Thirsty Ear has consciously positioned itself at a median point between popular groove-based musics and exploratory jazz. On this release DJ Wally has at his disposal music played by some of the cream of free jazz players, including Matthew Shipp, David S. Ware and William Parker. Nothing Stays The Same
is composed of a number of medium length pieces, four or five minutes long, interspersed with shorter pieces, the briefest of which spans a mere 23 seconds.
Peter Gordon’s rather gorgeous, breathy flute threads its way through synth washes which soon fade out, leaving the flute to pirouette against silence. “A Day In The Life” brings on the beats and then walks them all over the place. The organ stabs, David Ware’s sax and Gordon’s flute combine together then pause briefly for a short beatless section of pouring rain mingled with vibes, then the beat kicks in again, underpinned by William Parker’s warm, on-the-one bass. There’s a strong sense of a narrative musical portrait being painted in sound by DJ Wally.
By the fourth track, "Thirsty Thrills," it’s clear that one of DJ Wally’s methods is to separate out the melodic kernels of the players’ solos and deploy them into musical collages. This technique is concerned with creating fluent compositions and moods, rather than exploring the possibilities of rupture and surprise, as exemplified by many of the original sample-heavy hip-hop classics. Indeed, there is a precedent for this in jazz production in some of Teo Macero’s early 1970s work with Miles Davis.
Given the combative, driving nature of the free jazz which comprises part of Thirsty Ear’s output, it would be interesting to hear a merging of the twin poles of groove and free jazz, challenging though such a prospect would be to achieve. The eighth track, “Shipp Solo (Interlude),” illustrates this dichotomy: it is a short, but demanding acoustic piano solo unmediated by any form of intervention by DJ Wally. There are many possibilities still to explore in the meeting between DJ/producer and the new jazz.
It would be churlish, however, to judge Nothing Stays The Same on criteria which it has evidently not set out to abide by. The fourteen tracks here display a wide variety of fascinating soundscapes and atmospheres which over the course of the CD travel a path of from cinematic mise-en-scene (“A Day In The Life”) to the psychedelic (“Paint By Number”) and tripped-out (“A- Plus”). DJ Wally’s latest release is a musical travelogue which navigates spaces, times and moods not a million miles from DJ Spooky’s Optometry with grace and elan.
Personnel: Guillermo E. Brown: drums; Daniel Carter: reeds; Keef Destefano: samples; Peter Gordon: acoustic
flute; Khan Jamal: vibes; William Parker: bass; Matthew Shipp: piano
David S. Ware: sax