Monday, September 05, 2016

Music Mondays: Dark Jazz

The modern music scene is a mess. And that's probably a good thing.

Not every one would say so. Record labels are still shaking their heads over the fact that they lost control so quickly. One moment, the masses listened to what they were told to and the next, independent artists were dumping their efforts onto a variety of websites and getting virtual airtime without an agent or an audition or anything. These artists just throw it all out there and hope for the best. It's chaos. It's creative anarchy.

And it's probably a really good thing.

Now we, the listeners, the potential audience must wade through more material of questionable quality but the cream still rises to the top and as a bonus, we are sometimes exposed to some genres that we might not have heard of in the days before the creative anarchy set in. And this is why I think the anarchy is a good thing. In the last five years, I've made more musical "discoveries" that have piqued and held my interest than in the previous forty by a ridiculous margin. And I think the more diverse my search history gets, the better chance of making even more discoveries and finding new creative renditions of anything gets me excited.

Today's example is Dark or Doom Jazz.

My musical tastes range far and wide. I like old school metal and thrash, eighties pop and nineties grunge, classical and electronic; basically anything that's not modern country or jazz.

Yeah, I'm not a fan of jazz. I never could get past the ingrained pretentiousness of it. I wallowed in the blues revival of the nineties and so I dipped pretty deep into jazz extensions of the blues but, to me, jazz is the blues all educated and refined but largely devoid of the passion that made the blues a window into the woolly confines of the human emotional condition. Jazz claims rules and pretense and structure and but even in the best improvisational solo, it gets mechanical. It should soar but to me it just rides the same train over and over.

That's just my opinion. And there are exceptions. But for the most part I'll move quickly to something else on the playlist.

But how did I get to be a fan of dark jazz if I'm not a fan of jazz?

Well, as usual, I came in the back way.  I was looking for some down-tempo electronic or maybe some trip hop. Something to play in the background that was compelling and maybe a little driving but still in the background. Something that could just fill the spaces during creative activities without becoming a driving force or an intrusion upon said activities. But maybe a shy participant.

That's why I was thinking ambient or trip hop. Maybe some Massive Attack or something similar. But a lot of trip hop gets pretty vocal and then I'm distracted.  So I can't tell Spotify or Pandora to just load a trip hop station and go to town.

After a bit of exploration, I landed on Kalpatura Tree. It fit the bill. It falls into sort of a world music dub mix that definitely fuels the creative vibe and atmosphere which is what I was looking for.

Search over? Not necessarily. Following a few rabbit holes and a post or two of "if you like this, then try x" I land in the midst of the dark jazz genre.

Well, it's jazz so I'm not going to like it. Right? But the name of one of the primary groups is so intriguing: The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble

They have full albums available on YouTube so I was listening and almost instantly I was a fan. This is what I was looking for. Subtle. Dark. Driving. Infinite. In the background but on your shoulder whispering. Maybe haunting in a way but you can leave it on the edges of perception or you can listen and be transported. Very artistic stuff. or very "sit on the window sill and watch it rain" kinda mood music that takes you and leaves you as you are.

If you are listening to Kilimanjaro, Bohren and der Club of Gore is going to pop up on the suggested list.  More of the same really with more sax. But so very good.

And guess what. That's it. You can look for other stuff that may be labeled "dark jazz" but, in my experience, it lacks subtlety and I always seem to circle back to Kilimanjaro and Bohren. Which is sad and exciting at the same time. Two cases of lightning in a jar that others seem to have trouble matching or catching. Yes, it's sad that we don't have more but it's also exciting that the bar has been set.  A standard is present that must be met or exceeded to count. I hope some one sees that as a challenge and makes some good stuff.

So, for your consideration: Dark Jazz. Give it all a listen while wearing something comfortable and sipping something edgy. Bourbon is a good choice. Maybe with a splash of water or just one ice cube.

Headphones are a must. Attitude is optional. Expect creative results.