MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
The Comet Is Coming: Trust In The Lifeforce of The Deep Mystery
One thing that sets in pretty quickly when one takes an interest in Jazz, the many seminal records of which were recorded long before I was born, is that one becomes a bit of an archaeologist doing research to figure out which way to go with their taste in music, you excavate certain pathways to find out which players you like, what tones you dig, which of the various sub-genres under the umbrella term, ‘Jazz,’ is your cup of tea. Long ago I realized I’m a bop, post-bop, cosmic and free jazz guy, post-bop also encompassing the ‘modal’ stuff that to me is so fundamental to the genre from the mid-fifties through the early sixties, and cosmic jazz encompassing the ‘electric’ funky fusion stuff that Miles pours out in earnest in the late sixties through the mid-seventies.
So of course I’m digging that it appears cosmic jazz is back! I finally got this on vinyl for Christmas and this is what I’m talking about: ‘King’ Shabaka Hutchings, a fiery tenor sax player who also plays bass clarinet, fronting a trio with a drummer, Max Hallett, that goes by ‘Betamax,’ and a keyboardist, Dan Leavers, aka ‘Danalogue,’ the two latter members also fully ensconced in experimentation with electronically processed versions of their chosen instrumentation.
The resulting album is something like ‘Space Jazz,’ not unlike the mid-seventies Lonnie Liston Smith-led ‘Astral Travelling’ groups. The artwork and design of the gatefold album is magical, a return to the astral spirituality of Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra, and they’re even on Impulse! Records, the “label that Trane built,” with all the haute design elements the label has always been praised for. This is all instrumental and fairly down-tempo but for one tune that incorporates some spoken word, and one just face-melting ripper that begins side two, “Super Zodiac.” There is a spacious ambience and cinematic element here, a hip-hop funk probably more informed by “grime” than American street hip hop, a touch of ‘trip-hop’ even, all swirled together with a tenor sax-led deeply spiritual Coltrane-like meditativeness, an enveloping cosmos that is totally multi-dimensional and gives insight into new possibilities, the way much ‘free’ playing did in its ‘60s and ‘70s heyday. Get in touch with a current strain of afro-futurism right here.