Mylab: Mylab (2004)
It took a a while to happenno thanks, neo-consbut the most important musical invention for jazz since '70s jazz/rock fusion came with the onset of hip hop (and its corrollary, electronica) in the '90s. It's taken some time for improvised music to fully absorb the concepts of sampling and electronic studio manipulation, but that's not because the jazz world hasn't been trying. Mostly the joyous noise just fell on deaf(ened) ears.
Keyboardist Wayne Horwitz first rose to prominence with John Zorn's bizarre genre- crossing Naked City, but since then he's more than established himself as a leader, collaborator, and player in his own right. Horwitz recently joined together with frequent Seattle collaborator Tucker Martine, who plays drums (among many other things), to form a cooperative duo known as Mylab. Their self-titled record serves as a full-fledged manifesto of hip hop's power to propel jazz.
But don't go looking for square funky beats, tedious rapping, or scratch solos. Mylab samples folk and found sounds, for example the "Master Korean Musicians of Canada" or petite string/voice call-and-response music from Mali on "Phil and Jerry." The record was apparently put together starting with samples assembled by Horvitz and Martine (thus the most obvious, though abstruse hip hop foundations), but fifteen musicians jump on board together and separately at various points along the way to lend a welcome "liveness" to the sound. Robin Holcomb sings plaintively on the former track; Eyvind Kang serves up plucked ngoni strings on the latter (in addition to nine other musicians hawking their wares).
And in many cases those samples disappear under textural layers, which is just fine, but it's nice to know these tracks have organic roots. The folkish Americana tune "Workaholic Song" has a loping sense of melancholy that's wrapped in reverberant keyboard and guitar textures (Bill Frisell's signature sound most obviously apparent). Studio production is always a double-edged swordsthe right amount of the right kind and the music flies free, too much of the wrong kind and it teeters over and crashes. In this case the production is unobtrusive, well-balanced, and varied enough to remain unpredictable.
The flip side of all this unbridled creativity is that some tracks work better than others, and depending on the open-mindedness of the listener, some may not work at all. That's not much of a problem for this pair of ears, but your mileage may vary. The bluntly repetitive "Earthbound" may present too much of the same same for some; "Ask Mickey" is just plain noisy. But as in many cases, the troublesome tracks lurk at the end, which makes the rest all the more satisfying.
Track Listing: Pop Client; Master Korean Musicians Of Canada; Land trust Picnic; Varmint; Fancy Party Cakes; Phil And Jerry; Workaholic Song; Old Days; Earthbound; Not In My House; Ask Mickey; Chi-Chi Marina.
Personnel: Wayne Horvitz - Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano, Hammond B3 Organ, Pump Organ, Synthesizers; Tucker Martine - Drums, Percussion, Treatments, Field Recordings; Danny Barnes - Banjo, Dobro, Vocals; Dave Carter - Flugelhorn; Bill Frisell - Guitar; Robin Holcomb - Vocals; Orville Johnson - Fiddle; Kassemadi Kamissogo - Ngoni; Eyvind Kang - Viola; Briggan Krauss - Saxophone; Keith Lowe - Acoustic bass, Electric bass; Bobby Previte - Drums; Andy Roth - Drums; Skerik - Saxophone; Reggie Watts - Vocals; Doug Wieselman - Guitar, Clarinet, Saxophone; Timothy Young - Guitar; Lowell Horvitz - Giggles; Sofia Barsher - Giggles.