Jazz: ultra-cool Blue Note album art, wacky-poetry, offbeat piano licks and colliding drums, it’s a shame that the art-form has been sentenced to the underground and specialist scene today, never surfacing or fusing with other genres like it used to à la Bitches Brew or The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Well guess what: jazz is back. Funk: grooves so hard that shoulder-bones contort into the fifth dimension, and cosmic-basslines that sound like sugar-coated space-sludge, that stuff was left in the seventies right? Nothing since P-Funk, right? Well Jazz’s groovier brother is also alive and kicking in today’s music scene, and yes you can find grooves as hard as Flashlight. Here’s a shortlist of a few stand-out tracks from the ‘New Post-Jazz/Funk’ scene of the last 12 months.
Thundercat – Them Changes (2015)
This funk track is driven by Thundercat’s dirty, wet bassline, riding along the low-end like it was 1972. One you hit play on this record, you can’t deny the true-funk authority of the L.A.-based jazz-funk fusion bass player. With credits to his name such as recording and producing with Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus, Thundercat is a cornerstone of the movement, driving the heart of it forward with unthinkable grooves. This track, ‘Them Changes’, is taken from Thundercat’s latest EP ‘The Beyond/Where Giants Roam’, on Brainfeeder records.
Check this live version to see Thundercat in action.
Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar) (2014)
From those opening piano notes to the crazy-mad, off-time guitar solo, FlyLo’s Never Catch Me is a highlight of his 2014 LP, You’re Dead. This track is a twisted, chaotic mess of modern jazz-fusion, intertwining the producer’s futuristic beats with revamped versions of classic jazz instrumentation. If there ever was a song that could define forward thinking, it’d be this. Oh, and Kendrick Lamar raps on it too.
Kendrick Lamar – For Free? Interlude (2015)
A modern day Gil-scott Heron run through the streets of Compton: that’s how Lamar sounds on this jazz-poet interlude from To Pimp a Butterfly; dancing around the dark Charlie Parker-esque bebop that crashes all over the place in the background. This track shows that rappers are becoming ever more conscious and political, bringing Hip-Hop into a new era. No words needed:
Dam Funk – Free (2015)
Look at the album art and listen to the bassline, then tell me you want anything more from a straight up funk track? From the minute the 808 pops into your ears, Dam Funk’s Free lets you know where it’s at: 100% blunted cruise control. Just listen.
Kamasi Washington – Change of the Guard (2015)
Let’s end on the most grandiose representation of modern jazz in the Hip-Hop world there is today: Kamasi Washington’s Change of the Guard. From his 3-LP epic album: Epic, Change of the Guard shows us pure 21st Century Blue Note. What really lifts this track into today’s world, is it’s production: you wouldn’t get those washed-out, trippy backing vocals on a fusion recording from 1968. Collaborating with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Nas, FlyLo and Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi is taking jazz in it’s truest form and delivering it to a new audience.