Tag Archives: Sun Ra

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…

10 May 2017: featuring Black Renaissance

Every year as summer draws near I have to play Harry Whitaker’s sensational Black Renaissance: Mind, Body and Spirit – and in full. It is simply a wonderful piece of free, spontaneous and Afrocentric jazz, soul and rapping – before rap was known. In effect and reality, the whole piece was a jam session recorded in one take and – rather fittingly – on Martin Luther King day in 1976.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are just two tracks – Black Renaissance (side 1) and Magic Ritual (side 2). Whitaker comments on the record sleeve that “we discussed ideas the night before – just the basics like the bass lines and the drums, but that was it. It was recorded in what I call moment-to-moment.” For many years the tapes were thought to be lost forever, but they they were eventually tracked down in 2002 by the Luv’n’Haight label in California and released on Ubiquity.

Harry Whitaker was a pianist, producer, arranger and composer who played and recorded with Roy Ayers and Roberta Flack and had influential jazz friends and contacts. The record includes Woody Shaw (check out his trumpet solo), Azar Lawrence, Buster Williams, Billy Hart and Mtume. The music is essentially a  map of the African American musical canvas of 1976, with echoes of Sun Ra’s call and response, Coltrane’s tonal meditations and touches of the electronic wizardry of Herbie Hancock’s early 1970s music.  You simply need to hear this essential music – press the Mixcloud tab now! You can still track down the album on both vinyl and CD. Original Japanese pressings from 1976 come up at around £300 so go for the Lu’n’Haight reissue – around £10 for CD and a little more on vinyl. If you don’t have this jazz essential just treat yourself.

It was another tune from the Dinosaur record Together as One that started off the show. Extinct has been an ever-present on my current playlist for some time now. The clarity of the playing from each player comes out really strongly on this tune. It is jazz for our times from a significant, young British group.

I was reminded recently that a year ago this week I saw the Sun Ra Arkestra under the musical direction of Marshall Allen, now aged 92 and still as strong as ever. The orchestra continues to carry the spirit of Sun Ra and Cosmic Hop manages to combine the spiritual with the danceable. The Jelle Van Giel group from Belgium have featured regularly on the show. We like them and they merit repeated listening. There was another tune from The Devotion, US drummer John Lumpkin’s release from last year. This was one of those tunes that ends in a free and improvised blow-out (like Black Renaissance) – quite different from how it starts. The whole album, available on download, is, in fact, quite unpredictable. One tune, in particular, is very different, maybe I should try it next week…

Two other artists I saw almost a year ago were UK musicians pianist Kit Downes and cello player Lucy Railton. At that time, they were playing with Norwegian Thomas Stronin as he toured in Europe. This week we ended the show with a track from the duo’s recent release Tricko .

  1. Dinosaur – Extinct from Together as One
  2. Black Renaissance – Black Renaissance from Black Renaissance: Body, Mind and Spirit
  3. Sun Ra Arkestra – Cosmic Hop from Songs for the Sun
  4. Jelle Van Giel Group – The Truth from Songs for Everyone
  5. John Lumpkin – The Red Sea from The Devotion
  6. Kit Downes – Jinn from Tricko

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Neil is listening to…

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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: 

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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.

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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:

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.