Six Sideways, Side by Side

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Continued explorations of music "outside jazz from within the jazz perspective...

James Chance & the Contortions
Soul Exorcism (Redux)
ROIR
2007

Soul Exorcism (Redux) is just as much a document of a space and time as it is the triumphant reissue of the legendary live album by James Chance & the Contortions.

Chance & the Contortions (and his alter-ego-band, James White & the Blacks) were focused on probing the outer reaches of the late 1970's black and white musical fringes—Miles Davis' fractious funk-jazz experiments from one side, and obnoxiously loud and aggressive punk rock from the other—and with much thrashing tried to move toward both directions at the same time: Jazz / Funk / Punk. This blistering live album, recorded in Rotterdam June 1980, sounds as audacious as that concept; you can still wonder 27 years later if this is wicked music or a wicked joke.

Chance certainly put together a rhythm section - drawing drummer Richie Harrison from Defunkt and bassist Al McDowell from Ornette Coleman's Prime Time—with sharp enough shops to pull it off, or at least try. You'll be able to tell if you can handle it from the opening contortion of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough : Lorenzo Wyche blows through that familiar, opening trumpet hook at about four times the original's speed, saxophone paints a nightmare with sound, and Chance can't even sing the lyrics so much as he roars them out, almost struggling to keep pace with the instrumental rampage.

The harmonized horn passage in "I Danced with a Zombie feels like New Orleans style collective improvisation, albeit from a more lunatic jazz perspective, and increasingly hypnotic over its eight minutes. "Zombie lurches into "Exorcise the Funk, an archetype of this album's sound - bleating, braying, aggravating, grating, all entirely on purpose. (Chance's / White's own articulate liner notes often belie the apparent viciousness of this music: "For example, 'I Danced with a Zombie' might be described as a cross between Haitian voodoo music the Afrosoul of Fela Kuti. )

Exorcism also captures Chance's epic workout of James Brown's "King Heroin, jarring and chilling, not melodic or enjoyable, a sick performance of a song written about sickness. Chance's 1987 studio version of Brown's "I Don't Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing is one of this reissue's bonus cuts.

Soul Exorcism sounds like James Chance / White surveyed the 1980 contemporary music scene, saw Michael Jackson rocking with you on one front, Rick James preparing to get all Super Freaky on another, with Davis scrambling experimental jazz-funk omelets in the kitchen, and wondered, "Hey, why should black people have all the fun?

Gaudi + Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Dub Qawwali
Six Degrees
2007

At the time of his 1997 passing, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was widely recognized as a transcendent and eternal-sounding vocalist and as the world's premier Qawwal, a singer of traditional Qawwali music, spiritual music from Pakistan with ancient roots in Sufism. (Khan's voice was even beginning to appear in progressive "western music such as, for example, Peter Gabriel's work on The Last Temptation of Christ).

Many miles and cultures removed from Khan, composer / producer Gaudi had released eleven solo albums and soundtracks plus 80 remix albums in his personalized, flowing techno-reggae style -"gaudi-dub - from his homebase in London. But in 2005, Gaudi began conceiving this new production, composing original music for new Khan recordings that had just been discovered in Pakistan, and released Dub Qawwali to coincide with the tenth anniversary of Khan's death. "Stylistically, I'm trying to fuse different cultures, genres and sounds while keeping the unifying element of love, Gaudi explains.

Little distinguishes individual tracks on an album which unfurls as one continuous, lushly-piled musical tapestry. Quite often, as in the opening "Bethe Bethe Kese Kese, tabla percolates within the thick and stately, foundational rhythm while violin follows to doubles Khan's voice; when the instrumentation drifts off elsewhere, Khan's ethereal vocal always grounds and returns it to the groove. Khan's introduction to "Jab Teri Dhun Main Raha Karte They seems to fly out of its surrounding echo like a soul departing the body, as does his first verse to "Ghamgar Bare Ne, so yearning and plaintive.

This unique cross-cultural combination of modern technology and ancient spirituality can sometimes feel incongruous, as when Gaudi incorporates features of "The Model (by Kraftwerk) into the chanted prayer "Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi. Even if Dub Qawwali is the result of a collaboration between two artists who never met, Gaudi can still enthuse, "After 26 years of music activity, I have to say that this is the most important production I have ever done.


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