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Various Artists — ZZAJ: Jazz from the 23rd Century
(Bandcamp no#, 2022, 2CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-12-19

ZZAJ: Jazz from the 23rd Century Cover art

Imagine asking J.S.Bach in the 1700s what popular music would sound like in the 20th century. Hell, for most of his life the piano hadn’t even been invented yet, let alone amplified electric instruments. Jazz is pretty much a product of the 20th century, from big band to vocal jazz to dixieland to bebop to free jazz and more, and has slowly refined and developed over those years, and here we are just a little over a hundred years after the earliest jazz came to be, and with the exception of some electric instruments we are still pretty much wandering around in the same general area trying to further expand upon what has already been done. In short, what the compilation ZZAJ: Jazz from the 23rd Century asks is, what will jazz develop into in another 200 years? Frankly, it’s anybody’s guess, and it may not even be something that jazz musicians and aficionados of today would recognize as such. Producers Jerry King and Dave Newhouse asked 34 composer / musicians from their circle of acquaintances that same question, and the results are surprisingly varied, with some of the pieces sounding pretty much like variants on late 20th century jazz, and others sounding quite forward looking, although it’s impossible to predict what effects technology will have on what we have available to us so far into the future. As one might guess, writing a review of something like this is almost as challenging as creating the music itself. Much of it, in fact most of it, with some notable exceptions, is entirely instrumental, and many of the pieces that feature vocals do so in the spoken word realm. The variety of ideas presented is quite wide, some fused with Euro-folk sounds, others with an edgy rock bite, some composed and others sounding purely improvised. Jerry King (with his wife Michelle) and Dave Newhouse both contributed to the effort, as well as a lot of the folks we review regularly in Exposé, like Haco, Henry Kaiser, Anthony Pirog, Brian Woodbury, Nubdug Ensemble, Greg Segal, Shawn Persinger, Killick Hinds, Paul Sears, Nick Didkovsky, Forrest Fang, Amanda Chaudhary, and others (for a comprehensive list, go the the Bandcamp page, link below — and for that matter one can listen to every track on the set there as well). I will select a few of my own standouts, and then the reader can go and listen and choose theirs. One thing for sure, you won’t find anything conventional among the album’s selections.

Killick's instrumentsKillick’s “Arborial Futurity” sounds like one that could really be from the 23rd century, performed on Walrus guitar and Symbiote resonating-string tower (see photo), pretty much sounding out of this world. Marmhelodic Rascals’ “The March” is pretty much a free-romping honk-fest that goes in fifteen directions at once, and one of the album’s longest cuts at well over nine minutes. Amy Denio’s “Untrapt” is an interesting piece featuring mysterious harmonized vocals and clarinet, quite beautiful in fact. Frank Chickens is a new name to me, but is essentially the duo of Kazuko Hohki (multi-tracked vocals) and Clive Bell (accordion, backing vocals), their entry seems more pop than jazz, but a nice break along the journey. Dereck Higgins’ entry “I Didn’t Hear It on the Radio” features James Ballarin on sax (and Higgins on everything else) and is pretty much un-reimagined late 20th century jazz, yet no less enjoyable than anything else here. And I must mention Brian Woodbury’s “Mentally Ill,” something that should definitely put a smile on the listener’s face, the way only Woodbury can do. There are many more outstanding cuts in this collection, but it’s best to jump over to Bandcamp and sample them all for yourself — you’ll be glad you did!

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Forrest Fang, Erik Hinds (Killick), Greg Segal, Ron Anderson, Anthony Pirog, Vacuum Tree Head / Nubdug Ensemble, Geoff Leigh, Martin Archer, Amy Denio, Haco, Elliott Sharp, Henry Kaiser, Various Artists, Brian Woodbury, Dave Newhouse (Manna / Mirage), Shawn Persinger (Prester John), Paul Sears, Nick Didkovsky, Jerry King / Cloud over Jupiter, John Shirley, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Amanda Chaudhary, Grant Calvin Weston, Frank Chickens

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