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Extended Analysis

Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked

By Published: January 13, 2006

Impulse! may be the house that Trane built, but just as Coltrane moved forward, so does music.

Various Artists
Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked

Remix projects in general have more than their fair share of naysayers. And where often the crux of their arguments center around the issue of taking an established piece of art and adding unneeded elements or simply implying these projects are only available because of materialistic gains; there is the often overlooked fact that these reconstructions or remixes are created out of respect for the originals and often in attempt to reshape the source material into something new and bold while utilizing the elements of the originals.

And like all albums, Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked contains both successes and failures to various degrees. Politics of business aside, there are the inspired song constructions that don't revitalize the originals as much as stand beside them as their own forms of music and inspiration, just as there are others that fall short and thus their failure glows a little more brilliantly given their use of established originals. Thankfully though, Impulsive! more often than not falls in the former category rather than the latter and stands as a new high-water mark amidst the various other projects mining the catalogs of Blue Note, Savoy, and the highly erratic Verve series.

The level is set fairly high early on through Sa-Ra's "'GO' Remix of George Russell's "A Helluva Town (from the album New York, N.Y.) characterized by Jon Herndrick's intro to the original and the horn section carrying the melody in a manner similar to the original. In place of Max Roach's energetic and harried undercurrent of the original, Sa-Ra has created a pulsating bed of handclaps, drums, and an interweaving keyboard line all emphasized through his use of the brass section. Here, as with most of tracks, on the album, melody and rhythmic interplay are emphasized over solos. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the power or emotional content of the originals.

A case in point would be RZA'a "Mingus Bounce Mix of Charles Mingus' "II B.S. that builds in parallel to the original in ferocity but in a wholly new way. Opening with stuttering horn calls into the looping bounce of woodblocks setting the backdrop while the horns and Mingus' bass finish each others statements, all of Mingus' heart is still evident in each pluck of his bass. True to its title, the song bounces along to a sort of confrontation playing on some of the sounds he is known for, and leads into cascading crescendos of horns that build to the climax. Like Russell's "A Helluva Town these are obviously homages as much as new creations.

And that is the biggest asset of Impulsive!. Chief Xcel's (of Blackalicious) understanding and beautiful integration of the passion and heart of Archie Shepp's "Attica Blues, replete with chorus sections and the big soul jazz production, opens this song up to a whole new set of listeners. As does Kid Koala's understated reconstruction of Yusef Lateef's "Bamboo Flute Blues. Kid Koala doesn't set out to overwhelm listeners with technique or bombast, but rather takes the source material and creates a late night radio transmission of the blues in what may very well be a single take.

All in all, there are few tracks here that truly fall short. And this is usually due to unnecessary repetition, but as mentioned before, like any music, this is truly subjective. Although Gerardo Frisina's remix of Dizzy Gillespie's "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac is energetic and fun, outside of Gillespie's enigmatic solo and vocalizations, it varies little from presentations of Dizzy on the Verve Remixed series. Most disappointedly is the final track that hardly fits with the rest of the music featuring Ravi Coltrane and his current band along with Julie Patton reciting John Coltrane's poem "At Night. And while the content and musicianship is not the issue, given the album as a whole, the track feels more like a hidden track that should have been placed ten minutes beyond the official program.

Chosen by the remix artists rather than assigned by the label, what Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked presents is a glance back while looking forward. Impulse! may be the house that Trane built, but just as Coltrane moved forward, so does music. Building from what has come before while moving forward. It would be truly interesting to see what critics would say if a repertory band or some other conglomeration of musicians undertook these songs in a more traditional manner much the same way jazz has done to all the now recognized songs that characterize jazz.

Nonetheless, when Telefon Tel-Aviv's remix of Oliver Nelson's classic "Stolen Moments comes around, one can truly hear and understand where these remix artists are coming from. All of the beauty is retained but presented through a new lens and means—the melody carried in a different form but carrying the same message.

Tracks: George Russell: Helluva Town (SA-RA "GO" Remix); Charles Mingus: II B.S. (RZA's Mingus Bounce Mix); Chico Hamilton: El Toro (Mark de Clive-Lowe Remix); Gabor Szabo: Mizrab (Prefuse 73 Remix); Dizzy Gillespie: Wing Low, Sweet Cadillac (Gerardo Frisina Remix); Clark Terry & Chico O'Farrill: Spanish Rice (DJ Dolores Remix); Archie Shepp: Attica Blues (The Chief Xcel of Blackalicious Remix); Pharoah Sanders: Astral Traveling (Boozoo Bajou Remix); Yusef Lateef: Bamboo Flute Blues (Kid Koala Remix); Oliver Nelson: Stolen Moments (Telefon Tel-Aviv Remix); John Coltrane: At Night (A Poem Featuring Ravi Coltrane w/Julie Patton).

Personnel: SA-RA Creative Partners: Om'Mas Keith, Shafiq Husayn, Taz Arnold: instruments, sequencing, programming (1); RZA: recording, mixing (2); Mark de Clive-Lowe: remix, additional production, additional instrumentation (3); Bembé Segué: vocals (3); Diego Carlin: mix (3); Guillermo S. Heren/Prefuse 73: remix, additional production (4); Gerardo Frisina: remix, additional production (5); DJ Dolores: beats, cuts (6); Gabriel Melo: guitar (6); Maestro Forro: trumpet (6); Parrot: sax (6); Sid: percussion (6); Chief Xcel: production (7); Russ Elevado: mix (7); Boozoo Bajou: remix (8); Peter Heider, Florian Seyberth: production, mix, arrangement (8); Kid Koala: remix, production (9); Telefon Tel-Aviv: remix (10); Joshua Eustis: arrangement, conduction, manipulation, recording (10); Chamber Orchestra of Loyola University, New Orleans: performance (10); John Vajner: soloist (10); Turk Dietrich, Alfredo Noguei: recording (10); John Coltrane: poetry (11); Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone, composer, producer (11); Julie Patton: voice (11); Luis Perdomo: piano (11); Hans Glawischnig: acoustic bass (11); Marcus Gilmore: drums (11); Anna M. Sala: assistant producer (11); Bobo Fini: recording, mixing (11).

For more information on the artists involved, visit Verve Music Group's Impulsive! artist page.

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