(NCS guest contributor Leperkahn decided that for a school project he was going to spend a week without metal. He received a lot of suggestions from our readers, and this is his report on Day 2 of his experiment.)
As I forecast in my Day 1 post, Day 2 was an excursion into the vast world of jazz. Copious amounts of studying in the wake of finals simultaneously pushed me to wit’s end and gave me a lot of time to listen to a lot of jazz.
I started the day with a band that is perhaps not entirely jazz, but is awesome nonetheless: Steely Dan. They and Aja were perhaps the most recommended band and album throughout the various mediums on which I solicited non-metal suggestions. The album seemed to be right in the middle of classic rock and jazz, reminding me of The Eagles or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in places while staying jazzier (with a faint Kenny G vibe hanging in the air) elsewhere.
It was a great start to the day for my ears, and is a band and album I foresee myself revisiting quite a bit (especially considering that I just saw a show listing for them at Humphrey’s By the Bay, which might be one of the coolest places to see live music).
The day continued with John Coltrane’s Blue Train (split into a few parts by necessity of time). This is definitely some straight-up, classic jazz, and NCS reader Pietro’s references to how many notes he tries to squeeze into every measure sure rings true. It almost felt like a transposed tech-metal album with the sure volume of notes and time signatures, yet still maintained a cool, calm, collected demeanor throughout. As an avowed fan of long songs, I personally found the 9-10 minutes song lengths enjoyable, but to those who might be interested in exploring Coltrane, be forewarned that many of his songs have some length to them.
I continued with a little bit of random selections from a greatest hits album (can’t for the life of me remember which one) by Django Reinhardt. As I am a lover of clean, crisp production, the grainy recording left a little to be desired (though technological constraints of the time obviously wouldn’t have allowed anything of much better fidelity), yet the melodies within were very intriguing, and managed to hold my interest well, despite the sound quality.
A listening hiatus followed the end of Reinhardt, as school ended around then (scheduled listening, at least). However, while listening to the jazz radio station in my car, I heard a song – by a “cat” named Ben Patterson, I believe – that I swear could’ve been immediately repurposed as an Animals As Leaders riff. While I had always seen Tosin Abasi’s playing style as very jazzy in nature, it had never dawned on me that he really just plays jazz over some Meshuggah-y polyrhythms (at least on the self-titled; the Patterson track in question reminded me of “CAFO”. And no, I haven’t gotten around to checking out AAL’s new album.).
Upon my return to the homestead, I delved into Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and a colossal amount of calculus studying/homework. While the latter was truly painful, and kept me up until the wee hours of the night, the former was quite nice, resembling Coltrane (for obvious reasons) yet spacing itself out a little more, and not aiming for the flurry of notes with which Coltrane flooded his compositions.
With that, I moved into some of the fusion jazz suggested by a commentor whose name I can’t remember. I tried a couple John McLaughlin tracks (which were enjoyable, but not particularly memorable) and some Pat Metheny (which added some more memorability to a similar style as McLaughlin’s). I then listened through Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds Of Fire which I felt used McLaughlin’s talent far more wisely. As a whole, they could probably best be described as what would’ve happened if Led Zeppelin were a jazz band instead of a blues band at heart, meshing some very Page-esque riffs and solo-y excursions with more jazzy parts.
Allan Holdsworth was a bit like the McLaughlin solo stuff, in that it didn’t hold my attention all too well. Then again, he is described as an influence on Cynic, who I’ve never really had much of a connection to (sorry; cue “How can you not like Cynic” comments).
My last two albums for the night, before I bathed my studious sorrow in silence, came from the big-band revival of the ‘90s and beyond. I (think I) went through Squirrel Nut Zippers’s Hot, which reminded me deeply of one of my favorite albums of 2012, Diablo Swing Orchestra’s Pandora’s Piñata (and thus further served to confirm my description of them to others as “swing metal”). The other album I listened to, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s King of Swing (again, I think that was the title) had a similar big-band swing feel that brought me back to my 20th Century American Pop Culture class (though I think Squirrel Nut Zippers had more original material; I at least recognized a cover of Cab Calloway’s “Minnie The Moocher” on the latter group’s album).
Jazz was a great success as far as exploration went, and I’m sure I’ll return to the genre very soon. Now: what genre should be next?