interesting article on Radiohead/ Bjork influencing jazz musicians... - U2 Feedback

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Old 07-07-2002, 02:42 PM   #1
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interesting article on Radiohead/ Bjork influencing jazz musicians...

EST among jazz artists inspired by Bjork, Radiohead

by Steve Greenlee, Boston Globe Staff, 6/16/2002

Depending on your perspective, it's either an absurd development or an entirely natural one. Two of the rock world's most respected artists are exerting influence over the jazz world. The music of Radiohead and Bjork, who have been accorded the labels of the world's best rock band and pop music's most creative artist, are being co-opted by some of jazz's finest.

No two single artists better embody this movement than the pianists Brad Mehldau and Esbjorn Svensson, whose trios share a bill Thursday at Copley Square, where they'll play for free as part of the Boston Globe Jazz & Blues Festival. The music begins at 4:30 p.m.

Svensson's group, which goes by the abbreviation EST, released a new album last week on Columbia Records called ''Strange Place for Snow'' that will certainly wind up being among the year's very best. The influence of Radiohead, the English rock band that smartly incorporates electronics into its cavernous sound, is felt throughout, and Svensson readily acknowledges the similarities. Mehldau has been playing three Radiohead songs as part of his repertoire, and his next album - ''Largo,'' coming out in August - is a wild marriage of acoustic jazz and electronic treatments straight out of Radiohead's last two records, ''Kid A'' and ''Amnesiac.''

In fact, Bjork and Radiohead songs are becoming nearly as commonplace as Gershwin and Monk in the set lists of younger jazz artists. Trumpeter Dave Douglas plays Bjork's ''Unison'' with his new trio, and it appears on his new album, ''The Infinte.'' Pianist Jason Moran plays ''Joga.'' Greg Osby's new album, ''Inner Circle,'' includes a cover of her ''All Neon Like.'' A New York group called the Duggs Trio performs her ''Hyperballad.'' And Mehldau, who has long been playing Radiohead's ''Exit Music (For a Film),'' recently added the band's ''Everything in Its Right Place,'' and his new album includes a long, twisting version of ''Paranoid Android.''

What's going on here?

First, understand that jazz has covered and been influenced by pop music since its earliest days. Jelly Roll Morton, the pianist who claims to have invented jazz but probably just coined the word, turned ragtime pieces into swing. In the 1920s the tunes of Tin Pan Alley populated the repertoires of jazz musicians, and in the '30s some of the best jazz vocal performances - think Billie Holiday's ''What a Little Moonlight Can Do'' - even came from the world of novelty songs. Coleman Hawkins's 1939 version of ''Body and Soul'' may be the holy grail of improvisational soloing, but the tune itself had been written for a silent film. Everyone from Duke Ellington to Dave Brubeck to Miles Davis has done songs from Disney films. Not exactly high culture.

A great solo usually requires a great melody beneath it. Svensson, who is unashamed to say he feels more kinship with rock musicians than jazz, says Bjork and Radiohead are particularly adept at crafting melodies. But he says their popularity among jazzers also has to do with mainstream jazz failing to do much today that feels different. Bjork and Radiohead, he says, are ''the kind of artists who are developing the music.''

''Maybe earlier in its history, jazz was like that,'' Svensson said on the phone from his home in Stockholm. ''I can't find it much anymore in jazz. More and more I find it in Radiohead or Bjork. They are the ones who are pushing the music forward.''

Douglas, the trumpeter who has become one of jazz's most versatile bandleaders, says Bjork and Radiohead are immensely popular among jazz musicians of all stripes.

''When `Kid A' came out, it seemed like every jazz guy I knew was listening to `Kid A' all the time,'' he says. It's the same with Bjork records. ''What's interesting for me in Bjork's music is the way she's using the textures to define the total sound of the music, and then within that there's a lyricism that's really kind of surprising, and some of the tunes will really grab your heartstrings.''

Being a fan of her music led to his desire to have his new quintet play her touching song ''Unison.'' ''In a very simple sense, in a very physical way, I just wanted to feel myself making that sound,'' he said. ''It's really about hearing something, growing to love it, and then wanting to express it my own way.''

What Bjork and Radiohead do so well - and perhaps this helps explain why jazz's more adventurous performers are drawn to them - is use electronics to flesh out the sound created by acoustic instruments. It's not electronica; instead, it's inherently acoustic music that integrates electronics. That's the same approach EST takes, and it's what makes the trio's music so refreshing, even if the band does not play any Radiohead or Bjork songs.

''Sometimes when you use electronics you can make the acoustics sound more acoustic,'' said Svensson, 38, whose trio includes bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Ostrom. ''But we don't like it when it's too much, when it becomes too obvious that it's happening. On this record, we didn't use any synthesizers. I love synthesizers, but on this record we only used piano, organ, electric pianos, and when we wanted to use some strange sounds that could have been played on synthesizers, we used acoustic pianos and changed the sounds'' in production.

In doing so, the group creates a pastoral soundscape that is haunting and beautiful, spare and full of life. ''Strange Place for Snow'' is the trio's first album of new material for Columbia - last year's ''Somewhere Else Before'' compiled music the group had already released in Sweden - and their trip to Boston comes amid their first full-fledged tour in the United States. (The band played a week in New York last summer and came to Boston's Ryles Jazz Club for one show.)

EST is quite famous in Europe, where a good chunk of its fans are rock fans first, and only tangentially into jazz. With a sound that brings together strands of Radiohead-type rock, drum 'n' bass, and a young person's piano trio, EST is poised to find similar success on these shores. A free concert in downtown Boston doesn't hurt.

''None of us is a pure jazz musician,'' Svensson said. ''We grew up with rock and roll, and we still listen to rock, and of course classical music and drum 'n' bass stuff and techno music. So when we get together, we just play, and a lot of those things that come up have some influence by those different kinds of styles. It just becomes that way, that we mix it up with an acoustic sound.''

Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Old 07-07-2002, 04:12 PM   #2
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jazz musicians have always been able to use the best parts of other music styles

what I do think is strange about this is that someone like Miles Davis already incorporated electronisc into his music decades ago
so I don't really see why this is seen as something new

I'd probably have to here the pieces though
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