Tag Archives: Keith Jarrett

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 – 16 September 2015: extend the knowledge…

jarrett belongingThis week’s CJ is the last from Neil for a while. Check it out via the MixCloud tab.

We opened with Gaucho – Steely Dan’s cheeky reworking of Keith Jarrett’s ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours. Of course, the Dan had form on this kind of thing: they pinched the opening piano motif from Horace Silver’s Song for My Father to create Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – and got away with it. But you don’t mess with Keith Jarrett – he won the law suit that resulted.

Joe Henderson is, of course, a CJ hero. We’ve featured his albums brecker talessince Cosmic Jazz began in 2008 and he’s been an unexpected success when CJ goes live. This week’s tune came from his 1975 album Canyon Lady. Recorded a couple of years earlier, the music is a surprisingly adventurous mix with a strong Latin feel on most tracks. Las Palmas – yes, there’s no doubt it’s another CJ Essential. And – as we said on the show this week – it doesn’t matter where you start with Joe Henderson, whether it’s his first and appropriately titled Page One album on Blue Note (1963) or Lush Life, his tribute to the compositions of Billy Strayhorn (1992), you will strike gold. Did he record a bad album? There’s a simple answer – no. It seemed appropriate to follow with some Michael Brecker, an equally impassioned tenor player whose album Tales from the Hudson has a very strong line up including Pat Metheny on guitars and Jack de Johnette on drums. African Skies has the added bonus of McCoy Tyner on piano.

Shigeto is the stage name of Zachary Shigeto Saginaw, an American electronic musician originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. His music is clearly influenced by jazz as is much of the Heavenly Sweetness compilation from which this track comes. You can see him live in concert here. This year he collaborated with trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummer Mark Guiliana to create High Risk – a  jazz/electronica album that works.

don sebeskyDJ Patrick Forge introduced Don Sebesky’s Giant Box album to me through his excellent online radio show for MiSoul. You can subscribe on Podomatic. This typically expansive kitchen sink production for CTI throws in a mix of Stravinsky and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (Firebird/Birds of Fire) and covers of Joni Mitchell (Song to a Seagull) and Jimmy Webb/the Bible (Psalm 150).  You heard Paul Desmond on alto on our featured track, Song to a Seagull from Joni’s debut release – not Joe Farrell on tenor as I claimed in the programme!

Stevie Wonder is rightly popular with jazz artists. His credentials are stevie talking bookimpressive: he often works jazz classics into his live shows (All Blues, Giant Steps, Spain) and many of his own songs have become jazz standards. His debut album was called The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, and as a child star he released an instrumental album of harmonica solos. “His jazz chops have been pretty damn good ever since I first saw him play,” says the pianist Chick Corea, “and they seem to get better. He could comfortably sit in with any number of jazz outfits.” Herbie Hancock apparently agrees. “He’s one pop star that pretty much every jazz musician has to take seriously,” he has said. “Both as an intelligent songwriter, but also as a gifted soloist, on piano and harmonica. Having jammed with him many times, I knowBreak_Stuff he has the most incredible set of ears of any musician I’ve ever worked with. He listens to what you play and he responds with amazing agility.” We featured Vijay Iyer’s take on the prescient Big Brother from Talking Book. Listen to the original here (with some powerful images too) for a reminder that sometimes things don’t change…

We ended with a real contrast – some classic Ornette Coleman (with bassist Charlie Haden very much to the fore in this recording) and then Los Angeles DJ Rick Holmes’ litany of jazz artists (and more) set to music by Roy Ayers. As I played this, I hadn’t realised that Holmes died in August this year. Pass the information; extend the knowledge…

  1. Steely Dan – Gaucho from Gaucho
  2. Keith Jarrett – ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours from Belonging
  3. Joe Henderson – Las Palmas from Canyon Lady
  4. Michael Brecker – African Skies from Tales from the Hudson
  5. Shigeto – Self Compassion from Digging the Blogosphere
  6. Don Sebesky – Song to a Seagull from Giant Box
  7. Vijay Iyer – Big Brother from Historicity
  8. Ornette Coleman – Law Years from the Complete Science Fiction
  9. Rick Holmes – Remember to Remember from Life:Styles (4 Hero compilation)

Pianist Vijay Iyer continues to entend his range. I hear more emotion in his music than of late – and it sounds all the better for it. His latest release for ECM – Break Stuff – is  a trio recording without the immediate touchstones of awesome cover readings like Human Nature and The Star of a Story (on his ACT album Accelerando) but it certainly repays repeated listening. You can see Iyer’s full set with his innovative trio live at Jazz Baltica 2011 below:

I’m back in Beijing as you read this but I’ll be contributing to the CJ blog as usual and listening each week to (probably) the widest range of improvised music you’ll find on any radio show. Join me.

Playlist – 27 May 2015: Neil’s selection

This week’s CJ featured a remarkable new release – the appropriately titled The Epic from saxophonist Kamasi Washington. This is a triple CD set with almost three hours of music featuring a 20 strong choir, a 32 piece orchestra and Washington’s own 10 piece group. We started the show the opening track on CD1 (Change of the Guard) and ended the show with the closing track on CD3 (The Message).

the epic4Washington has most recently played with Kendrick Lamar on his excellent hip hop release To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus on his You’re Dead! album from last year – but you wouldn’t know it from The Epic.  There’s no hip-hop or out-there electronics here. This triple album set references soul jazz, John Coltrane (various periods), and 1970s fusion leaders like Miles Davis and Weather Report. The Epic’s  Disc 1 opener Change of the Guard begins with piano chords that sound almost entirely lifted from the playbook of McCoy Tyner and the opening theme is pure post-Impressions Coltrane. The string section element reminds us of Alice Coltrane and Washington’s tenor sax solo at the end of the track has more than a little Pharoah Sanders in its screeches and wails. As you might guess, this new release comes highly recommended.

After his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard has now  added Eivind Aarset to his group. He made significant contributions to Sheppard’s 2008 Movements in Colour release – an album I come back to frequently. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard seems to have even more space to explore. We played the opening track Tipping Point.

the chefI enjoyed the Jon Favreau feel good film The Chef recently and loved the soundtrack. It features a hand picked selection of latin, rare groove, tex-mex and New Orleans brass bands – all chosen expertly by music consultant Mathieu Schreyer. We featured one of my favourites from Brit Will Holland (aka Quantic) before a long excursion into one of the many classic jazz releases from that iconic jazz year of 1959. This is an essential release in any comprehensive jazz collection – drummer Shelly Manne’s group live at the Blackhawk Club in San Francisco . This 5CD set features trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca, pianist Victor Feldman and bassist Monty Budwig and we focused on a lengthy version of Poinciana.

We followed this with two contemporary vocalists – Lalah Hathaway (guesting on Robert Glasper’s album) and Gregory Porter (also guesting here with the soul-jazz group Ebonics). Finally – and before returning to Kamasi Washington – we featured the new releases from two giants of the contemporary jazz piano scene. The first was
Break_StuffKeith Jarrett, here playing  a solo track from his new release Creation. I’m disappointed by this release, despite all the praise it has gathered in the popular press. The tracks have nowhere near the lyrical improvisation of the classic Bremen/Lausanne or the dark depths of the Carnegie Hall concert. Thankfully, we moved quickly on to another outstanding new piano trio collection from New York pianist Vijay Iyer. CJ featured Iyer’s tribute to Detroit house pioneer Robert Hood.

We ended with another blast from Kamasi Washington – the closing track from his mammoth debut The Epic. You can see more of Washington’s longtime group in performance in this extract from an NPR Jazz Night in America concert.

  1. Kamasi Washington – Change of the Guard from The Epic
  2. Andy Sheppard – Tipping Point from Surrounded by Sea
  3. Quantic and Nicodemus – Mi Swing es Tropical from The Best of Quantic
  4. Shelly Manne and his Men – Poinciana from The Complete Live at the Blackhawk
  5. Robert Glasper – Jesus Children from Black Radio 2
  6. Gregory Porter – Issues of Life from Issues of LIfe
  7. Keith Jarrett – Part 1, Toronto from Creation
  8. Vijay Iyer Trio – Hood from Break Stuff
  9. Kamasi Washington – The Message from The Epic

 

Playlist – 21 January 2015: Neil’s choice

In the studio this week was Neil: back from Beijing for a short visit, it was time for him to head to the decks and record a live show. The music focused on new albums and reissues from 2014 – along with an extra or two. We bookended the show with a couple of tracks from rising star Taylor McFerrin’s first release, Early Riser. taylor mcferrinTaylor is son of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin and knowing that the album is on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label tells you quickly that this is not a case of ‘like father, like son’. Robert Glasper and bassist Thundercat are some of the big names supporting multi-instrumentalist McFerrin to create music that moves fluidly between soul, electronica and jazz.

Next up was another new release – this time from American pianist Jason Moran whose recent concerts featured a papier mache head of his most recent inspiration, Fats Waller. The track also featured vocals – this time from bassist Meshell Ndegeocello. Following this was more evidence that the boundary between electronica and jazz continues to blur, with both Black Top and what might be called the Wesseltoft Trio using sonic manipulation to creative effect.

sun ra in the orbit of raFollowing the 100th anniversary of his birth, interest in the original jazz space cadet Sun Ra has never been greater. Reissues of his albums (even the most obscure ones) continues apace but we featured a track from one of the best introductions to his work that you could possibly wish for. Strut Records was definitely one of the labels of 2014 and their 2CD compilation of Ra’s work (In the Orbit of Ra) was compiled by long serving Ra sideman Marshall Allen. Angels and Demons at Play is a typically glorious, brassy romp that’s impossible not to like.

We followed with a great reissue from drummer Horacee Arnold who recorded in the 1970s with a host of big names across two great albums, Tales of the Exonerated Flea and Tribe, both now available on a double album reissue. You might not have heard of Arnold, but you’ll know many of the great names on these two albums. Arnold’s vision was a wide-ranging one and he recruited players from all over the jazz world – bassist George Mraz, flautist Art Webb, saxophonist Sonny Fortune, percussionist Dom Um Romao, and from the Mahavishnu Orchestra, bassist Rick Laird and and keyboard player Jan Hammer. As if this wasn’t enough, Arnold was even able to access two great guitarists who continue to form the backbone of many an ECM release – Ralph Towner and John Abercrombie. The end result is one of the most fascinating, soulful and truly successful albums of the entire jazz rock genre. The album never drops into predictable jazz rock tropes and every track offers a genuine fusion of new rhythmic, melodic and harmonic concepts. This is an album to chase up and enjoy. The funky Latin groove of Benzele Windows is a good example with intricate, modal solos by Webb, Fortune and Abercrombie.

john coltrane offeringTalking of reissues, one of the best of 2014 was John Coltrane’s Offering: Live at Temple University. Much has been written about this double CD album, recorded just eight months before Coltrane’s early death from liver cancer. in 1966 ‘trane’s gig at Temple University was recorded by the university’s radio station but has only been heard in partial, poor-quality bootlegs until this year, when it was polished up and issued for this set. The music on Offering shifts between standard ideas of jazz and noise music, regularly tipping over from chords and melody and harmony into the realm of pure sound. On this night in Philadelphia, Coltrane threw in everything – a couple of extra saxophone players he knew from the area as well as Umar Ali, Algie DeWitt, and Robert Kenyatta on percussion. We don’t hear much of them because the whole thing was recorded through one microphone. The focus is clearly on the leader, but there’s no need to worry about the pressure as Coltrane is on fire –  his playing (and vocalising) makes this record a must.

After the edge of the universe playing on his Live in Japan set (also recorded in 1966), Coltrane seems to return to Earth on Offering.  He starts with the ever-beautiful Naima, roughs it up with Crescent, and tunes in to Rashid Ali’s intense drumming on Leo. But then, halfway through this last track, we hear something unique in all of Coltrane’s extended, various output.  He sets aside his horn and starts to vocalise, singing phrases while beating on his chest to give his vocals an effect something like vibrato. The audience (or more accurately those that were left) must have been mesmerised, perhaps recognising that Coltrane had reached a point where his instrument just couldn’t convey the feelings he had locked inside.

From the intensity of this track we moved to a brief taste of one of the most joyous of returns to form from octogenarian pianist Ahmad ahmad jamalJamal, recorded live in Paris. The package comes as a double CD with DVD and it’s great value. In the second half of the concert,  Jamal brings out special guest Yusef Lateef who was to die at the age of 93 soon after recording. The whole concert is a glorious demonstration that age is no barrier to being cool. There was more Lateef towards the end of the show with an early classic from the beginning of his career.

There was also time to squeeze in a short piece by Alsace DJ and sampler Kira Neris in a track culled from the Japan-only version of his Behind Closed Doors album and a short taste of another great reissue from 2014 which showcases Keith Jarrett’s early American trio but the ‘meat’ of this musical sandwich was the astonishing michael wollnyMichael Wollny Trio. Jazzwise magazine had this release at the top of their Best of 2014 – and it’s easy to see why. Wollny’s vision is more eclectic than most and the influences on this classic piano, bass, drums combination are omnivorous. Wollny takes in the Flaming Lips, Varese, writer Fredrich Nietzsche and punky priestess P!ink amongst others. We ended the show with a drum workout from Pheeroan Ak Laff and another Taylor McFerrin track. In all, an eclectic mix but then – as Frank Zappa noted – “jazz isn’t dead – it just smells funny.”

  1. Taylor McFerrin – Invisible/Visible – Early Riser
  2. Jason Moran – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – All Rise
  3. Black Top – Archaic Nubian Stepdub – # One
  4. Wesseltoft, Schwarz, Berglund – Take a Quick Break – Trialogue
  5. Sun Ra – Angels and Demons at Play – In the Orbit of Ra
  6. Horacee Arnold – Benzele Windows – Tales of the Exonerated Flea
  7. John Coltrane – Offering – Offering: Live at Temple University
  8. Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon (encore) – Live at the Olympia
  9. Kira Neris – My Room – Behind Closed Doors
  10. Michael Wollny Trio – God is  a DJ – Weltentraum
  11. Keith Jarrett Trio – Life, Dance – Hamburg ’72
  12. Heliocentrics – Prologue – The Last Transmission
  13. Pheeroan Ak Laff – Tzaddi Vau (part 1) – Black Fire! New Spirits!
  14. Yusef Lateef – Chang, Chang, Chang – Black Fire! New Spirits!
  15. Taylor McFerrin – Already There – Early Riser

Video this week comes from bassist Richard Bona and vocalist extraordinaire Bobby McFerrin. Enjoy!

Playlist – 21 February 2013

This was Neil’s last CJ for a while before he heads back to Beijing so it was a chance to cram in lots of new music that we hadn’t previously played. We mixed John Surman in with Pantha du Prince, introduced some recently released early Sun Ra, revisited Jack de Johnette’s wonderful Album Album (one of the best releases of the 1980s) and heard what happened when Brad Mehldau tackled Nick Drake (again).

Special guest in the studio tonight was Martin Burley from Peppery Productions who was promoting an upcoming show at the Manor Ballroom, Ipswich. Konkoma are a Ghanaian afro funk band with a “cool, edgy” new album (the Independent) – check them out on 08 March. Tickets are available at 01473 295900.

  1. Pantha du Prince – Spectral Splitkonkoma
  2. John Surman/Jack de Johnette – Nestor’s Saga
  3. Jean Luc Ponty – Aurora
  4. Yaron Herman Quartet – Mojo
  5. Jack de Johnette – Ahmad the Terrible
  6. Brad Mehldau – Time has Told Me
  7. Konkoma – Me Kyin Kyin
  8. Mark de Clive Lowe – Relax… Unwind
  9. Konkoma – Accra Jump
  10. Solomon Ilori – (feat. Donald Byrd) – Gbo Gbo Omo Ibile (Going Home)
  11. Sun Ra Arkestra – New Day
  12. Walter Bishop Jr.’s 4th Cycle – N’gudu’s Prayer
  13. Meshell Ndegeocello – Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  14. Keith Jarrett Trio – When I Fall In Love
  15. Baptise Trottignon – End of the Gig
  16. Vijay Iyer Trio – The Star of a Story
  17. Michael White – The Blessing Song

Video this week comes from Paris-based Yaron Herman, here with his trio and performing a Nirvana tune, Heart Shaped Box (is this the influence of Mehldau again?)… and – as a special bonus – Konkoma!:

Playlist – 27 December 2012

This week’s programme was the second of our Best of 2012. There were plenty of great new releases squeezed into our 90 minute slot but we also managed a few re-releases with Sun Ra and Spider’s Web, a rarity from the BGP Jazz Funk compilation. Spider’s Webb was the brainchild of drummer Spider Webb and his wife Carol Kaye, the renowned bass guitar session player, famed for her work with Phil Spector, David Axelrod and others.

Neil played a flying visit at the start of the show with a mix of five tracks from new albums and Derek continued with more of the music we enjoyed over the year. For more on what we liked this year, check out our upcoming feature – watch this space.

  1. Flying Lotus – Until the Colours Come
  2. Ahmad Jamal – Autumn Rain
  3. Mala – Cuba Electronic
  4. John Surman – On Staddon Heights
  5. Nik Bartsch’s Ronin – Modul 41_47 (live)
  6. Matthew Halsall – Fletcher Moss Park
  7. EST – Three Falling Part 1
  8. GoGo Penguin – Fanfares
  9. Trish Clowes – Atlas
  10. Kelan Philip Cohran and The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Frankincense & Myrrh
  11. Sun Ra – Plutonian Nights
  12. Kenny Garrett – Welcome Earth Song
  13. Carmen Lundy – Love Thy Neighbour
  14. Gabriel Poso – Freedom
  15. Ebo Taylor – Abonsam
  16. Spider’s Web – I Don’t Know What’s On Your Mind

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 – 08 August 2012

Tonight’s Cosmic Jazz was the last solo show from Neil for a while. Next week Derek returns to take the reins, ride the show to victory and present a record tally of gold standard jazz. Tonight, though, we heard new music from one of CJ’s favourite sons, Wadada Leo Smith, in a track from his epic new four CD set. This monumental work- called Ten Freedom Summers – was described by The Wire magazine called it “a monumental evocation of America’s Civil Rights movement” – and the release of this album is a major jazz event.

Other music tonight was as varied as expected on a Cosmic Jazz playlist. Not only did the programme bookend with music from Jamaica (reflecting celebrations of 50 years of independence), but the surprise inclusion of Lord Kitchener signalled that sprinter Usain Bolt had won another gold medal for his country whilst we were on air.

There was more from Keith Jarrett’s stunning 1979 Tokyo concert and some Blue Note brilliance from Chick Corea’s famous ‘Is’ sessions a decade earlier. Still in the tradition, Steve Lehman reinterpreted John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice while Graham Collier and Mike Taylor Remembered represented great British jazz of the 1960s. Finally, after the sensational Wadada Leo Smith came two mixes – Walt Dickerson and Marcus Miller were unlikely bedfellows in a very different way from Mario Brown and John Surman.

  1. Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks – Silent Force
  2. DRC Music – Respect of the Rules
  3. The Subterraneans (feat. Mardou Fox and Jonsi) – Taurus Woman
  4. Chick Corea – The Brain
  5. Keith Jarrett Quartet – New Dance
  6. Steve Lehman Trio – Moment’s Notice
  7. Graham Collier – Lullaby for a Lonely Child
  8. Lord Kitchener – Sweet Jamaica
  9. Mike Taylor Remembered – Timewind
  10. Bahia Black – The Seven Powers
  11. Jackie McLean and Michael Carvin – The Tob
  12. Wadada Leo Smith – Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs Board of Education: A Dream of Equal Education, 1954
  13. Walt Dickerson – The Nexus/Marcus Miller – The Blues
  14. Marion Brown – Bismillahi ‘Rrahmani ‘Rrahim/John Surman – Saltash Bells
  15. Black Uhuru – Slaughter

Playlist – 26 July 2012

It was a solo show from Neil on this week’s CJ. In a overheated studio, with the Olympics about to start in London, we featured music that reached a personal best, set a new world record and in general was higher, faster and stronger. Whatever that means… What you got was new music from Billy Hart along with some Brazilian sounds that reflect the recent change in UK weather along with a club feeling for the last 20 minutes of the show.

We began with the French trio of DJ Oil, Fred Berthet, and Arnaud Taillefer who make up Troublemaker, played two vibes based tracks (one from the 1970s with Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton and one contemporary and very listenable track from maverick John Zorn) before continuing with a deep performance from tenor sax master Brecker and following this with Heatwave’s original The Star of a Story and NY pianist’s dazzling take on this classic soul track. A CJ favourite from Emanative with trumpeter Matthew Halsall followed this before we began our Brazilian segment – the Reminisence Quartet (on a rare import Neil picked up in Bilbao), Ceu’s brand new take on an Upsetters’ reggae classic and O Lance from Brazil’s finest Azymuth.

The summery vibe continued with Quantic and Alice Russell’s lovely Magdalena, the stunning rhythmic patterns of drummer Billy Hart and a funky live outing from Joe Henderson. The show ended with our ‘jazz outside’ mix- a big band live concert tribute to hip hop producer J Dilla, P’Taah’s German electronica,  UK club sounds from Mr Scruff and back to Brazil with Mos Def’s rap sampling of Banda Black Rio’s version of Casa Forte.

Go for gold – listen to Cosmic Jazz on Listen Again as soon as you can.

  1. Troublemakers – Electrorloge
  2. Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton – Como en Vietnam
  3. John Zorn – Miller’s Crake
  4. Michael Brecker – Minsk
  5. Heatwave /Vijay Iyer – The Star of a Story
  6. Emanative (feat. Matthew Halsall) – Find You
  7. Reminiscence Quartet – Psychodelica
  8. Ceu – You Won’t Regret It
  9. Azymuth – O Lance
  10. Quantic and Alice Russell – Magdalena
  11. Billy Hart – Tolli’s Dance
  12. Joe Henderson – If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem
  13. Mochilla Project (for J Dilla) – Welcome to Detroit
  14. P’Taah – No One, No How, Never
  15. Mr Scruff – Sweet Smoke
  16. Mos Def – Casa Bey

So how about the pairing of vocalist Flora Purim and Stan Getz? Check them out here with Stanley Cowell on piano, Miroslav Vitous on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. It’s not Purim’s best performance by a long way but what a group to play with – wonder if they ever recorded?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oizgj1Q8JW4&feature=related

Best of 2011

Cosmic Jazz enters its fourth year and our Best of 2011 features the same eclectic mix of music as the regular show. As most listeners know, during the show we don’t have a prearranged playlist and we have always played whatever we like. As for acclaimed critic Whitney Balliett, jazz for us is simply “the sound of surprise”. Each of these releases briefly reviewed below will feature tracks we’ll come back to in the coming months. There’s no particular order this year, just great music that we’ll continue to feature in the show.

Last year we featured Charles Lloyd’s career-defining Mirror as our best album and this year we’ve chosen another saxophonist whose album Sacred Dimension we have come back to again and again on the show. Tenor player Nat Birchall’s two previous releases on Gondwana Records were very firmly in the Coltrane quartet classic modal mould, but on this new release Birchall’s group has a broader soundbase, most notably through the use of Corey Mwamba’s vibes. Of course, the Coltrane influence is still a major factor but Birchall’s playing here reaches well beyond mere Coltrane-lite. The result is music you will come back to again and again. For me, this was the disc of choice during my most recent month in Beijing: I played it more than a dozen times then and I’ll be continuing to do so throughout 2012. As if this wasn’t enough, Gondwana also released another excellent album from Manchester stablemate Matthew Halsall. On the Go was a delight from start to finish with several standout tracks including Song for Charlie which captures one of Halsall’s strengths – dreamy ballads with insidious melodies that bear repeated listening.

2011 was undoubtedly Gregory Porter’s breakthrough year. His album Water topped many end of year polls (including that of the UK’s Jazzwise magazine) and we were pleased to be involved in an exclusive ICR interview with Porter earlier in the year. Although the stand out track 1960 What? achieved worldwide airplay and now has a handful of indifferent remixes to its name, Porter’s rich baritone carries conviction throughout the remaining tracks.

We played several tracks from another US singer’s latest album The Gate. Eclectic producer Don Was created some multi-tracking magic on reworkings of Norwegian Wood, Blue in Green and – most unusually – King Crimson’s Matte Kudasi. As always, Elling is served by a brilliant band including longtime pianist and musical arranger Laurence Hobgood.

UK pianist and Leeds College of Music graduate Leon Greening cut his new album Cookin’ in Brooklyn in NYC and produced a consistently good record in which his post-bebop credentials are enhanced on three tracks by American altoist Vincent Herring. We particularly liked the cut Waterloo but this is a consistently good set from a very underrated pianist. Still in the Big Apple, Still Life – the piano trio from drummer Sean Hutchinson –gave us a great self titled album which we returned to several times during the year. We loved the imaginative taken on Radiohead’s Planet Telex, another sign that this UK band are providing yet more contemporary standards for jazz artists to reinterpret.

Much has been made of Keith Jarrett’s new solo recording Rio. The story goes that Jarrett knew that the music was some of his best and on the flight back from Brazil he asked ECM producer Manfred Eicher to release as soon as possible. It is certainly a return to the straightforward lyricism of the Koln Concert and Bremen/Lausanne but certainly for this reviewer Rio is without the overwhelming emotional impact of the longer form so apparent on both those 1970s masterpieces. However, fellow sometime solo pianist Brad Mehldau also recorded a live double CD this year. Mehldau’s Live in Marciac is – I think – the real deal. Mehldau has a great way with the ballad standard and his take here on Secret Love is astonishingly assured. You’ll never need to listen to another version after this.

Two late 2011 great British releases that we haven’t had time to feature on the show will definitely start off the new year for us. Veteran Stan Tracey once again tackled the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (remember his masterpiece Under Milk Wood?) and released A Child’s Christmas in Wales, this time including the lyrics spoken by grandson Ben Tracey. A quiet, unassuming and very British record, this pairing of Thomas’ quirky metaphors and Tracey’s Monkish tones made for delightful listening. Meanwhile Basho artist Kit Downes expanded his piano trio to great effect with tenor sax and cello on the excellent Quiet Tiger album. This subtle ambitious music even included a warm and bluesy tribute to Skip James.

Not so the willfully dangerous US trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday and produced the ambitious and noisy Heart’s Reflections. This veered wildly from all out deep grooves to dreamily reflective pieces all expansively trailed across two CDs. The unusual instrumentation includes four guitars, two saxophones, a violin, two basses (one electric, one acoustic), two laptop players, along with the more conventional rhythm section of drums and piano and the result is a demanding bur very rewarding listen. Similarly edgy was the first release from Loop Collective group Ma. Called The Last, this CD featured saxophonist Tom Challenger, here working with drummer Dave Smith, organist Ross Stanley and electronics wizard Matt Calvert. The result is music fed by dubstep as much as jazz. We liked the roaring freejazz meets bass music of Pipes and the big organ-driven sound world of the dark, dubby Noir.

With Michael Brecker gone, the most obvious inheritor of Coltrane’s mantle (aside from UK’s Nat Birchall of course) is the highly regarded Joe Lovano whose Us Five group released Bird Songs, an album which reflected on the legacy of Charlie Parker in a surprising and often highly original way. Lovano isn’t content just to have a go at some of the greatest standards in the jazz language but rather he imbues many with a wholly new spirit breathing new life into Ko Ko, Donna Lee and Loverman.

2011 was a great year for reissues and we championed several of our favourites over the year. The best of the bunch had to be the batch of 50 Impulse! Two on One releases, which paired up albums on one CD pack. Some of our favourites included the Pharoah Sanders twofer Village of the Pharoahs/Wisdom Through Music and Elvin Jones’ Illumination!/Dear John C but for me the best pairings are those from less well known artists including Gabor Szabo, Chico Hamilton and Marion Brown. The latter’s Geechee Recollections/Sweet Earth Flying is very highly recommended.

The British label Vocalion – more used to releasing classic UK jazz – delivered a CD album compilation of two long unavailable Bennie Maupin albums from the late 70s – Moonscapes and Slow Traffic to the Right. This is basically a refinement of the Herbie Hancock sound of classic albums like Crossings and Sextant (and indeed synth pioneer Dr. Patrick Gleeson produced these and the two Maupin albums). Whilst everyone will talk about the Miles Davis Quintet’s Live in Europe 3CD and DVD package, another great reissue was the Bitches Brew Live package which featured some previously unissued Newport Festival tracks from 1969 together the complete Isle of Wight performance from the following year. Whilst this has been available before it is good to have it here with an accurate track listing for the first time. Both of these reissues remind us that Davis generated two unequalled creative peaks just a few years apart. Who else in jazz has achieved this?

Soul Jazz Records delivered their usual high standard of beautifully packaged compilations and spiritual jazz reissues. Bossa Jazz: the Birth of Hard Bossa, Samba Jazz and Brazilian Fusion 1962-73 is the latest in their review of Brazilian music genres. Many of the tracks have been issued before but the usual authoritative notes are always a welcome addition. Soul Jazz is also on a mission to reissue some jazz rarities from the 70s, and we have particularly enjoyed reissues from Steve Colson’s Unity Troupe and the Lloyd McNeill Quintet. Although raised in New Jersey, Colson has links with the AACM in Chicago, and the Art Ensemble’s Joseph Jarman appears on Triumph!, a reissued album from 1980. Also on Soul Jazz and from ten years earlier was the excellent Washington Suite from flautist and composer, painter and photographer Lloyd McNeill. This reissue was featured on several Cosmic Jazz shows – and we will be coming back to it in 2012.

Recent years have seen a swathe of Coltrane reissues but late 2011 saw something special – a reissue of the Complete Stuttgart Concert from 1963. This double CD on Domino Records features extended versions of classic ‘trane tracks from the classic Quartet, including Impressions, My Favourite Things and a blistering version of Afro-Blue.

There’s just time to add four more recommendations in brief – on the fringes of jazz but great fun is the George Duke-influenced The Golden Age of Apocalypse from Thundercat, bass player to Flying Lotus while Austin Peralta’s Endless Planets is the third (and most fully realised) album from this teenage keyboard prodigy. Mercury award nominee Gwilym Simcock produced another excellent piano album – this time a solo performance for his new label ACT. Good Days at Schloss Elmau begins with These Are the Good Days and doesn’t let up. Meanwhile trumpeter Enrico Rava showcased a new quintet on his latest ECM album Tribe. On a recent show we played the uptempo Choctaw, surely a reference to fellow trumpeter Don Cherry.

It’s been a great year for new jazz but maybe even a better year for reissues. CJ looks forward to more great music in 2012. Join us on our musical journey through the spaceways of jazz.