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.
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.
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... Read More...
Out of all the free improvisation I’ve listened to, there’s a distinct penchant towards tonal belligerence and chaos, which, while very enjoyable (seriously, I can’t get enough of dat saxophone skronk), can also sometimes be stale when you want something a little bit different. Which is why I wrote this article about Ballister, and their latest album, Slag.
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.
Before jazz became a regular occurrence in my rotation, I thought bandleaders were exclusively pianists, trumpeters saxophonists given the prevalence of the instruments in the genre. This quickly changed as I ventured further into the genre, exploring the discographies of artists like bassist Charles Mingus and flutist/clarinetist Eric Dolphy (who, to be fair, also played alto sax). But it wasn't until hearing Jack DeJohnette's drum solo on "What I Say" - from Miles Davis' Live-Evil - that I truly fell in love with jazz drumming, drawing me towards eminent jazz percussionists like Max Roach. To be clear, none of this is meant to frame Eli Keszler as a jazz drummer; his playing and composition on Last Signs of Speed doesn't fit neatly in any particular style. Yet, as I listened to Keszler's use of texture throughout the album, it reminded me of the songwriting sensibilities of drummers like Roach - musicians with a deep understanding of percussion's mechanics and how any additional instrumentation should be placed in the surrounding space.
It’s a new year, and that means that Scott and I are continuing our quest of finding the weirdest, coolest, most out-there music on the planet (and possibly beyond if we can raise enough money on our non-existe... Read More...
Burning Ghosts is the band I’ve been looking for all this time. Hailing from LA, and signed to the experimental independent label Orenda Records, Burning Ghosts brings everything in jazz I like—lots of passionate, full-bodied playing and tons of free improvisation—and mixes it with metal. The group is a quartet, featuring trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom (who is also the founder of Orenda Records), guitarist Jake Vossler, bassist Richard Giddens, and drummer Aaron McLendon. This lineup alone makes me pretty excited—it’s a something you don’t see a whole lot. Usually when there’s a band crossing these genres, a saxophone player is usually part of the personnel (VIRTA being an exception to the rule). Having a trumpet take that spot stirs the pot a little bit, so to speak—it offers sounds and techniques of jazz that you don’t hear a whole lot.