Burnt Friedman & The NuDub Players: Can’t Cool (Nonplace)
Composer, arranger, producer, and performer (on drums, marimbas, vibes, synthesizer, piano, and other keyboards) Friedman normally blasts progressive rock and jazz apart, but when working with his NuDub Players ensemble he takes aim at de/constructing avant-garde reggae and dub. Whether inspired lunacy or just plain craziness, this third NuDub release, featuring Ian Perry on trombone, saxophonist Thomas Haas, and August Engkilde on double bass among twenty musicians from Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Detroit, Cape Town, Santiago de Chile, Cologne and Berlin, is no doubt twisted.
The first recognizable strains of reggae don’t drift into these mixes until halfway through the fourth track, “Dublab Alert,” and in general, making out the reggae roots of these gnarly dubs is generally close to impossible. “Fly Your Kite” does feature traditional Caribbean brass but at disjointed places in the rhythm. The jerk-around of the opening “Fuck Back” speaks of broken-ness in rhythm from both the African tribal and western industrial perspectives, and sounds so much more African than Caribbean that it almost does not fit with the rest of the set.
“Pater Nosser” partly consists of strange bird-like sounds that drunkenly wobble into and out of the mix while an accordion player wanders past just closely enough to hear. The Detroit collective His Name Is Alive join Friedman to reprise their original on this groaning NuDub cover of “Someday My Blues Will Cover the Earth.” “Get Things Strait” is creepy fun, sinisterly whispered raps quietly spreading like mutant algae throughout a murky, menacing lake.
This is difficult stuff. Friedman sort of ends up breaking apart and reassembling dub music. But dub music sort of breaks apart and reassembles reggae, so what the listener often hears is an abstraction of an abstraction, and it can be difficult to follow. But if you’ve ever wondered how a Teutonic experimental / avant-garde take on dub reggae would sound, here’s your answer. It is not sunny, feel-good island music. This is a dark, claustrophobic, unsettled and unsettling sound.
Jaco Pastorius: Punk Jazz: The Anthology (Rhino)
This comprehensive 28-track, two-CD anthology recounts in detail the genuine bass-playing revolution detonated by the IN YOUR FACE approach and sound advanced by Jaco Pastorius.
Like a good Anthology, this really covers just about everything: His five years as a third lead voice in Weather Report, alongside Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, with the ubiquitous “Birdland”; selections from his own sessions as a solo artist and a bandleader, including live recordings of “Punk Jazz,” his “Word of Mouth” band, and the Jaco Pastorius Big Band; guest spots with Pat Metheny, Paul Bley, Flora Purim, Airto (with Airto and Purim smartly programmed back to back), and Joni Mitchell, with languid and glorious versions of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from Mingus and “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines” from Mitchell’s live Shadows and Light album; even three previously unreleased tracks, including a home recording of his famously funky “The Chicken” and “Good Morning Anya” from Pastorius’ unfinished, never released second studio album for Warner Bros., the steel drum project Holiday For Pans.
It offers much proof positive of Jaco’s genius: As a soloist on “Batterie” in the company of Paul Bley, Pat Metheny, and Bruce Ditmas; with an impressionistic cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and a live solo version of “Amerika” that’s beautiful; and his fuzztone stomps through “Word of Mouth” (“Hendrix on bass” may be the only way to describe it) and the way he punches out “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” with a murderous flurry of sixteenth notes.
Punk Jazz is not only essential to understanding the last three decades of modern electric bass, it also serves as a de facto history of jazz fusion. Start with the beginning of the first disc, which leaps and gallops like a newborn colt, wild and unbridled, from combinations of amplified modern jazz and modern pop and rock such as the almost naively soulful “I Can Dig It Baby” and the hard-driving “Amelia” with Wayne Cochran’s C. C. Riders from 1972. Then sample the second disc and hear jazz fusion grow more sophisticated, partly from incorporating traditional ethnic instruments from every corner of the world, as on the full-blown orchestral suite “Chromatic Fantasy” and “Okonkolé Y Trompa” by the Pastorius Big Band in 1982.