March – tracks of the month

By Martin Smith | 1 April 2014
Billy Bang - Vietnam the aftermath

Billy Bang – Vietnam the aftermath

At last spring is here, West Ham are staying up and I feel jazzy. So here is a list of some of the albums that have been on heavy rotation on my turntable. Its a real mixed bag, I hope you like some of the tracks. All are readily available, so you should be able to pick any up you think you might like.

1. Billy BangVietnam the Aftermath (Justin Time Records 2001): It took violinist Billy Bang 30 years to put this musical project together. All the musicians on this album are veterans of the Vietnam War and the music conjures up their personal demons. All the compositions were written by Bang and they draw heavily on the tonal and harmonic elements of Southeast Asian music, but are conveyed through the jazz and blues tradition.

2. William Parker & Hamid DrakeFirst Communion and Piercing the Veil (AUM Fidelity 2000): Both these magnificent musicians are performing across Europe together next month – don’t miss them – together they are a tour de force.

3. Jackie McLean Right Now! (Blue Note 1966): My favourite alto saxophone player of all time. This album and Let Freedom Ring are his homages to the Civil Rights movement. As with all Blue Note recordings of this era the musicianship is of the highest quality.

4. Bill Evans TrioBill Evans at the Town Hall (Verve 1967): An album of poetic, expressive and beautiful music. Includes two standards ‘I Should Care’ and ‘Spring is Here’.

5. Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage EnsembleThe Malcolm X Memorial (Zulu Record Co 1970): A wonderful piece of cultural history. Recorded live this is musical tribute to the four stages of Malcolm’s life performed by some of the lesser known of Chicago’s free jazz scene. Cohran’s sons formed the band Hypnotic Brass Band.

6. John Coltrane QuartetCrescent (Impulse! 1964): One of Coltrane’s lesser-known Impulse albums; but in my opinion it is one of his best. Don’t waste a second listening to this on YouTube go buy the album.

7. Dorothy AshbyThe Jazz Harpist (Doxy 1959): Along with Alice Coltrane, Dorothy turned the harp from a mainstay of classical orchestras into an improvisational machine gun – well more like a pop gun. If you are enjoying your Four Tet and Floating Points mash ups, this is the woman they are sampling.

8. Aretha FranklinUnforgettable: A tribute to Dinah Washington (Colombia 1964): It’s a fact that if you are going buy an Aretha album, the first eight on Atlantic Records are the place to start. But in the years before she became a soul superstar, she recorded a batch of records for Columbia. The truth be told they didn’t know how to market her – crooner, jazz singer, Broadway diva… Over the last two decades I have been collecting her original Columbia recordings (needn’t have bothered – Columbia released her entire output as a box set a few years back). Contained in these records is the essence of Aretha’s sound and jazz is in the mix.

9. Marzette WattsMarzette Watts and Company (ESP 1966): A political activist and friend of Amiri Baraka, Marzette only recorded two albums: this and The Marzette Watts Ensemble on Savoy Records. I love free jazz and I love Marzette.

10. Pharoah SandersJourney to the one (Theresa 1980): I very rarely play jazz when I DJ anymore, but I dropped the track You’ve got to have Freedom’ from the album in my set at Glastonbury last year and the place went mental. Political jazz music that makes you dance – what more could you ask for?

• Please skip the commercials at the beginning of the tracks – sorry I don’t control YouTube.


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