Tag Archives: Sun Ra

25 January 2016: Neil’s pre-Singapore selection

This week’s CJ was a last chance for Neil to cram in some of his current listening before he heads off to Singapore. We started with more tracks from recent albums – the 2015 sophomore release from bass player Ben Williams and that excellent collection of Sun Ra singles on the Strut label which emerged at the end of last year.

We followed this with a real delight. Creating a convincing remix of the iconic A Love Supreme has to be one of the tougher remix assignments, but skinnerbox has achieved the near impossible with his take on Coltrane’s finest work. Of course, this isn’t the real thing, but it undoubtedly captures the spirit and grace of the original. Well worth hearing in its 14 minute entirety too – listen on Soundcloud here. Take in that cool twist on McCoy Tyner’s piano at 8:25 onwards.

It made sense to follow skinnerbox with another remix project – this time from Kiwi musician and producer Mark de Clive-Lowe who has put together a very convincing melange of Blue Note tracks into an impressive two part remix. You can download Part 1 of the project here for free, or buy a limited edition vinyl version from Bandcamp, Juno and other outlets. Want more new de Clive-Lowe? Then check out a track from his latest release in Neil’s listening choices below.

You might have through the next track on the show was part of de Clive-Lowe’s project (especially as we didn’t credit it on air!), but this was in fact vibesman Dave Pike, giving a refreshingly contemporary twist to the classic Besame Mucho. What really lifts the track is the drum break – shades of Joe Morello’s break on Take Five I think, but – whatever – Walter Perkins achieves something great here.

It was time to check out two singers I never tire of hearing, Mark Murphy and Gregory Porter. I’ve written elsewhere on this website about Murphy: his lyrical invention, rich tone and perennially cool demeanour will ensure he will remain one of the key jazz vocalists. I chose the excellent take on Milton Nascimento’s Nada Sera Como Antes that is one of the many killer tracks from the Muse years, although it doesn’t feature on the recently released compilation from Soul Brother Records. Instead, you can find it on the excellent Songbook collection or the indispensable 1984 album Brazil Song.

And – in many ways – Gregory Porter has inherited something of the Murphy mantle. There’s the tone, the space he gives his band and – something special – his own songs. Murphy was a genius at vocalese – the art of adding lyrics to existing jazz tunes or solos – but Porter is a great songwriter too. Don’t Be a Fool is an excellent example from his 2016 release Take Me to the Alley. Porter is an enigma: whilst much of his music might function as pop music it resolutely isn’t in the arrangements,  extended solos and (sometimes) challenging lyrics that don’t seem to put off his huge popular demographic. That’s right – no sell out!

We ended the show with some fun from Marcos Valle. He composed the soundtrack to a film portrait of 1970s Brazilian F1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi and if you’re unfamiliar with the huge sideburns of Brazil’s finest pre-Senna driver you can see the opening credits of Roberto Farias’s film here. We played the title music from the film but the complete soundtrack is also available on YouTube.

Before this came two jazz originals – neglected alto player Arthur Blythe and iconic pianist McCoy Tyner. The huge rolling wave that is Tyner’s Horizon and the rollicking Blythe original Down San Diego Way are both tunes that stay in the memory long after they’ve ended. Both are ones you will want to hear again – so check out the Listen Again feature on this week’s show and enjoy the music.

  1. Ben Williams – Black Villain from Coming Of Age
  2. Sun Ra – Mayan Temple from Sun Ra Singles
  3. Skinnerbox – A Love Supreme from Bandcamp download
  4. Mark de Clive-Lowe – extract from Blue Note Remixed from Bandcamp download
  5. The Dave Pike Quartet – Besame Mucho from Pike’s Peak
  6. Mark Murphy – Nothing Will Be As It Was Tomorrow from Songbook
  7. Gregory Porter – Don’t Be A Fool from Take Me to the Alley
  8. McCoy Tyner – Horizon from Horizon
  9. Arthur Blythe – Down San Diego Way from Lenox Avenue Brengakdown
  10. Marcos Valle with Azymuth – Fittipaldi Show  from O Fabuloso Fittipaldi original film score


Neil is listening to:

15 June 2016: crossing genres

fania all starsAvailable on the MixCloud tab from CJ this week are some favourite records from the last year or so, plus a couple of older tunes. Make sure you check out all the links embedded below for max effect!

First up was a track from an old recording released in 2011 by the always-reliable Strut Records as a 40th anniversary CD and DVD of The Fania All Stars playing live at The Cheetah, New York. I played this in memory of a friend who back in the 1970s lent me two remarkable download (2)vinyl records – now rare collectors items – of the All Stars, live on Virgin Records. This was my introduction  to Latin music, and it’s been a passion that has remained strong ever since. Of course, the link between Latin music and jazz has always been there – and they come together in the umbrella term Latin jazz. Coined during the 1950s by the American media, it’s a simplistic description of a very complex cultural melting pot. There are, after all, 22 countries in Latin American with each one having an extraordinary diversity of rhythms, styles and genres that represent the individual cultural mixes of that country and its region. We selected Ray Barretto’s Cochinando, the lead off track from this excellent record of one of the most influential Latin concerts ever.

Cover_KoutéJazz-350x350Just one of those many Latin permutations was shown in the next selection from the excellent Koute Jazz compilation on French label Heavenly Sweetness. This time it was a group from Guadeloupe using Brazilian rhythms to invoke memories of the island’s original inhabitants. Catch the lovely Fender Rhodes on this one! Ed Motta is Brazilian – but don’t go to his new album Perpetual Gateways if you are looking for stereotypical Brazilian sounds. While Motta’s previous album AOR (a self conscious tribute to ‘adult oriented rock’) was a slick Steely Dan-esque affair, the new one works at delivering both soul and jazz – in fact, it’s presented as two suites of five songs each – one called Soul Gate and the other Jazz Gate. Produced by Kamau Kenyatta (Gregory ed motta perpetual gatewaysPorter) and featuring an impressive supporting cast that includes such west coast session luminaries as Patrice Rushen, Greg Phillinganes, and Hubert Laws, Perpetual Gateways is a delight. We played I Remember Julie which features Rushen and an extended acoustic piano solo – a long way away from the smooth jazzfunk of Forget Me Nots!

Ameen Saleem appeared again this week but in jazz rather than soul/R’n’B mode – both of which sit happily on his genre-hopping new release The Groove Lab. It’s great to see the current crop of US jazz artists adopting this more freewheeling approach – and making it work. We’ll be checking out saxophonist Marcus Strickland’s latest album along with the Miles Davis/Robert Glasper R’n’B collaboration, Everything’s Beautiful in future shows.

st germainOne of my very favourite records of  the last twelve months has been another record that crossed genres. St Germain is the third album from the eponymous French artist (Parisian producer Ludovic Navarre) and is a superb example of how jazz, Malian blues and contemporary beats can be merged into a seamless whole. If you do not have this record, then we regard it as an essential must-have: it may not have the spell-binding blend of jazz and house that so characterised Tourist, but it is an excellent addition to the genre crossing canon. It’s worth comparing the lead off track on St Germain (Real Blues which features Lightning Hopkins) with its spiritual predecessor from Tourist (Sure Thing with John Lee Hooker). Navarre is a late headline addition to next month’s Love Supreme jazz festival – check him out if you can.

marshall allen and the arkestraEuropean jazz, so integral to CJ, was represented this week via the Czech Republic from Ondre Sveracek and the Petr Benes Quartet – check the subtle horn playing on this one. Of course, Thomas Stronen from Norway had to appear again and to end the show we travelled the spaceways once more with the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of 92 year old Marshall Allen.

  1. Fania All Stars – Cocinando from Our Latin Thing
  2. Guadeloupe Reflexions – Samba Arawak from Koute Jazz
  3. Ed Motta – I Remember Julie from Perpetual Gateways
  4. Ameen Saleem – Korinthis from The Groove Lab
  5. St. Germain – Family Tree from St. Germain
  6. Ondre Sveracek – Meditation from Calm
  7. Petr Benes Quartet – My Little Ruth from Pbq+1
  8. Thomas Stronen – As We Wait For Time from Time Is A Blind Guide
  9. Sun Ra Arkestra – Galactic Voyage from Song For The Sun


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

01 June 2016: featuring Thomas Stronen and Norwegian jazz

thomas stronenRecently I went to a performance by Thomas Stronen at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016. It was simply an amazing, highly memorable experience and if you click the MixCloud tab (left) you can hear some of the tunes from the album Time Is A Blind Guide on which Stronen’s set was based.

The music wa2467_X_1 (1)s intense, spiritual, emotional jazz drawing upon classical, Far Eastern and traditional Norwegian influences. The combination of Lucy Railton on cello (not a common jazz instrument), Hakan Aase on violin and  Ole Morton Vagan on double bass created a beautiful, warm, melodic sound – check the tune Pipa for an example of this. The subtle, precise drumming of Thomas Stronen, interacting with the flowing and adventurous piano of Kit Downes was mesmerising – listen to The Stone Carriers which was also featured on this week’s CJ. The album is on ECM and is very highly recommended.

tord gustavsen what was saidAlso on ECM is the album What was said by Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen with Afghan/German voice Simin Tander singing in Pashto and English accompanied by Jarle Vespestad on drums. This is another ECM group I have heard live this year – excellent too, but edged out by Thomas Stronen.

Also from Norway this week came LEO,  (Love Exit Orchestra) featuring vocalist Sheila Simmenes whose many interests include jazz and Brazilian music and Lucky Novak, a quirky, original and experimental Norwegian band with a British saxophonist.

shela simmenesAll the music this week was recorded in Europe and featured – with the odd exception – European musicians. This included more music available at Steve’s Jazz Sounds. For example, Spanish, a modal tune from Czech Republic saxophonist Ondrej Sveracek on his album CalmThis also includes US drummer Gene Jackson with a controlled, complex  feature towards the end of the tune. Also, for the first time on Cosmic Jazz came the Cracow Jazz Collective, an eight-piece band featuring young Polish jazz musicians with compositions by pianist Mateusz Gaweda. Take a look at the No More Drama video for more from this exciting collective.

erik truffaz doni doniDoni Doni, the new record from Erik Truffaz, is still on the CJ ‘tables. This time, it was a contrast from his more ambient, relaxed and minimalist sounds. Finally, there was a chance to catch part of Archangelo from Raphael available on Spiritual Jazz 2. Raphael was a US pianist but the album was recorded in Belgium with Belgian musicians.

  1. Ondrej Sveracek – Spanish from Calm
  2. Cracow Jazz Collective – Polish Drama from No More Drama
  3. Thomas Stronen – The Stone Carriers from Time Is A Blind Guide
  4. Thomas Stronen – Tide from Time from Time is a Blind Guide
  5. Thomas Stronen – Everything Disappears 1 from Time is a Blind Guide
  6. Thomas Stronen – Pipa from Time is a Blind Guide
  7. Tord Gustavsen – Sweet Melting from What was said
  8. LEO (Love Extra Orchestra) – Don’t Get Me Wrong from preview copy
  9. Lucky Novak – Ornette from Up! Go!
  10. Erik Truffaz Quartet – Fat City from Doni Doni
  11. Raphael – Archangelo from Spiritual Jazz 2


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

25 May 2016: jazz from the Czech Republic and France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Derek is listening to:

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

Neil is listening to:

18 May 2016: some Cosmic Jazz favourites

Cosmic Jazz is back and, to mark our return, the programme features a few favourites.

otis brown iii the thought of youOne such is drummer Otis Brown III  – heard here in two opening tracks.  First, supporting Somi on her Nigeria inspired album The Lagos Music Salon and then on his own record The Thought Of You, where on You’re Still the One the jazz cool but warm and enticing voice of Gretchen Parlato draws you in.  You can see Gretchen Parlato appearing in her own right here.

kenny garrettAny Cosmic Jazz programme of favourites could not exclude Kamasi Washington, an ever-present artist on the show nor alto player Kenny Garrett. This week we chose the title track from his award-winning album Pushing The World Away. The memory of seeing his quartet perform in such a close and intimate setting at the Pizza Express Jazz  Club in Dean Street, London a few years ago still lingers firmly in the memory…

bugge wesseltoft and friendsKeyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft recorded an excellent album in 2015 with his friends – including trumpeter Erik Truffaz who has his own excellent new album out this year.  I shall play tunes from it in coming weeks but, for this edition of Cosmic Jazz, check out the collaboration on the track Play It.

Songs by Johnny Nash have not often appeared on Cosmic Jazz but I simply love the version of I Can see Clearly Now by Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce with Roy’s son Gabriel featured on lead vocal and trumpet. In case you do not reach this stage of the programme via MixCloud you can hear it here and at the same time view the bleak and alluring cover of the album.

nuyorican soulLatin and soul – probably more accurately a combination of both – but all with New York connections, completed the show. The wonderful Charlie Palmieri of New York latino heritage started the segment with a tune that was re-released on a compilation of his work on the Atlantic Masters series. Elements of Life from Eclipse and Jocelyn Brown from the album Nuyorican Soul continued the latin New York sounds. The link between the two is arranger and DJ Louis Vega. elements of life eclipseBest known as a record producer now, Vega comes from latin royalty. His uncle was Hector Lavoe of the celebrated Fania All Stars, and Vega has lent his name to hundreds of records since the 1990s when he began DJing and remixing with fellow house star Kenny Gonzales in the Masters at Work partnership. Here at CJ we always emphasize the close links between much Latin music and jazz – just one small part of that global jazz thing.

  1. Somi – Four African Women from The Lagos Music Salon
  2. Otis Brown III (feat. Gretchen Parlato) – You’re Still The One from The Thought Of You
  3. Kamasi Washington – Leroy and Lanisha from The Epic
  4. Kenny Garrett – Pushing The World Away  from Pushing The World Away
  5. Bugge Wesseltoft – Play It from Bugge and Friends
  6. Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce – I Can See Clearly Now from Complicated Day
  7. Charlie Palmieri – Mambo Show from Latin Bugalu
  8. Elements of Life – Berimbau from Eclipse
  9. Jocelyn Brown – I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun from Nuyorican Soul


Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

16 April 2016: RSD2016

16 April was Record Store Day all round the world and – of course –  Cosmic Jazz joined in the festivities.  We visited two of our local record stores – Soundclash logoSoundclash Records in Norwich and Vinyl Hunter in Bury St Edmunds. Soundclash is one of the city’s oldest record shops: established in 1991, it’s got a great selection of both vinyl and CDs in a wide range of musical genres. Vinyl Hunter maybe new in town but it’s already building a loyal customer base.  Not only is it a specialist vinyl store (with some CDs) but there’s cafe space downstairs too and – thanks to the bakery upstairs there are excellent cakes and coffee. Vinyl vinyl hunter logoHunter also carries a range of quality turntables including Lenco and Rega models – and co-founder Rosie Hunter made clear that selling good quality decks on which to play both new and secondhand vinyl is just part of their comprehensive service for customers.

soundclash record store day 01Those early morning Soundclash queues are testimony to the appeal of Record Store Day and – like the Norwich store – Vinyl Hunter had a busy inaugural RSD2016 with over 60 customers buying in the first hour. Their crate digging approach is going global too – in August the Hunters will be visiting Brazil for the Olympic Games, but Rosie confirmed that there will be time for some vinyl hunting in some of the country’s best record stores!

UK vinyl sales continue to grow year on year with a 64% increase in 2015 sales over the previous year. What looked like a passing fad is clearly now a substantial resurgence. Independent vinyl shops are a viable business proposition – the longevity of Soundclavinyl hunter 01sh and the customer service ethos of Vinyl Hunter are both testimony to this. What HMV (the sole surviving major music retailer) never succeeded in doing was to rebrand themselves as a specialist, niche service – and that’s where two of our local record shops have the edge. Cosmic Jazz salutes both. For more vinyl news, start with The Vinyl Factory or sign up to any of the other great independent record store around the country.  The music choices below celebrate RSD exclusive cuts and more – enjoy!

On Record Store Day Neil listened to: 


Meanwhile, our Miles Ahead fest continues: Neil has chosen five Miles Davis tracks, each of which featured in Jez Nelson’s Sunday night Somethin’ Else prograjez nelson and don cheadlemme on Jazz FM. Much of this is Miles music that is rarely heard on the radio – and as actor/director Don Cheadle notes in his interview with Nelson, some of these tracks often centre on “meta-Miles” – Davis playing what’s not there. The music built up to the period in Miles’ life that’s at the heart of the movie – his enforced retirement from 1975 that then led to the final comeback years. The interview ended with Cheadle’s choice of Circle, from the album Miles Smiles.

On Somethin’ Else Neil listened 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.


  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:

09 March 2016: from Sun Ra to Esperanza

Click the Mixcloud tab left to enjoy a varied programme of mainly newish jazz with some older jewels thrown in.

Do I apologise for playing again and starting the show with Kamasi Washington? Certainly not. Listening during the week to Re Run Home it just sounded such a great way to start the show that I couldn’t resist.

esperanza spaldingThere was a link across the next three tunes – Esperanza Spalding. She played acoustic bass on Jack de Johnette’s Indigo Dreamscapes, from the Sound Travels album which celebrated his 80th birthday. But on her new record Emily’s D + Evolution, Spalding is definitely into an electric bass sound as well as providing lead vocals. The album is probably not to the taste of every jazz lover: comments have ranged from the highest praise to pretension masquerading as art. She mentions Cream as an esperanza spalding D + evolutioninspiration and there are certainly rock elements (including shades of Prince) but the jazz roots are still there. Judge for yourself from the two tracks I played this week. I will play more. You can hear what D + Evolution sounds like live on NPR’s First Listen Live show.

The recent publication of the programme for the 2016 Norfolk & Norwich Festival – up the road from us here in Ipswich – provided a mammal handsgood reason to play Mammal Hands. This Norwich-based band play an original, entrancing and magical mix of jazz, classical, Indian, north African and electronic sounds. You need to hear their music. They will play at the festival on 27 May. Last week I mentioned that the Sun Ra Arkestra, directed by the 90 year old Marshall Allen, are due to play the Festival on 13 May. So this week I chose a Sun Ra tune recorded in 1958, the year Marshall Allen joined the Arkestra. What a sustained achievement! Its quirky sound prompted me to follow this with the equally uplifting and bouncy tune Ijo Soul from the wonderful Orlando Julius and the Modern Aces from Nigeria. Orlando Julius is one of the key figures in African music and his Modern Aces were at the forefront of African music development in the 1960s. Interestingly, Fela Kuti performsun ra arkestraed with the the Modern Aces (playing trumpet!) before he formed his own Koola Lobitos band and went on to develop afrobeat. But few artists have been more crucial to the invention, development, and popularization of Afro-pop than Orlando Julius Ekemode. Starting in the ’60s, Julius was fusing traditional African sounds and rhythms with those of American pop, soul, and R&B. In 1966, his album Super Afro Soul made him a celebrity in Nigeria and certainly influenced the the development of funk in the United States. Less well known is that he spent several years in the US working on collaborations with Hugh Masekela and the Crusaders. It’s Julius’s recording Ashiko that forms the basis of Lamont Dozier’s Going Back to My Roots – watch this great Strut Records video to find out more. In early 2014, the London-based Heliocentrics brought him orlando juliusto their all-analogue studio where they backed him on the album Jaiyede Afro, featuring vintage tunes that had never been recorded along with new compositions. Listen to In the Middle and check out that naggingly familiar James Brown riff!

The programme ended with journeys once more to Eastern Europe. The Confusion Project from Poland, who are a trio not a larger band as I said on the programme, have gathered much praise. They consist of drummer Adam Golicki, keyboard player Michal Cieselski and bass player Piotr Gierszewski. Their self titled album is strongly recommended. Finally came the AMC Trio from Slovakia, a trio that have played with a host of other jazz musicians, including Randy Brecker. The wealth of interesting releases from mainly young musicians in Eastern Europe continues apace.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Re Run Home from The Epic
  2. Jack de Johnette – Indigo Dreamscapes from Sound Travels
  3. Esperanza Spalding – Good Lava from Emily’s D + Evolution
  4. Esperanza Spalding – Funk The Fear from Emily’s D + Evolution
  5. Mammal Hands – Kandaiki from Animalia
  6. Sun Ra – Great Balls Of Fire originally from Saturn also on A Space Odyssey
  7. Orlando Julius and his Rhythm Aces – Ibo Soul from Future Funk II
  8. Confusion Project – Status Quo from Confusion Project
  9.  ANC Trio – Beauty Of The Coming Sun from Very Keen Attack

Derek is listening to:

Neil is listening to:

nana vasconcelos bush danceWith the recent announcement of the death of Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, I have been listening again to some of the many recordings on which he featured. Vasconcelos was one of the most in demand percussionists around and appeared on records by artists as diverse as Brian Eno, Pat Metheny, Talking Heads and Jan Garbarek. A mesmerising live performer, Vasconcelos was nominated as Best Percussionist of the Year for seven consecutive years by the influential DownBeat magazine.

16 December: best of 2015 part 2

CJ featured more of the new music we enjoyed this year – and you can listen to it all. Just look left and hit that play button to hear all of this week’s show.

Neil’s choices were a mixture of new releases and great reissues. The first two choices are from multi-CD reissue sets, both from Columbia Records. In September 1955, pianist Erroll Garner played a landmark concert at Carmel, California. The result was one of the most popular jazz records of the decade – the celebrated Concert by the Sea album in wherrol garner complete concert by the seaich Garner effortlessly worked his way through a programme of standards. Now, some 60 years later, the compete concert has been reissued. The sound hasn’t been tampered with very much but the real revelation is in some of the additional tracks – especially Ellington’s Caravan which we played. Unlike other pianists we like on CJ, Garner is different. For Ahmad Jamal, for example, less is often more. Not so with Garner. He doesn’t do anything new or challenging  with the melodies, but the sheer unpredictability of his introductions and the sense of joy in his playing are still addictive. For more Garner, check out his 1964 in-studio performance here where you can hear some of his influences including stride piano players like Fats Waller (with whom he shares the habit of sometimes mugging to the camera!). It’s a bravura performance and it captures the sheer charm of Garner’s playing.

Next up was Weather Report and a 4CD set of what – for many – is their most creative (and popular) period. The years from 1978-81 saw the band settle into a core quartet – Joe Zawinul on keyboards, Wayne Shorter on tenor and soprano saxes, Jaco Pastorius on electric bass and Peter Erskine on drums. We featured the track Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz – often played at the time to end their set. I well reweather report legendary live tapesmember hearing the band at this time and their inventive energy was astonishing. here augmented by percussionist Robert Thomas Jr, this track captures this feeling perfectly. Even if you have most of the band’s output already this package, beautifully sequenced by Peter Erskine and Zawinul’s son Tony is essential. Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz (always played together) captures the balance between composed through material and the high levels of improvisation which marked a Weather Report show. The train track sound effect at the end of this piece is typical of the subtle ways in which Zawinul and Pastorius integrated samples into their sets long before they became de riguer. To see what this looked like check out this Montreux Jazz Festival performance from 1976.

joey alexander my favourite thingsBoth of these tracks made it into the Jazzwise best of 2015 lists – but not our next selection. Now, is this because new pianist Joey Alexander is something of a childhood prodigy? Of course, it’s good to be suspicious of mere technical fluency, but I think this 12 year old from Indonesia is the real jazz deal. Listen to what he does with Coltrane’s Giant Steps and decide for yourselves. Of course, it helps to have trio support from Larry Grenadier on bass and Ulysses Owen Jr. on drums but Alexander really thinks through the arrangements on this and all the other tracks on his Blue Note debut My Favorite Things. Have a look at this in-studio performance of the Coltrane classic.

Derek and I have both got into the unique soundworld of arranger and conductor Maria Schneider recently and next I featured a track from her new album The Thompson Fields. Like much of her work, this new release reflects her roots in the American midwest – specifically the Minnesota farmland that’s really a central character in this new album. Both the record and Donny McCaslin’s solo on maria schneider thompson 3our featured track are Grammy-nominated this year. We followed this with more orchestral music, this time from British composer Colin Towns. Improbably, once a member of Ian Gillan’s progressive rock band Towns is now a formidable jazz arranger with a string of excellent releases including the recent small group Blue Touch Paper. Here though with his Mask Orchestra he creates imaginative big band arrangements, all used to create widescreen arrangements linked to British theatre successes including Equus, Jayne Eyre and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. We chose the track Macbeth, full of sweeping drama and unpredictable twists and turns. To get an idea of his work as a film and TV composer, check out this interview where Towns talks about his work on the TV series Doc Martin.

We ended the show with a taste of two contemporary pianists – Robert Glasper and Brad Mehldau. Here Glasper is back with his trio but Mehldau is on his own in a 4CD set of solo piano performances from the last ten years. It’s a typically eclectic selection with music from Radiohead, the Beach Boys and Brahms. We featured one of two versions of Radiohead’s Knives Out.

sun ra - gilles petersonThe show ended with a CJ favourite – Sun Ra from Gilles Peterson’s new Strut compilation To Those of Earth and Other Worlds. We featured part of Sleeping Beauty, the title track from a 1979 album that captures Ra in a deceptively chilled mode, typical of other albums of the time including the essential Lanquidity and On Jupiter – all three now available on Art Yard Records. There’s more Sun Ra in our video clip this week, a typically spirited performance of Face the Music/Space is the Place.

  1. Erroll Garner – Caravan from The Complete Concert by the Sea
  2. Weather Report – Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz from the Legendary Live Tapes 1978-81
  3. Joey Alexander – Giant Steps from My Favorite Things
  4. The Maria Schneider Orchestra – Arbiters of Evolution from The Thompson Fields
  5. Colin Towns Mask Orchestra – Macbeth from Drama
  6. Robert Glasper Trio – So Beautiful from Covered
  7. Brad Mehldau – Knives Out from 10 Years Solo Live
  8. Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Myth Science Arkestra – Sleeping Beauty from To Those of Earth and Other Worlds

18 November 2015: weaving melodies

This week’s CJ has no obvious theme but vocals and strong melodies are certainly woven through Derek’s selections. The show started with a track from the new album by Wojciech Staroniewicz – a krzysztof komedatribute to Poland’s greatest composer of film music, Krzysztof Komeda. This doctor and jazz pianist was dead at the age of 37 but in his short life he had penned the scores for more than 40 films, including most of Roman Polanski’s up to and including Rosemary’s Baby. Staroniewicz isn’t the first to focus on Komeda’s music – one of our CJ favourites Tomasz Stanko is a frequent interpreter of his work as evidenced by his great ECM album Litania. The Polish link continued with two more tracks from new releases available from Steve’s Jazz Sounds – the first from the trio led by pianist Franciszek Raczkowski and the second from violinist Bartosz Dworak’s group.

ian carr don rendell phase IIIBlack Marigolds by Michael Garrick is here performed in the version on the Phase III album from the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. With Garrick’s interest in Oriental poetry and church music very apparent in many of his recordings, I’m sure that the title of this piece refers to a now largely forgotten translation by E Powys Mathers of the epic Sanskrit love poem Chaurapanchasika. Mathers was a frequent translator of eastern poetry and I’m sure that Garrick would have known his work.

With the arrival of a second Strut compilation of tracks (this sun ra - gilles petersontime compiled by Gilles Peterson) it’s difficult to avoid the music of Sun Ra at the moment. Derek chose Enlightenment from the collection called Space Odyssey. In fact, this track first appeared on the ground-breaking Jazz in Silhouette album from 1959 but it sounds contemporary. Of the hundreds of Sun Ra albums now available this one should be in any jazz lover’s collection as it features another track played several times on CJ, the extraordinary Ancient Aiethopia [sic].

download (2)Current CJ favourite vocalist is Cecile McLorin Salvant and this week Derek chose one of her own evocative compositions, Fog. The show ended with two more distinctive vocalists, the British Zara McFarlane and the Brazilian Flora Purim. Junior Murvin’s reggae classic Police and Thieves has been covered by a few artists (most notably The Clash on their eponymous first album) but this version is beautifully measured – and just as evocative in The Clash’s interpretation. You can see McFarlane’s video of the song here.

  1. Wojciech Staroniewicz – Cherry from A’Freak-Komeda Project
  2. Franciszek Raczkowski Trio – 5/8 from Apprentice
  3. Bartosz Dworak Quartet – Lullaby For Night Marks from Polished
  4. Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet – Black Marigolds from Phase III
  5. Sun Ra – Enlightenment from A Space Odyssey
  6. Cecile McLorin Salvant – Fog from For One to Love
  7. Zara McFarlane – Police and Thieves from If You Knew Her
  8. Chick Corea – 500 Miles High from Light as a Feather