2019 is coming to the end so it’s that time of the year when we look back and see what caught our attention the most. As the tradition is on our side, we look first at the preferences of our readers and this is a top 3 of the most appreciated albums, compilations, mixes and other stuff.
Continue reading “2019 Top 3 – Readers List”
‘Esoteric, modal and deep jazz from Prestige Records, 1961-73’. The tenth edition of Spiritual Jazz takes a closer look at the music Prestige was recording at the start of the 1960s. This was the period when the modal jazz sound pioneered by Miles and Coltrane was starting to percolate through the jazz underground. In its heyday, Prestige was the only jazz label that could hold a candle to Blue Note. Prestige was always quick off the mark to record new artists, and in the years after Kind of Blue the label was quick to release some of the most innovative early explorers of the new style. Founded as New Jazz in 1949 by 20-year old jazz fan and entrepreneur Bob Weinstock, Prestige was the only other imprint besides Blue Note to capture the iconic jazz sounds of the 1950s, and like its rival it grew to be an icon itself. If Blue Note documented the sound of hard bop in its most carefully crafted and beautifully presented form, the low-key, jam-session approach that Weinstock preferred meant that the music captured by Prestige has a tough, unfiltered energy that was a lot closer to the way it was being played live, night after night, by New York’s most prominent jazz musicians. Featuring Afro-Eastern visions from Yusef Lateef and Ahmed Abdul-Malik, deep modal excursions from Mal Waldron and Walt Dickerson, and essential spiritual jazz grooves from Gary Bartz and Idris Muhammed, Spiritual Jazz vol. 10 documents the sound of modal jazz in full flight, unabashed and authentic from the pioneers.
vinyl / CD
Linking the ancient and the modern across time and space, the Sokratis Votskos Quartet presents ‘Sketching the Unknown’ – a modern jazz journey into the folk and modal music of ancient Greece. Playing rich original compositions, the Quartet draw freely on Greek and Balkan folk sources, jazz idioms, and the classical makams of the near East. Returning to ancient Greek modes such as Dorian, Phrygian and Lydian, a fresh perspective is brought to the modal style. ‘Sketching the Unknown’ links today’s jazz back to the ancient modes and microtonal folk music of Greece and the Near East. Deep modal jazz sounds from an ancient source.
vinyl / CD
With 20 years passing since his first foray into recorded jazz, Nat Birchall now ranks as one of the premier saxophonists of his generation. With several highly acclaimed albums in the locker, he now returns with his most ambitious project yet – a tribute to the legend that is Yusef Lateef. ”When Jazzman Gerald first mentioned to me the idea of doing an album as a tribute to the jazz giant Dr Yusef A. Lateef, my first thought was ”Where on earth do I start?” Lateef was such a colossus of music, and his scope so broad, that I couldn’t hope to begin to cover his musical universe. He was a master of the tenor saxophone, a master of the flute, a master ballad player, a master blues player. Not to mention his skills as a composer and arranger and of course his exploration and use of musical methodology and instruments from all over the world.” ”I’ve always been a great admirer of Lateef, and the challenge was intriguing, so I decided to give it go. We interpreted some of his own compositions (Brother John, Morning & Ching Miau) as well as some compositions by others that he made his own by careful arrangement and interpretation (Love Theme from Spartacus, Ringo Oiwake). I also wrote some original songs that, while certainly not written in his style, might be said to fall into his very broad approach to music making.” ”I also wanted to utilise as many different instruments as possible, something I hadn’t explored too much until this album. So it was a nice opportunity to finally get around to playing some of the many small instruments I’ve collected over the years; the Turkish zurna, the mbira from Zimbabwe, the balaphon from Mali and the arghul from Egypt. We have also tried to use varied time signatures in the music, so we have songs in 3/4, 5/4 and 7/4 time, as well as the standard 4/4.” ”Ultimately the best music tells a story to the listener and takes them to places they might not have imagined themselves. Yusef Lateef certainly did that, and as such was a master storyteller.” Nat Birchall
vinyl / CD
Jazzman presents the definitive anthology of pioneering ethno-musicologist, mystical adventurer and real life jazz guru Dr Lloyd Miller. This album tells the fascinating life story of one man and his journey through Europe and the Middle East, living off nothing but his wits, talent and an open-minded attitude towards music and jazz. Master of dozens of languages and hundreds of instruments, Miller has spent fifty years immersed in the music of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Featuring recordings taken from incredibly rare privately pressed albums, live sessions in Europe, and previously unreleased material, A Lifetime in Oriental Jazz tells the story of his extraordinary personal journey from the West Coast to the Far East. Played on a plethora of exotic instruments from around the world, Miller’s music is a unique blend of jazz with the modal and spiritual sounds of traditional Asian and Middle Eastern music. Spiritual jazz, Eastern jazz – direct from the source! Available on deluxe heavyweight vinyl and compact disc with digitally remastered sound, previously unreleased material, exhaustive historical liner notes and unseen archive photos.
The Blue Note record label needs little introduction. Musically, graphically and sonically iconic, the label created and defined the golden age of modern jazz on record. Founded in 1939 by German émigré Alfred Lion, the label’s roster of artists is a litany of giants – Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Herbie Hancock and many more. With peerless musicians in the grooves, the legendary Rudy Van Gelder behind the boards, and graphic design genius Reid Miles creating emblematic artwork for every release, Blue Note – ‘the Cadillac of the jazz lines’ – was outstanding in every way. Volume 8 of Jazzman’s Spiritual Jazz series takes a close look at the deeper side of Blue Note – from the experimental avant-garde explored by younger musicians such as Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson and Pete La Roca, to the exciting new developments in modal sounds put forward by stalwarts Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean and Duke Pearson. The music we have selected shows how musicians working with the label responded to a period of dramatic social and sonic change, charting the route toward the esoteric and spiritualised sounds that would dominate the deepest jazz of the 1970s. As ever, Blue Note had lit the path, and this new Spiritual Jazz collection shows that the progressive and underground jazz sound of the 1960s was not only the preserve of obscure artists and private pressings. Blue spirits and heavy sounds on Blue Note – the finest in jazz since 1939, brought to you by Jazzman.
CD / part 1 / part 2
The 27th reissue in Jazzman’s ongoing “Holy Grail Series” comes courtesy of Infinite Spirit Music, an undeniably obscure, one-off project helmed by pianist, producer and arranger Soji Ade. “Live Without Fear” was recorded in 1979 and tops the “wants list” of many spiritual jazz collectors. This time round, the album – which originally ran to an hour over two sides of one LP – has been expanded to a double-album in order to guarantee greater sound quality. It sounds fantastic, and it’s hard not to fall in love with the heady bongos, rich double bass and snaking saxophone of “Children’s Song”, the gentle warmth of “Rasta” and the Afro-fired, tribalistic free-jazz experiments of “Ritual” and “Father Spirit, Mother Love”.
vinyl / CD
Guiding Spirit was second album by Nat Birchall for the fledgling Manchester label Gondwana Records back in 2010. The follow-up to the remarkable debut of Akhenaten found him exploring different textures using percussion and instruments like the kora and the harp. It was also the first time Nat had recorded on the soprano saxophone, featured here on the songs Keep the Light Shining and Higher Regions. Nat reveals a concept on the instrument quite unlike most other contemporary players of the higher-pitched horn, his sound more akin to the keening tone of the Indian shenai master, Bismillah Khan, perfectly in keeping with the music’s more “Eastern” sounding leanings. The music here is firmly rooted in the modal jazz world of Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane and others who sought to expand upon the avenues of expression originally forged by John Coltrane in the heady days of the early 1960s. As has often been pointed out by commentators however, this is no pastiche or “re-make”. This is the real thing, played absolutely in the now, but played from and in the spirit of then. Originally released only in CD format, Jazzman Records are proud to make this music available on vinyl for the first time.
Akhenaten was the first album Nat Birchall released via the then brand-new Gondwana Records label in Manchester. Originally only released on CD this is the first time this classic recording has been made available on vinyl. The album on the whole features a quartet, and is expanded to a quintet on the title track where UK trumpet virtuoso Matthew Halsall joins in with a stunning solo. The album explores deep, hymn-like themes at length, finding much to say on the relatively simple melodies and arrangements. Nat and his fellow band members play here with the selfless motivation and focus that’s required to allow them to tap deep into the human psyche, producing music that is soulful and stately. Very different from most modern jazz styles played nowadays, the music has a timeless beauty that will stand the test of time.
This latest twin release of two ten inchers, Cityscapes and Landscapes offers a rare treat because for the first time, the listener is given a fascinating insight into the development of the Greg Foat Group. The recordings presented on these two EPs represent a journey from urban to rural environments in musical form. Foat actually wrote these around 2002 at the age of 23 when he was living in Stockholm, Sweden. But crucially, they sound like they were written today.
Cityscapes / Landscapes
”This major new release from the Greg Foat Group sees celebrated jazz quintet making the most of the acoustics of an ancient church, accompanied by a full ensemble of supporting musicians. The fourth album from the celebrated jazz combo will further delight Foat fans who have been consistently enthralled by the taste and finesse with which they execute their beguiling arrangements and instrumentation. Last year, during the long, hot summer of 2014, a couple of tons of vintage studio gear were bundled into an ancient church on the charming and picturesque village of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. There the centuries-old church organ was the centerpiece and the Group was accompanied a string quartet and woodwinds to create a musical style like no other. The resulting hauntingly sublime sounds need not only fill vaulted chapel ceilings, but our hearts and ears as well. Recorded across three of the hottest days in summer, direct onto 1” tape and with all the rich, live analogue sound and the hallowed magnificence that church acoustics can bring, The Dancers at the End of Time features the classic Foat group with guesting local musicians and friends, and celebrates the summertime and beach ambience of living on the island.”
The Greg Foat Group are currently the resident band at the Playboy Club, located in Mayfair, London. Earlier this year a couple of nights were recorded for Jazzman, and the results are here for all to enjoy. Recorded live and direct onto 1” analogue tape the album captures the energy and atmosphere of the group at their regular gig. Awash with library-esque soundtrack-themed jazz grooves with a modal edge, jazz has never been so much fun! This is the 3rd album by the Greg Foat Group on Jazzman, and is the first album to be recorded live at the Playboy Club for over 40 years.