Black Jazz Consortium, New Horizon EP

[Soul People Music]


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Fred Peterkin’s chosen moniker for this and many other releases seems to take for granted a point that, for some critics and listeners in the world of dance music, remains controversial. Even more so than your average deep house record, the “New Horizon EP” has a lot more to do with jazz, particularly jazz fusion, than it does with European electronic music. It’s an EP that can comfortably stand alongside the most jazz-influenced work of Juan Atkins, Mad Mike, Carl Craig, and Kirk Degiorgio. The experiments with tonality and electronics that the greatest jazz musicians engaged in during the late sixties and early seventies are as much a part of techno and house as the work of German and English rockers and poppers, and Fred P ably proves it with these four remarkable tracks.

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DJs will find that mixing the standout “Watching You Vogue” is no easy feat; its unpredictable bass drum is guaranteed to throw you off. In the end, however, the track is well worth the extra practice. Imagine if Miles Davis got stuck in that proverbial techno elevator with George Clinton and Kraftwerk and you’ve got some idea of its sound; its moody harmonies and complex rhythm set the stage for a filtered keyboard solo that would not have sounded out of place on In a Silent Way. As if confirming the comparison, a muted trumpet shows up on the next track, “Steps Beyond,” gracefully drifting across ethereal pads. The track’s beat features those wonderful syncopated high hats characteristic of early techno and house — epitomized by the productions of Derrick May — that are so rarely heard today. “I Can Feel It” puts a spare, funky bass line through a series of varied harmonies and textures, with a ghostly voice whispering throughout. The achingly beautiful title track applies a series of different melodic instruments to its four melancholy chords: first a piano, then strings, then a high, woodwind-like tone, and finally a climactic 303. Emotionally intense and sonically dazzling, the track brings to mind Juan Atkins’ “Jazz is the Teacher.” And if that’s the case, Fred P is an A student.

ballyhoo  on March 29, 2009 at 11:17 PM

i’m really just perpetuating the arguments of one side of the controversy surrounding jazz here, and i’ll apologize for that in advance, but i feel it needs to be said.

to me, this track sounds like a dude wailing away without much technique on the organ over a drum machine. notwithstanding the sounds of the drums and keys, which aren’t bad, it’s ultimately wank. unadventurous in spontaneity, technique, communication between musicians, communication of emotion, all hallmarks of what make jazz exciting. this is the electronic equivalent of smooth jazz.

compare this to stronen/storlokken’s “pusher” on the first humcrush album, or even radian. it’s coming at jazz/”techno-like” electronic fusion, but from the complete opposite direction. it stretches jazz conventions, and it also pushes electronic performance. that’s not to say juan atkins was boring. techno exploring jazz in the 80s was exciting and you could hear the excitement in the merger between electronics and jazz. today however, jazz is considered dead, precisely because of musicians who co-opt a sound, but none of the liveliness and musicality. it’s the same argument leveled against mnml. it’s the difference between phish and can: they both set a mood associated with jazz, whether you favor one or the other is a matter of taste, but only one band could write a decent tune.

Chris Burkhalter  on March 30, 2009 at 12:04 AM

Thanks for writing on this – it’s a superb record indeed.

peder  on March 30, 2009 at 5:28 AM

good tip shuja. fred p is much underrated, hopefully not for much longer. think he’ll probably blow up in the same way as jus-ed and dj qu about…. now!

Joe H  on March 30, 2009 at 8:39 AM

Fantastic. Its the sort of record you could find Giles Peterson playing on a deep, housey, jazz tip & then later on in the night find Carl Craig dropping it. Timeless emotional house music.

Will C.  on March 30, 2009 at 9:24 AM

The keyboard solo is good, but I think the track is missing an element that’s really important in Miles Davis’ fusion work – the sheer density of the parts. I was listening to _On the Corner_ just this morning, and what really struck me about the record is that you don’t have just one instrument improvising over a chord progression as in typical jazz, you have a large set of instruments vamping and interacting. Even though the solo is similar in style, it just doesn’t have the same impact played over a dub-ish house beat as it would in conjunction with a dense, always shifting arrangement. Not that it’s bad, per se–I don’t know if I’ll be seeking it out, butI don’t dislike it–but it’s really not the same at all.

Jacob  on March 30, 2009 at 1:39 PM

I like the sound of this! Seems less jazz than “jazzy.”

tom/pipecock  on March 30, 2009 at 2:28 PM

i knew it would be Shuja doing this review when i clicked on the link 😉

i’ve been loving Fred P’s shit, this one is very nice as well. i’m not gonna argue about comparing it to jazz music straight up because that really isn’t what it’s all about. what this record has is a feeling that is rooted in love of jazz music, that much is pretty obvious just by hearing it.

when i was playing records on WNUR a couple weeks back i had an episode where the A1 cut on this was skipping uncontrollably. i havent checked it at home yet to see if it is a pressing fault or if it was just bad luck on my part.

shuja x  on March 30, 2009 at 2:34 PM

i should point out again that the miles davis reference is to in a silent way, a record that shares aspects of its aesthetic with minimalist electronic music of the time, and is mostly rather sparse. on the corner is a great album but it’s not the only mode miles worked in. see also “he loved him madly” on get up with it, or “yesternow” (recently sampled by norman nodge) on a tribute to jack johnson. “new horizon” evokes the mood, not the method. the method (“spontaneity,” “communication,” and so on) is up to the dj.

ballyhoo  on March 30, 2009 at 4:39 PM

“the method (”spontaneity,” “communication,” and so on) is up to the dj..”

miles was super rigorous about his process in order to achieve that “mood” that fred p, you, and i think is great. no doubt, the rigor is what makes his music intangibly special. miles was known for railing on dudes who didn’t have the chops.

it seems like you’re dissociating this process (rigor) from the musical document itself and re-associating it as traits of a dj, and claiming that to be the dynamic at play here. granted, i think this is a really interesting idea in itself, the act of recontextualizing music to give new meaning to existing musical principles, but it’s also really dangerous because it waters down what essentializes jazz in the first place. that organ solo, no matter how you cut it, is decidedly average. i think it’s worth considering how much merit we can give to a record on the basis that it evokes a mood. a mood can be replicated cosmetically.

ballyhoo  on March 30, 2009 at 4:43 PM

btw, i bring this up because i think tom and you are bloggers who discuss this regularly on your blogs, which i think are really good.

these ideas i’m bringing up are not too dissimilar from those i read on ISM and B & S. if i’m wrong, lemme know.

struggle  on March 30, 2009 at 5:59 PM

love all four of these tunes. think i’ll go listen to them now instead of writing about them.

Scott  on March 30, 2009 at 10:24 PM

Ok. This writing is way over the top. I’m sorry, but I had to comment. I agree this is a good record – and I fully support the exposure…..but enough with the over-dramatic name dropping descriptions. “Sonically Dazzling?” “At home on In Silent Way”. “Well worth the extra practice????” Sometimes it’s best to let the music do the talking – in this scenario I would believe that is absolutely the case.

Will C.  on March 31, 2009 at 9:10 AM

Shuja: I’m familiar with _In a Silent Way_ as well. It may not have the hyperkinetic energy of _On the Corner_, but it’s a pretty dense album as well, at times. There are plenty of parts where, besides drums and bass vamping, you have three different instruments improvising in conjunction, all of them playing parts at least as sophisticated as the piano part in this record. In fact, there aren’t many parts where the improvisation is coming from just one instrument.

eric cloutier  on March 31, 2009 at 9:46 AM

you guys are making a big to-do about a really, really good record.

also…

“DJs will find that mixing the standout “Watching You Vogue” is no easy feat; its unpredictable bass drum is guaranteed to throw you off.”

i think we’re being a bit much here.

Will Lynch  on March 31, 2009 at 10:23 AM

@Scott: I found the “well worth the extra practice” to be a very astute description, especially from a DJing perspective. I’ve felt this way about a lot of tracks before and was glad to see it put so succinctly.

tom/pipecock  on March 31, 2009 at 12:11 PM

“miles was super rigorous about his process in order to achieve that “mood” that fred p, you, and i think is great. no doubt, the rigor is what makes his music intangibly special. miles was known for railing on dudes who didn’t have the chops.”

i just don’t think you can sum up the greatness of Miles Davis’ music by attributing it to his “rigor” and “chops”. the fact is, TONS of musicians are insane about their chops and their particular idea of how a song should sound. some of these artists include such classics as Rush, Dream Theatre, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc. now maybe you like that kind of music, but to me it is nonsense noodling. and it certainly is not the only thing that dictates the overall quality of the piece of music. in fact, i would argue that it is almost completely unrelated.

“it seems like you’re dissociating this process (rigor) from the musical document itself and re-associating it as traits of a dj, and claiming that to be the dynamic at play here.”

you act as if there is no rigor involved in creating your own track all by yourself entirely from scratch, writing each melody, each rhythm, every little variation, mixing it down, adding effects to give it sonic depth, etc. there are quite different skills at being a solo instrumentalist and being an electronic producer, but both take great time, energy, and effort. to compare anyone to Miles Davis in terms of individual brilliance is going to be a losing proposition. even amongst jazz musicians there are very very few who can really fuck with that guy’s output.

“granted, i think this is a really interesting idea in itself, the act of recontextualizing music to give new meaning to existing musical principles, but it’s also really dangerous because it waters down what essentializes jazz in the first place.”

eh, this is the same kind of shit people said about fusion, jazz-funk, free jazz, jazzy hiphop, etc. i didn’t buy it then, i don’t buy it now. jazz has a pretty wide range of approaches in terms of composition, but one thing that ties much of it together is the mood it creates. are you really going to harp on Pete Rock for not being a horn player? how is he not a virtuoso of the MPC and SP1200? yet he creates music that has that feeling to it that you find on jazz records. not all jazz is free improvisation: big band, dixieland, jazz-funk, and other forms of jazz all show different methods of achieving that feeling through different types of compositions.

i think that there are pretty obvious restrictions in the structure and use of dance music that limits how stereotypically “jazz” a record can be before it starts to no longer function as a dancefloor record. lots of artists deal with this in different ways, look at Juju & Jordash for one way, Sleep Walker for another, Theo Parrish for another, etc.

“that organ solo, no matter how you cut it, is decidedly average. i think it’s worth considering how much merit we can give to a record on the basis that it evokes a mood. a mood can be replicated cosmetically.”

how is a mood ever cosmetic? to me, that is the essence of any piece of music; to dismiss it as something so simple is ridiculous. how can you listen to 1000 dance tracks with a 4 on the floor kick drum and similar structures and instruments used in them and not think mood is one of if not the most important part of composition??!?!

you can play with any amount of virtuosity (or lack thereof) but if your music doesn’t have something more to it than that, it isn’t going to be shit. i could easily name 500 records made by technically “unskilled” musicians that are obviously better than 500 records made by virtuoso musicians. how do they accomplish this? in any variety of ways, but their music almost always has a captivating mood to it.

i’m not going to comment on peoples’ complaints about Shuja’s descriptors and comparisons, that’s up to him to defend. but i will say that i always worry first about atmosphere/mood/feeling when i listen to music, and that is what i go by when deciding to buy a record or when i decide to play it in a deejay set.

ballyhoo  on March 31, 2009 at 7:40 PM

“i just don’t think you can sum up the greatness of Miles Davis’ music by attributing it to his “rigor” and “chops”. the fact is, TONS of musicians are insane about their chops and their particular idea of how a song should sound. some of these artists include such classics as Rush, Dream Theatre, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc. now maybe you like that kind of music, but to me it is nonsense noodling. and it certainly is not the only thing that dictates the overall quality of the piece of music. in fact, i would argue that it is almost completely unrelated. “

Couldn’t agree with you more, and my comments above aren’t meant to reduce music to any one variable. Chops aren’t necessary to make good music. Rock proved that. You can suck at playing a guitar, but you can be a great band. I did bring this up before, the phish vs. can thing. Both bands evoke a mood influenced by, if not specifically referencing, jazz, both are technically proficient, but only one band (in my opinion at least) wrote good songs. My point is that you can love jazz to death too, but because you’re technically not up to snuff, you’re limited in your ability to play, therefore to create, therefore to communicate. How many postpunk bands lived the culture, but because they sucked at playing instruments, were in the end shitty? It goes both ways. I don’t exclusively believe in or the other. And would you really argue that chops are completely unrelated, because isn’t this the whole problem with music-making means (aka ableton) becoming democratized/ubiquitous/blah blah blah? Anyone has a means now, but isn’t one thing, amongst so many, that separates the wheat from the chaff skill/technique/mastery of these live instruments/drum machines/recording instruments/MAXmsp/studio/etc.? Trust me dude, I’m not someone who believes producers aren’t real musicians because they don’t play “real” instruments.

“To compare anyone to Miles Davis in terms of individual brilliance is going to be a losing proposition. even amongst jazz musicians there are very very few who can really fuck with that guy’s output.”

Hey man, agreed. It wasn’t me who compared this record to miles in the first place! But in the spirit of miles, I brought up the chops thing.

“granted, i think this is a really interesting idea in itself, the act of recontextualizing music to give new meaning to existing musical principles, but it’s also really dangerous because it waters down what essentializes jazz in the first place.
eh, this is the same kind of shit people said about fusion, jazz-funk, free jazz, jazzy hiphop, etc. i didn’t buy it then, i don’t buy it now. jazz has a pretty wide range of approaches in terms of composition, but one thing that ties much of it together is the mood it creates. are you really going to harp on Pete Rock for not being a horn player? how is he not a virtuoso of the MPC and SP1200? yet he creates music that has that feeling to it that you find on jazz records. not all jazz is free improvisation: big band, dixieland, jazz-funk, and other forms of jazz all show different methods of achieving that feeling through different types of compositions.”

I think lots of non-jazz music capture the mood of jazz. I never harped on pete rock for anything. I think he’s great. That “droppin science” LP on blue note is like a seal of approval by jazz dudes for outsiders to appropriate the moods of jazz for other purposes. But there are successes, and there are many failures. For me, I can’t call this black jazz consortium record a success. This probably comes down to opinion, but I don’t get excited about this track. I don’t get anything out of it. I did say that the sounds are good, but in the end, the noodling kills it for me. I have little patience for someone noodling on a instrument, unless they’re really killing it or really adding something to a track, and I don’t think fred p is killing it. This is a sparse track, so unless everything is superlative, it’s gonna stand out. it’s not like the noodling of say Circle, who do similar stuff on the keys as fred p here, to add a layer of depth to a song.

“i think that there are pretty obvious restrictions in the structure and use of dance music that limits how stereotypically “jazz” a record can be before it starts to no longer function as a dancefloor record. lots of artists deal with this in different ways, look at Juju & Jordash for one way, Sleep Walker for another, Theo Parrish for another, etc.”

they’re fine examples. I believe constraints are one of the best way to breed creativity. But look at other groups like the ones I mentioned in my first comment. I dunno if you know of them, but if you listen to them, I think you’ll find them interesting. They can groove, and it’s a different groove than from the artists you mention, but I bet an able DJ can mix them into a set, and people would lose their shit. In fact, sometimes I want nothing more than for them to put out a straight up dance 12”.

“how is a mood ever cosmetic? to me, that is the essence of any piece of music; to dismiss it as something so simple is ridiculous. how can you listen to 1000 dance tracks with a 4 on the floor kick drum and similar structures and instruments used in them and not think mood is one of if not the most important part of composition??!?!”

how about shoegaze, since that is very much a mood-based rock sound? How many bands fuzz out their guitars, drop the tempo, blast their amps, etc., that is, they capture the dark/uplifting mood, the timbres (atmosphere), the emotions (feeling), but then mbv/cocteau twins blow them right out of the water? They just can’t match up to them, so I call what they do recreating the mood cosmetically.

maybe we’re thinking of the word mood differently? You call mood captivating, so maybe you’re considering it as the intangible quality of music that makes it great, in which case, yeah, that’s my benchmark for liking one band over another too.

adamv  on April 2, 2009 at 3:03 PM

i generally agree that the review’s connections to jazz and miles davis are tenuous, but at least it brings up a good discussion, and that’s at least commendable.

I don’t find fred p’s tracks to be particularly jazz-infused in the sense that kirk degiorgio’s are, even though his project is called ‘black jazz consortium’

i don’t even care about his name or anything – his music is intimate, and his mood is own.

this isn’t about the mood of jazz, or miles davis or anyone, it’s about the mood of fred peterkin.

and my pick from this is new horizon, with watching you vogue in second. i think those are the two with the most longevity anyways.

Trackbacks

Little White Earbuds » Little White Earbuds March Charts  on April 3, 2009 at 2:45 PM

[…] Black Jazz Consortium, “New Horizon” [Soul People Music] 02. Isolée, “A Nightingale” [Diynamic Music] 03. Pangaea, […]

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