The 10 Best Astral Jazz Tracks, according to Ishmael Ensemble’s Pete Cunningham
“Full of mystic incantations, weird instruments and experimental ideas…”
Ever since breaking through onto the mainstream airwaves with their 2017 debut EP ‘Songs For Knotty’, Pete Cunningham’s band Ishmael Ensemble has been re-defining the boundaries of modern jazz music. Having first emerged as a house producer in Bristol’s electronic scene, Cunningham’s long-standing love for jazz began to infiltrate his sound more and more until he started to incorporate live instruments, and friends, into his immersive sets. In just four years, the band has established itself as an integral part of a new wave of jazz music in the UK, defined not just by sound but by a youthful punk attitude that isn’t scared to bend the rules – or scrap them all together.
The jazz landscape has witnessed its fair share of seismic shifts over the years: rewind back to the 1960s and the proliferation of astral jazz marks one of the genre’s biggest upheavals. Characterised by Eastern influences, un-orthodox instrumentation, and a spiritual awakening within its performers, the music’s expressionism anchored itself in the abstract and paved the way for today’s experimental jazz resurgence. With Ishmael Ensemble’s new album ‘Visions Of Light’ arriving on August 6, Cunningham dusts off his favourite astral jazz tracks, from Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane to Don Cherry and Pharaoh Sanders.