If jazz is dead, then why are there still new forms of it popping up everywhere? Just in recent years, we’ve seen the rise of acid jazz, nu-jazz, electro-acoustic jazz, whack jazz, and so on. And now, there’s doomjazz.
Yeah, that’s right, doomjazz. Think of jazz from a tough neighborhood, having a bastard love child with grindcore. OK, that’s a hideous analogy. How about, Albert Ayler sitting in on a Black Sabbath jam session? Whatever imagery you can use to describe these visceral sounds, somewhere the words, “dark,” heavy” and “improvisational” have to be included.
Free Nelson Mandoomjazz might not be the first such doomjazz group, but they’ve got a shot at being the first one to gain wide notice. This trio from Scotland is about to issue their first album on the perfect label for this kind of jazz, UK-based RareNoise Records. The Shape of Doomjazz to Come/Saxophone Giganticus is technically a double EP, not an album, but running at album length, no one will know the difference.
What they will notice is the difference in the music contained within. Free Nelson is “manned” by Rebecca Sneddon on alto sax, Colin Stewart on bass and Archibald — Paul Archibald — on drums. Don’t be fooled by the ordinary sax trio getup, this is no ordinary sax/bass/drums group. That’s mainly because Stewart plays on a standup bass but an electric bass guitar, and he often plays it like a heavy metal guitar.
The riffs are of the scary monster kind, too. The template is set with “Where My Soul Can Be Free,” whereby Stewart’s bass begins in “normal” mode but then he quickly pours on the fuzz and settles into an evil riff. Sneddon frolics in it for a while and then midway, the band stops, and restarts briefly at a faster gait, alternating between the fast and slow gears. Interestingly, Sneddon plays inside when the going gets fast and outside when it’s slow.
As the only soloist, a lot of the music rides on Sneddon to lead and fill in the blanks left behind by those uncomplicated vamps. She gets as high as one can go on an alto without breaking the notes on “Into The Sky” and goes from subdued, playing the sax like a didgeridoo, to skronking frantically during “Saxophone Giganticus.” There are some moments, like those found in “The Masque of Red Death,” where she makes her alto weep like Tim Berne’s.
Sometimes songs can start out on a light footing and get increasingly menacing; “No One Fucking Posts To The UAE” is like that. “K54” even begins with a spider-y bass on a brisk walk for the first 50 seconds, and then Stewart lowers the boom and starts the doom. But the three keep revisiting that jazzier mood before a lyrical coda brings the song to a gentle landing.
For those morbid moods when you’re still jonesing for something with the freedom and volatility of jazz, The Shape of Doomjazz to Come/Saxophone Giganticus fills that need.
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The Shape of Doomjazz to Come/Saxophone Giganticus is slated for a March 3 release, by RareNoise Records. Visit Free Nelson Mandoomjazz’s Facebook page for more info.