Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Stop asking! You can never know: Jazz for Metal Part 1


I have previously referred to the complex and convoluted interrelationship between the blues, jazz, hip hop, reggae and most other musical genres originating from African cultural practices and the mostly white (yet ever increasingly diverse if Metal Hammer’s Planet Metal compilations have any stake in definition) music known as metal. Reflecting on the common roots of these very (extremely) different genres and the paths they have taken through time, space and culture is a frequent personal custom. That said, for every open-minded, musically switched on metal head there seems to be an equivalent cellar-dwelling “tr00-er than you” version. This feature is not about why metal heads should listen to jazz. We tend to listen always with an agenda anyway. Instead I want to take a moment to give respect that the jazz that I have listened to which has recalibrated or otherwise changed my metal ears for the better. In this way I hope to draw more explicit lines of cultural connection that have occurred over time yet been neglected in print. While highly unlikely that I will never be “of” an African American cultural and musical context, I can investigate and connect with the myriad common historical points by better understanding the music. No hard answers, no permanence and no promises.

Miles Davis – On the Corner

Miles Davis was never square and his path quite crooked but his musical talent, his feel for his form was extraordinary, from tribute, to sideman, from interpreter to innovator Davis’ influence looms large over modern, popular expressions of jazz. However, for me, his key album was his least popular and widely disliked On the Corner. Breaking from genre confines and embracing technological advances (a truly cu and paste album if there ever was one) Davis’ 1971 masterpiece takes a very laid back, deep swinging rhythm section and plonks a tough, electrified funk, rock and blaxploitation informed aesthetic right over the top. Though the casual listener might not notice the whole affair was meticulously constructed from a number of samples/loops taken from straight sessions and then arranged for a new aesthetic. An exorbitantly priced 6 CD box set exists out there which contains the original non-edited master takes of the On the Corner sessions. Listening to the unedited versions helps to remind the listener of the classic/traditional grounding of the sound and make the edited versions sound so unique and interesting, demonstrating how cut and paste melodic and harmonic juxtaposition can create something so familiar and yet so strange and new.
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