Jazz has always been human-centric, a fact that has marginalized the work of non-humans who have contributed to the art form. Newly unearthed recordings indicate that animals have not just played a role in the evolution of jazzthey invented it.
On Zoo Note Records' Live From Noah's Ark: The Complete Recordings, every variant of jazzfrom New Orleans to post-bop and beyondis revealed as the product of bestial ingenuity that predates the first man-made strides by zillions of years.
When God decided to flood the earth, He told Noah to build an ark for the animals. Noah gave each animal a musical instrument so they wouldn't get bored. Before long, they were holding nightly concerts on the lower deck of the ark. Someone had the foresight to record these performances, and the rest is history.
On the first disc of Live From Noah's Ark, the music is still in its primitive stages, but highlights are provided by Louis Aardvark, Fats Walrus, Squirrel "Fatha" Hines, Jellyfish Morton, Kid Oriole, Yak Teagarden, Kiwi Russell, and Art Tapeworm.
Anticipating human-led big bands of the swing era are groups fronted by Crab Calloway, Duck Ellington, Glen Millipede, Count Bison, Lion L. Hampton, Woody Hermit Crab, and the Fabulous Horsey Brothers.
With the second disc, bebop emerges with contributions from Charles Mongoose, Thelonious Monkey, Grizzly Gillespie, Tadpole Dameron, Sonny Stoat, and Llama Jamal. Then come the hard boppers: Art Beaky and The Messenger Pigeons, Bunny Rollins, Clifford Hound, Freddie Buzzard, Horace Silverfish, McCoy Tiger, Sir Roland Pirhana, Amphibious Newborn, and Weasel Montgomery.
The arrival of cool jazz is signaled by a jam session featuring seafarers Miles Crayfish, Whale Shorter, Swan Carter, Tuna Williams, John Coltrout, and Eric Dolphin; offering a different take on the style are Lemming Tristano and Flea Konitz.
Disc three of Live From Noah's Ark is devoted entirely to performances by pianists who flew in from Birdland: Bud Fowl, Ostrich Peterson, Dove Brubeck (who plays "Rondo a la Turkey"), Duckbill Evans (featuring Scott LaSparrow), Finch Guaraldi, Chicken Corea, Herbie Hancockatoo, Keith Parrot, and Seagull Taylor.
Disc four focuses on vocalists, including Ella Fintzgerald, Billygoat Holiday (who sings "God Bless the Chimp"), Sarah Fawn, Dinosaur Washington, Hyena Horne, Opossum Dearie, and Tabby Lincoln. Featured male vocalists are Cheetah Baker ("There Will Never Be Another Ewe"), Frog Sinatra, Pony Bennett, Mel Termite (The Velvet Bug), Gnu Rawls, and Al Giraffe.
Disc five is centered on various and sundry approaches to jazz: the Latin jazz of Mosquito Puente and Arturo Sand Dollar; the bossa nova of Anteater Carlos Jobim; the rock-influenced stylings of Bat Metheny, Lyle Moose, and Gecko Pastorius; the smooth jazz of Bee Ritenour, Ram Z. Lewis, and Woodchuck Mangione; the regressive traditionalism of Wynton Marsupial; and the general eclecticism of post-boppers like Canary Burton, Steve Gadfly, Peter Urchin, Jackal DeJohnette, and Owl Di Meola.
Rounding out the collection is a disc of performances by animals with an avant-garde take on jazz: Hornet Coleman (featuring Charlie Haddock), Ferret Sanders, Archie Sheep, Halibut Ayler, Antelope Braxton, David S. Hare, and Sun Rat. Representing the "downtown scene" are John Zorny Toad, Shark Ribot, Elliott Shrimp, Bill Giselle, Zebra Parkins, Uri Canine, Blue-Footed Booby Previte, and Eyvind Kangaroo.
With Live From Noah's Ark: The Complete Recordings, the animal kingdom has once again proven itself superior to the human race in every imaginable way.