Saturday, August 22, 2009

wayne krantz = ouch

I am no music critic ... don't touch the stuff really , but occasionally something comes along which deserves "honorable mention "

It's been a long time between drink's for improvised music I reckon . Maybe its a result of the shifting world scene . America and the world is a very different joint since the internet , terrorist attacks , no Queva Lutz and now the "great recession" . Combine that with destruction of copyright and the ability of any tom, dick or harry to post any musical crap they like for the whole world to sift through and things get difficult for "serious" music . Anything decent is buried in a sea of "noise" . There is probably a lot of great stuff happening elsewhere , but it's still hard to beat NYC for a collection of great improvisers . Even here though one wonders about the state of the "scene "

The rise of jazz education in New York and elsewhere with young musicians spending $100,000 on an education probably hasn't done the music much good either . Everyone is more versed in the 144 modes than they ever were . From my perspective the "jazz education" lacks having enough formal training in composition ( improvisation is composition isnt it ? ) and the old "Street school" of learning on the job . Still with so few little gigs around to play I guess school is the only place a youngster can play in front of other people ... Combine that with rents in NYC going sky high and clubs going bust left right and centre and you have 1000's of musicians fighting over a few crumbs . That has the tendency to produce nepotistic little cliques of cold musicians trying to negotiate their little scene to power ( OK I am generalising here ... the truth isnt that bleak ) . It's getting to harder to find an original voice in jazz or pop music . It's rare to see a musician in search of real expression as opposed to playing whatever the last guy played to become famous .

I really got into Allan Holdsworth , but his last CD was released in 2001 or something so it's been a long wait for me .

Complaints aside In the meantime there has been a lot of great jazz around ... James Muller , Miles Okasaki , Brad Mehldau , Wayne Krantz , Dr Lonnie Smith , Hank Jones and countless others have done plenty of outstanding things in the last 10 years . But none if it has REALLY grabbed me by the b#lls . Lots of great playing and writing but nothing that works as a complete musical statement to my ( jaded?) ears .

Of music written since the terrorist attacks most of the stuff I have fallen in love with has been songwriting based : The Shins , Nate Wood , Steely Dan , Mindy Smith , Tift Merrit , James Taylor , Kris Bauman , Robynne Dunn ... etc

Wayne Krantz has been really great to go and see play over the years . His regular gig at the 55 was THE live act in NYC for me in the last 10 years or so of spending most of my time here .

If you could be bothered buying every live record or download he has put out since " 2 drink minimum " and you could compile a CD yourself from it you would have the "best" mostly improvised music of the last ten years recorded . I am too lazy for that . I want a great album I can listen too with more than one decent cut on it .

The new CD " Krantz Carlock Lefebvre " lives up to that expectation for me . Its genuinely one of the few things I have listened to in the last 10 years that has really made me rethink things . Music is going to sound different to me now .
There is loads of great writing and playing . Wayne is a fantastic composer and I think he underrates himself .
The guitar playing is really out of sight on this one .. fantastic sounds , groove and ideas .
Wayne has his own take on minimalism which is also groundbreaking I think . Other improvisers repeat stuff ( notes , phrases , even one bar for the whole song ) , but wayne has really turned minimalism into an improvisational artform . Triplets and uneven subdivisions is COMPLETELY removed from his rhythmic language . Almost all of the tracks are 16th based . Wayne's playing is very precise almost computerish on top of Carlock's "southern" lilt . Krantz' playing is so strong and the downbeat's are covered by him so elegantly that it feels like he is pulling the rest of the band along with him . It's pretty incredible to hear the GUITAR acting as a metronome instead of the drums . The singing is cool and the phrasing in the solos is just extraordinary . Maybe it's not revolutionary , but its still creative how Wayne sustains notes on his guitar to create tension . I have never heard anyone do it quite that way .
It's also pretty groundbreaking to hear an improvised record mixed and mastered this way . It's LOUD . That is actually probably my one quibble . ( Well a couple of fast licks on the album would stop me feeling like I overplay all the time ) I would prefer to "turn up" something a bit warmer than to artificially have the music made louder using compressors and limiters . Maybe it's just the sound of the .mp3 that I dont like . Welcome to the future .

" footnoote : Joe Zawinul " Brown Street" I think deserves a mention here as being one of THE "jazz" CDs of the 2000's . It doesnt quite qualify as NEW since most of the compositions where written in the 1970's and 80's . "


  1. I agree! That record is killer. I often find myself watching his Marciac 1999 youtube videos for the occasional pick-me-up. His individualistic musical approach is what sadly seems to be lacking today(however you embody that well). Being a drummer, I find too many people that so desperately want to transcribe the solo to Aja or Zappa's Black Page and that temperament just ruins it for me. Furthermore, this means I'm pretty excited to hear more Wayland/Guiliana collaborations.

  2. Not being from NYC or having been surrounded by experimental music of this nature for my entire life (was hipped to Krantz, Dave Binney and others about five years ago), artistic individualism seems to be about as far from my roots as the North Pole. Yet something about Krantz and his unique approach to the way he creates music CAPTIVATES me to no end.

    After my old drum teacher hipped me to YBL 03', I've never been more excited to hear what he's done continuously over the years because I've noticed something different about it every time I listen to it. I'm in my early twenties, and growing up in the American South, I think it was the drumming that interested me first - Carlock is sooooo laid back, almost new orleansy but not specifically straight, swung, or anything else immediately recognizeable or typical in terms of feel. I didn't understand Tim's role at the time (now he's probably one of my favorite musicians), yet I noticed the culmination of influences. At the same time I picked up on the fact that these guys were both innovative and creative beyond the means of most people's comprehension.

    Krantz's harmonic, melodic and most importantly rhythmic sense is much unlike most guitar players or popular music that exist currently; however IMHO this kind of composition and expression is exactly what popular music needs.

    I received the new album almost a week and a half ago and haven't been able to take it out of my CD player since then. I've never heard a band that sounded equal parts improvisation, funk, bombastic rock, with sardonic pop lyricism in the same album-much less the same band. I've played it for every friend that I work with musically with the hope that they will realize how this work is as important to our generation as was Tony Williams Million Dollar Legs and Believe It, Herbie's Thrust, and others that affected some of the great 70's work created between the appearance of modern studio equipment and the all-out electronic/MIDI fanatacism of the 80's. We have yet to see most of these used without the sacrifice of musical integrity, instrumentation, or both-until now.

    I would agree with the above poster that you (Sean) and Wayne are the progenitors of hopefully a new era of progressive music-rhythmic, soulful, and fresh to the ears of anyone who hears it. The hardest thing to do at this point is getting people to understand that their music does not have to stagnate, and to help them conceptualize something new; not everyone speaks with the same voice as those who've come before them.

    This seems to be a very important time as most good music will never make it to the radio-unless we demand that Clear Channel and others stop dominating pop with poorly created attempts at creating art.

    Here's to music and recording not getting in each others way-separating blue eyed soul-getting from blue eyed goal-setting.

  3. I have been listening to "metheny/mehldau" recently . Great "playing" . Guitar and piano never seem to blend or be in tune to me even at guys of this level ... Call me old fashioned ... I miss the swing and the funk in jazz music ... Everyone plays bossa novas these days or divides the beat into pi . Still these 2 guys stand ahead of all the followers ...