter Carlo Nardozza sometimes reminding us of Matthew Halsall – those same long legato lines over a modal rhythm base. The atmospheric guitar on this track is from Tim Finoulst. Check out this album and their second release The Journey at the ever-reliable Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Strongly recommended – have a listen to music from both albums here on Soundcloud. Guitar and trumpet also features in the second track this week – this time from Poland and Emil Miszk, one of the many young up and coming musicians making waves in European jazz at the moment. The guitarist in Miszk’s Sonic Syndicate octet is Michał Zienkowski.

The music from UK based harpist Alina Bzhezhinska may sound familiar – it’s her take on Alice Coltrane’s Blue Nile, coincidentally also played in an excellent version by the aforementioned Matthew Halsall. Again, you can find that version here on Soundcloud. Supporting Bzhezhinska on this debut album released earlier this year is the excellent Toni Kofi on soprano sax.

So then on to two stars of the current UK jazz renaissance, Binker and Moses. Whilst their name might suggest everything from a betting agency to a team of dodgy solicitors, Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are two of the most influential musicians on the scene. After winning the MOBO Best Jazz Act in 2015, the pair have now appeared on countless releases and are festival headline acts. And it’s no wonder when they can conjure up a sound like this – The Birth of Light is Moses Boyd’s opening drum solo from their most recent album Alive in the East?, recorded live in June 2017 at Total Refreshment Centre in East London with sax legend Evan Parker (among others) in support. It’s worth listening to the whole album as one piece – check it out and download here from Bandcamp.

Staying in the UK, up next is the excellent Jessica Lauren and a track from her 2018 release Almeria. Lauren is joined by more stalwarts from the UK scene – the baritone saxophone of Tamar ‘Collocutor’ Osborn and percussion from Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and drummer Cosimo Keita Cadore. And, of course, you know where this excellent new album can be found – right here on Bandcamp. Staying firmly grounded in East London but with a worldwide sensibility is Nick Woodmansey, a UK drummer recording as Emanative (photo above. His long-awaited album is another recent release – and it doesn’t disappoint. There are African, Indian and Middle Eastern influences and a galaxy of contributors – including Idris Ackamoor of US spiritual jazz legends The Pyramids, ex-Fela keyboard player (but Hackney-born) Dele Sosimi, key protagonist from Manchester’s jazz scene Nat Birchall, India-raised Ninja Tune artist Sarathy Korwar,  The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto and Flying Lotus collaborator Ahu. Woodmansey notes on the Bandcamp site (of course!) that I remember reading something Sun Ra said that has stuck with me. For most cultures and tribes music is not about the technical quality but it’s about expression, communication and the joy of playing. For me it’s about the vibe rather than technical perfection – if it sounds good, it is good. And, as jazz artists through the decades have demonstrated, this spirit is at the heart of the music. Use the Bandcamp link to listen to and buy this excellent example of all that’s best in new British jazz.

You can clearly hear that spirit in our final track this week from Singapore’s finest, The Steve McQueens, on a tune from their most recent Terrarium album. More atmospheric guitar here – this time from the superb Andrew Lim. Vocalist Ginny Yip is adept with the jazz standards as her own compositions as evidenced in a recent live performance.  In fact, she’s said that her favourite singer is Betty Carter – and you can hear it in her voice. Carter is perhaps not as well known as she should be – for a taste, check out Neil’s listening choices this week. The Steve McQueens will be premiering their new album here in Singapore next month – watch this space.

  1. Jelle van Giel Group – A New Beginning from Songs For Everyone
  2. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Hate No More from Sonic Syndicate
  3. Alina Bzhezhinska – Blue Nile from Inspiration
  4. Binker and Moses – The Birth of Light from Alive in the East
  5. Jessica Lauren – Kofi Nomad from Almeria
  6. Emanative feat. Nat Birchall and Liz Elensky – Reflection from Earth
  7. The Steve McQueens – Like Coltrane from Terrarium

Neil is listening to:

Week ending 14 July 2018: Brazil and beyond

Click the MixCloud tab to hear a varied selection of music in this week’s show. Cuba, USA, Brazil, Poland, Japan, France and the UK are all represented.

Our first tune is a family affair. Bebo Valdes and Chico O’Farrill, along with pioneers Mario Bauza and Machito, were leaders in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz music. Bebo was a composer and pianist and Chico a composer and bandleader and now their sons have worked together to perform in concert and then to record as a tribute to their fathers. In this 2CD set even a third generation – their respective children – feature on the second CD. Ecucaion was composed by Bebo Valdes and has both Arturo and Chucho on piano. The CD notes describe it as demonstrating the elegant compositional style of Bebo with a rich soaring melody, sophisticated arrangement and lush harmonies. It is hard to disagree.

Our CJ music stayed Latin but shifted to Brazil. Wilson Simonal was a singer from Rio de Janeiro and Nana, recorded in 1964, is one of those Brazilian tunes that you wish had been embellished and lengthened. The instrumental break is exciting but I find myself wishing the musicians had been given the freedom to continue.  Although short and very sweet it’s a wonderful tune, and one that has you humming along and tapping your feet. Keyboard player/composer/arranger  Marcos Valle came next. Throughout his long career he has had a wide range of influences – bossa, soul, pop, electronica – but always with a Brazilian spirit. His music has been recorded by several Brazilian artists including Wilson Simonal. His excellent 2001 release Escape on the British Far Out label has some electronica moments but is a strong and recommended release that really captures Valle’s compositional qualities. Our Brazilian sequence this week ended with a jazzy piece recorded in 1968 by alto sax player and clarinetist Paula Moura who appeared on Cannonball Adderley’s 1962 Bossa Nova release and recorded music through to his death in 2010. This is his take on Milton Nascimento’s classic Tardes – try this version with Wayne Shorter from the excellent Native Dancer album.

The show continues to feature what appears to be the endless stream of exciting, young musicians from Poland. Emil Miszk is a trumpeter who leads the wonderfully named eight-piece Sonic Syndicate. The tune Chorale (Ballad No. 31) has a beautiful soaring chorale effect with Miszk’s trumpet at the head taking the lead. It was quite a change from the music of Brazil but its rapturous sounds soon take you to other interesting places. We followed this with more Polish music from the Confusion Project trio. The album Primal is divided into chapters and also takes you on a journey – this time to follow your instincts to discover primordiality!  Deep, soul-searching music.

There was a Polish-British connection with the piece from Alina Bzhezinska, a harpist brought up in Poland but now based in London, where she teaches harp at Goldsmith’s College. Bzhezinska is accompanied on her debut album Inspiration by British musicians – the fine and seemingly these days ever present saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer John Prime – on this version of another Coltrane favourite, his original composition After the Rain. This beautiful tune has been recorded by many jazz artists – compare with this respectful tribute from guitarist John McLaughlin (which features original Coltrane quartet drummer Elvin Jones vocalising over his kit).

Traditional British folk music is not something one would usually associate with jazz, Japan or spirituality but there’s a long traditional in jazz of improvising from traditional melodies – think of John Coltrane’s take on Greensleeves, for example – and these three elements certainly come together in a track from the excellent new(ish) Jazzman compilation Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan. The quartet Four Units deliver their take on that traditional folk club favourite Scarborough Fair – and very good it is too.

We ended Cosmic Jazz this week with Kamasi Washington and another track from his latest Heaven and Earth release. It’s very encouraging to see both this jazz album and the John Coltrane reissue Both Directions at Once placed high in worldwide music charts. The jazz renaissance continues apace!

  1. Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdes – Ecuacion from Familia: Tribute to Bebo + Chico
  2. Wilson Simonal – Nana from Blue Brazil 2
  3. Marcos Valle – O India E o Brasil from Escape
  4. Paulo Moura Hepteto – Das Tardes Mas SOS from Mensagem/Bossa Jazz
  5. Emil Miszk and the Sonic Syndicate – Chorale (Ballad No 31) from Don’t Hesitate
  6. Confusion Project – Upstream from Primal
  7. Alina Bzhezhinska – After the Rain from Inspiration
  8. Four Units – Scarborough Fair from Spiritual Jazz 8: Japan
  9. Kamasi Washington – Can You Hear Him from Heaven and Earth

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 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…

30 August 2017: a (mainly) spiritual thing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For much of this week’s programme there were tune titles and sounds with a distinctly spiritual feel. Dream Weaver, Om Rama and Zen are the titles of the first three tunes on the show – and there indeed the next tune Totem continued this trend.

Some of the selections this week came from Neil and if there is one artist that I always associate with him it is Charles Lloyd. Now 79,  he is still touring and playing and from the evidence of this re-visiting of the tune Dream Weaver recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2016, the tone of his playing is as rich and full as ever. It marked a 10th anniversary reunion of the special quartet he formed with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. The sound is resonant, deep and spiritual and when the main Dream Weaver melody kicks in around the six minutes mark into this extended version, you know you are witnessing a musician very much at the top of his game.

Alice Coltrane may not have been a favourite of every jazz lover, either in the work she produced with husband John or in her solo projects. Her music was, however, definitely spiritual and the recent release by Luaka Bop of music produced in her later years and unearthed recently by her family comes from a time when she was leading an ashram in California. This is evident in the titles of the tune and the album and the ecstatic sounds produced. The music isn’t strictly jazz (we shouldn’t expect much improvisation on the Wurlitzer keyboard favoured by Coltrane) but the intense spirituality is evident in the first track – and it doesn’t let up. The music invokes both Hindu Vedanta devotional songs and – more surprisingly – the Detroit church choirs of Alice Coltrane’s youth. It’s a heady brew and one that’s impossible not to be (literally) swayed by.

From New York, The James Brandon Trio have an excellent first album released entitled No Filter. It is tough and contemporary in sound, it makes excellent use of hip-hop artists on some of the tunes and has a cool CD sleeve which is minimalist in terms of the information provided about the musicians and music. It does, though, have a tune Zen which continued the spiritual path of the programme.

Kajetan Borowski is a teacher of jazz piano at the Katowice Academy of Music. He leads a trio that produces music that could be described as classic jazz but with a contemporary feel. This was followed by another tune from the impressive album The Journey from the Belgian Jelle Van Giel Group.

The show ended with a trip to Brazil. Both Neil and I have recently seen Brazilian artists perform. In Neil’s case it was the great Marcos Valle in London and for me it was the British-based Monica Vasconcelos performing at a free festival in a park in Ipswich. Vasconcelos is a Sao Paulo native but has headlined here at Ronnie Scott’s, the Jazz Cafe and many other UK venues since moving to the UK. She returns to Suffolk on 07 October for the Flipside Festival at Snape Maltings.

  1. Charles Lloyd – Dream Weaver from Passin’ Thru
  2. Alice Coltrane – Om Rama from The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
  3. James Brandon Trio – Zen from No Filter
  4. Kajetan Borowski Trio – Totem from Totem
  5. Jelle Van Giel Group – Lullaby for Nelle from The Journey
  6. Marcos Valle – Apaixonada por Voce (In Love With You) from Escape
  7. Monica Vasconcelos – Quadras de Roda from Nois

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to: