Jazz Is Not Dead Yet

07/25/2009

So my partner is visiting from America for the summer. Earlier this month I took her to Barcelona and Paris, last week, I took her to see a week’s worth of free jazz.

It was the Århus International Jazz Festival and it did indeed kick a truly monumental amount of prime buttocks.

Jazz has long been one of my favorite genres of music, in fact, it’s very easily my most favored genre of instrumental music and the reason is rather simple:

“Jazz is Organized Chaos”.

This is one of the most common descriptors of jazz, of each genre that occurred since bebop and the days of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

But that description sells it short. Jazz is at its heart, not just about organized chaos, but about all aspects of being the underdog, of raw creativity and invention, of applying intelligence to one’s craft and of stretching the bounds of should and never being satisfied with what has come before. It is a constant tale of remixes reinventing the wheel, of artists reinventing themselves a thousand times before madness or death as Miles Davis readily proved as he went from bebop through modal jazz and into jazz fusion, which built off Coltrane’s belief that the idea of the “standard” jazz instrument was the next rule to be broken.

And while smooth jazz and its bastard offspring, easy listening, may do their best to whitewash and poison that raw spirit of creativity that fuels jazz, its roots do remain for those who don’t fear it and it’s echo still burns bright in more genres than expected (including heavy metal and prog rock).

To that spirit, I present some of the brightest flames of the festival who each in their own way are continuing to reinvent the expected limits of what music and expression can be.

First up was the Blood Sweat Drum’n’Bass Big Band. They played a version of Miles Davis’s Aura with Palle Mikkelborg that brought tears to my eyes and their regular stuff is damn good modern fusion jazz. Plus they have a butch bassist nicknamed Aunt Funk and if that isn’t worth supporting, I don’t know what is.

Seriously though, they have three albums on iTunes and are well worth a look.

For those with more of a tolerance for the true inventiveness of the avant-garde and a sheer impact of where jazz can go, drummer Christian Windfeld was amazing both as a soloist and as part of a trio called Caution, Art Kills! Both are well worth a listen and the trio have released their debut album which is available on their site as well as on iTunes. One of his songs is called the “Admiral Awesome Theme Song”, need I say more?

For the so avant-garde, it might as well be lo-fi alternative crowd, there was Little Red Suitcase who we saw in the middle of a torrential downpour while they played songs about the rain. Very distinct and awesome sound and I snagged their latest CD from them direct, but they sadly do not seem to have made it on iTunes yet.

Finally, there was the trio my partner liked the best, called Indra, which plays old jazz standards with a beautiful soulful energy. They were so good, my partner was already crushing on the singer before we even went to the concert. Sadly, the singer is straight, married, and mono, but they still were amazing. They don’t have a CD yet, but will be releasing one this January of which I will definitely update you all when it happens.

So yeah, good week, good music.

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2 Responses to “Jazz Is Not Dead Yet”

  1. playfish said

    i wouldn’t have imagined this was impressive a handful of years ago nonetheless its interesting the way in which age adjusts the means by which you experience unusual concepts, many thanks for the posting it is good to go through something smart occasionally in lieu of the regular garbage mascarading as blogs on the net, i’m off to enjoy a few hands of zynga poker, adios for now

  2. Colin Morgan-Dennis said

    I enjoyed your post and your analysis.

    My partner and I won free tickets to the Guelph Jazz Festival in Guelph, Toronto and were treated to a pretty good weekend of mostly avant garde jazz: Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis; Henry Grimes. Sangam featuring Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland.

    I agree with your header, Jazz is not dead yet. Long live jazz!

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