Spotify Playlist of the Week

Michael Quick

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“Broken Fuse”

Many people tend to stray away from jam bands or jazz fusion associating them with something like The Grateful Dead or Phish, endless improvisational sections over top of rather uninteresting harmonic progressions.

With this week’s Spotify playlist, I felt the need to bend that stereotype a little.

While it is true that much of this music features lengthy improvisational sections (and lengthy songs for that matter), not all of it is quite as unstructured as many are led to believe.

First, I’d like to talk a little bit about Frank Zappa. He is a rather polarizing individual, people either love him or hate him. The instrumental piece that I included in this week’s playlist, Black Napkins, is one that should sway any fan of jazz music into the right direction.

The piece consists of only two chords, but the voice leading that Zappa wrote made it seem like there is so much more going on. The way that the horns weave in and out of each other while playing is a bit unexpected but pleasing at the same time.

This version in particular, features live horn players as opposed to synthesizers, as opposed to other versions out there.

Each of the solos showcases the true virtuosity and experimental nature of the players and really makes the piece sit in this interesting place between being something simple, and being incredibly complicated and dense.

Another piece of note is “Smile in a Wave” by the Screaming Headless Torsos.

This crazy upbeat piece with Latin influence starts out with a percussion introduction featuring both the drummer and percussionist playing this shuffled groove completely locked with one another.

Throughout the piece the band drives home the melody of the song, with every melodic instrument performing it at the same time (the singer even scats it). The whole piece makes it impossible for the listener to sit still, and this is especially true during the one section right before the main melody is repeated where it drops into this grungy half-time feel, likening itself to almost metal.

Finally, there’s “Sex in a Pan” by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. This piece presents an incredible juxtaposition between the funk fueled bassline and the Americana vibe in both the banjo and the harmonica.

What’s really interesting is the variation that comes into play in both of those instruments. When the harmonica and banjo play fills, both incorporate more chromatic notes than are generally heard on those instruments. It’s almost off-putting.

Fleck always tries to change the game in his pieces, often utilizing strange instrumentation that one wouldn’t expect in a jazz piece.

Overall, this playlist is just cool to have on in the background when you need something to groove along to.

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Spotify Playlist of the Week