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Now this may seem simply blasphemous: Robots performing jazz music? Well the scientists at Toyota and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have collaborated on this new release which features "DJ I-Bot, (the first random-access, analog robotic DJ system) and Proto-Jazz-One (a humanoid robot which plays various musical instruments.)
This new CD should come as no surprise as today's DJ's have taken full advantage of the current technologies making use of sampling, mixing, and editing of sounds from endless sources. "Sound Chemists" like DJ Logic and DJ Spooky have collaborated with jazz musicians with success and now the emergence of DJ I-Bot which consists of a computer and three turntables that can mix, scratch, and cut beats like a human disc jockey - it's hard to tell the difference whether it's live, Memorex, or your local robot?
But what is shocking on the recording are the exploits of Proto-Jazz-One, who sounds like a cross between Miles Davis (Tutu and Amandla) and Dave Douglas (Freak In). The scientists have done an admirable job with the mechanics that emulate musician reflexes combined with advanced fuzzy-logic-microcode to create the next phase in pseudo-improvised music.
The six compositions, if you will, are extended variations on a theme - an extended funk groove with DJ I-Bot laying down some heavy turntable mixes which sound a lot like the 80's Sir Mix-A-Lot and Tone-Loc remakes. It's old school to the max. What is more interesting is Proto-Jazz-One's trumpet playing over I-Bot's sampled beats and noises as he, (correction) it plays spitfire notes and raspy slurs thanks to a liquid injected mouth piece attached to the robot. Ah, the wonders of technology.
Does it all work? Yes and no. At times the music becomes monotonous in spite of DJ I- Bot's turntable prowess. We've heard sampling and scratching; now it just done by a albeit very interesting robot. There also seemed to be limitations in the scientist's programming with the redundant vamps and randomized trumpet notes. The scientists are still honing the software and mechanics with future plans of having an all robot band and more fleshed out interpretations of jazz and classical works.
With the challenges that "real musicians face these days it would seem that this is just another slap in the face. Will the future become "accustomed to automatons performing for the masses akin to a Star Wars jam band? Sadly in some cases we already have. But for bow the formula is simple: (1 robot DJ + 1 robot musician) = randomly accessible sounds for the 21st Century.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.