If there was one word to ultimately describe Miles Davis’s final handful of recordings, it would be “contentious”. While Davis was never too far away from controversy throughout his entire career, with a great number of his releases not finding proper reception until years after their release, this period of his life perhaps represented more of a disappointment by fans than any other. He’d been able to prove himself to be capable of serious experimentation with albums like Bitches Brew and On The Corner; one could only expect fans to be disappointed with the supposed lack of innovation found on The Man With The Horn.
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.
This is a special article for me, because Miles Davis essentially got me started on jazz. It was listening to albums like Kind of Blue and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters that got me interested in what this genre of music had to offer, and my love of jazz only grew from there. For a while, I tried to get as much Miles and Herbie as I could, buying CDs on a whim. On one of these whims I found what was also considered one of Miles’s best releases, a little album called Sketches of Spain. And I can say without a doubt my life has been changed by this album in ways I could never quite expect.
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 withtapmusic.netthrough 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.
Welcome to another edition of Jazz Club, where we touch upon several classic records and a handful of newer albums that are handily carrying the torch. This week, we wanted to explore the idea of a "classic" jazz record, specifically regarding this question: were some jazz standards always thought of as highly as they are today? The answer is a pretty resounding no; as with any genre, many of the records now considered essential were once earth-shattering, jimmy-rustling affairs that either puzzled or repulsed music critics and fans. Today, we're going to take a look back at three of the most controversial records in the genre, all of which redefined the genre in some way and received quite a bit of flack for it, before eventually leaving a lasting imprint on the shape of jazz to come (*hint* *hint*).
Welcome to Jazz Club, where we might actually be on track this week! Actually, it’s true; we have a real topic and real albums to bring to your earballs, all about one of the most revolutionary (and highly criticized at the time) forms of jazz of all time, Jazz Fusion! A little note before we start, though: all three albums featured today have sizable contributions from guitarists. Although fusion includes more instrumentation beyond the guitar (for example, Mahavishnu Orchestra once included violinist Jon Luc Ponty), guitar was essentially the big focal point of the genre, as fusion is a blend (no duh) of a few genres with jazz, the biggest being rock music. (Of course, there are other jazz guitarists that aren’t fusion, such as Django Reinhardt, but this is a new sound we’re talking about.) So without further ado, let's defuse a contentious - but rewarding - subgenre of jazz.
Welcome to Jazz Club, our sort-of-but-not-really regular column that expounds one of the greatest - and perhaps most alienating - genres ever. Today we’re going to go back to square one, and talk about some key albums to spin if you’re interested in possibly listening to jazz. Obviously, these are our opinions; if you don’t agree, feel free to send us hate in the comments.
When Scott and I started up The Jazz Club the better part of a year ago, we had intended to make this a monthly feature that would give us and other Heavy Blog staff members a forum to discuss music from all over the jazz spectrum, both new and old. Given the fact that we only got through two articles and the last one was from July 2015, clearly we have fallen well short of that goal. But now we're back, and we're more determined than ever to make this a regular monthly column. For our comeback piece, we've chosen another recent release that's attracted a surprising amount of crossover and mainstream appeal, acoustic piano trio GoGo Penguin's Man Made Object. Along the way we also discuss a couple of other groups who have been blending groove-heavy jazz with electronic elements and influences, Portico Quartet and Skalpel. Scott and I were joined by fellow editor Eden for this one, and our conversation definitely ran a bit on the long side, but we've decided to keep it largely intact as we really enjoyed where it went. We hope you enjoy it, too!