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Listen: Orphy Robinson and The Spontaneous Cosmic Rawkxtra tracks

June 2014

Listen to two tracks by Orphy Robinson and The Spontaneous Cosmic Rawkxtra, featured in an article by Philip Clark in The Wire 364

Vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson came up through the UK’s 1980s jazz revival, playing with a wide range of musicians including Courtney Pine, Derek Bailey and Nigel Kennedy.

His parents arrived in London from Jamaica in the late 1950s and Robinson, born in 1960, spent many childhood afternoons among the record stalls of Stoke Newington market in East London, surrounded by ska, reggae and dub, immersing himself in the music of his parents’ homeland.

In The Wire 364, Robinson tells Philip Clark about those early years: "I did a lot of judo and martial arts around this time and it was easy because I could read everyone. I could see the rhythm in which they moved – one, two, three, four, five – if he does that five again, bang, he’s gone. Judo wasn’t about physical strength for me, it was about rhythm and timing, and I see that in everything. Joe Harriott, the abstract and free way in which he played, understood this too. In Jamaica even the birds are rhythmic!

You hear the sound of insects in the hi-hat – that distinctive tss-tss. Everything in Jamaican music refers back to nature. Even when I’m working with Pat Thomas, and he’s pulled the rug completely away, we both know what’s happening, where the music’s gone, because we hear those fundamentals in everything. In the early days, I’d simply play jazz as reggae. When I started to listen to Thelonious Monk, on first listen it was like, this sounds like reggae – I heard a lot of Caribbean influences in there. The Skatalites, the Jamaican pioneers of ska, they’d all been jazz musicians – they could hear the freedom within these beats.”

The above tracks "Still Me" and "Space Is The Place" (covering the Sun Ra tune) is played by Orphy Robinson and The Spontaneous Cosmic Rawkxtra, recorded live at London's Kings Place in 2009. The recordings are from a prospective album set to be released in 2015.

The Spontaneous Cosmic Rawkxtra line up is: Orphy Robinson (conductor, marimba, trumpet), HKB Finn (spoken word), Cleveland Watkiss (voice), Otto Fischer (guitar), Shabaka Hutchings (clarinets), Brian Edwards (tenor sax), Ntchuks Bonga (alto sax), Rowland Sutherland (flutes), Pat Thomas (piano), Corey Mwamba (vibes), Carmel Hinds (electric bass) and Steve Noble (drums).

Black Top’s Black Top #One will be released by Babel Label in July. Orphy Robinson directs John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme – Re-envisioned at Meltdown at London’s Southbank Centre on 22 June.

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