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.

Journey to the NOLA Swamps – The Birth of Sludge Metal

We’ve covered a fair bit of ground with our Starter Kit series, where we select a handful of key records that highlight a niche musical style or penetrate the prolific status of a staple genre. Unfortunately, this format doesn’t lend itself to covering proto-genres—microcosms of musical history comprised of a specific set of albums released in a fixed period of time. But these movements are crucial to the evolution of our favorite genres, particularly when it comes to the trajectory of sludge metal. What’s become a multifaceted and often refined style was once a disparate lineage of bands from different genres who all applied the “sludge factor” in different measures. While you won’t find a dedicated section for proto-sludge at your preferred music store, the following albums an artists laid the framework for the modern sludge landscape. So whether your sludge purveyors of choice come from the atmospheric, blackened or progressive sects of he genre, they’re all indebted to the groundbreaking statements these albums made.

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.

What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To – 3/31/17

For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.

Starter Kit: Free Jazz

Regardless of one’s musical background, free jazz is one of those genres that can be extremely confusing and often border on nonsensical and sonically belligerent. There are even fans of jazz who still can’t get into the likes of the late works of John Coltrane or anything made by Pharaoh Sanders, preferring instead to listen to other, less insane iterations of the genre. While we believe that music’s value is something strictly decided by the listener, we’ve also found that, despite the difficulty of the genre, free jazz is incredibly rewarding. There’s something undeniably special about musicians that can improvise; if music is the expression of the soul, then free jazz is the direct output of an unrestrained musical voice. While it can sound like noise, it’s in fact a huge show of musicianship, as the artist in question must compress everything they know about music theory into one single point and, in a sense, abandon the strictures it causes for what they feel. In this way, we think free jazz can be one of the most magical and spiritually uplifting genres of music out there, and for those interested in exploring the genre further, the following albums are great introductions to the most liberated plane of jazz.

Heavy Vanguard: The Peter Brötzmann Octet // Machine Gun

We’ve often extolled the stylings of free jazz pioneers like John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Ornette Coleman—they’ve brought such chaos and madness into jazz and have put out some incredible albums in their day. However, we often forget that there’s an entire scene in Europe as well practicing free jazz and free improvisation. Peter…

Soundtracks for the Blind: The Necks // Unfold

One of the most unique and consistent contemporary avant-garde bands, The Necks are perhaps most notable for carving out and perfecting their own meditative niche. On the surface, the Australian group’s roster solicits expectations for a standard jazz trio – Chris Abrahams (piano, organ), Tony Buck (drums, percussion) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) seem to hearken back to the golden age of bare-bones bop and bandleaders like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. But these Aussies differ in how far they stretch their jazz roots into the avant-garde, comparable to but far beyond albums like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Pharaoh Sander’s Karma. Though there’s a distinctly transcendental, spiritual vibe to The Necks’ music, the trio’s approach to this style is heavily informed by the sparseness of artists like Evans and Monk, with a considerable focus on minimalism, improvisation and ambiance that stretches their musical atmosphere from a smoky, luxurious piano lounge into a general ether of organic landscapes.

Hey! Listen to Kaoru Abe!

We at Heavy Blog love our jazz. Hell, we have an entire column dedicated to it. Most of that love, however, leans into more fusion and nu-jazz groups (see: BADBADNOTGOOD, GoGo Penguin, or Nick Cusworth’s newly-found romance with VIRTA).  It isn’t to say that we don’t cover avant-garde or free…

What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To – 11/18/16

For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.