As we roll into 2015 there’s a few of last year’s tunes that continue to hold a spot by the the hi-fi….
February will see all those peeps on a deep jazz tip paying homage to Trane’s iconic ‘A Love Supreme’ and celebrating the 50th anniversary of album’s release. Jez Nelson’s Jazz on 3 is promising to play the full recording of our evening set from the QEH/Meltdown performance of ‘Enlightenment – A Re-envisioning Of ‘A Love Supreme’. Hopefully that might wake up some those Jazz Festival curators who been sleeping on this project… but just in case they continue sleepin’ we are planning to take it out of London anyway!
Coinciding with the dates of the album recording sessions (9th/10th December) the San Francisco based Church Of John Coltrane celebrated ‘A Love Supreme Mass at Grace Cathedral and here in London we initiated our own branch of the Church by taking over the Union Chapel and performing ‘Enlightenment- A Re-envisioning Of ‘A Love Supreme’ to a packed and hugely appreciative audience.
OK, here we go… on the supa dupa vinyl/CD tip John Coltrane fans got the opportunity to savour the much discussed, somewhat legendary and blistering performance by Trane Live at Temple University in Philly.The band on the night features Jimmy Garrison Alice Coltrane, Rashied Ali and Pharoah Sanders and they are joined by a posse of percussionists who the saxophonist had been jamming with earlier in the week. On’My Favourite Things’ the band is joined by local saxophonist Sonny Johnson and also by a young Steve Knoblauch who according to one Arnold Joyner in the excellent liner notes,”… was jumping almost a foot off the floor while he was playing, he was very excited.”
Recorded off one onstage mic by the University radio station the recording is a little raw but Resonance records have cleaned it up and the music on offer definitely adds to canon of spiritually charged music that is still, in 2015, somewhat controversial.
Staying on a Coltrane tip Manchester based saxophonist Nat Birchall appropriately kicks off his excellent dble CD – ‘Live In Larissa – Divine Harmony In Duende Jazz Bar’ – with a Coltrane homage penned by bassist Bill Lee (Spike’s dad). Even a cursory listen to this album shows that Nat has clearly osmmosed aspects of that distinctive Coltrane sound into his own identity. The quintet features the muscular bass lines of Go Go Penguin’s Nick Blacka, the vibes of an excellent Corey Mwamba, the free flowing piano of Adan Fairraal and the drums of Paul Aession. The quintet stretches out over five original self penned compostions and two covers – ‘John Coltrane ‘ & Journey In Satchidananda’ – and none span less than 11 minutes. The shadow of John Coltrane is never far away during their spirited live performance, it’s a real labour of love and whenever I’ve had it on the player at home and had visitors they’ve never failed to ask who’s playing and where they can buy it!
While we are vibing on homages I have to say that one of the best live sets of last year was The Grip – a trio consisting of Finn Peters (sax / flute), Oren Marshall (tuba) and Tom Skinner (drums). This tribute to the late Seventies recordings of alto saxophonist Black Arthur Blythe was mesmerising, continued to resonate for days after. As Kerstan Macness said to me on the night, “They have a the skill of making complex music accessible and that’s quite an achievement with that choice of instrumentation.” The essence of that live set has been transmitted beautifully into their excellent ‘Celebrate’ album which was released by Slowfoot records.
Finn’s music always dishes up shades of both Yusef Lateeef and his late lamented mentor, drummer, Steve Reid and 2015 promises the release of a long awaited collaborative project dedicated to the latter. Masterminded by Emanative’s Nick Woodmansey and developed through the Steve Reid Foundation this forthcoming album are live performances and something to seriously look forward to.
Another top album that surfaced at the end of 2014 was ‘Duduvudu’ (Edgetone Records). It unites a host of great players from the US and the UK to deliver ‘The Gospel According To Dudu Pukwana’. According to the LPs producer Andrew Scott the project began in 2009 in London and grew into “an international, multi generational labour of love” and it shows. It’s all here – the blues, the gospel and the funk of Dudu and Mongezi’s Township jazz. There’s the echoes of the hymnals and the brass bands they grew up with and if you’re a fan of Dudu Pukwan, Mongezi Feza, Malombo, Brotherhood of Breath, Johnny Dyani or Abdulah Ibralim this LP will not disappoint.
Diggin’ in the crates Analog Africa’s Samy Ben Radjab did us all a favour by enleashing an 11 track gem showcasing Verckys et l’Orchestre Veve. Subtitled ‘Congolese funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969 -1978’ this killing and eclectic selection features Verckys stripped back sound which on the one hand can prove percussive and sax dominated while on other we get sweet congolese harmonises, gently rippling guitars and brush driven drums.
Similarly, Strut did the world a major service with their ‘Haiti Direct’ a double Cd that explored the “Big band, Mini Jazz & Twaoubadou Sounds 1968 -1978). The album provided the perfect background music to my reading of the remarkable ‘Nan Domi- A Initiates Journey in Haitian Vodou’ (City Lights) by Mimerose P. Beaubrun, the co-founder and lead singer with the brilliant Boukmans Eksreryans. Two things to check out there!
One of my albums of the year has to be Sarah Jane Morris’ ‘Bloody Rain’, much of which she co-wrote with guitarist Tony Remy. While people are ready to let off on Facebook and tings about injustice few people seem capable of penning songs or writing music that reflect on these injustices – child soldiers, FGM, sexual abuse. Not Sarah Jane and Remy, they pen lyrics that are poetic, poignant and reflective and write music that that is deceptive and uplifting. Plus Sarah Jane’s smokey voice just gets better and better.
On the UK reggae tip Gil Sang and Jake Travis have maintained the element of surprise with their Tuff Scout imprint while Pete Holdsworth’s Pressure Sounds keep up the preshah with his excellent compilations (Latest seleksaan – Bunny Lee) and dubplate 10″ vinyl like those Roy Cousins/Scientist dubs… ‘Marcus Mosiah Garvey’.’Malcolm X’ etc.
What else? If you missed the Collocutor album (On The Corner Records) seek it out… meanwhile on Ayetoromusic I’ve been enjoying Funsho Ogundipe’s vinyl ‘Ajosu Oba’ – which offers jazz orientated new directions in Nigerian music.
Finally…and quickly, if haven’t already acquired the audiophile dble LP ‘Nucleus with Leon Thomas – Live 1970’ at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, on Gearbox Records, then I think you might need to.
I’m out… laterrrrrs. PB
PS: The big one in 2015 is going to be the Art Yard Sun Ra book. Can’t wait. In the meantime I think I’ll touch down on D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah and that Kamasi Washington triple disc appropriately titled “The Epic”.