All That (Experimental) Jazz: Feel That Bass

Jonah Yonker Undersound jyonker@ucsd.edu
Jonah Yonker
Undersound
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Jazz is a style steeped in American history, and names like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong are known to anyone engaged with music in the slightest. The genre is a tough animal to tackle; it can wander or skitter erratically, with song lengths approaching double digits and minimal vocals in sight. However, like any form of music (as this column is hopefully beginning to show), modern forms of jazz are branching out into the most engaging of uncharted territory, with the kind of eclectic results one could only expect from such a flexible form of expression.

T.R.A.M.: Composed of two seven-string guitarists, a Latin saxophonist and a punk drummer, T.R.A.M. is the kind of jazz supergroup no one could ever have seen coming. Rather than morphing any of their styles into straight jazz, each member brings the flavor of their respective projects to the table, resulting in chugging, polyrhythmic basslines that gyrate over chromatic wind lines and fluttering drum kit in a way that could only be described as gnarly. Tracks to try: “Endeavor” (badass), “Seven Ways Till Sunday,” “Consider Yourself Judged”

Colin Stetson: Michigan-born, multireedist Colin Stetson has performed with a staggering number of artists (Arcade Fire, Feist and Tom Waits are just a few), and his approach to jazz feels just as eclectic. Which is to say, it completely detonates the idea of jazz. Stetson performs by miking not only his saxophone, but also the keys and even his throat. Wavering drones of circular breathing are covered in growls and wails over metallic clicking. Guest vocalists like electro pioneer Laurie Anderson stir as haunting apparitions. Your mind is blown. Tracks to try: “Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun,” “Judges,” “Lord I Just Can’t Keep from Crying Sometimes”

BADBADNOTGOOD: This trio began as a project between three friends who met through a Humber College jazz program in Toronto, Canada. Their music ranges from angular, original compositions that buzz with electricity to starkly reimagined covers of everything from Kanye West to themes from The Legend of Zelda. The transition from brooding keys and sliding bass to bubbling synth and dancing hi-hats keeps you guessing between takes, and the respect BBNG has for patient sweeps of soundscape is unparalleled. Tracks to Try: “CMYK,” “Fall in Love,” “Flashing Lights”

Nujabes: The combination of hip hop and jazz makes geographical sense: It’s an all-American sandwich with spoken words on one side and dizzying instrumentation on the other. It should come as no surprise, then, that a sublime and utterly unique merging of these genres was achieved — by a Japanese producer. Based in Tokyo, Nujabes conjured beautifully nostalgic jazz soundscapes over swaying backbeats, crafting a glowingly intimate sound that stretches out like a lazy day . Though his sudden passing in 2010 left his fans heartbroken, Nujabes lives on in a breathtaking body of work. Tracks to Try: “With Rainy Eyes,” “Luv (Sic) Part 3,” “Aruarian Dance,” “Kujaku”

Overall, jazz isn’t getting the kind of attention it used to, with radio play confined to rehashing the greats and thus limiting awareness of the amazing developments within the genre. In breaking the mold, modern jazz stretches beyond the classics and explores new concepts of expression within this genre.

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