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Jazz Under the Radar (pt. 2)

In Features on January 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm

This is part 2 of a series about the great jazz that you can and should be hearing, even if it tries to hide a little. See part 1 for more.

It’s been quite a while since any new big band has done anything noteworthy, or anything at all really as far as I know. That’s why Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra, and their newest release, Ashcan Rantings are such a sweet concept. It’s probably also why they’re incessantly being compared to Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus’ bands. It’s really not a fair comparison though. Lane’s band works in a much wider territory, redefining big band for the modern era of jazz.

Adam LaneRight from the get-go Ashcan Rantings seems to say ‘What of it? Of course we’re a big band’. The first song, ‘Imaginary Portrait’, starts of with a cool bassline, and stays cool the whole way through. You can almost hear the 7 players high-fiving and laughing as the last note of the 10 minute jam session cuts off. The music is a game of notes, and the enthusiasm carries over to the listener.

Ashcan Rantings is definitely at its best in these moments – when the band doesn’t take itself so seriously and they’re just letting it happen, the energy and the dynamics between the players is better. You can hear it work especially well for them in the 3rd and 4th tracks ‘Nine Man Morris’ and ‘Desperate Incantations’ (my favorite from the album).

The essence of Ashcan Rantings though, is in the interplay between the serious moments and the less serious ones. Instead of just being a fun album to listen too – the kind of jazz album that you might quickly forget about – or being too serious an album so that you might not ever get through the whole thing, Lane’s band switches back and forth frequently. Like a few times in each song frequently. Listen for it in the second track, Marshall, and you’ll be impressed by the way they switch back and forth so easily and naturally.

If you’re into jazz you might find parts of this unjazzy, and maybe even a little off-putting. Influences on the music include jazz, but also “noise, punk, and music of questionable worth” according to Lane. If you go into it without being too intent on hearing a new rehash of the old classics though, you’ll get a lot out of listening to the variation. You can get the album from Clean Feed, but their site seems to be down for now.

Next time, Acoustic Ladyland and Angles Epileptical West; 2 jazz bands from Europe approach jazz from completely different directions, but both have incredible energy.

-Arnold Kalmbach

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