The New Conception of Jazz

COMPOSERS: Bugge Wesseltoft
LABELS: Emarcy
PERFORMER: Bugge Wesseltoft (kb, samples), Eivind Aarset (g), Ingebrigt Hakerflaten (elec b), Anders Engen (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 538278-2

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As one American academic has pointed out, there is now ‘a revolution underway in jazz that lies not in an internal crisis of style, but in the debate over the looming new orthodoxy: jazz as “American classical music.’’’ It seems that academicism is breeding revivalism and eyes are turning elsewhere for innovation absent for too long in jazz.

Norwegian Bugge Wesseltoft has not got all the answers, but he does pose some interesting questions. By connecting jazz with the rhythms of dance culture he raises the issue of listening with the mind rather than listening with the body.

This is music that engages the body rather than the mind but before the purists wrinkle their noses, its worth remembering that for at least half its history jazz was bound up in making music for dance (ie body music). With bebop came an irresistible dash towards jazz as an art music, with the result that today many young American jazz musicians are custodians of earlier styles rather than exploring the future.

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To some, this may be a wonderful thing, but it’s not really leading anywhere. That’s why Wesseltoft’s new album is so thought-provoking: jazz as an art music or jazz as a body music? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between. Stuart Nicholson