Music Association of Detroit: Bossa Nova Bitchslap!

Joshua Weiner By

Sign in to view read count
Music Association of Detroit: Bossa Nova Bitchslap! The Music Association of Detroit (MAD) is widely held to be one of the most prolific of the free jazz ensembles that emerged from the hothouse of 1960's radicalism. Indeed, their discography lists 49 albums to date on 50 different labels. (1969's Farewell, Nubian Princess (Maqanga, Baqanga) was split between two labels—Pretension Records label head Jimmy Ostinato liked the A side but thought the B side, a 13-saxophone free exploration of "Frère Jacques," was too commercial). MAD's latest disc, Bossa Nova Bitchslap! , is without a doubt another notable entry in their voluminous résumé.

At first blush, this may seem like MAD's bid for the mainstream; after all, bossa nova music is rather more listener-friendly than their typical style, which was exhibited on last year's What You Lookin' At? (Hi Colonic Records), a 3-CD set chronicling a continuous 147-minute all-percussion rendition of "Angel Eyes". One spin (and believe me, that's all most will be able to handle) is, however, enough to disabuse the listener of any such ideas.

MAD disembowel several of bossa nova's most classic tunes with ruthless abandon, and, in fact, no regard for the original melody, rhythm, or harmony. Jobim's "Girl From Ipanema" (here retitled "Skank From East Lansing") is typical: a squalling soprano saxophone bleats out a minor scale in 7/4, while the rest of the group pluck piano strings from the inside while performing "La Marseillaise" on kazoos. "Samba de Orfeu" is even worse. For once, the drummer taps out a passable bossa nova rhythm, but drastically varies the tempo every 3 bars. This gives the listener a decidedly seasick feeling, which would be significant if not for the already-nauseating series of dissonant chords (none found in the original composition) played by a trio of electric kalimba, euphonium, and autoharp.

But by far the most fetid, repulsive music on the disc is to be found in the two original "tunes." "Brazil Nut Boogie," despite its title, neither swings nor grooves; what it does, rather, is hurt one's ears. Consisting, as it does, of nothing but MAD members screaming the word for "legume" in a dozen of the world's languages (the lyrics are printed in the CD booklet), it's decidedly hard to fathom. "Manha de Wood" is more comprehensible, but this is not to say it is better. On this track, a wah-wah mandolin inexplicably plays the riff to Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" over and over, while special guests the Catgut String Quartet wail away in untempered tuning. Again, no actual connection to bossa nova is the least bit discernible.

MAD fans reading this review will probably assume that this reviewer must simply be another hopelessly square suburbanite SUV driver who votes Republican and would rather be listening to soft-pedal quiet-storm stuff like, say, Cecil Taylor. So be it. But in all good conscience, I must warn all AAJ readers: don't get MAD. Or if you do, pick up a healthy dose of aspirin along with it.

Track Listing: Wave; Skank From East Lansing; Samba de Orfeu; From the Hot Afternoon; Brazil Nut Boogie; Manha de Wood

Personnel: James Offkee, electric kalimba, kazoo, trumpet; LeRoy de Bastardo, saxes, kazoo; Manfred Cornfed, drums, percussion, kazoo; Donny Taproot, bass, autoharp; Dougie Smith, euphonium, piano; Catgut String Quartet

Year Released: 2004 | Style: Modern Jazz

April fools!


More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Soul Tree" CD/LP/Track Review Soul Tree
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 10, 2016
Read "Sureste" CD/LP/Track Review Sureste
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: October 2, 2016
Read "Festen" CD/LP/Track Review Festen
by John Sharpe
Published: November 12, 2016
Read "Leaving Everything Behind" CD/LP/Track Review Leaving Everything Behind
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 4, 2016
Read "Interesting" CD/LP/Track Review Interesting
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2016
Read "Written in the Rocks" CD/LP/Track Review Written in the Rocks
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: March 8, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!