For those of you who don't know about Aesop Dekker, the short version is that he is the drummer for bands like Agalloch, Ludicra and Worm Ouroboros. He also runs one of the most respected music blogs online over at Cosmic Hearse. His playing style shows a deep feel for the possibilities of the drums, the full range of acoustic dynamics, the nuanced rhythmic phrasing. This propensity was always a bit of mystery since the metal world is rarely known for such subtlety.
Poking around over at the Hearse it was nothing short of a revelation to find that he very publicly shares his love for jazz. You're as like to find black metal demos as Sam Rivers albums over there. He was even interviewed for NPR recently by Lars Gotrich, their resident metalhead, to talk about his five favorite jazz records. At a more selfish level, it was also a massive relief to hear that anyone else in the metal world loves great jazz, let alone such a significant figure!
All five album on that list at NPR are brilliant, with Dolphy's work always being a particular favorite of mine. But one curiosity to note about Dekker's list was that all 5 albums he listed were recorded in the early and mid '60's ('60 to '65 specifically.) While such a concentration might seem weird, it's actually not a major shock given that jazz was undergoing some revelatory changes then, incorporating many wildly disparate influences, artistically, socially and sonically.
While it's not a huge secret that I'm a giant jazz fan, my focus is on what's happening right now in the music, and the reason I wanted to share this mix is that jazz is currently going through another one of those vital periods. Listen tothe abusive metal tonality of Hilmar Jenson's guitar tone in the TYFT track. Or, if something seems interesting about the drumming from Tim Berne's "Snakeoil," that might be because it's the drummer from the underground band Xui Xui. From drone to avant big band to metal to arabic music to power electronics to ambient, the last decade has seen players from all over the globe come and with wildly diverse backgrounds joining together to make stunning albums.
I'm not saying all of this music is always easy to parse, but even without a background in jazz, anyone that likes weird, sophisticated, underground music of any stripe can find a wealth of inspiring ideas from these super-dedicated musicians. I've wanted to do this mix of my favorite contemporary jazz fans for ages and Dekker's NPR article was what I needed to bolster my confidence to that music fans of all genres might be as fascinated by this new millennium jazz as I've been!
As always, this mix is far from complete or exclusive. There are dozens of bands and albums I love that I had to cut for the sake of brevity. Second, I wanted to say massive thanks to Stef and the crew from Free Jazz, which is the #1 place on the internet you should stop through if you want to learn more about what's going on in improve music right now. Another thanks to fellow CalArts MFA alum Daniel Rosenboom who, owing to a random conversation at a jam session, rekindled my interest in this music. Finally, I also wanted to plug Joon and his club Blue Whale, which has brought some of the best exploratory jazz in the world to Los Angeles. If you're in the area, stop in — I've seen some absolutely mind-blowing shows there, many from these musicians.
Also, if you like any of this music, support these musicians — go out and buy the albums, see them live, give them a plug on Twitter — every bit helps!
Track List: (Artist / "Song" / Album)
1) The New Albert Beger Quartet — "Yellow" — Big Mother
2) Angles — "En Svensk Brownie" — Epileptical West – Live in Coimbra
3)Harris Eisenstadt — Judo with Tokyo Joe [for John Zorn] — Canada Day II
4) Rob Mazurek — Barriga da Baleia — Calma Gente
5) TYFT — "Froth" — Smell the Difference
6) Big Satan — "Hostility Suite" — Souls Saved Hear
7) Chris Speed — "Tangents" — Emit
8) Ikue Mori, Evan Parker, Bill Laswell, Mark Nauseef — "Nooks" — Near Nadir
9) Tim Berne — "Not Sure" — Snakeoil
10) The Vandermark 5 — "Green Mill Tilter" — The Horse Jumps & The Ship Is Gone
11) David Hurley — "Deep Giant Squid" — Outer Nebula Inner Nebula
12) Matthew Shipp Quartet — "Pastoral Composure" — Pastoral Composure
13) Otomo Yoshibide's New Jazz Quintet — "Song For Che — Reducing Agent" — Live In Lisbon
PS: One new album I've been loving, that I haven't owned long enough to make it on the mix, is Janel and Anthony's "Where Home Is" — grab it!