12 April 2012

Mix Tape: Jazz 2012

I've been noticing a lot more metalheads getting into jazz lately, though maybe that's also because I myself am only beginning to flex my newfound smoky suave lounge chaos muscle and have been opening my eyes to a rich oasis of new sounds foreign to my bloody and beaten down ears that have existed for all to find, but only if you're looking. I owe the great Aesop Dekker (of the infinitely amazing Cosmic Hearse, as well as current drummer for Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros) a heaping debt of gratitude for introducing, in a manner that I can relate to, the world of great jazz music. All of these songs came from his personal selections on his blog, so I suggest you take a ride on the Hearse if you haven't already. This mix will fit on a standard 80-minute CD. Try something new, I included a small writeup for each song, just read more for the goods. Light that cigar, swirl the ice in your glass and relax with my favourite collection of jazz.

1. Kenny Dorham - Mexico City ('Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia, 1956)
Beginning the mix with Mexico City, this song is driven by the main chopped up speedy trumpet riff. Reminds me of what the city would actually be like, very late night hustle and bustle, there's good forward motion, a great guitar section around 3:45 in. Brings to mind images of the orange glow of early morning street lights.

2. Sonny Rollins - Asiatic Raes (Newk's Time, 1957)
For the first few seconds, the drums sound like an intro to a Melvins song, but then the main riff kicks in and I fuckin' love it. It's a sly and sultry mischievous swing that wraps in on itself with a triumphant moment of 'Ha!' as if you just got away with something you'd get in trouble for. This is more of a herb-smoking jazz song, with a great drum solo about 4:30 in.

3. Art Blakey - The Drum Thunder Suite (Moanin', 1958)
Right off the bat, this comes out with bombast and tommy-gun boldness. Very much like the big-band style of the 50's, with the whiffs of old-school mafia godfather cigar smoke. A more percussive, aggressive jazz track.

4. Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman (The Shape of Jazz to Come, 1959)
Immediately comes across as very late-night and sexy. The moaning of the saxophone portrays the anguished longing to be sensually caressed of such a lonely woman. The main riff can come across as overly dramatic, almost begging to the point of whining or exhaustingly demanding.

5. Freddie Hubbard - Plexus (Hub Cap, 1961)
Alright, this is the track that started it all, this is the song that really opened the floodgates that jazz can actually be fucking awesome music. If it weren't for this behemoth, this mix wouldn't exist. This is an all-around great track, its main riff is epic as fuck, it works any time of the day, suits any occasion. There's a great sense of tension, great buildup, perfectly arranged. My favourite jazz song, no question.

6. Leo Parker - Bad Girl (Rollin' with Leo, 1961)
Sexual tension is all over this track. Even without knowing the title, the feeling while listening is some kind of courtship going on between the bad girl and the mischievous man. Though, this is not blatant sex music, this is playful foreplay music. Seductive loungy pianos lead the way through this smoky hen house.

7. Herbie Hancock - Watermelon Man (Takin' Off, 1962)
Here comes the sun. Life is good, you've got a strut in your stride, you can take on anything. Nothing can bring you down with this. Even when shit hits the fan, you can throw this on and it's all good. No problem. Blue skies, the world is your oyster (whatever that means). Reminds me of the Peanuts theme song.

8. Dexter Gordon - Love for Sale (Go!, 1962)
Latin/Cuban percussion rhythms carry on the good vibes from Herbie Hancock, but this one suits more of a rainy day indoors. Of all the songs, this is probably the most 'plain' sounding. Sure, it's fairly generic, pleasing, suits elevators well, but overall a great dose of suave, comfortable, self-confident and well dressed.

9. Charles Mingus - Duet Solo Dancers (The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, 1963)
Taking things well into the night, this track portrays more of a feminine point of view (in my opinion). A sense of the desire for love, to the point of longing, eventually makes way for a dance between the lowest deepest slowest doomiest tones of satisfaction found on this mix, and the chaotic vocalizations of the saxophone craving more. Along with "Plexus," this will appeal to those not familiar with jazz.

10. Andrew Hill - Pumpkin (Alternate) (Black Fire, 1963)
A great example of frantic swaying hard bop. Ominous undertones of the main riff swell with anxiety, almost as if being chased. The title suits the darker almost Halloween vibes of a mid-autumn romp through the pumpkin patch. Smooth never tasted so chilling.

11. Eric Dolphy - Hat and Beard (Out to Lunch, 1964)
This is an avant-garde jazz masterpiece. This is probably the darkest track on the mix. What may seem harmlessly aloof on the surface is actually bathing in menacingly creepy, or eerie, ominous torture beneath the surface. Listen about 3:20 in, you can almost feel horrors of Lovecraft being exorcised to life, before the strings around 6 minutes in saw them apart limb from limb. Must be heard to be believed.

12. Wayne Shorter - Chaos (The All Seeing Eye, 1965)
And finally we end with a great example of the chaos of jazz taken to its logical conclusion. Polyrhythmic, multitextural, dense composition, and belligerent aggression rule over this. Around this time in history, rock and roll was beginning to take the 'extreme' spotlight away from the harder forms of jazz, so I could almost think of this as a passing of the torch, and proof that jazz is fucking badass. Having said that, with this track, we are back to the entropic void of chaos from which this style of music first arose.

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