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Giant Steps: A New Wave of Jazz (and Beyond)
Sampling

Giant Steps: A New Wave of Jazz (and Beyond)

Exploring a newer side of jazz-minded music on Tracklib featuring Mike Casey (US), Joana Queiroz (Brazil), Bremer McCoy (Denmark), Myrthe van de Weetering (the Netherlands), and Musicmusicmusic (Sweden).

By DannyVeekens

“I don't like that word, jazz… I call it social music.” We can’t stop thinking about these illustrious words by Miles Davis while working on this feature highlighting post-2000s jazz in the Tracklib catalog. The iconic trumpet player brought that up in a 1982 interview, when he’s visibly displeased by a question about “jazz music.”

Talking to five different artists with music available on Tracklib, raises a similar matter: pigeonholing their music into “jazz” doesn’t cover their vast array of influences. Each conversation comes down to that. It shows their diversity far beyond the label “jazz,” which is exactly what makes their catalogs so rich to find the right samples.

But then again, why dig into newer music rather than scouring the classics?

'I Dare You'

“I don't usually define my music as ‘jazz’,” says Brazilian songwriter, clarinet player and saxophone player Joana Queiroz. “I would define what I do as Brazilian music, as it’s strongly influenced by Brazilian songwriting and rhythms. But also by classical music and free improvisation. But then again, maybe this type of mixture is exactly what could define jazz, isn’t it?”

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To saxophone player Mike Casey, the music goes far beyond that as well: “As [saxophonist] Wayne Shorter says, ‘to me, jazz means: I dare you’. I agree with that definition as I love the balance of ‘edge’ and ‘beauty’ in this music. So-called ‘jazz’ has always been an act of rebellion. As it has evolved I like to think those who are true to it embody at least some sense of that spirit in their playing and artistic approach.”

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"It's very good to be up-to-date with the new creations in jazz: fresh ideas, different timbres and approaches, interesting melodies—all things that can bring new air around. Also for producers who sample.”

—Joana Queiroz
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Bremer McCoy
Bremer McCoy

Raw Beauty

There’s certainly a rough balance between edge and beauty in both of their work. Another good example of an act that finds that sweet spot, is Bremer McCoy: a Danish duo consisting of Jonathan Bremer (acoustic bass) and Morten McCoy (piano, Wurlitzer & tape delays) who started out as a reggae duo and are still heavily influenced by styles including dub, reggae, and neo-classical music.

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“In reggae and dub the focus is not on the individual performance or the technical skills - like in jazz,” explains Morten McCoy. “The important thing is the groove and the vibe. Both of these terms are fundamentally mystical as you can’t really come with a certain recipe or academic explanation for it. Either it’s there or it’s not. That is also how we work. In dub music, the climax is when the music gets even more simple and you take tracks out of the mix instead of adding more in. Then there is the spiritual aspect of it. I don’t know a lot of other styles where the message of JAH is as clear as in the deep roots reggae.”

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More or less, all of them represent a free-spirited, genre-defying new wave, grounded in improvisation. All defiant in their own way. Such as how Joana Queiroz merges traditional Brazilian rhythms like choro and forró with using modern-day gear like, in some instances, MPCs, effect pedals, and loopers. Or in Bremer McCoy's work, the groove and vibe of reggae and dub’s powerful stripped-down “less is more” ethos. Or how Mike Casey recorded Law of Attraction with all musicians in one room: no headphones, no isolation, no studio tricks. Casey: “to keep the dirt, the edge, the bleed in the sound. In an era where so much of modern jazz sounds ‘clean.’”

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THE PITFALL OF PERFECTION

But even when recordings are ‘clean,’ they can still hit that aforementioned edge of rawness. That’s also what Fabian Kallerdahl, pianist of Musicmusicmusic (one of Sweden’s most important jazz groups of today) and co-founder of Hoob Records, recognizes these days: “The awareness of ‘sound’ is huge these days. Many studios and artists are still working with 60s equipment and approach in terms of where to put microphones and such. The quality of jazz recordings nowadays is super nice. There are loads of old microphones, quality engineering, great recordings… That’s a big world right now. Sounds that are polished and old school.”

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0:00 · 8:07
Musicmusicmusic
Musicmusicmusic

There’s also a challenge to take on ‘new jazz.’ Also because a lot of jazz produced today, is heavily influenced by hip-hop made from old jazz samples. So the cycle repeats.”

—Fabian Kallerdahl (Musicmusicmusic)

“That can be ‘designed’ and edgy at the same time, though,” he adds after a pause for thought. “But then again, when you overthink the music—whether it’s free jazz or distorted rock-influenced jazz—I still feel sometimes that these days, everything is so perfect. So thought out. I also feel that I fall into that trap sometimes. That’s a balance: to properly think about mixing and recording, but also to not lose that raw element of surprise. That’s the jazz element. Surprise and improvisation are the most important; music must be alive.” Even with Musicmusicmusic’s hints of jazz, classical, Swedish folk, rock, and soul, it’s that element that ties it all together. Again: a core essence of jazz, but going far beyond just that genre.

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WHY GO FROM CLASSICS TO CONTEMPORARY?

A wide spectrum of influences has always been embodied in the world of jazz. Nothing new there. Think the otherworldly Afrofuturism trips by Sun Ra, the genre-bending fusion era from the late 60s onwards, or the expected early amalgamation of hip-hop and jazz by artists including Miles Davis (Doo-Bop) and Herbie Hancock (“Rockit”). So after four golden decades, what makes a more modern wave of jazz-minded music a fruitful source for samples?

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“I see that these days, artists are more and more focused on productional quality,” says Dutch composer and violin player Myrthe van de Weetering. “That can be a thousand notes or just one note - it can all be beautiful. More than ever, when you dig for samples, you get to ideas you’d never think of because you don’t play that instrument, you’re not from that particular culture, or because you’re not that individual. It’s a beautiful way to let new ideas happen.” As she has previously worked with hip-hop artists like Killah Priest, Shahmen, ReaZun, and Dutch emcee Akwasi herself, and lights up when talking about her love for French hip-hop, her cinematic music fits the same purpose: “My dream is to be sampled! I have one track on my album called ‘Ulysses’ which, in my head, needs to become a hip-hop track. It’s perfect for that.”

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Myrthe van de Weetering
Myrthe van de Weetering
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Joana Queiroz agrees with that when it comes to newer jazz versus golden old gems: “It is like going one step further, altogether. I think that it's very good to be up-to-date with the new creations in jazz: fresh ideas, different timbres and approaches, interesting melodies—all things that can bring new air around. Also for producers who sample.” Musicmusicmusic’s Fabian is on the same page, but also sees a challenge for producers: “It’s a bigger bag of goodies to pick from. But there’s also a challenge to take on ‘new jazz.’ Also because a lot of jazz produced today, is heavily influenced by hip-hop made from old jazz samples. So the cycle repeats.”

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To circle back to the exemplifying words of Miles Davis: “All the social melodies, out in [the] air. It's not jazz anymore. That's the social music I'm talking about. You take what you want out and leave what you don't like. You know, like food." And truth be told, with all the new music out there for sampling, that’s a feast.

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