Tag Archives: Nat Birchall

21 June 2017: jazz – the global beat?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music – the most international of languages – is good at travelling. There are no borders and certainly no walls. But results can vary. It may depend on the artist’s purpose, cultural understanding or musical assimilation. Reggae, for example, has gone global but one could question the quality of some of the bands comprised of musicians from European heritages. The same could be said of some Latin music too. Jazz, on the other hand, seems to do a good job of transcending its American origins. One of Art Blakey’s early Blue Note albums was called Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World – and that’s where our CJ artists gather too. Around the world, jazz has truly become a global language – perhaps because the spirit of invention and improvisation is a global impulse – and we have some fine examples for you in this week’s show.

The record from the Daniel Toledo Trio, which has just arrived from Steve’s Jazz Sounds, is an interesting example of both the worldwide appeal and the creativity and fine musicianship of jazz players of differing heritages. The trio includes Daniel Toledo, a bass player from Ecuador, Paul Svanberg, a Swedish drummer and Piotr Orzechowski, a classically trained pianist with a well-established reputation as a serious jazz artist in  his homeland of Poland. The record, incidentally, was recorded in Poland. It is recommended.

In the week that I attended the Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings in Suffolk – a festival established by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears – it seemed appropriate to play again something from bass player Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance. The record Accident and Insurgency was the outcome of their playing and composing residency at Snape – they were the first jazz musicians to be granted such a residency. The tune Broadside paid homage to a local beer rather than the music environment but that was obviously an important stimulant. The touches and work throughout the album of pianist Tim Lapthorn are a delight and the album features American trumpeter Eddie Henderson as guest.

Looking at the listings in Jazzwise magazine for what seem to be an ever-increasing number of summer festivals that are either jazz festivals or include jazz, it is noticeable how often Mammals Hands are in the line-up. This is deservedly so, and pleasing for those of us at Cosmic Jazz who have seen what is a local trio develop from playing a pub on the seafront in Felixstowe, to a meagre half disinterested audience noisily talking  away to themselves, to international crowds. They are very good and have something different to offer; catch them if you can and/or listen to their records.

The programme this week had very much a British focus. In addition to Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance and Mammal Hands there was a further reminder of how promising Camilla George and her Quartet sound on their first album and there were two tunes from albums  released on the British Edition record label. Some of the musicians were British but in Phronesis, a multi-national band if ever there was one, playing with Julian Arguelles and the Frankfurt Big Band, there is another example of the wide and successful reach of jazz music.

To end the show, it was a return to Poland for the wonderful band led by Lukas Korybalski, a trumpet and flugelhorn player.

  1. Daniel Toledo Trio – Atrium from Atrium
  2. Arnie Somogyi’s Ambulance – Broadside from Accident and Insurgency
  3. Mammal Hands – Quiet Fire from Floa
  4. Phronesis, Julian Arguelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band – Zeiding from The Behemoth
  5. Tim Garland – Foretold from One
  6. Camilla George Quartet – Mama Wati Returns/Usoro from Isang
  7. Lukas Korybalski – Taniec Greka from CMM

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Neil is listening to…

18 May 2017: Cosmic Jazz plays cosmic jazz

This week’s show, available now via the Mix Cloud tab (left), is made up of four long, Old School tunes. An identifying feature of two of them at least (and maybe elements of a third) is that they are not only on a Cosmic Jazz show they are cosmic in sound, ambience and effect!

Saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders is a name many would associate with cosmic jazz. His tone is one of the most distinctive voices in jazz – full of raw, rasping overtones one moment and warm, rich and deep at others. The fire of his eleven Impulse! label albums recorded from 1967-1974 gave way to an often more lyrical exploration of jazz standards but still with that commanding tone that remains uniquely strong. For more on that golden age at Impulse! Check out this Red Bull Music Academy feature for more information – and then search out some of the albums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now 76, Sanders is still performing, although his most recent record releases tend to be as guest slots on other albums. Some of these are well worth seeking out: we have featured two on CJ over recent years – The Voyage with Japanese band Sleep Walker and his live recording with alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett on the Sketches of MD: Live at the Iridium album. Listen to the deep Intro to Africa track here.

Both sides of Sander’s unique tenor saxophone voice can be heard on the track Love is Everywhere played in full on the show this week. It comes from one of the last of the albums Sanders recorded for Impulse! and features the under-rated piano of Joe Bonner. This is truly music that encompasses freedom and gentleness and speaks deeply of peace and understanding. Sanders, of course, played with John Coltrane in his last years – and in his more recent recordings Sanders channels ‘trane so convincingly that if you close your eyes… You can hear this clearly on this excellent 2011 live concert from London’s Jazz Cafe (here presented in full) – for example, on  the Sanders composition Nozipho that begins the show.

The Pharoah Sanders world of cosmic spirituality could apply equally to the music of  Alice Coltrane. This week’s show featured the tune Blue Nile – which includes Sanders on tenor saxophone and alto flute. Recorded in 1970, this harp/piano/tenor saxophone combination has become a template for many more recent cosmic jazz heroes, including the UK’s Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall. Just listen to Halsall’s Tribute to Alice Coltrane here to see what we mean. Coltrane’s soaring, modal sounds can be found on Ptah, the El Daoud or the excellent Impulse! compilation Astral Meditation which is an excellent place to start your Alice Coltrane journey. Joining Coltrane and Sanders here are Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Ben Riley (drums).

Last week I played the tune Black Renaissance by the band of the same name led by Harry Whitaker. The CD has two tunes only and normally I am so enraptured and mesmerised by the first that I play it over and over again. Last week, however, I left the CD playing and gave the second track some attention. Magic Ritual does not match Black Renaissance – I doubt if there is much that can – but it is good, deserves to be heard and has that same feeling of spontaneity, joy and the search for  African-centric expression.

To end the show I played as much as time would allow of what is currently my favourite Fela Kuti tune, Just Like That. You can find it on a number of Fela releases including the excellent compilation, The Two Sides of Fela,  French Barclay release and distributed here by none other than Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label. It’s not that easy to find now but you can also get Just Like That on the Underground System album.

  1. Black Renaissance – Magic Ritual from Black Renaissance: Mind, Body and Soul
  2. Pharaoh Sanders – Love is Everywhere from Love In Us All
  3. Alice Coltrane – Blue Nile from Astral Meditations
  4. Fela Kuti and Africa 80 – Just Like That from The Two Sides of Fela – Jazz and Dance (from Jazz CD 1)

So – having whetted your appetities – would you like to listen to twelve hours of spiritual jazz? For much more of this music, listen to this magisterial, extended review of the genre from London’s NTS Radio. Thanks to Kalamu ya Salaam and his excellent Neo Griot blog for this one.

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Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to…

29 June 2016: uplifting jazz

Amid the encircling gloom of the UK’s current political nightmare it seemed time for more joyful and uplifting music on Cosmic Jazz. So this week’s CJ  tries to do just that – click on the Mixcloud tab (left) for the music and check out all the embedded links below.

russell gun ethnomusicologyI cannot remember playing on Cosmic Jazz – at least for some time – one tune that never fails to provide power, presence and the urge to dance around the room. That tune is Del Rio (aka Anita) from trumpeter Russell Gunn. It’s his adaptation of Lalo Schifrin’s Anita from the Che! soundtrack of 1969. Gunn’s album Ethnomusicology Vol 2. features some fine music (try Dance of the Concubine) and uses DJ Apollo to add some turntablist accents. It may be a patchy release overall – but this CJ selection is something else.

bugge wesseltoft and friendsUp next was CJ regular Bugge Wesseltoft and a track from his album Bugge and Friends. Mates here are trumpeter Erik Truffaz and DJ and producer Joe Claussell and all of the tracks have titles ending in ‘it’. This time it was Clauss It. New Yorker Claussell’s music is always worth exploring – whether his compilations, his reworkings of Latin jazz or his own DJ productions. See what you make of one of his most famous collaborations with Haitian Jephte Guillaume, The Prayer.

Ffreddie hubbardreddie Hubbard’s First Light album is one of the trumpeter’s many classics but with over 60 albums released over a 40 year career how do you choose what to listen to? Actually, it’s easy – just check out the record label. Hubbard’s career is defined by his work on three labels – Blue Note, CTI and Columbia. Whilst there is some great playing on his later albums for the Columbia label, choose almost any Blue Note or most of the CTI albums to hear Hubbard’s burnished tone at its best. The title track First Light manages to be both mellow and joyful. freddie hubbard frst lightThis studio version does it for me every time and the George Benson guitar feature is simply heavenly. Its delicacy, precision and beautiful melody make for pure rapture. The album features a stellar rhythm section too: Herbie Hancock on Fender Rhodes piano, Ron Carter on bass and Jack deJohnette on drums.

Latin jazz was a feature of this week’s music in both its Brazilian and Nuyorican/Puerto Rican/Cuban forms. The Brazilian came first. Alto player Cannonball Adderley in 1962 recorded a Bossa Nova album cannonball adderley's bossa novawith a Brazilian sextet that included Sergio Mendes and Dom Um Romao. The album was released as Cannonball’s Bossa Nova in 1963 and then augmented in a reissue with more Brazilian tunes (including The Jive Samba) recorded live in San Francisco in 1962. This time Adderley was with his regular quintet and special guest Yusef Lateef, on flute. Percussionist Airto Moreira kept the Brazilian feel going with Hot Sand from his excellent Virgin Land release again originally on the CTI label. For a taste of Airto, we’d recommend any of the great CTI albums from this period – here’s the track Flora’s Song from the 1972 album Free.

CJ favourite Kenny Garrett was up next with Chucho’s Mambo, a wonderful example of jazz musicians inspired and influenced by  220px-KennyGarrettPushingtheWorldAwayAlbumCoverCuban music. Chucho is a reference to the great pianist Chucho Valdez – seen here performing Lorena’s Tango live at the Marciac Festival last year. Kenny Garrett has long embraced global influences, and in several albums (including Beyond the Wall) the power of his tough rhythm section merges these flavours with a contemporary jazz sound. Garrett has a new album just released titled Do Your Dance – expect to hear it soon on Cosmic Jazz.

Black Cuban and Puerto Rican roots converge to create a rhythm-heavy sound with a New York street  feel. This is how the sleeve notes on the compilation NuYorican Hits from UK-based Charly Records describe the Grupo Folklorico tune from their albulibre con salsa con ritmom Concepts in Unity.  Ace percussionist Manny Oquendo is to the fore as he thrashes forcefully to devastating effect. Check him out – he has a unique sound that has both a roots feel but an urban sound. To find out more about Oquendo and the Gonzales brothers who formed the core of this band, have a look at the excellent Orgy in Rhythm blog and try to track down the Libre album Con Salsa… Con Ritmo (pictured). You won’t be disappointed.

the pharaohs awakeningFinally, to link joyfulness with last week’s messages there was a taste of Freedom Road from The Pharaohs, a band from Chicago whose first drummer was the late leader of Earth, Wind and Fire, Maurice White. Their album Awakening is worth getting hold of – especially for the standout closer Great House which features guitarist Yehudah Ben Israel sounding like Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel.

  1. Russell Gunn – Del Rio (a.k.a. Anita) from Ethnomusicology Vol 2
  2. Bugge Wesseltoft – Clauss It  from Bugge & Friends
  3. Freddie Hubbard – First Light from First Light
  4. Cannonball Adderley – The Jive Samba from Cannonball’s Bossa Nova
  5. Airto Moreira – Hot Sand from Virgin Land
  6. Kenny Garrett – Chucho’s Mambo from Pushing the World Away
  7. Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevayoriquino – Anabacoa from Concepts in Unity
  8. The Pharaohs – Freedom Road from Kev Beadle presents Private Collection

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Derek is….

  • Watching Wimbledon!

Neil is listening to:

13 April 2016: it’s not jazz; it’s social music

kevin le gendre

This week’s CJ was very much influenced by an excellent talk given here in Suffolk by the music writer and critic Kevin Le Gendre. The focus for his presentation was the importance of the musicians behind the vocalist in different genres of black music – whether soul, funk, RnB or rap – and how the democratisation of the black music experience is integral to its sound. It got me thinking – and the result is this week’s music – and a major CJ feature to come.

We began with more from Cannonball Adderley’s magnificent Soul cannonball adderley soul of the bibleof the Bible release from 1972 and the track Space Spiritual. The narrator Rick Holmes says, “Serenity, love, usefulness and obedience is the theme of my soul” and Adderley’s souljazz take on the gospel idiom is full of interesting musical themes and solos – especially from the versatile George Duke.

The Sun Ra Arkestra (under the direction of Marshall Allen) was up next with a stirring version of Saturn from the live album Babylon (that’s a club in Istanbul, by the way). We then followed with one of the tracks cited – james brown helland played – in Le Gendre’s talk – the iconic Papa Don’t Take No Mess. The key point here is that James Brown gives his musicians space – and more. He allows them to develop the music that he is curating/creating by vocally encouraging extended solos – whether from Maceo Parker on alto or John ‘Jabbo’ Starks on drums.

King Curtis – who went to school and studied music with Ornette Coleman in Fort Worth, Texas – was a big-toned tenor player who masterminded Aretha Franklin’s backing band the Kingpins. Memphis Soul Stew comes from his Live at Fillmore West album – which formed part of the same concert that produced the excellent Aretha Franklin album of the same name. Curtis enccharlie haden liberation music orchestraourages his
musicians in just the same way as James Brown – and as Donny Hathaway does in his magnificent Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)  – see CJ 30 March 2016 for more. Finally, in this part of the show regular CJ listener Pete recommended Gato Barbieri’s contributions to the first of Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra releases and so we featured Barbieri’s spirited, free blowing on the track Viva la Quince Brigada.

New Yorker Sabu Martinez was up next with one of the stand out tracks from sabu martinez afro templean album that’s very hard to find these days. The track we featured has been re-released by Mr Bongo as a vinyl single – and deservedly so. We’ve featured it before in our (rare) Cosmic Jazz Live outings. Back then to our featured artist from last week – Miles Davis – and one of the most revolutionary albums he ever released. Today On the Corner sounds so contemporary – no wonder, then, that on its release in 1972 it was dismissed as “an insult to the intellect” and complete on the corner sessionsworse. As a useful article from the Guardian newspaper in 2007 on the release of the Complete On the Corner Sessions notes,  it’s now regarded as “a visionary musical statement that was way ahead of its time.” We played the most accessible track Black Satin, one of those little hook melodies (like Jean Pierre) that Miles loved to inject into his playing.

Nat Birchall’s excellent new album features his take on a late John Coltrane track – one which unusually features the leader on flute.  Birchall retains all of the intensity of To Be from Coltrane’s album Expression. We ended this week’s show with two tracks that arebert jansch avocet deliberately very different, although both have a strong jazz sensibility. Guitarist Bert Jansch was one of the finest folk musicians the UK has produced and his work often features imaginative improvisation. From the recently re-released Avocet album, we featured the track Bittern with the rich, resonant bass-work of Danny Thompson. We ended the show with vocalist Ian Shaw and a track from one of his two albums with an American quartet led by pianist Cedar Walton. It’s Shaw’s excellent version of Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands.

Photo of Miles DAVIS

So where does the title of this week’s show come from? It’s back to Miles Davis. When asked in a 1982 television interview about jazz, Davis said “I don’t like the word ‘jazz’ … it’s social music… it’s not jazz anymore” and this now features as a quote in the Miles Ahead trailer we linked last week.

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  1. Cannonball Adderley – Space Spiritual from Soul of the Bible
  2. Sun Ra Arkestra – Saturn from Babylon
  3. James Brown – Papa Don’t Take No Mess from Hell
  4. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew from Live at Fillmore West
  5. Charlie Haden – Viva la Quince Brigada from Liberation Music Orchestra
  6. Sabu Martinez – Hotel Alyssa-Sousse, Tunisia from Afro Temple
  7. Miles Davis – Black Satin from On the Corner
  8. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocation
  9. Bert Jansch – Bittern from Avocet
  10. Ian Shaw – Grandma’s Hands from In a New York Minute

Neil is listening to:

Derek is listening to:

10 February 2016: Norway and more

This week’s Cosmic Jazz show, easily available via the MixCloud tab on this page, has three tunes to demonstrate the variety of contemporary jazz available from Norway.

shela simmenesThe prompt came from Sheila Simmenes, who fronts the Love Extra Orchestra, and who contacted CJ. The band has a jazz core but Sheila herself has an interest in reggae and Brazilian music too – much in keeping with the Cosmic Jazz presenters! Sheila has worked in Brazil and with Brazilian musicians. I played the current single Darling, It’s Over, with a breathy vsheila simmenes darling its overocal that seductively draws you in to listen before giving space for the band to feature too. Watch out for the new single Don’t Get Me Wrong coming out in March and find out more about the band here. We shall be featuring more from Sheila and her different musical projects in future shows.

Staying Norwegian, there was another tune from Bugge Wesseltoft. bugge wesseltoft and friendsAll the tunes on the recent album Bugge and Friends have an It in the title – this week it was Faz It. Wesseltoft intersects the worlds of jazz and electronica with ease, creating memorable melodies that spinout from programmed backgrounds. Check out this track from his collaboration with computer whiz, producer and remixer Henrik Schwartz. The final tune from Norway came from old friends of the programme Lucky NovakThis band is based in Oslo but has a British musician, alto player Tim Lowerson included in the bugge wesseltoft henrik schwartzband. They are original, experimental and unpredictable,  A case of art school meets jazz? The tune I played this week – Kul’an – was by their standards quite conventional; it’s simply a beautiful piece of music. Check them out on this video – they look and sound like they just love playing.

I returned to Gregory Porter’s first album Water, where he sings and the musicians seem to play with greater freedom than on his later Blue Note albums. It was in respect and memory of Cheryl – a good friend of this programme – who once set up a memorable interview we held with him in which Porter – then just starting to become well known – answered our questions with interest, energy and grace.

st germainSt. Germain sounded a good prelude to the Bugge tune. Both are jazz inspired musicians using a blend of modern and traditional sounds and instruments. In St. Germain’s case it’s the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins (here from the song You Caused My Heart to Weep), merged with traditional Malian kora sounds from Mamadou Cherif Soumano and behind it all the programming of Ludovic Navarre, the Parisian who is St Germain. You can hear Soumano on kora here playing live in a trio with bass and soprano saxophone. This is a beautiful musical combination that works.

The Polish contribution this week came from Vehemence black fire new spirtQuartet (love the name!) who provided a fierce and forthright opening to the programme. There was also another tune from Nat Birchall’s stunning Invocations album and the show ended with a fiery contribution from Archie Shepp and Jeanne Lee blending blues and gospel sounds. This is the title track from a 1969 BYG album which will be difficult to find so check out the excellent Soul Jazz double CD compilation where you will find this tune and more great music from Don Cherry, Yusef Lateef, Richard Davis (the excellent track Dealin’) and many more.

  1. Vehemence Quartet – Gabry’s from Anomalia
  2. Gregory Porter – Black Nile from Water
  3. St. Germain – Real Blues from St. Germain
  4. Bugge Wesseltoft – Faz It from Bugge & Friends
  5. Love Extra Orchestra – Darling, It’s Over from single release
  6. Lucky Novak – Kul’an from Up! Go!
  7. Nat Birchall – To Be from Invocations
  8. Archie Shepp & Jeanne Lee – Blase from New Spirits: Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82

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Neil is currently listening to:

charles lloydFinally, it won’t have escaped regular listeners that here at CJ we are bonafide paid up members of the Charles Lloyd Appreciation Society. With a new band and a new album out this month, it seems appropriate to give listeners a chance to hear and see Lloyd performing this new direction live at NYC’s Lincoln Centre just two weeks ago. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels now features Bill Frisell on guitar and Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel.  The album – out on Blue Note – is called I Long To See You.  Be prepared – the music really is rather different!

03 February 2016: from Krakow to Kingston

CJ is globetrotting again this week – from Krakow to Blackburn, Porsgrunn (check it out!) to Montevideo and more. As always, just click the MixCloud tab on this page to hear for yourself.

algorhythmThe show began with with some of the excellent Polish jazz around. One of my favourite groups at the moment are Algorythm and we started with a tune from their impressive Segments album. Emil Miszk is on trumpet, Piotr Chęcki on tenor, Szymon Burnos on piano, Krzysztof Słomkowski on bass and (despite what I said on the show!) Sławek Koryzno on drums. High Definition Quartet are one of those quirky, unpredictable, up-front bands – and the track V is typical of the music on their new release Bukoliki. Since their formation, they have built up quite a reputation and have played with many other musicians, including Randy Brecker in 2012.

Last week, saxophonist Nat Birchall featured on CJ – both with music from his latest album on Jazzman Records, but also here on the website where we looked at one of the many excellent features on his own website. This week on the show we feature another tune from Invocations but also the track Ethiopia from one of the14921 musicians who has influenced Birchall, Jamaican tenor player Cedric Im Brooks. For more, check out the album Cedric Im Brooks and The Light Of Saba reissued a few years ago on the excellent Honest Jon label. I’m lucky enough to have a copy on the original double vinyl. 

don rendell:ian carr phase IIIAfter the death of the distinguished British sax/flute player Don Rendell last year it seemed appropriate to play again Black Marigolds by The Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet.  This wonderful piece, written by pianist Michael Garrick, still sounds as fresh and interesting as it surely did when issued in 1966. Sadly, there’s almost no video available of this iconic band – but here they are at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1968 (and still in suits!).

We have recently featured music from Norway and will be playing more in our next show. This week it was more of a re-visit to the album Bugge and Friends from Bugge Wesseltoft. The friends on this record include Erik Truffaz whose new album Doni Doni features Rokia Traore. You can check out a live version of the title track here from the WorldStock Festival in Paris.

I’ll be playing a few older latin jazz tunes, many for jazz dancers, over the coming week. I began with Opa from Uruguay. The Fattoruso brothers from Montevideo formed the band in the 1970s and theiropa magic timetwo records were both produced by Airto Moreira. The track I featured came from their second album Magic Time, released in 1977. Both Airto and his then wife, Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim can be heard. Both albums have been reissued on Milestone and the first – Goldenwings – on BGP Records here in the UK. You’ll find Montevideo on the widely available BGP compilation – details below.

Below, as usual, is this week’s playlist – but also something I hope to do from time to time. It’s five of the records we’re currently listening too – whether on the move or at home. As you’ll see, it’s not all exclusively jazz. Neil will be doing the same while he’s in Beijing – check out his top five below. We’ve linked either the tune or the album to a YouTube video. Enjoy!

  1. Algorythm – Sorry For the Delay from Segments
  2. High Definition Quartet – V from Bukoliki
  3. Nat Birchall – A Luta Continua from Invocations
  4. Cedric Im Brooks – Ethiopia from Studio One Rockers
  5. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Black Marigolds from Phase III/Impressed II
  6. Bugge Wesseltoft – Make It from Bugge & Friends
  7. OPA – Montevideo from Magic Time/BGP presents Jazz Funk

Derek’s currently listening to…

Neil’s currently listening to…

 

 

27 January 2016: sound, soul and spirit

The title for this week’s Cosmic Jazz comes from the strapline for saxophonist Nat Birchall’s excellent blog. There’s more from this below, but we recommend that you take a good look.

We’ve still not finished with some of the great music from 2015 here on Cosmic Jazz. This week’s show, available at the click of the Mixcloud tab on this page, features, in part, some of the tunes that still need to be heard by any CJ aficionado.

082_nat_birchallThe show opened with the title tune from Birchall’s superb 2015 album Invocations and one we’ve promised to feature for a while here on CJ. Birchall is one of the most interesting jazz musicians from the Manchester jazz scene who’s now gaining prominence on a wider stage. He’s previously been heard with Matthew Halsall but has released several very fine albums of his own, all of which we have featured here on CJ.

Birchall’s music is for the body and soul, with obvious references to the Coltranes (John and Alice), Pharaoh Sanders and Albert Ayler – but there is more than this. Birchall is a wholly original player with a strong debt to dub reggae. To me, jazz and reggae cannat birchall and dub make a perfect combination, so  it was interesting to read in the sleeve notes to the record that Birchall’s first musical passion was classic dub and, in particular, the album Grounation by drummer Count Ossie, featuring Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks on tenor sax. The use of hand drums on Invocations adds a mystical quality that evokes Count Ossie’s seminal recording. Check out the blog (again) and read and hear more about some of Birchall’s favourite recordings. If you want to get up to speed on dub reggae you won’t find a better place to start than here. Here, for example, is Birchall on the influence of Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks on the development of his own sound: The tenor saxophone player on this album is the great Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks and his sound and playing here were my first introduction to Jazz type soloing apart from the very short solos that I had heard on Ska tunes and his style has undoubtedly contributed greatly to my concept of how a tenor saxophone sounds. 

When we count ossie grounationplay the saxophone the sound that we actually get from the instrument is not determined by the instrument itself. It can be quite complex but the most important factor in what sound we get when we breathe into the saxophone is what we personally imagine it should sound like. The instrument and mouthpiece and reed all contribute to the sound but the actual character and quality is largely down to the individual player and their sound “concept” and their practice routine. So this album is very important to me personally as it has contributed in no small part to my own sound concept as a saxophone player.

From time to time I have to play music that has touched me during the previous week. Sometimes, and I make no apology, this takes me beyond the borders of jazz. For this week it was the Senegalese baaba maal the travellerartist Baaba Maal who I had just been to see perform in Norwich. What a voice! What a stage presence he has! In fact, as a guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions show on 24 January, he stated that improvisation is an essential part of his live performance. So it was in the one I saw with a superb bass player, a masterful and powerful Cuban drummer who gave an extended solo and excellent percussionists. Indeed, on the Radio 3 show Maal acknowledged his debt to jazz. What you may not have guessed is that among the musicians featured on Tiedo – the tune I played from his album Firin’ in Fouta – were two top-rate British jazz musicians, Andy Sheppard on soprano sax and Alec Dankworth on double bass. Maal’s new album is called The Traveller and it’s just been released.

I had forgotten that the compilation Black Fire! New Spirits!: Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-82 had only been released in 2015. It seems ages ago that CJ first featured this excellentblack fire new spirt Soul Jazz compilation but we have so far not played The Banjo Lesson by flute player Lloyd McNeil and bassist Marshall Hawkins. This comes from an album commissioned for an exhibition to celebrate the art work of Henry Ossawa Turner, who became the first African-American painter to gain international success. McNeil himself was not only a musician but also a painter, photographer, poet and academic.

During 2015 we have championed some excellent Polish jazz which can be obtained via Steve’s Jazz Sounds. Among my favourites has been the music from the trio led by Michal Wroblewski. We have featured pieces from his 2015 City Album but this week I played Jarretiude (which suggests an obvious reference to Keith Jarrett) from the album I Remember.

The other two tunes from Polish bands were, however, definitely produced in 2015. Algorhythm are a young Polish quartet comprising tenor, trumpet, piano and double bass. They are excellent and a must listen for all Cosmic Jazz followers. I will have to play more. See them below performing at the 2013 European Jazz Contest in Rome.

Tatvamasi__The_House_Of_WordsFinally, Tatvamasi are a quintet founded by guitarist Gregory Lesiak. They aim to reveal the hidden depth of the Polish soul in the 21st century, with music inspired by traditional Slavic folk and the avant-garde. Their previous release is reviewed in PopMatters here. The phrase tat tvam asi is a Sanskrit expression meaning “that thou art” or “that art thou” – the self is part of of the oneness, or whole. I can imagine Nat Birchall saying much the same thing…

  1. Nat Birchall – Invocations from Invocations
  2. Baaba Maal – Tiedo from Firin’ in Fouta
  3. Lloyd McNeil and Marshall Hawkins – The Banjo Lesson from Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz 1957-82
  4. Michal Wroblewski Trio – Jarretiude from I Remember
  5. Algorhythm – Segment IV from Segments
  6. Tatvamasi – Conversion from The House of Words

New recommended site – UK vibe


nat-birchall_ukvibe_01Cosmic Jazz
has always had a sidebar list of recommended sites – and it’s time to add a new one to the list. UK Vibe has just uploaded an excellent review of the new Nat Birchall release Invocations but the site is home to some great in-depth features too.

Particularly recommended is the extended (and I really mean extended) piece on Keith Jarrett at 70. Read it and check out the videos too. If you’re not yet convinced by Jarrett, have a look and listen to his live reading of the classic God Bless the Child  performed here with his Standards Trio – Gary Peacock on bass and Jack de Johnette on drums.

Playlist – 20 December 2012

Now’s the time (as they say in jazz circles) – this week and next, Cosmic Jazz picks the best of 2012. We look at our favourite new releases and reissues from the last twelve months, check out what hits the CJ spot and offer a few recommendations. Esperanza Spalding was a predictable selection – we’ve been raving about Radio Music Society since it was released earlier in the year. – and so too was Jack deJohnette, drum master for Charles Lloyd, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and many more. With a new release from ECM of his Special Edition group from the 70s/80s (and too late to feature in most 2012 polls), deJohnette featured twice in our selection. Another four disc set was the latest release from the currently prolific Wadada Leo Smith – his mammoth suite called Ten Freedom Summers. This should be high on the list of any listener interested in the more experimental side of jazz and is a record of the year on many 2012 lists.

But for CJ‘s Neil, another record beat Smith to the top spot. This was an album he camevijay_iyer-001 back to over and over again during the course of the year. Vijay Iyer has one of the great piano trios working in jazz at the moment.and Accelerando is his best release to date and is likely to be one the jazz albums of the decade..Here is where Iyer brings it all together with compositions from such diverse inspirations as Duke Ellington, Flying Lotus and Michael Jackson. The whole thing just works. As Nate Chinen of the New York Times so succinctly says, Accelerando encapsulates his knack for making prickly experimentalism feel approachable, intuitive, even stylish.:

Next week’s show will bring us Derek’s top dogs for 2012 – so expect EST and… well, just wait and see.

  1. Gregory Porter – 1960 What? (Gerardo Frisina Cuban Soul Mix)
  2. Esperanza Spalding – Endangered Species
  3. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
  4. Jessica Lauren Four – White Mountain
  5. Nat Birchall – The Black Ark
  6. Jack deJohnette’s Special Edition – I Know
  7. Jack deJohnette – Enter Here
  8. Charlie Mingus – Track C: Group Dancers
  9. Quarteto de Saba – Pra Che Chorar
  10. Wadada Leo Smith – Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs Board of Education: A Dream of Equal Education, 1954
  11. Keith Jarrett Quartet – Personal Mountains
  12. ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Soul Train
  13. Vijay IyerTrio – Human Nature

Video this week has to come from our first 2012 poll winner Vijay Iyer and his trio, Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums (who, incidentally, is grandson of jazz drumming legend Roy Haynes):

Playlist – 22 November 2012

After the exciting choices from Pete last week this week’s show returned to some of Derek’s current listening. Opening the show with two contemporary jazz dance classics, the grooves continued with two CJ favourites – Roy Haynes’ percussion tour de force Quiet Fire and the classic Red Clay from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

New music was represented by more from Larry Stabbins and Mercury-nominated Roller Trio with a final nod to CJ’s top album from last year, Nat Birchall’s Sacred Dimension. Birchall has a new CD out on his own label. You can hear extracts from the album – called World Without Form – here. Reviewer Phill Johnson of the Independent on Sunday said:

In a scene dominated by jazz graduates who are fluent in the language but don’t have much to say, the music of saxophonist Birchall – who came to Coltrane via reggae’s Cedric Brooks – screams “Belief!” This latest release invests spiritual jazz with a personal vision evoking space and soul. Doubling up bass and drums creates a thicker sound, with roles for Corey Mwamba, Jon Thorne and Paul Hession. Regular pianist Adam Fairhall is a total star.

Yes – it’s a CD we love too! Expect to hear tracks coming weeks on Cosmic Jazz.

  1. St. Germain – Rose Rouge
  2. Nuyorican Soul feat. George Benson – You Can Do It (Baby)
  3. Roy Haynes – Quiet Fire
  4. Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay
  5. Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band – Cobra
  6. Rosa Passos – Lobo Bobo
  7. GoGo Penguin – Akasthesia
  8. Roller Trio – Deep Heat
  9. Larry ‘Stonephace’ Stabbins – Noetic
  10. Nat Birchall – Sacred Dimension
  11. Joe Henderson – Serenity

On video this week is Larry Stabbins as horns boss in the 1980s band Working Week. Here they are live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1985 with singer Juliet Roberts and guitarist Simon Booth, giving a very respectable jazz treatment of Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues.