The greatest holiday film ever made was not Jimmy Stewart's It's A Wonderful Life
, from 1946, but the 1955 black comedy We're No Angels
. Its three starsHumphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Rayplay escaped convicts from Devil's Island who hide out in the home of a naive family running a local haberdashery. The trio set out to rob the family, but end up defending them against their evil and wealthy cousin on Christmas Eve.
We're No Angels demonstrates the rashness of prejudging books by their covers. Likewise, new bands, playing hardcore music in 2009 present a challenge to listeners when their genre-defying music is given the sales defeating title "jazz." Where the term "punk" might best describe this music, the term also connotes more attitude than musicianship. The following discs contain both a hardcore mentality, yet retain the virtuosity expected of serious music.
The Flying Luttenbachers
The band The Flying Luttenbachers, founded by drummer Weasel Walter with the legendary improviser Hal Russell
in 1991, officially ceased to exist in 2007. Its mythos is one of Chicago's no wave/punk/death-metal/noise/jazz scene that has included a few artists that have endured in today's jazz and improvised worldsaxophonist Ken Vandermark
, trombonist Jeb Bishop
, and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm
. Walter can also be heard with the jazz improvisers guitarist Mary Halvorson
and trumpeter Peter Evans
, among others. He has kept the Luttenbacher brand alive reorganizing the band, recording music, and releasing its discs on his label ugEXPLODE.
Cataclysm is a re-release of an out-of-print studio session with bassist Mike Green and guitarists Ed Rodriguez and Mick Barr. The music hits immensely hard with the overriding theme of speed and virtuosity. Guitar dominated music like "Demonic Velocities/20,000 Volts" and "The Elimination Of Incompetence" with Walter kicking the drums into overdrive leaves little time for contemplation. The band's "try to keep up with us" attitude can get a bit taxing, as the music is relentless. Even when Walter plays all the instruments, as on "Regime Pt. 1," the subjugation is complete.
Seabrook Power Plant
Seabrook Power Plant
Avant banjo player Brandon Seabrook (that's right, banjo) is a New England Conservatory graduate who first came to notice in the radical Jewish punk band Naftule's Dream. He has also been a member of trumpeter Peter Evans' ensemble. With Seabrook Power Plant he has assembled an avant/metal power trio with his younger brother, drummer Jared Seabrook, and bassist Tom Blancarte. Their style flaunts a cocksure confidence in all things that rock.
The opening track, "Peter Dennis Blanford Townshend," dedicated to The Who's often finger-bleeding guitarist, is presented in hyper-speed, sounding as if your CD is revolving a double time. Seabrook's banjo velocity is only matched by the machine gun drumming of his brother. When Seabrook switches to guitar on "I Don't Feel So Good" the speed crawls into the realm of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." The hallucinatory "Waltz Of The Nuke Workers" twists a kaleidoscopic guitar passage into puzzle of sound. The disc juggles the seemingly contradictory torpid tracks against the hyper-speed playing of Seabrook, perhaps to give listeners a rest. Seabrook Power Plant is an oddity of punk/rock/folk/jazz.
After The Air Raid
In form, Zevious is a traditional power trio of electric guitar, bass and drums. But the group didn't start out this way in 2006, when it featured an acoustic jazz format. With the substitution of electric instrumentation and distortion pedals in 2008, its approach to music changed, but its grounding in group improvisation remained. After The Air Raid is a genre busting brawny recording that leans more towards technical metal than jazz. That said, the trio favor odd-metered grooves and a rocking beat. Guitarist Mike Eber, also a member of the bands Smother Party and Mea'l, wrote seven of the tracks, bassist Johnny DeBlaze the other four. The band juxtaposes quiet intensity against noisy distortion on "The Children And The Rats," culminating in a silent stoppage. Zevious favors the thunderous bass line over a swing one, but retains the skill of a jazz band. Its quiet/loud approach makes for a winning sound.
The Philadelphia trio Many Arms plays fast, loud and very much in control. Its brand of punk/jazz is equal measures King Crimson and The Minutemen. Whereas the 1980's DIY-ers made attitude music first, the musicians later concentrated on learning their instruments (if they wanted to remain in the scene), and these boys are a well drilled unit. They are guitarist Nick Millevoi (Make A Rising, Circles), bassist John DeBlase (Zevious), and drummer Ricardo Legume (Joe Lally Band). The group's music is relentless, as heard on "It Was The Medicine," and "The Year 500 Billon," with speed and volume essential ingredients. It can also play off the quiet-to-loud sound on "A Vision Of The Past, A Vision Of The Future" with some prog-rock that turns inward to an almost, gulp, jazz mentality, before heading back towards its love for guitarist Robert Fripp
's tight spirals of logic.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Cataclysm; Demonic Velocities/20,000 Volts; Insectoid Horror; The Elimination Of Incompetence; From Oblivion; Interstellar War; Lovement Four Of "L'ascension"; Regime Pt. 1; Regime Pt. 2.
Personnel: Weasel Walter: drums, insekt guitar (1), bass (7) all instruments (8), mellotron (9); Ed Rodriguez: electric guitar; Mick Barr: electric guitar; Mike Green: bass.
After The Air Raid
Tracks: Where's The Captain?; Come Cluster; Mostly Skulls; The Ticket Exploded; The Noose; iNCITING; Gradual Decay; The Ditch; After The Air Raid; The Children And The Rats; Glass Tables.
Personnel: Mike Eber: guitars; Johnny DeBlase: electric bass, upright bass; Jeff Eber: drums.
Seabrook Power Plant
Tracks: Peter Dennis Blanford Townshend; Ho Chi Minh Trail; Waltz Of The Nuke Workers Occupation 1977; Base Load Plant Theme; I Don't Feel So Good; Feedlot Polio; Doomsday Shroud.
Personnel: Brandon Seabrook: guitar, banjo; Tom Blancarte: bass; Jared Seabrook: drums.
Tracks: It Begins...; Snakes In The Grass; Purple Better One; The Year 500 Billion; Transfiguration Of Man Into Beast; It Was Medicine; Jungle Cats (Zilla); A Vision Of The Past, A Vision Of The Future.
Personnel: Nick Millevoi: guitar; John DeBlase: bass; Ricardo Lagomasino: drums.