Jam On It

Hippies, Jazzbos, and Beat Junkies Build One Nation Under a Mutant Groove

Fusions are now coming from all corners. The New Deal, a MMW for ravers, won over the jam scene with their house/techno tripping, and scored a deal with Jive Records. Canada's Kid Koala (whose "Drunken Trumpet" may be turntablism's greatest jazz moment) has thrown in his lot with the funk-rap-jam outfit Bullfrog. Roots groove ambassador Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson hosted last year's The Philadelphia Experiment(Ropeadope) with keyboardist Uri Caine and multi-tasking jazz bassist Christian McBride, who played with ?uest in a James Brown cover band in high school (The Detroit Experiment, with techno-jazz avatar Carl Craig, violinist Regina Carter, and others, is due this summer). There's the Windy City scene with Tortoise, the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio, and others. Herbie Hancock's touring behind last year's "Rockit"-redux Future 2 Future. Soulive's recent Nextjams with both Dave Matthews and Talib Kweli. And Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstractis some visionary jazz-jam shit that's confusing everyone by trying to pass as a hip-hop record, but which features some great players—including guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle, whose new Verve LP is being produced by Tip.

Genre-bound critics on all sides have hated on these efforts. But flawed as they may be at points, young heads are having their worldviews expanded by them. This is how innovation happens, and it isn't always easy. Ask Jason Kibler, a/k/a DJ Logic, who has worked with MMW, Teo Macero, Don Byron, bluegrass patriarch Del McCoury, moe. (whose guitarist Al Schneider just released an IDM/ laptop-jam record, Al.one), Anti-Pop Consortium, and his own fuzoid Logic Project. As adept at ambient-swarm harmony as scratch pyrotechnics, he's got a mutant-beat project with low-lying guitar god Vernon Reid, dubbed the Yojimbe Brothers, due later this year. And strangest of all, he's currently playing with Bob Weir's Ratdog—a band that only the most recidivist Deadheads have ever bothered with. They get points for looking forward, I guess, although at the Hammerstein Ballroom in March, the aging white dudes onstage barely acknowledged Logic, who was virtually inaudible in the mix. I hear he got some play late in the second set, but all I caught was some "wicky wicky" amid the saxman's Coltraning soprano on "Eyes of the World." If Logic had acetates of isolated Garcia tracks, it could've been a whole new game.

Leaders of the New School Medeski, Martin & Wood
photo: Danny Clinch
Leaders of the New School Medeski, Martin & Wood

Despite endless letdowns, I keep listening, and hoping. Someday I want to download the previous night's Keith Jarrett Trio set on Jazzbands.com. I want DJ Shadow to remix the Sonny Sharrock catalog (unless Bill Laswell is already on it). I want Cannibal Ox to freestyle with David Ware. I want MMW to rock a sound system like Twilo's. And I want Sun Ra to return from Saturn with a Titanium G4. I don't think I'm being unreasonable.

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