Weasel Walter Quartet
Styles: free jazz, speed jazz
Others: Peter BrÃ¶tzmann, Kaoru Abe, Bridge Over Troubled Water Art Ensemble
I know what you’re thinking; by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, I can safely assume that you’re young, and at the very least proto-liberal. You see the word “revolt” in the album title, and you immediately assume that the war in Iraq, or the current administration, is what’s being revolted against. After all, the indie world is brimming with calls for Li’l Bush’s head, whether in a song, a compilation of like-minded artists, or even just banal asides in the realm of interstitial stage chatter. So, it’s a perfectly reasonable assumption. But, being that Weasel Walter lives, at best, on the very fringes of this culture (XBXRX), he’s not susceptible to the pervasive groupthink that seems to drive the phenomenon. Rather, he’s revolting against a whole mindset that led us to arrive in the situation in the first place. I would put forward that the protest is against the indifference and sated comfort of the populace in general, and jazz musicians specifically.
The first -- and perhaps the only reasonable thing -- you can say about this album is that it's propulsive. Weasel has said that in his rebirth in free jazz, he wants to start songs/sets off as fast as possible, and to push it even harder as they progress; the implicit message being that the time has come and gone for avant-garde jazz to meander through contemplative sections and sustained notes (John Coltrane), and that a new paradigm is a necessity to keep the entirety of jazz from slipping down the slippery slope into Kool Jazz. Even most fans of the “avant-garde” don’t go in for something this bold and crass. They seem to want a feast of comfort food, sounds they know and love; Weasel wants to slap that well worn fork out of their hands and feed them with Stanley’s fire hose. And if they refuse, at least they’ll have to think about why they want to pick that fork back up and bury their head back in the warm sands of bland gruel.
But, who is even more to blame for this decay of micro-culture? Of course, it’s the masters, the leaders, those that dictate what the tenor of the community will be. And the heralded stars of this world are fattening their asses like good bourgeoisie would, serving up that comfort food people will pay top dollar for. Artists tabbed as the brightest stars revert to traditional structures and gestures, the crowd pleasers, since -- well, they have crowds for the first time ever, and it's pretty nice having some jingle in your jeans. Matthew Shipp and Ken Vandermark are two that especially spring to mind. Shipp lives entirely in the world of neo-trad jazz, and Vandermark certainly calls it home, but will occasionally venture so far as to ape Braxton’s output of the '60s. John Zorn isn’t much better, with his fetishism for klezmer and… traditional Jewish musics. And these are three of the supposed torch-bearers of the avant-garde.
It's easy to say that it's hard to blame anyone for the situation jazz is in; most jazz fans would ardently argue that there is indeed nothing wrong with it. But, on the other hand, you can say the same thing about the state our country’s in: it's hard to blame the Does for being content with comfort, not asking more of themselves and their governance. There is ample evidence that Weasel has left a trail of estranged musical partners and friends in his wake, the result of a stubborn refusal to compromise, to stray from his vision of perfection via progress. There is also ample evidence that if listeners commit and submit themselves to his music, they will have no choice but to actively synthesize it, often emerging a little more enlightened than they had been. But, it is demonstrable that one of man’s greatest fears is to think, much less to submit its own beliefs to scrutiny. So, there Weasel seems destined to remain, alone on the fringes.
1. Revolt 2. Revolt and Revolt Again 3. Revolting Music 4. Totally Revolting 5. Drum Solo6. The Need to Revolt 7. Right Now We Are Revolting 8. We Have Revolted