Matthew Herbert, the London-based music visionary, has recorded under the monikers Wishmountain, Radio Boy, and Doctor Rockit. Here, as "Herbert," he offers the remarkable Bodily Functions, an album that at once exemplifies the new trend called "electro-acoustic" music and yet seems to occupy a genre all its own. Blending piano, woodwinds, strings, house-music beats, musique-concrete samples, and the sultry vocals of Dani Siciliano, Herbert doggedly observes Article One of his Personal Contract for the Composition of Music (PCCOM): "The use of sounds that exist already... is not allowed." (Only eight of the 14 tracks are composed in strict accordance with the Contract. Check out www.matthewherbert.com for complete text of the Contract, along with lots of other poetic, political, and often bleakly humorous copy.)
For straight-ahead jazzers, who tend to insist on the importance of tradition, of sounds that already exist, Herbert’s radical views are likely to be an irritant. In this regard one should note that the word preceding "contract" is "personal": this is what is important to Herbert, but it’s not necessarily an attempt to invalidate other kinds of music. (Article Three, however, is an implicit rebuke to the superficial hip-pop of Sean Combs and his ilk: "The sampling of other people’s music is strictly forbidden.") That said, Herbert is clearly a person of strong opinions, and very serious about getting his anti-mainstream message across.
Herbert’s songs (and they are rightly called songs) do inevitably make reference to sounds and grooves that have come before. But on a literal level he keeps his word, relentlessly editing and filtering his sources to birth new sonic worlds. Even on acoustic, jazz-oriented tunes like "I Know," "The Last Beat," and "On Reflection," there are novel things going on in terms of production, things you’d never hear on a straight jazz record. In addition to the live instruments and electronic beats, Herbert samples such tactile, real-world phenomena as human blood flow and digestive noise, laser eye surgery, a mouse trying to climb out of a garbage can, and the rustling contents of a handbag. This is what makes Herbert’s music refreshing and even thrilling: there’s really no way of anticipating what you’re about to hear.
Track Listing: 1. You
Personnel: Matthew Herbert, piano, Rhodes, bass guitar, violin, samples, arrangements; Dani Siciliano, vocals; Peter Wraight, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, trumpet, flute, arrangements; John Matthias, violin; Shingai Shoniwa, vocals, vocal samples; Phil Parnell, piano, Rhodes, piano samples; Dave Green, bass; Paul Clarvis, drums; Luca Santucci, vocals; Jim Mullen, guitar
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.