Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Jazz Punks: Jazz Punks: Smashups

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
Jazz Punks


Self Produced


As its name and debut album title suggest, the Los Angeles-based Jazz Punks seeks to "smash up" the jazz, punk and rock genres. But let's face it, jazz and punk hate each other, right? Jazz: all brain and no balls. Punk: all balls no brain. Nothing in common.

On the one hand, we have punk. Blistering pace; overtly political; born out of the hard times and cross-cultural cauldron of low-income London and New York; a strange amalgamation of rebellious simplicity, the rhythms of London's Caribbean community (remember those reggae beats?) and distilled aggression; constantly seeking the unconventional; a big f-you to the mainstream.

On the other hand, we have jazz. Born from the crossroads of low-income rural and inner- city America; a strange cross-pollination of African and European musics and the blues; defined by subversive complexity; constantly challenging conventional boundaries; played at a blistering pace (at least sometimes); and at certain points in its history, overtly political.

Hmmm. It seems the Jazz Punks may be onto something more than a simple artistic conceit after all. Of course, the proof is in the pudding.

At its best, Smashups peels back the contradictions of its two namesake musical genres to create a fun, appealing, barnstorming-type experiment. When it misses, the band tends to slide into a more straightforward jazz idiom, which while perfectly listenable, falls short of the promise embedded in its name. In truth, the album spends the majority of its ten tracks digging into the rock genre rather than classic punk, but the results are nonetheless entertaining and even these carry a certain punkish tinge in their mischievous quality and hard-edged sonics.

Tunes like the opening "Foleo," built on Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," the daring "I Can See Miles," which introduces Miles Davis' "Pfrancing" to the Who's anthem "I Can See for Miles," and the brilliantly schizophrenic "Led Gillespie," which sounds like "A Night in Tunisia" engaging in a drunken one-night stand with Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop," all deliver a distinctively engaging blend of humor, savvy and entertainment.

The standout tune, however, is far and away "Clash-Up," which tackles the Clash's popular "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Take Five." This tune reveals the fertile territory that the punk genre could offer jazz, and the whole band shines on it.

Certainly, the Jazz Punks is not the first group to approach modern rock, and even punk music, as grist for its jazz mill. For example, Radiohead, which the band also incorporates, seems almost on the verge of becoming part of a new jazz standard. After all, jazz always mined popular music for its base ingredients, and younger musicians have started recognizing that there is no reason today's popular music can't be used the same way—in fact, in some cases, it makes a lot more sense for 20-something jazzers to turn to Radiohead, the Rolling Stones and Coldplay, rather than Broadway musicals from the 1930s.

All that said, when firing on all cylinders, the Jazz Punks has done more than take the traditional jazz approach of converting a "pop" original tune into a jazz piece. The Jazz Punks is busy carving out a different sound by "mashing" the tunes together, so that the jazz and original elements are both equally present, making the resulting cocktail both tasty and volatile.

Though still finding its footing, the Jazz Punks has successfully baited the hook with Smashups. Perhaps contradictory, a bold next step would be to take things more literally and plunge all the way into the punk canon. What would be revealed could be exciting.

Tracks: Foleo; Clash Up; Creep Train; Mind Over Matter; Heavyfoot; Bo-So; I Can See Miles; Little Chickens; 12 Steps to Hell; Led Gillespie.

Personnel: Sal Polcino: guitar; Robby Elfman: saxophone; Danny Kastner: piano; Michael Polcino: bass; Hugh Elliot: drums.

Track Listing: Foleo; Clash Up; Creep Train; Mind Over Matter; Heavyfoot; Bo-So; I Can See Miles; Little Chickens; 12 Steps to Hell; Led Gillespie.

Personnel: Sal Polcino: Guitar; Hugh Elliot: Drums; Robby Elfman: Sax; Danny Kastner: Piano; Michael Polcino: Bass.

Title: Jazz Punks: Smashups | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon" Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" Extended Analysis Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band" Extended Analysis Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 3, 2017
Read "Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!" Extended Analysis Allan Holdsworth: The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!
by John Kelman
Published: April 17, 2017
Read "Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House" Extended Analysis Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis: The Stone House
by John Kelman
Published: March 4, 2017

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!

Please support out sponsor