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Various Artists: Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked

John Kelman By

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While traditionalists will probably balk at the idea of applying modern remix techniques to classic 1960s material from the Impulse! catalogue, Impulsive! does a good job of extending musical creativity beyond the traditional purview of the original composer/performers. After all, British saxophonist Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble gives equal billing to conventional instrumentalists and the artists who perform real-time sampling and sound manipulation, redefining improvisation as it expands into new and broader territory.

But while Parker creates new music where open-minded listeners can justify the creative use of modern processing, it's a greater stretch to accept reinvention of classic tracks by Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef, and Archie Shepp. Bastardization? Blasphemy? Perhaps, but it's really only a matter of considering all sound subject to reinterpretation. If it's widely accepted to radically reharmonize and rhythmically alter the standards repertoire, why are remixes not given the same due credit?

Remixes are, almost by definition, significant reassessments. How much of the original material remains will vary. Many producers go as far as introducing additional instrumentation—yet it's not all about synthesized beats. Telefon Tel-Aviv adds an entire chamber orchestra to its beat-less remix of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments, revering the late saxophonist's inestimable skills as scorer.

Remixes often grab a core idea from the source, using it as basis for a completely new treatment. Certain base elements of George Russell's "Helluva Town remain on SA-RA's "Go remix, but it adds a substantial backbeat, synthesizer bass, and a line repeated throughout: "Think you can lick it, get to the wicket, buy you a ticket, go! RZA retains Mingus' robust bass on "II B.S. but applies a more hypnotic pulse and modernistic take on Mingus' own freewheeling and fiery approach, especially in the middle section, where the original track is retained almost verbatim—until it suddenly stops and a brief passage is looped, creating a jittery stagger.

Mark de Clive-Lowe's remix of Chico Hamilton's "El Toro feels fairly faithful—more a matter of applying subtle sound processing—until halfway through, when Bembé Segué's multitracked vocals and de Clive-Lowe's electric piano take it in a different but logically consistent direction.

While visceral rhythms tend to define most tracks, it's far more provocative than merely applying "standard techno beats. Prefuse 73 takes Gabor Szabo's "Mizrab and, by adding a funky backbeat and electronic keyboards—in addition to all manner of sound processing—refashions it into something Szabo would likely have never imagined possible, but might well have approved of.

Impulsive! ends on a more organic note, with John Coltrane's poem "At Night adapted for his son Ravi's acoustic quartet and Julie Patton's evocative recitation. But its very sense of context proves that imaginative remixing is more than mere gimmickry. In the hands of creative artists like those on Impulsive!, it's an expansion of the sonic palette—and as legitimate a source of innovation as any other.


Track Listing: George Russell: Helluva Town (SA-RA "GO" Remix); Charles Mingus: II B.S. (RZA's Mingus Bounce Mix); Chico Hamilton: El Toro (Mark de Clive-Lowe Remix); Gabor Szabo: Mizrab (Prefuse 73 Remix); Dizzy Gillespie: Wing Low, Sweet Cadillac (Gerardo Frisina Remix); Clark Terry & Chico O'Farrill: Spanish Rice (DJ Dolores Remix); Archie Shepp: Attica Blues (The Chief Xcel of Blackalicious Remix); Pharoah Sanders: Astral Traveling (Boozoo Bajou Remix); Yusef Lateef: Bamboo Flute Blues (Kid Koala Remix); Oliver Nelson: Stolen Moments (Telefon Tel-Aviv Remix); John Coltrane: At Night (A Poem Featuring Ravi Coltrane w/Julie Patton).

Personnel: SA-RA Creative Partners: Om

Title: Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Reworked | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Impulse!

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