Jazz Club Solo Session // Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference

The search for the greatest jazz album of the decade ended in 2015 when LA-based saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington released his aptly titled debut, The Epic. A nearly three-hour love letter to the genre’s greatest attributes, The Epic is the kind of album that could sustain an artist’s legacy on its own merits alone; follow-ups are welcome, of course, but admittedly unnecessary for the endeavor of establishing Kamasi’s longevity of influence. Though these claims may seem bold, there’s a reason the album inspired the launch of our Jazz Club column and became perhaps the first pure jazz album to ever land among on our collective Albums of the Year. The ensemble’s performances of Kamasi’s compositions are nothing short of enthralling, whether they’re soaring through swirls of gospel choruses and inspired playing or masterfully moving through contemplative moods. Every track is an epic statement in its own right, and by the time the album concludes, listeners should be awed by the manner in which Kamasi maintains intrigue and quality across such an overwhelming run time.

Hey! Listen to Sly & The Family Drone and Dead Neanderthals!

Ever press send on an important email only to glance it over and find a glaring typo? That’s roughly how I felt when the name “Colin Webster” popped in my head right after we published our second Jazz Quarterly of the year. For those unaware, Webster is a prolific saxophone madman whose constantly challenging his instrument and ever-widening group of collaborators (for more on Webster, read Bandcamp’s excellent piece on him, Travis Laplante and other essential modern saxophonists). With Webster’s name in mind, I reluctantly pulled out my phone over my morning cup of coffee and checked his Bandcamp. I knew full well I’d find a new, exceptional album worthy of inclusion in our latest Jazz Quarterly, and sure enough, Molar Wrench fits this description perfectly. The four-track maelstrom pits together sax, percussion and electronics for abrasive free jazz that’s harboring a voyeuristic obsession with noise.

Yazz Ahmed – La Saboteuse

World fusion’s possibilities are truly endless; this year alone, clarinetist/composer Wacław Zimpel led his ensemble Saagara through a blend of jazz and Indian classical music on 2, while Nguyên Lê and Ngo Hong Quang spliced Vietnamese folk music and jazz guitar on Hà Nội Duo. Not only does Yazz Ahmed ‘s phenomenal La Saboteuse add to 2017’s exceptional world fusion offerings, her sophomore album is easily one of the most significant releases in modern Arabic jazz. The London-based composer, trumpeter and flugelhorn player leads an eclectic nine-member ensemble through psychedelic chamber pieces that effortlessly continue in the legacy of Arabic jazz greats like Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Rabih Abou-Khalil and Anouar Brahem.

Jazz Club Quarterly // January-March 2017

Welcome back to Jazz Club! It’s been a while since the three of us (Jimmy, Nick and Scott) sat down to dissect the one of our favorite genres, which was most recently a conversation about BADBADNOTGOOD’s excellent 2016 album IV. In that discussion, we tossed around the idea of pooling together a list of some of our favorite new jazz releases, something we’re excited to finally begin today with our first installment of Jazz Quarterly. This is also offering us an opportunity and excuse to get ourselves back in the habit of listening to new jazz regularly, which, if you’re anything like at least a couple of us (namely Nick) has been something we’ve been meaning to get back into for far too long. There are a few places now that offer some great monthly curated lists like Bandcamp, Stereogum, and more, and you’ll likely notice that a bunch of these selections are pulled from there because they provide a valuable resource for even supposed “curators” such as ourselves. As each of us prefers different flavors of the genre, you’ll find an eclectic list of recommendations below, ranging from more traditional offerings to experimental blends of jazz with Indian classical music, doom metal sensibilities, electronic music, progressive rock and much more. We’d be genuinely shocked if you can’t find at least one release worth your time from this list, so without wasting any more time, feel free to dive in to the best the genre’s had to offer so far this year.

Heavy Vanguard: Ornette Coleman // Free Jazz [20th Episode!]

So, twenty episodes, and we’re still kicking…I guess that’s something to be proud of! Anyway, when we come to special numbers of episodes, Scott and I like to pick an album that’s had a huge effect on us and talk about it without worrying about the thirty-minute timer. For our tenth episode we covered Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew, and we again dive into jazz territory with Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz.

Starter Kit: Progressive Bluegrass

Bluegrass generates most of its interest from technical ability, even in its most traditional veins. Generally, the genre operates a lot like jazz: different configurations of instruments improvise solos on standard tunes. There’s mostly likely an upright bass and some light percussion like tambourine or washboard in the rhythm section, treble instruments like fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and guitar taking solos, and multi-part harmonies in the vocals. Bluegrass generally borrows from the same sources as country and folk: Scottish, Irish, and English folk music, African American spirituals, and blues. Progressive bluegrass started, like progressive rock, in the late 60s. While, the compositions never really reached the complexity of prog rock, the idea was the same in the beginning: the chord progressions got more complex, it started borrowing from other genres most notably jazz, modern rock, pop, and classical music, and the lyrics became deeper.