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Old 11.14.2007, 11:47 AM   #1
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http://music.guardian.co.uk/print/0,...122426,00.html

'It's about total freedom at all costs'
What happens when you mix the intensity of hardcore punk with the improv spirit of John Coltrane? Marcus O'Dair reports on the gloriously noisy rise of Death Jazz
Marcus O'Dair
Friday November 9, 2007

Guardian
This year's London jazz festival may be stretching the jazz envelope a little further than usual. Alongside appearances by Acoustic Ladyland and Led Bib, two bands who have made their name through combining jazz with a hefty quota of punk and heavy rock, the festival plays host to Fraud, once memorably described as the jazz equivalent of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While these bands might inspire familiar it's-not-jazz outcries from Wynton Marsalis disciples, from a broader perspective they are merely the tip of an iceberg whose frozen depths are far more terrifying. Owing a debt to German sax lunatic Peter Brotzmann, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, avant metallers God and Cynic and in particular the thrash-jazz of John Zorn, these musicians combine a jazz sensibility with a naked primal rage that is more usually found in hardcore punk or heavy metal.

It's a fragmented scene, the majority of which is still decidedly underground, but it is sufficiently vibrant as to be already attracting attempts to define it. Dirty jazz, trash jazz, post-jazz and the PC-baiting spazz jazz are among those already floated. Yet no term is as evocative as death jazz, derived from the title of a record by Billy Shaw's Shovin' Sunshine.
Weasel Walter of the Flying Luttenbachers, a California act who peddle an "amorphous fusion of all things extreme and dissonant", is not a man who likes to be part of musical scenes. Yet he probably speaks for many death jazzers when he says: "What I'm trying to express is a very well-cultivated violence in sound. I have had an interest in the more extreme forms of jazz for several decades but I am only interested in the most violent, radical aspects, which would probably make me highly unpopular at the latest Ronnie Scott's jam session."
His craving seems to be for the sort of wild ecstasy that the beat generation found in bebop. Yet in the era of MP3s, when Nina Simone can sit quite naturally between death metallers Nile and industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails, there's no need to confine this search to a single genre. "I'm interested in hearing certain kinds of energies in music," continues Walter, who lists his prime influences as free jazz, hardcore punk, No Wave and death metal. "I see no contradiction in searching for this energy in different places."
"Jazz and hardcore are both extreme kinds of music," agrees Seb Rochford, drummer for Acoustic Ladyland, among numerous others, and multiple Mercury nominee. "I like Slayer, the Stooges and Lightning Bolt. The jazz that I like is played with as much attitude as Pig Destroyer. Mingus, I feel, has the same kind of intensity as Napalm Death."
Not surprisingly given this range of influences, death jazz is a broad church. Some of its exponents are graduates from jazz college who may even continue to also play in "straight" jazz acts as well. Others are open-minded rockers making the reverse journey towards the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. Wunderkind sticksman Chris Corsano started out as a punk and hardcore drummer before becoming one of the most in-demand players in free jazz.
Geographically, too, death jazzers stretch from Leeds, represented by cheekily monikered improv upstarts Death Qunt, to Zu and Jooklo Duo in Italy, to Brooklyn, home to jazz-thrash-everything quartet Gutbucket. Their respective backgrounds are evident in musical differences. The Thing's Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson's insistence that free jazz and pre-punk are "all the same as far as I'm concerned" shines through in the trio's garage rock aesthetic. Norwegian duo MoHa! offer an electronica-tinged take on death jazz, while the Fish, on the suitably-named Ayler records, are more rooted in the straight ahead free- jazz tradition of old.
Despite these differences, however, this motley group of musicians have arrived in a remarkably similar place. They even turn up regularly on each other's records, in particular Original Silence, a kind of death-jazz supergroup, featuring the ubiquitous Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, alongside members of the Thing, Zu and Dutch experimental rockers the Ex.
"It's a whole circle," explains David Keenan, member of Glaswegian sax'n'drum duo Tight Meat and a man whose free jazz obsession started with a love of acid rock freak-outs. "Once you go beyond the avant garde, you're back to being absolutely primitive, and I like to think that we blur that line. The first time music was ever made, it was improvised - yet to me, a lot of the improv that came out of free jazz became impossibly cerebral. What we want to do is to return improvisation to its role as the primal musical gesture."
Whether or not that has yet been achieved, the recent growth of death jazz is undeniable; so much so that the term has spread beyond the specific sub-genre defined here. The Vile Imbeciles, a compelling trio in the Birthday Party mould, have a jazz component that is close to negligible, yet they still boast a bass player with the words "death jazz" tattooed on his arm. Self-proclaimed death-jazz act Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, meanwhile, are in essence a relatively straight jazz sextet with an over-eager marketing department.
For further evidence of death jazz's continued expansion, witness the move by Acoustic Ladyland to major label V2, the multiple awards and nominations bestowed on Fraud and the appearance by Chris Corsano on Volta, Björk's latest album. Raoul Björkenheim, guitarist in Box and the aptly named Scorch Trio as well as an improv veteran of over 20 years' standing, says he's noticed audiences not only growing of late but also getting markedly younger. Ken Thomson of Gutbucket confirms: "I think there's a noise jazz or punk jazz or death jazz scene opening up. Eight years ago, when we started, it seemed we were the only ones doing this, and now it feels like we have company."
Reasons for this recent growth are manifold, including the ability of the internet to unite niche groups and the simple ebb and flow of musical fashion. This is accentuated by the state of both mainstream jazz (visually boring and musically "outdated and highly unimaginative", if you believe Gutbucket's Thomson) and rock, blasted by Death Qunt's Craig Scott for being "advertised as extreme when it's the most commercialised horrible nonsense with nothing rebellious about it whatsoever". Others see broader social factors at play. Björkenheim regards this kind of improvisation as "a cathartic experience in a society where people are getting more and more scared of making mistakes", while Tight Meat's Keenan sets it in still grander context: "This music is always inherently political, because it's about absolute freedom at all costs. Things feel politically and culturally apocalyptic right now and when everything goes to pot and the grid goes down, we can keep jamming because we don't need electricity. We can make wild noise music in caves."
It seems then that Zappa was right: jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny. Whether in some post-apocalyptic dug-out or in the slightly more relaxed confines of the London jazz festival, this bizarrely perfumed music - an attempt, in the words of Weasel Walter, "to find beauty in the madness and horror of life" - is on the rise. Just don't expect a No 1 single any time soon. As Walter says, "My music is very personal and not geared towards mass acceptance in any way. I don't really expect anyone to like it."

From New York to Ella: Highlights of the London jazz festival

The London jazz festival now runs to nearly 200 events in 41 venues over 10 days. You could catch R&B star Jamelia's tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, or banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck's gig with pianist Chick Corea, or Bozan Z's Ornette/Balkan mash-ups. Or how about a six-hour celebration of Thelonius Monk? John Fordham and John L Walters suggest a few of the more interesting routes to take in this broadest of music festivals
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Old 11.14.2007, 11:47 AM   #2
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The improvisers

If jazz were recognised as just an attitude to music-making and not a style, then all the knee-jerk comments about whether it's in, out, young, old, accessible, insular, still hip or long dead would stop. The classical musicologist ET Ferand wrote in 1961: "There is scarcely a single musical technique or form of composition that did not originate in improvisatory practice." They call Sonny Rollins (Barbican, Nov 24) "the greatest living improviser", and if that's a big shout, it often makes sense in the face of the torrent of fresh melody that pours from his tenor sax when the mood is on him.
But if Rollins appears constantly to be editing a deluge of fragments of old and new songs as he goes, Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek (Barbican, Nov 18) can seem enraptured by the tone-colours of a single note. Garbarek brings a post-Coltrane sensibility to everything from medieval plainsong to Norwegian folk-melody, Indian music, and even a left-field kind of funk. The British sax star John Surman shares Garbarek's broad tastes and subtle restraint, and his work with the Trans4mation String Quartet (Wigmore Hall, Nov 24) shows how creatively classical techniques nowadays meet jazz-improv skills halfway. And though Charles Gayle (Baltic Restaurant, Southwark, Nov 18) might seem to represent another sax species, this US free-jazz legend's roots are in revolutionaries like the late Albert Ayler and John Coltrane.
Improvising pianists play a big part in this year's festival, with French-Serbian pianist Bojan Z (Pizza Express, Dean Street, Nov 18-19) splicing the jazz of Ornette Coleman into Balkan and eastern influences. Italian Stefano Bollani (Barbican, Nov 21) is a comprehensively endowed, surreally witty pianist who appears with his homeland's biggest trumpet legend, Enrico Rava, and opposite Tord Gustavsen, the Jan Garbarek of world-jazz piano. Brad Mehldau's former teacher Fred Hersch (LSO St Luke's, Nov 22), plays piano-trio reinterpretations of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Thelonious Monk among others, but a rigorous musical intelligence and a treasure-house of references makes all his backward glances new. The same goes for the legendary, and still trenchantly robust UK octogenarian Stan Tracey (Museum of Garden History, Nov 16; Bulls Head, Barnes, Nov 24), whose mix of bullying, jackhammer chords and rugged, Duke Ellington-ish lyricism is one of the most instantly recognisable sounds in contemporary music.
John Fordham
The singers

A few hardcore jazzers might consider some of the 2007 festival's vocal artists peripheral to the tradition, but almost all of the performers connect with it deep down. The four-time Mobo-winning British R&B singer Jamelia leads a glittering tribute to the late Ella Fitzgerald (We All Love Ella, Royal Festival Hall, Nov 16), with those subtle and versatile Brits Claire Martin, Juliet Roberts and Ian Shaw on the bill, plus the operatic but subversive New Yorker Lea DeLaria, the imperious Lizz Wright, and more. Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora (RFH, Nov 17) eloquently mingles African music and the yearning ballad traditions of Portuguese fado, and Liane Carroll (Royal Opera House, Nov 18; 606 Club, Chelsea, Nov 22) the nuances of a balladeer and the blues power of a bar-room entertainer. And Carol Grimes (Lauderdale House, Highgate, Nov 22), a maverick UK star for 30 years, explores her jazz and blues origins with an incandescent piano trio.
JF
The composers

There may still be a few jazz purists to whom composers are anathema, but the rest of us thank the creative individuals who provide such great springboards for improvisers to jump off. And give us a few tunes to whistle, too. John Dankworth (LSO St Luke's, Nov 18) has been a key player for more than half a century, not just for his own back catalogue, but for his encouragement of fellow composers such as Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and Daryl Runswick. Plenty of young composers make contributions to this year's festival, including the guys in Empirical and the Portico Quartet, but one of the more unusual projects is Siobhan Lamb's Meditations - Love, Loss, Hope, Peace, written for a large, eclectic ensemble led by Gerard Presencer (St Cyprian's, Marylebone, Nov 17).
If you have six hours to spare, you can hear the complete works of Thelonious Monk, one of the greatest composers ever, courtesy of Tony Kofi and Jonathan Gee's Monk Liberation Front (Queen Elizabeth Hall, Nov 25). The Britten Sinfonia celebrate Monk's near-contemporaries at the same venue with In the Spirit of Gil and Miles (Nov 24) and 1960s Blue Note survivor Charles Tolliver is one of the festival's great coups (QEH, November 19). There's also contemporary banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck paired with pianist Chick Corea, composer of some of the most enchanting tunes in the jazz catalogue. The saddest event, but possibly the most exhilarating, too, will be the final night's Joe Zawinul - A Tribute With the BBC Big Band, planned as a collaboration until the great man's unexpected demise in September (Barbican, Nov 25). The BBC band will play Vince Mendoza's arrangements of Zawinul's Weather Report compositions, with longtime Zawinul associate Victor Bailey on bass and Django Bates in the hot seat vacated by Joe.
John L Walters
The outsiders

The festival has always had a deft touch when it comes to programming artists who are not strictly jazz. Trumpeter Jon Hassell emerged from the cradle of minimalism (Terry Riley's In C) and ambient music (alongside Brian Eno) to develop what he calls "fourth world music".
On Nov 17, Jon Hassell and Maarifa Street bring their dense yet finely nuanced sound textures to the QEH. Brazilian singer-songwriter Joyce is another non-jazz musician with a fanatical following among both jazz and world music fans (Jazz Cafe, Nov 17). The most out-and-out feelgood gig is likely to be that of Orchestra Baobab, the Senegalese band who reformed after a lengthy layoff. Veteran drummer Steve Reid continues to be a bit of an outsider, collaborating with electronica whizz Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) for a gig opposite the massive Heritage Orchestra (Barbican, Nov 20). Peter Vermeersch's wild and crazy Flat Earth Society rip up the Southbank Centre that same night at the Purcell Room. Other less predictable events include the decidedly unjazzy Tuxedo Moon, brilliant improv bassist-composer Simon H Fell with the Offshoot (Vortex, Nov 22), and Hih, the new project from Monica Vasconcelos (Vortex, Nov 23), which includes a few songs co-written with Robert Wyatt. Barry Adamson (QEH, Nov 20-21), the ex-Magazine/Bad Seeds bassist known for his atmospheric album projects, is a provocative choice for Artist in Residence - his trademark fake jazz, imaginary soundtracks and low-rent mood music, stylishly presented, will make a refreshing change from all that authenticity.
JLW
· The London jazz festival runs between November 16 and 25. Details: londonjazzfestival.org.uk. · Fraud play the Vortex on November 21, Acoustic Ladyland play the Luminaire on November 22, Led Bib play the Luminaire on November 23 and Gutbucket play the Southbank Centre on November 25.
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Old 11.14.2007, 12:26 PM   #3
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labels labels labels.

sub sub sub sub sub sub sub sub sub sub sub genres.


i love most of which is mentioned in that article, i'll also have to check out the one i don't know.
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Old 11.14.2007, 12:35 PM   #4
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Guess I can't use "Death Jazz" as an ironic, made-up genre anymore. Damn.
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Old 11.14.2007, 01:17 PM   #5
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thanks for info moshe.
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Old 11.14.2007, 02:42 PM   #6
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nice Keenan quote
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Old 11.14.2007, 03:14 PM   #7
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I thought this was going to be an ephel duath thread.
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Old 11.14.2007, 03:43 PM   #8
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Jazz is life affirming.

Only whitey could twist it around like this.
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Old 11.14.2007, 04:28 PM   #9
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Nice read. Thanks.
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Old 11.14.2007, 04:30 PM   #10
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cant be bothered to read everything. just list good artists please.
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Old 11.14.2007, 08:42 PM   #11
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Ouh Yeah!
 
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Old 11.14.2007, 08:59 PM   #13
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I mean Yeah!
 
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Old 11.14.2007, 11:33 PM   #14
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EXCELLENT

I've gotta agree with everyneurotic
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Old 06.14.2008, 05:10 AM   #15
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Brownwood Presents Death Jazz @ The Roundhouse, 14th July 08
Posted: 2008-06-13





Courting controversy, that impish Radio 1 Worldwide DJ Gilles Peterson has just announced A Night Of Death [at Camden's Roundhouse which will feature Tokyo's Soil & “Pimp" Sessions, The Mighty Jeddo and the Neil Cowley Trio, alongside musikal selectahs Toshio 'UFO' Matsuura, drum'n'bass don Fabio and GP himself.
Tokyo's hi-rise renegades Soil & “Pimp" have long billed their local sessions as Death Jazz in the hope of alienating Japan's polite, noodling, straight ahead jazz cognoscenti along with those DJs and clubbers who favour all things “jazzy." However, in the context of Guardian scribbler Marcus O'Dair's The Noisy Rise Of Death Jazz, they are perceived as “a relatively straight jazz sextet with an over-eager marketing department." Ouch! Not a description to endear oneself to Soil & Pimp's megaphone wielding frontman.
That said, out there, in the web forums, there's a furious little debate going down between the boys. Alongside those quintessential avant garde jazz-men - Coltrane, Shepp, Mingus, Ayler, Sun Ra and Ornette - we have a whole other range of musical reference points to deal with. Pivotal to that essential Death Jazz mix are Cynic (one LP in '93.... these dudes are LARGE), Peter Brotzmann (crazy German horn player--check 'Machine Gun'), Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine [COLOR=#28415c! important][COLOR=#28415c! important]Music[/color][/color],' NYC's John Zorn and Original Silence - a kind of death-jazz supergroup, featuring the ubiquitous Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, alongside members of the Thing, Zu and Dutch experimental rockers the Ex. It's all pretty wild shit and it's just a starting point.
Dig in and check it out. Be bold but remember Jazz is product of slavery and racist repression, creativity in the face of adversity, it's a release as much as it's an art form and it was given to the world by Black Amerikka. As music it ranges over an array of emotions. It can be reflective or militant, it can make you weep and it can make you []dance. In 2008, the quest is whether this music can maintain its relevance and win a place in the hearts and minds of a new generation--including the girls.
A dark, banging, noise and nihilism infected session, populated by head nodding, out of shape geezers dressed in black, may well be your bag - and that's cool - but that's not A Night of Death Jazz at The Roundhouse. Expect that bug in the bassbin and the deep, dark, element of surprise. Dress up not down.

Posted by: AllAboutJazz.com Publicity
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Old 06.14.2008, 06:25 AM   #16
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i just saw the zu and mike patton playing together last night.
it was great.
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