DON’T SLEEP ON THIS! This Monday BBC JAZZ ON 3: ENLIGHTENMENT (In the Spirit of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane) – LIVE @ MELTDOWN

The Enlightenment Ensemble

The Enlightenment Ensemble

This coming Monday, February 2nd, Jez Nelson’s longstanding BBC Jazz On 3 show will broadcast the whole of the evening performance at Meltdown of Enlightenment – In the Spirit Of ‘A Love Supreme’.

It was the mid summer’s day and the final day of James Lavelle’s Meltdown at the Southbank Centre. While the Enlightenment Ensemble played a matinee performance in the QEH to a sold out and at times ecstatic audience there was a rave going on by the river. As the ensemble played a follow up sold out second house in the evening Detroit techno originator and don, Jeff Mills, was playing the RFH. It seemed fitting that this homage to John Coltrane’s’A Love Supreme’ had found a home, not in the jazz festival, but alongside a diverse array of artists that included Metalheadz, UNKLE, Jeff Mills, Josh Homme, Melanie De Biasio et al.

Listening back to a bootleg recording of the matinee set I was bowled over at how powerful the two middle sections were… there’s a genuine raw power at work – and while that was carried over into the evening it’s apparent, especially in the final part of the suite – ‘In Devotion’ – which is built around John Coltrane’ devotional poem, that it was altogether tighter.

‘Enlightenment’ is a work in progress. The Meltdown performance were very different from the initial performances in The Chapel at Kings College and the subsequent, magical, session at the Union Chapel on December 9th, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the recording of ‘A Love Supreme’, was different again. It’s the nature of this music. It’s the spirit of freedom implicit in the concept… ‘A Love Supreme’.

Tune in and check it out…. BBC Radio 3 Monday 2 Feb 2015 23:00

Here’s the Enlightenment Ensemble line up from Meltdown:
Rowland Sutherland – arranger, flutes
Orphy Robinson – musical director, xylosynth
Steve Williamson – tenor saxophone
Shabaka Hutchings – bass clarinet
Juwon Ogungbe – voice
Cleveland Watkiss – voice
Tunde Jegede – kora
Pat Thomas – keyboards
Nikki Yeoh – piano
Ansuman Biswas – tablas, santoor, waterphone
Adé Egun Crispin Robinson – bata drums
Dave Pattman – bata drums
Oli Nevill – bata drums
Neil Charles – bass
Mark Mondesir – drums

ALSO … big shout out to Jez Nelson for having the vision to broadcast ‘Enlightenment’ and to James Lavelle and Jane Beese for inviting us to perform at Meltdown

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Steve Reid Foundation & Brownswood launch Emanative’s ‘The Light Years of Darkness’

The Album!

The Album!

The buzz on this project has bee building quietly and the Steve Reid Foundation and Brownswood are delighted to announce the release of Emanative’s album ‘The Light Years of Darkness’ featuring a host of talents from Earl Zinger, Idris Ackamore, Jessican Lauren, Rocketnumbernine, Collocotor, Finn Peters and many more. It’s limited edition release of 500 X Double 180G Vinyl available via the Steve Reid Foundation’s bandcamp.

In the words of Foundation’s Gilles Peterson, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Emanative’s ‘The Light Years Of The Darkness’ album be our first release for the Steve Reid Foundation. In keeping with Steve’s open ended approach and his musical history Nick Woodmansey has delivered a knock out Jazz and beyond album.”

Album producer / svengali - Emanative's Nick Woodmansey

Album producer: Emanative’s Nick Woodmansey

So, I decided to pop a few question to Nick about the journey involved in producing this album? Here we go….

When did you initiate the project?

After the “roaring success” (ha!) of our version of Steve Reid’s Lions Of Judah – which was the first contribution to the freshly formed Foundation and was our tribute to Steve, Gilles and Emily at Brownswood asked and suggested the idea of an album with proceeds going to the cause! It’s been a couple of years at least.

What is the inspiration behind the project?

It was half & half Steve Reid and all the various projects he worked with, and then my personal chance to explore some of my personal favourite pieces of music.
And the light and dark of both, whether that is the sad story of Steve himself versus the positive aspect of his work and legacy w/ the Foundation and all the good it does or the innate spiritual goodness of man and the darkness and entrapment of the mind or perhaps the physical and material world… this strange place where in order to live and sustain oneself something has to die …. even if you’re a vegetarian ha!

All worldly problems resolve easily when viewed from the perspective of a spirit. Rascism, Sex, any adopted Identity you care to mention… you may have been them any or all in a previous life?
Not talking about religion, more philosophical… The good and bad of mankind and let’s just say Karma for want of a better more explanatory term. The positive and the negative.
Sorry, you said “short” answers!

Well it is Spiritual Jazz after all, don’t take me too seriously here. Just hinting at the spiritual side of things because not many people do, it’s all materialistic, facebook and political correctness bollocks! Yawn!!

Is there a Steve Reid mindset? (And how much herb do you have to smoke to reach it?)

Well we got through two bottles of nice single malt during the session for Joe Henderson’s “Fire” alone!
For sure… and THIS did inspire me. I didn’t set out to do a tribute album as such, yet the mere fact that Steve had worked with Fela, James Brown, The Arkestra and Arthur Blythe to name a few did allow me to take on an African, funk, experimental and soulful approach!

How did you decide on the tracks you’d cover?

Always wanted to do ‘Hum Allah’ (and Gilles hinted at this at a Brownswood xmas party where at first I thought he’d said “Omelette Omelette Omelette…” Same with ‘Music Is The Healing Force’ – and I could envision Zinger on it!

I thought doing ‘Rocket Number Nine’ with Rocketnumbernine was a great idea and I was dying to do something with two drummers! Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell’s “Makondi” was Kieran’s suggestion and made a lot of sense with just thumb piano and drums & percussion. Needed something light and spiritual for an intro, Alice Coltrane chanelled by Jessica Lauren was the perfect idea! All tracks chosen seemed to make sense and integrate well.

Steve Reid  & Keiren Hebden / Fourtet

Steve Reid & Keiren Hebden / Four Tet

How was it all recorded… gives us idea of the process?

Recorded in many different studio’s over the time, but with a similar process; get to the studio early (at the crack of…10am), set up and get a sound, roughly explain an approach, arrangement and the rhythms and then do two or three takes… job done! (except for perhaps some over dubs here and there)
main work done for each track on the day!

Who is in the hardcore crew and are you gonna take it live?

Empress Jessica Lauren, Prince Ben Hadwen, Lady Tamar Collocutor, King Phillip Harper and myself the Captain.
Perhaps… let’s hope we can make the live thing happen!

What are the most memorable and mind blowing moments in the recording?

Recording two drum kits on Rocket Number Nine, Two upright bassists on Hum Allah, Drums on Makondi through Floating Points nice desk, and the whole session with the Collocutor tribe, Finn Peters, Woodpecker Wooliams on Harp and the Emanative elite (and those two bottles I mentioned) for ‘Fire’.

OK…. big thanx to Nick for his insights into the project. You can check out this first track a collaboration featuring Four Tet on Thumb Piano covering Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell’s hypnotic masterpeice, Makondi.

LISTEN & BUY HERE: https://stevereidfoundation.bandcamp.com
PLEASE SUPPORT! Here is some crucial info about the charity.
http://stevereidfoundation.org

ALSO: http://www.gillespetersonworldwide.com/emanative-the-light-years-of-the-darkness-makondi-feat-four-tet/

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Tam…Tam…Tam…! It SOLD OUT before Xmas but the vinyl is back!

Meicio Askanasy, José Prates, Ivan de Paula TAM…TAM…TAM!.. the vinyl is back!

It was Gilles Peterson who discovered this LP while digging in Rio between the Sonzeira recording sessions. Could he get a copy of his own, there and then? The answer is a resounding “No!” and the word went out to record collectors and dealers world wide. It was the most sought after record of the moment!

Tam-Tam-Tam-Sleeve_585

“Jesus Christ…still can’t find Jose Prates Tam Tam Tam… @DJNuts and @EdMotta and @FarOutRecs Joe Davis are the only ones who seem to have!”

Obviously, he finally secured a copy and thankfully, it’s been made available for us mere mortals via Jonny Trunk’s Trunk Records. Upon discovering it was out just before Xmas I hit the Trunk web site. It was available. I filled in the form, I was stoked, but by the time I’d retrieved my bank card from my coat pocket they’d sold out! Soul Jazz, Honest Jons, If… they’d all sold out. I didn’t want the CD… I really fancied the vinyl, especially after I’d read the back story to the LP and its reissue on the Trunk Records website.

“This little LP began in 1958. It was part of a global touring show called “Brasiliana” put together by Polish producer Miecio Askanasy. A couple of LPs were made by the cast members, and this is one of them.

“Musically it works on a number of levels – firstly as already mentioned, the solid blueprint of 1960s Brazilian music runs throughout it. For example, if you listen to Track Three Side One “Nana Imborô” you will hear “Mas-Que-Nada”. Secondly, the infectious rhythms, melodies and exotic sounds that emanate from this album are deep, raw and totally engaging.

“This rare reissue comes at a crucial time, when in our connected and information saturated world few important things have escaped attention and reappraisal. Finding anything new and genuinely incredible is a rare feat. This is a prime example of amazing, influential music that until now has remained hidden.

“It is a rare beast. So rare that even Gilles Peterson, a super fan off rare Brazilian music has not got one. So he put out a plea in Record Collector magazine for someone to issue it. It was a fascinating page of information, stating that this LP was a cornerstone of contemporary Brazilian sound. The music was written by a man called José Prates, a man who few people knew about, But whose influences should be studied.

José Prates ao lado de Gino Askanasy, filho de Miécio, durante viagem da Brasiliana

José Prates ao lado de Gino Askanasy, filho de Miécio, durante viagem da Brasiliana

“I read this and immediately got in contact with Ed Motta, a musician and collector in Brazil; he has a copy and I had met him before and talked about records a lot. He sent me a recording of the album (taken using his EMT deck) and we set about getting it ready for issue.

“The music was not in the best condition, the original 1950s vinyl was not pressed too well and has several musical inconsistencies. So, we spent an agonising time trying to reach a suitable balance in sound, trying to maintain the bright and driving original sound, without cleaning it up too much so as to destroy the life of the music. We decide that the vinyl will be pressed with some very slight surface noise – any more cleaning would interfere with the true wax sound. It sounds just like a rare 50s LP. However, as a contrast, the CD is pressed with more digital enhancement.”

And so I decided to wait… what’s a little residual sound and a few crackles compared to warmth of vinyl?

To order online: http://www.trunkrecords.com/

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HAPPINESS is 180 gram double vinyl!

HAPPINESS is 180 gram double vinyl… seen!

"As I get older I think I'm shrinking!"

“As I get older I think I’m shrinking!”

The boys at Gearbox just mailed me this shot of my rapidly shrinking self, clutching ‘Nucleus with Leon Thomas’ in their supa audiophile studio. This terrific unreleased live session is led by the late Ian Carr and features a wikkid Chris Spedding on guitar and John Marshall on drums alongside the mighty vocals of Leon Thomas. Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970 it had been languishing in some deep dark record company vaults and gathering dust until the duo rescued the tapes, subjected them to a form of mystical analogue alchemy, and then transferred it all onto 180 gram vinyl. Once in my hands it proved conclusively that heavy vinyl is an unquantifiable source of happiness!

PS: Watch of for a forthcoming duet recording of saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd aka ‘Dem Ones’. Taking time out from working with Zara Macfarlane they recorded it live in Mark Ronson’s studio where it was transferred directly into the audiophile haven of the Gearbox studio. Sax and drum duets… 2015 style… feeling it!

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CELEBRATION TIME: A Love Supreme: 50 Years On

A Love Supreme – 50 Years On… While I’m eagerly awaiting Jazz On 3 broadcast of the entire performance of the Enlightenment Ensemble’s “Re-envisioning of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ at last summer’s Meltdown, the crew at Folded Wing announce their forthcoming contribution to the celebrations.

l to r: Nat, Courtney, Finn,  Jason in Kilburn

l to r: Nat, Courtney, Finn, Jason in Kilburn

“The first time I felt the power of ‘A Love Supreme’ was when I was 15. The effect was like being hit by a sledgehammer. It has that rare quality in music, the ability to talk to generations and with each generation comes a more in-depth view point of looking at one of this planet’s greatest musical statements.” Professor Courtney Pine C.B.E

On Tuesday 10th February at 11.30am on BBC Radio 4, outer-nationally renowned saxophonist Courtney Pine celebrates 50 years of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ and explores what makes ‘A Love Supreme’ such a unique and seminal record.

John Coltrane intended ‘A Love Supreme’ to be a devotional statement album: a declaration of his religious beliefs and personal spiritual quest. However the album also had a wider cultural significance. Released in February 1965 – just days after black rights activist Malcolm X was assassinated, and weeks before Martin Luther King led the ‘March on Alabama’ – for many, the sound and feel of ‘A Love Supreme’ perfectly captured the sadness, confusion and anger of America’s growing black consciousness movement.

Courtney, along with fellow saxophonists Nat Birchall, Finn Peters and Jason Yarde visit the Gaumont State Theatre in Kilburn, North London, where John Coltrane performed in 1961 alongside fellow saxophonist Eric Dolphy. It was a performance that divided the audience and earned him a critical slating in the music press. Trane never returned to the UK.

QArchie Sepp, Trane & Bob Thiele at the recording of 'A Love Supreme'.

Archie Shepp, Trane & Bob Thiele at the recording of ‘A Love Supreme’.

The programme also features Archie Shepp, Evan Parker, Chuck Nessa (of Nessa Records) and writer Ashley Kahn who also explore why this 33 minute long suite of music transcends generations and continues to resonate with and inspire music lovers across the world.

‘A Love Supreme – 50 Years On’ will air on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 10th February at 11.30am, and will be repeated on Sunday, 15th February at 1.30pm. It will also appear on BBC World Service (TX date – TBC) .

The programme is produced by the dapper Jim Lister and is
A Folded Wing production.

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BERIMBAU: The Art Of Mestre Lourimbau

The Art Of Mestre Lourimbau is a Soundcloud playlist that my good friend Jody Gillett just turned me onto. She’s poised to jet off to Salvador and Recife for the next chapter in the UK vs Brasil Bass Culture Clash, arrives just in time for the Festa de Iemanja and is stoked at the idea of an encounter with this rootical berimbau master musician. Expect the unexpected…. it’s the perfect foil for this frosty zero degree London morning.

AND… you can check Mestre Lourimbau walking the streets at night, berimbau in hand, on this lovely little film.

MESTRE! MESTRE! UM ULTIMO! • a portrait of Mestre Lourimbau in Salvador da Bahia from Vincent Moon / Petites Planètes on Vimeo.

You can check Jody’s excellent Brasil Music Exchange radio shows here: http://www.mixcloud.com/Brazil/

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THOUGHT PROVOKING & AN ESSENTIAL READ! Jonathan Bluestein’s ‘RESEARCH INTO MARTIAL ARTS’

jb bookTHOUGHT PROVOKING…. ESSENTIAL READ! Jonathan Bluestein’s ‘RESEARCH INTO MARTIAL ARTS’ is a hugely valuable addition to the modern day musings on the relevance and practice of traditional martial arts.

I have to admit that I am a bit of a nerd when when it comes to Chinese martial arts. I suppose it’s a result of years spent with teachers whose teaching techniques require an hefty dose of blind faith, a belief that persistence will produce the results promised. I’m consistently amazed at how little personal research my fellow students have done as from day one I’ve sought out books and videos that contextualise and illuminate the art I’d chosen to learn.  Back in the day, that meant a trip to Compendium books in Camden Town or seeking out material via the small ads in Kung Fu magazine.  However, the last decade has resulted in a flood of visual and written material from China, and if you’re like me, keen to dig in, do the research and the cross referencing, you will inevitably end up asking, “Why has my teacher not explained this… it seems pretty fundamental…”. Or, “So, that’s what I’ve been practicing…”. That said, the amount of info available now is potentially overwhelming.

Chen Wei Ming practices applications of Yang taijiquan with Leung KingYu

Chen Wei Ming practices applications of Yang taijiquan with Leung KingYu

So, when one discovers a book that seems to encapsulate many of the questions and conclusions that have arisen on one’s own journey I was pretty excited. At last, we have a book where a seriously devoted but essentially young practitioner, Jonathan Bluestein,  deals with essential concepts and the practice of martial arts in the spirit of openness and exchange. It’s a work-book a that relates his own journey to an ongoing set of debates and discussions which, in the end, are rooted in daily physical practice and skill – gong fu. It’s also a text that thankfully sets itself against the frustrating secrecy and mysticism that all to often shrouds the Nei Jia / Internal  schools of Chinese martial arts.

Jonathan Buestein

Jonathan Bluestein

I first came across Sifu Jonathan Bluestein on the lively martial arts discussion forum, Rum Soaked Fist (http://rumsoakedfist.org/), which is focused on the Chinese martial arts of taijiquan, baguazhang and xing yi quan – the three main disciplines of what is known collectively as the Internal Martial Arts. The forum allows  practitioners from all over the world to voice their opinions on a whole range of seemingly esoteric practices but the one issue that unites many of its contributors is whether these traditional Chinese fighting arts are actually effective in a post Jeet Kun Do (think Bruce Lee) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) world.

Jonathan hails from Israel and is the founder of the Tianjin Martial Arts Academy where he teaches Xing Yi Quan and Pigua Zhang. It’s clear that this large format 415 page book is truly a labour of love. It took him 5 years to complete and as a multidisciplinary researcher his reflective and thought provoking writings are influenced by a combination of Chinese Philosophy, Jungian Psychology, modern sports science and various historical sources and anecdotes. Jonathan considers the martial arts to be a holistic field of study, and therefore strives to explore their nature utilizing many different viewpoints and disciplines.

 Xing Yi master Yang Hai  demonstrates Beng Quan

Xing Yi master Yang Hai demonstrates Beng Quan

The practice of martial arts can simply relate to the art of practical methods of self defence – learning how to fight – and there’s a myriad of choices to choose from – boxing, Brazilian ju jitsu, taekwondo, muay tai, karate, krav maga… the list goes on. I myself became involved in this martial world through the practice of a Chinese martial art that most people don’t believe has any martial dimension at all – taijiquan aka tai chi – and despite the inevitable bouts of doubt and disillusionment it’s a practice that offers deep physical, cultural and philosophical dimensions, all of which have definitely shaped my world view and who I am.

It all began in the early Eighties when I enrolled at a Yang taiqiquan class and discovered Cheng Man Ch’ing. I went to check out the 16mm films that a one of  Master Cheng’s American student brought to London. I thought, “Awoah! The man has got skills.” My own  teacher also professed to be able to push people away without touching them. I witnessed a demonstration and experienced a combination of pride tinged with scepticism. I was a ready volunteer. I needed to experience it. But I never got chosen.

Back then it was all about chi and forms and push hands and when I fell into a lung related ill health – a by product of smoking & a misspent youth –  I naturally felt disillusioned. The magical health generating properties of taijiquan had failed! I abandoned taiji and on the advice of Isamu Mochizuki took up Hatha yoga. That said, I remained drawn to other Chinese martial arts that were more aerobic and overtly martial but still considered “Internal” – like xing yi quan and baguazhang. Basically, I was hooked and have remained so ever since.

Jonathan kicks off this book by asking the reader not to dip into it but start at the beginning and follow, what is to him, a natural progression. It’s worth it. He commences with a discussion on the different approaches of external and internal  gong fu and goes into great detail discussing muscle power, body structure, endurance and efficiency, and how martial arts are related to Daoism and Chinese medicine. The book openly discusses diverse  concepts like “invest in loss” or “tensional integrity” and Jonathan homes in on the role of mind and intent and the “holistic connections” which relate to one’s centre/dan tian. And if you’ve recently watched Wang Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster you’ll be interested in his views on the internal implications of Ip Man’s branch of Wing Chun.

Bruce Lee & Wing Chun master Ip Man

Bruce Lee & Wing Chun master Ip Man

Anyone practicing martial arts, but especially internal martial arts will benefit from reading this book. He examines the impact of practicing slowly and looks at concepts like axis rotation, dragon body and short wave force. These are mostly thing I’ve been lucky to come across after visiting and training with different teachers, attending workshops, chatting and practicing with people doing other styles. To find all these concepts united and discussed in one book is a huge bonus to anyone who may be devoting time and energy to exploring  Chinese martial arts.

Jonathan is opinionated but open minded. Part II of the book contains his thoughts on the martial arts and our daily lives and is subtitled Contemplations On Controlled Violence. It includes ‘In Retrospective’ a piece penned by Jonathan’s master Nitzan Oren and Robert Pittman writing on ‘The Ethical Foundations of Martial Arts’. Jonathan readily tells his own story and reprints a poetic reflection on practice by Gao bagua practitioner Robert J Arnold.

The final section of the book is given over to a series of long, in depth and revealing  interviews with teachers like Chen Zhonghua, Strider Clark and Yang Hai which at times shake you to the core and make you wonder if you’ve wasted years of your life. That said, part of the intention of this book is to defeat what he calls, ‘The Crime Of Ignorance’, and the furtherance of a community of practitioners dedicated to openness and honesty not secrecy. I like that.

So, despite the onset of age (I’m getting on a bit now!) and those corrosive bouts of doubt that are related to my own lack of gong fu, I shall continue to step out on my balcony to practice zhan zhuang or head off to park to stretch out and go through some forms. I’ll continue to study with my Chen taijiquan sifu and connect with other teachers I respect. To borrow  the words of Robert J Arnold, “Never stop doing what you do. There will always be a thousand reasons not to train. For those of us that continue there is 100% chance of success.”

Jonathan Bluestein (left ) + Nitzan Oren,   Pigua master Pang Zhiqi + gongfu brother

Jonathan Bluestein (left ) + Pigua master Pang Zhiqi + Nitzan Oren + gongfu brother

You can buy the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Research-Martial-Jonathan-Bluestein-Shifu/dp/1499122519/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421493306&sr=8-1&keywords=jonathan+bluestein

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