It’s hard to believe but it looks like summer is here, in France. I could probably put together a list of essential jazz recordings to pack into your beach bag and just throw it out there. But I got to thinkin’, who in their right mind would actually listen to, say, Cecil Taylor or Andrew Hill over margaritas and in sweltering weather…(hold on folks, the list comes at the end of the post)
Also, I needed to make amends and give some long overdue praise to Butcher Brown, a hip hop-funk band which I have been listening to pretty consistently this year, whenever I want to take a break from my daily hardcore jazz/improv diet. In fact, for all their beat-driven instrumentation, each member has some serious chops suggesting heavy backgrounds in jazz, especially the drummer. I had been waiting for this, musicians celebrating Blaxploitation-era grooves and funk with a fresh modern edge. The band does a great job combining the alluring slinkiness of the 70s – having the Rhodes as a founding instrument makes the connection inevitable (think Roy Ayers for example) – with the more recent hip-hop beat culture. But make no mistake, this is not your bland jazzy loungy outfit trying to sell you on the merits of instrumental music. Comprising guitar, electric bass, Rhodes, some vocals and drums, the group harnesses the best and most influential fixtures of Black American music – the groove, the rhythm, the soul – and makes fresh fully instrumental music out of it. There is definitely a jazz attitude in that kind of proposition, a desire to acknowledge the seriousness and diversity of modern beats and how they pervade a wide spectrum of contemporary music. I hear you, Robert Glasper fans out there. Many jazz musicians today are celebrating hip hop culture and incorporating its rhythmic potential into their adventurous compositions. It’s a powerful force and it makes sense that some of today’s jazz is catching on to those beats. But back to Butcher Brown. The band has a full album available for free download on their website, here. So, no lame excuses, if you haven’t checked it out yet, now is the time. I’m telling you, you’ll want to drive around (if you don’t own a car like me, you’ll enjoy it even better as a backseat driver) windows down, nodding to the vibe, wishing you had been 20 in 1975. With spacious guitar, tight drumming (man, that drummer is really good), rumbling bass lines and titles like “Starlight Starbright, Brotha Bossa Nova, Beauty or Original Gangsta Music”, what else do you need to chill out and still keep your ears sharp? This is laid-back music played with conviction and taste. When you feel rested enough, there are some badass improvisers putting out new records by the ton these days. Probably a sign that while music doesn’t have to be serious, our troubled times require serious creativity. Maybe more writing on these recordings when I have processed them all.
And happy summer to you
Butcher Brown, A-sides, B-sides (what? You haven’t checked that out yet)
J Dilla, Donuts/Rebirth of Detroit. Now I understand the worship surrounding the legendary hip hop producer, some killing flow on this)
“And now for something completely different”:
Eric Revis, Parallax (with Nasheet Waits, Jason Moran & Ken Vandermark). Revis is a new hero of mine on bass, period.
Craig Taborn, Light Made Lighter (with Chris Lightcap and Gerald Cleaver)
Orrin Evans, “…it was beauty” (with Eric Revis and Donald Edwards). Can’t wait to listen to the full album.
And a big merci to Dirty Grids for the post illustration.