As a musical form that skirts the line between popular entertainment and highbrow art, jazz has always found itself embroiled in aesthetic controversy. As such, it has inevitably had its share of run-ins with those who would see fit to keep it "pure." But jazz is not a pure art form, it's one of the most refreshingly impure art forms imaginable. Parasitic adaptability is what has enabled it to persevere in the face of many challenges, economic, technological and societal.
As "the house that Trane built" became the home of the "New Thing" in the 1960s, Impulse! Records gained prominence as one of the era's most visionary labels. Those were radical times, both on the streets and in the concert hall. Impulsive! Revolutionary Jazz Remixed uses this historical content and context as source material for a new generation to explore.
There is a crucial element to any discussion of this collection, one that some critics seem to forget. This is not a jazz album. It is a remix album, using classic 1960s Impulse! album cuts as source material for DJs and producers. Judging it by the same standards as improvisational jazz does a disservice to both critic and reader.
Simply put, this is a party record, and a damn fine one to boot. Even the track sequencing is classic hot to cool. The first half of the record bustles with ebullient rhythmic energy, loaded with novel breaks, sublime edits and innovative arrangements. The second half of the record trades dance-floor elation for cerebral reflection.
The halfway point arrives with Chief Excel's remix of Archie Shepp's "Attica Blues," which introduces the underlying political character of the record's source material. Afterwards, it's a languorous journey into psychedelic blues and chilly ambience.
There are standout tracks aplenty. RZA's "Mingus Bounce Mix" is an unpredictable mélange of schizophrenically stuttered edits. Kid Koala's turntable remix of Yusef Lateef's "Bamboo Flute Blues" is sparse, earthy and sublime. Boozoo Bajou's take on Pharoah Sanders' "Astral Travelling" is even more ethereal than the original, while Telefon Tel-Aviv's chamber-esque arrangement of Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" is simply haunting. The album closes with a stately reading of one of Coltrane's poems, an homage to its spiritual forefather.
Impulsive! is what is ita fine danceable party record that traffics in a better selection of source material than most. For the purists who disagree, one need only read the back of the disc insert, which says "file under: dance/electronica."
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).