437

IsWhat?!: Not to be Defined...

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Improvisation is so much a part of what we do. To mix it up with the scratch artists and the DJs is as complex a form of improvisation as is playing with other instruments.
Hyena Records, the newest baby of producer extraordinaire Joel Dorn, is quite obviously one of the most eclectic labels in music. Reissues of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Thelonious Monk catalog grab your attention at first, but any label that features records by both Bobby Darin and James "Blood Ulmer in the same catalogue is clearly open to a variety of possibilities. This same kind of free-range eclecticism within the label carries over to the eclecticism inherent to one of its latest signings, IsWhat?!

IsWhat?!—no, we're not asking a question, and it's not an Abbott and Costello routine either. IsWhat?! is rather—a mantra that speaks to the group's refusal to be pinned down to any particular genre or style, and to create music that is for "the people but which does not simply pander to what people are comfortable in hearing. IsWhat?! in fact, is an amalgamation of influences and music-making techniques that reflects the different cultural and musical backgrounds its three members bring to the fore. Consistent with the whole ethos, the first record for the label is called You Figure it Out.

Now while there are some clear foundations in both jazz and hip-hop, and while "jazz hip-hop is clearly the tag some will attempt to apply, this is by no means "jazz hip-hop e.g. Russell Gunn or Roy Hargrove. When your bassist comes from a punk background and your emcee is a free jazz nut who is as likely to check out an Ayler record as a Sugar Hill Gang side, it stands to reason this wouldn't be a predictable sort of "fusion. And irrespective of trying to define its sound, the band itself is a unique confluence of "sounds , featuring saxophonist/flutist Jack Walker, bassist Matt Anderson, and the wild card that throws off any possibility of this being just like your grandfather's jazz- emcee and human drum machine Napoleon Maddox.


Shop

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Ghost Lights and Life Sentences Interviews Tim Bowness: Ghost Lights and Life Sentences
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Laura Jurd: Big Footprints Interviews Laura Jurd: Big Footprints
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Rick Mandyck: The Return From Now Interviews Rick Mandyck: The Return From Now
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 3, 2017
Read The Wee Trio: Full of Surprises Interviews The Wee Trio: Full of Surprises
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 27, 2017
Read Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom Interviews Clarence Becton: Straight Ahead Into Freedom
by Barbara Ina Frenz
Published: January 19, 2017
Read "Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan, In Pictures" Interviews Daniel Kramer: Bob Dylan, In Pictures
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 23, 2016
Read "Nat Hentoff: The Never-Ending Ball" Interviews Nat Hentoff: The Never-Ending Ball
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Fábio Torres: The Making of Modern Brazilian Jazz" Interviews Fábio Torres: The Making of Modern Brazilian Jazz
by Samuel Quinto
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "Bobby Hutcherson: A Life In Jazz" Interviews Bobby Hutcherson: A Life In Jazz
by AAJ Staff
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!" Interviews Matthew Shipp: Let's Do Lunch!
by Yuko Otomo
Published: January 16, 2017

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!