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Clip: A jazz quartet tribute to Pavement is, inexplicably, a roaring success.

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  • Carl Z.
    Slanted and Enchanted A jazz quartet tribute to Pavement is, inexplicably, a roaring
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 2, 2005
      <http://music.eastbayexpress.com/Issues/2005-11-02/music/downinfront.html>

      Slanted and Enchanted
      A jazz quartet tribute to Pavement is, inexplicably, a roaring success.
      By Rob Harvilla

      Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2005

      Ali Jackson, big-shot jazz drummer extraordinaire, won't claim
      encyclopedic knowledge of indie rock, but like all sensible Americans
      he enjoys Pavement a great deal. "I like that hit that they had on
      MTV, that 'Cut Your Hair,'" he enthuses. "It's real catchy and real
      earthy, just playin' around, like you play around like kids play
      around. Like 'Ring Around the Rosie.'"

      Indeed, Stockton's favorite sons always seemed a bit amateurish,
      childlike, and in constant danger of, like the proverbial ashes, all
      falling down. But they never did, and now they're deified American
      rock royalty, so now an ebullient version of 1994's "Cut Your Hair,"
      that hit they sorta had, appears on Gold Sounds, the world's first
      Pavement jazz tribute record.

      This is a bit odd.

      Pavement, you see, did not exactly perform with a jazzman's technical
      acumen or precision -- idiots savants, maybe, but certainly not
      virtuosos. Jazz covers of pop/rock hits remain wildly popular as
      crossover attempts and Look-How-With-It-I-Am boasts, but they usually
      target artier, more elaborate fare (Radiohead Jazz is practically its
      own genre). But the grunged-up, shambling, barely-in-tune "Cut Your
      Hair"? As jazz?

      Absolutely. James Carter (described in Gold Sounds' liner notes as
      "John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Albert Ayler rolled into one")
      greets us with shrieking, atonal sax, which gives way to a crawling
      soul shuffle, Cyrus Chestnut's warm organ lines floating atop Reginald
      Veal's bass and Ali's own precise drumming. Very light, airy,
      comforting. But five minutes in it suddenly, joyously explodes,
      doubling in tempo and exuberance, Ali raining down bombastic rock-drum
      fills while a pack of cooing soul singers echoes and refines the
      original's now-iconic chorus: Doo-doo doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
      doo-doo-doo, doo-ahhhhh. The deliberately sloppy becomes precise and
      confident; the emotionally distant becomes ecstatically direct.

      The trick, Ali insists, is to see that thread from the beginning.
      "Pavement's musical style and direction, even though it's a limited
      musical knowledge -- it has a presence and a statement and a vibration
      that comes across in their music," he says, chatting on the phone from
      a touring gig with Wynton Marsalis. "Music can be extremely
      intellectual, and it can be extremely basic. And that's the beauty of
      it."

      Gold Sounds, the brainchild of the nascent NYC outfit Brown Brothers
      Recordings, sounds initially like a cheap, contrived stunt. The liner
      notes admit the label basically threw Ali, James, Cyrus, and Reginald
      together Fantasy Baseball-style; Ali himself knew very little about
      Pavement before he got the call. But the four seasoned jazzmen -- Ali
      is the youngest, at 29 -- had played before in various configurations,
      and that familiarity and warmth immediately transforms tracks like
      "Stereo" and "Summer Babe" from cheap tricks into inspired
      re-creations. The slinky bassline to "Blue Hawaiian" (a hidden gem
      from 1999's Brighten the Corners) translates perfectly from cheeky
      beach-bum indie-rock to mellow downtempo jazz, and Cyrus turns Slanted
      & Enchanted standout "Trigger Cut" into a solo Jelly Roll-ing piano
      romp.

      But the monster here is "Here," the closest Slanted got to a
      conventional ballad, totally pushed by James' moaning soprano sax into
      makeout anthem glory for Gold Sounds. It's an unabashedly cheesy,
      nearly smooth-jazz moment, but it's brave, honest, and beautiful. Most
      jazz reworkings make simple things complicated, but "Here" does the
      opposite, disregarding Pavement's facade of apathetic cool and
      exposing the yearning melodies beneath.

      Hopefully it will prove as eye-opening to lifelong Pavement fans as it
      did to Ali himself. "I knew a little bit, just from, like, MTV," he
      recalls. "That's it. I didn't really know a lot about them, but after
      I watched their documentary and listened to all of their records, then
      I had a lot better understanding of what they were about."

      That doc, 2002's DVD release Slow Century, was particularly
      instructive. "Even though it was very kinda amateurish and very basic,
      they had a sound and a vibration," Ali says. "The characters in the
      band, they're just kinda wild." Especially original drummer Gary
      Young, Pavement's wildly unhinged Party Animal Imitating the Muppets'
      Animal figure. "He was just wild, just floatin' through life, live
      hour to hour," Ali says. "Cats just be gettin' high ... whatever.
      Wherever life, wherever the wind blows. And that's a perspective on
      life. Culturally, the vibration of some people's reality. It's
      interesting, and their music has that, it's just like, 'This is the
      talent that we have, this is what we're presentin'. We love music, and
      this is our offering, whatever.' With limited skills. That's the
      beauty of music."

      For now Gold Sounds is largely an Internet phenomenon (enjoy the
      dune-buggy intro at BrownBrothersRecordings.com) -- the quartet has a
      string of NYC shows later this month, with the hope of hitting the
      touring and festival circuit next year. Meanwhile, other pop-into-jazz
      heavyweights like Brad Mehldau (whose new disc Day Is Done begins with
      a flashy meditation on Radiohead's "Knives Out") and the Bad Plus
      (famed for jazzing up Blondie, Aphex Twin, and Nirvana) roll merrily
      on (each has an SF date this week), but now they have a new paragon to
      aspire to, one that jacks up the fancy-pants technical virtuosity but
      alerts you to the warmth you might've forgotten or missed entirely in
      the original. Pavement's corners are now even brighter.
    • Wilson, Carl
      I think this article is more than a little dumb/unfair on the subject of Pavement. Sure, they were rough - they were no jazz musicians - but they didn t sound
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 2, 2005
        I think this article is more than a little dumb/unfair on the subject of Pavement. Sure, they were rough - they were no jazz musicians - but they didn't sound like they did because they couldn't play. They sounded like they did because they were fans of Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth and the Fall. It wasn't an accident.

        carl w.
      • Carl Z.
        Carl s critcism is on the mark, though I agree with Harvilla s basic premise that a jazz treatment of Pavement songs is not an obvious move -- less obvious
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 2, 2005
          Carl's critcism is on the mark, though I agree with Harvilla's basic
          premise that a jazz treatment of Pavement songs is not an obvious move
          -- less obvious than, say, Lester Bowie covering the Notorious BIG.
          Thus my interest in forwarding the clip along.

          This talk of indie rock and jazz makes me pine for Universal Congress Of.

          harmolodically,
          Carl Z.

          On 11/3/05, Wilson, Carl <cwilson@...> wrote:
          > I think this article is more than a little dumb/unfair on the subject of
          > Pavement. Sure, they were rough - they were no jazz musicians - but they
          > didn't sound like they did because they couldn't play. They sounded like
          > they did because they were fans of Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth and the
          > Fall. It wasn't an accident.
          >
          > carl w.
        • Wilson, Carl
          ... And certainly less obvious than all that jazz-Radiohead stuff, which I enjoyed the article s reference to. But jazz-Pavement is not as odd as it looks. If
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 3, 2005
            > a jazz treatment of Pavement songs is not an obvious move
            > -- less obvious than, say, Lester Bowie covering the Notorious BIG.

            And certainly less obvious than all that jazz-Radiohead stuff, which I enjoyed the article's reference to.

            But jazz-Pavement is not as odd as it looks. If you consider the jazz influence on their influences - from Ornette/Ayler to Beefheart/Ubu/Fall/No Wave/SY to Pavement to here, it's kind of just coming full circle.

            Hey! Wow! Imagine a jazz album of rearranged Captain Beefheart. That would be fantastic.

            (Tip: This is where somebody grunts, "Pshaw, it would just sound exactly like [free jazz album X].")

            carl w.
          • Carl Z.
            ... Yes, although notions of virtuosity (or at least complex technique) are more at play in Beefheart , than, say, the Fall or Pavement. (Sonic Youth fall
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 3, 2005
              On 11/4/05, Wilson, Carl <cwilson@...> wrote:
              > > a jazz treatment of Pavement songs is not an obvious move
              > > -- less obvious than, say, Lester Bowie covering the Notorious BIG.
              >
              > And certainly less obvious than all that jazz-Radiohead stuff, which I
              > enjoyed the article's reference to.
              >
              > But jazz-Pavement is not as odd as it looks. If you consider the jazz
              > influence on their influences - from Ornette/Ayler to Beefheart/Ubu/Fall/No
              > Wave/SY to Pavement to here, it's kind of just coming full circle.

              Yes, although notions of virtuosity (or at least complex technique)
              are more at play in Beefheart , than, say, the Fall or Pavement.
              (Sonic Youth fall somewhere in between, and Ubu varies depending on
              the lineup, but a lot of Ravenstine's work is technically complex.)

              > Hey! Wow! Imagine a jazz album of rearranged Captain Beefheart. That would
              > be fantastic.
              >
              > (Tip: This is where somebody grunts, "Pshaw, it would just sound exactly
              > like [free jazz album X].")

              Or like a lot of Gary Lucas's work post-Beeheart! Now, a jazz album
              of rearranged Fall would be pretty unexpected...and something I'd like
              to hear.

              Carl Z.
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