A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about Miles Davis’ album Tutu, essentially the genesis of what is commonly referred to today by a myriad of names including, but not limited to: Smooth Jazz, Elevator Jazz, Crap, Fluff, Not-Jazz, etc. The basic point of the piece was that Tutu, as painful as it is to listen to for the most part, is an innovative record. Innovation, by its definition, is not always ‘pretty’.
Here’s the definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online:
Date 15th Century
1. The Introduction of something new
2. a new idea, method, or device: Novelty
Novelty is not always nice.
That piece came out of some independent research I have been doing for a couple of months now. Basically one night back in August while philosophizing in a bar a good friend of mine made the statement that Jazz is dying. This got me thinking about my own distancing from Jazz over the last ten years and whether I agreed with my friend or merely thought that I did because I myself had become so detached from the stuff that once compulsively took up at least a couple nights a week on my stereo system. Jazz used to mean Night time to me, especially come winter. Mingus, Davis, Coleman and of course JC were the mood of the evening and even though I hadn’t grown up around Jazz in a live environment when I fell into it I did so pretty damn hard*.
So that night in August while sipping on a fresh pint of Lager I had to stop and think about what my friend had said – and I can’t really say that I’ve stopped thinking about it since. What originally was intended to be a piece about this here turned into something quite a bit longer and found a home at my friend Marc’s magazine Lost Voices out of Germany**. Still, the piece being written didn’t lead to any answers per se and here I am, still searching for what exactly is going on with Jazz.
Well friends, one thing I’ve definitely found is it is not dying. In order to be dying we would have to be able to say that nothing new is coming of it and that is most certainly not the case. But here’s the deal, Jazz as we’ve known it for the past century or so is now, with the advent of technologies such as the home recording/publishing revolution or samplers/keyboards/MIDI and those technologies continued integration with real instruments, has changed. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it has mutated. Jazz has always been about evolution and it seems not only natural but necessary that in evolving something would eventually begin to become something else. Something maybe not as recognizable as the form it once occupied.
This is Jazz.
Jazz is taking on new people, new ideas and new techniques. It is broadening and becoming, taking pieces of what’s around it (as it did once before with blues, or vice versa). There are many pockets where Jazz is fusing with Electronic music, metal, even hip hop – artists like Sunn 0)))’s newest album Monoliths and Dimensions is very influenced by and influencing new ideas in Jazz. Beat Konducta, aka Madlib, aka Quasimoto has his ‘Jazz’ project Yesterdays New Quintet. Or what about something as odd and sometimes dissonant or freeform as Squarepusher, is that Jazz? Or what about Chicago’s DJM TRIO.
Now, I’m not going to bullshit anyone, I know these guys. One of them is a very good friend of mine. But the thing is, I’m not the kind of person that will blindly shill for friends but likewise why disregard awesome stuff just because it’s someone I know doing it? DJM Trio is an amalgamation of Classical Jazz stylings and jungle/bop/electro and what’s more is it really works – both on record and most especially live. I’ve seen the drummer play upward of 180 bpm on the hats from his wrist. The guy’s been into modding drum kits to get jungle-esque sounds out of them forever – he’s a man who plays like a machine and even has the machine*** know-how to add to the aesthetic. The Sax/guitar player has been covering everthing from John Coltrane to Radiohead since he was in high school, on Sax, Clarinet and guitar. And the bassist – fluidity so clean and effervescent his notes are like thick, bubbly water at times, low frequencies dripping off the Chapman Stick and caressing your brains even while the rest of you falls into the halucinogenic swoon the overall tracks’ movement will work over you.
Go here to and check out KaBop (Clubmix):
Go here and to get more information:
Or go hear and watch them play a nice chill version of one of my favorite Coltrane tracks, Equinox.
These guys are the real deal and they are part of what Jazz is becoming. Yes it’s true that innovation sometimes hurts, but it’s nice when it doesn’t have to. For this we have DJM Trio.
* And it was 100% because of David Lynch, specifically the soundtrack to Twin Peaks.
** You can find his mag here: http://issuu.com/elvau. Great read. My article should be up in the next issue.
*** Not to suggest he’s soulless – I can assure you that is most definitely not the case.