Thursday, March 31, 2011

When you're bored with rock'n'roll...

I never thought it would happen to me - and I hope it doesn't - but I almost feel as if over the last few years I've gotten a little less rock'n'roll. I say that because I haven't heard any new music in years that truly got me going, excited me...I'd say the last band that did that to me was the Blues Explosion, and that was the 1990s. Brief highs from Slough Feg, The Upper Crust, Wolfmother, Enduro, The Black Keys, and other bands have turned me on from time to time but for the most part, I find myself listening to less and less rock music, and when I do, it's either a massive 1980s pop mix I made, or stuff that predates me, mostly heavy art rock ala Tull and Rush.

As of a few years ago, I started getting into jazz music, taking the time to understand it and whatnot...I've been into Thelonius Monk and Charles Mingus since the mid-1990s but it's only been in the last few years that I've gotten to the point that I can truly call myself a jazz aficionado. But it's all old stuff. It seems new jazz is all Kenny G-esque, at least the stuff I've been exposed to, and I'm partial to Ornette Coleman weirdness, hard bop, and all that artsy 1950s and 1960s stuff (as for the 1970s, I was pleased to learn Herbie Hancock was actually pretty awesome, pre-synthesizer). But as far as new jazz goes, I hadn't heard any I liked until recently.

New Generation Big Band - "Shoot" - This young jazz band from the Netherlands has that old-time Benny Goodman big band feel...but they've got a modern touch I can't quite explain, with elements of hip hop, wawa guitar, and other stuff thrown in underneath some blistering horn parts and awesome solos, with the occasional female vocal. The biggest impression I had after listening to the opening track, "Durban Poison", is "this sounds like 70s cop show music." And indeed it does, as does the track "Shoot." You can hear some samples here. This stuff borders on artsy-fartsy, but avoids being academic. In other words, it's got soul, but its a soul informed by knowing what the hell they're doing. If you're in the mood for some classic big band sounds with a bit of modern grunge and grit, this could be entertaining.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've been really into this soft piano jazz band, the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, a Polish group, whose album "January" is very nice. This is exactly the type of music I would have NOT liked when I was young...it borders on elevator music, or the kind of "soft jazz" you might hear in an expensive restaurant. But there's something spooky, otherworldly, and almost New Agey about these guys that I really like, and it's been my record of choice when I want some relaxing background music over the last week or two. I heard them on NPR, and the reviewer praised their subtle, pretty melodies. Actually, more than anything, this sort of reminds me of the soundtrack music for all those Charlie Brown specials - not the main theme everyone knows, but those quieter ones...you can almost picture an adult Schroeder picking away at these tunes. I wish I could articulate what it is I like about this, but I'm not sure I can other than to say it's relaxing, compelling, and makes a good soundtrack for quiet down-time, reading, or whatever.

Next time, I'll talk about some Renaissance and Baroque era picks I've been enjoying.

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