While in college, I took a course on the history of jazz. The teacher was a musician named Hofbauer — if you’re him, what up, thanks for the A — whose final included an essay question that went something like, “Why isn’t jazz as popular as it used to be, and how can it regain its popularity?” I distinctly remember my response talking about how jazz musicians used to cover more pop songs and how one option might be for modern jazz artists to do the same, while also re-incorporating elements of the newer musical genres that’ve borrowed so heavily from jazz, namely hip-hop and electronica. Of course, collaborations between jazz artists and hip-hoppers are nothing new — see Miles Davis’ Doo-Bop and Guru’s Jazzmatazz for a few prime examples. But jazz musicians covering rap songs or looping riffs and dropping tempos to the point where their tunes sound like beats? These phenomena I hadn’t witnessed until recently, with groups like BADBADNOTGOOD. In the words of Mr. Pink, “I’m not saying they weren’t there, I’m saying there were there, but they didn’t move in till…”
Whereas BBNG has their fun soloing electrically along with the chord progressions of hit songs like “Brooklyn Zoo,” “Lemonade,” and “Earl,” Black Chamber goes another route, their muted trumpet, stand-up bass, and drawn-out drum rhythms holding a moody streetwise conversation that sounds like the kind of defeat and despair you find only in damp, dark alleyways or abandoned buildings. It’s not bright and fun, but scorched and spectral like a Western ghost town. Their cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” manages to somehow simultaneously add some soul and suck out any semblance of hope the original had to offer. It’s like old Portishead with no vocals and more attitude. All attempts at objectivity aside, this album fucking rules, and I really hope you not only check it out, but tell all of your friends about it too.
• Black Chamber: http://www.blackchambermusic.com