The Groove Seeker: Blink’s The Architects

The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

Blink: The Architects (Whistler, 4/19/11)

Blink: “Protect From Light (I)”

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If there’s one collective that typifies the spirit of modern jazz and the next step into its “post” era, it’s Chicago-based experimental-jazz quartet Blink.  And though that might sound bogus given the fact that its new album comes only in cassette and digital-download formats, the quartet’s lo-fi approach doesn’t mean that it’s not legit.  Since its 2008 debut, The Epidemic of Ideas — a record that imparts heavy emphasis on jazz experimentation and improvisation — the quartet has toured the world, received awards from the Illinois Arts Council, and had its compositions commissioned and performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble and the Peoria Ballet Company.

On its sophomore effort, The Architects, the quartet builds on its mishmash of free jazz, rock, and electronics, this time with a new approach for structured compositions.  The beauty of it all? You can’t really tell the difference.  In jazz, it’s said that the best improvised music sounds composed and the best composed music sounds improvised.  As circular as that sounds, the adage holds a lot of wisdom in understanding the merits of Blink and its overall sound.

Listeners will find the nine-song set, entirely composed by bassist Jeff Greene, to have a distinct balance.  Greene’s compositions build on one another, creating a musical dialogue that revisits melodies and textures to create intricate forms of theme and variation.  But the songs still feel open-ended, with solid foundations for drummer Quin Kirchner, guitarist Dave Miller, and saxophonist Greg Ward to instill in them a loose musical chemistry that is spontaneous and artful.

The Groove Seeker: The Dead Kenny Gs’ Operation Long Leash

The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

The Dead Kenny Gs: Operation Long Leash (The Royal Potato Family, 3/15/11)

The Dead Kenny Gs: “Black Truman (Harry the Hottentot)”

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Smooth-jazz lovers beware.  As an antidote to the polished alto saxophones and rarely improvised easy-listening jams of adult contemporary music, eccentric jazz trio The Dead Kenny Gs has released its second album, Operation Long Leash.  Given its play-on-words moniker that simultaneously drives a sock down the mouth of smooth-jazz king Kenny G and recalls the early ’80s hardcore-punk band The Dead Kennedys, the powerhouse trio taps into a sound that fuses jazz and punk.  It’s a crazy mix that works surprisingly well, played intensely by a group that has the skill and knowledge to pull it off.

Composed of three of the members of legendary Seattle-based Critters Buggin — bassist Brad Houser, drummer and vibraphonist Mike Dillon, and saxophonist Skerik — the band uses its genre-mashing experience to anchor it all down.  The trio has played in countless projects together, including all three in The Black Frames, and Dillon and Skerik comprise half of Garage a Trois.  Needless to say, the three have run in the same circles for more than two decades, playing hybrid styles that are everything but conservative.