birth Live at the Beachland

[Self-Released; 2004]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles:  jazz
Others: Wayne Krantz, Amitosis, Trevor Dunn, Scott Amendola

Hey nerds:
On one particular episode of The Simpsons, Marge is commissioned by Mr. Burns to paint a portrait of the ugly old mummy. At the climactic unveiling, the velvet curtains are withdrawn to reveal a stark picture of a nude Burns, hunched, spotted, and shriveled. When Monty approaches Marge, she fears the worst: that he'll fire Homer in retribution for the unflattering portrait. Instead, Burns tells her that, while he knows little of art, he does know what he hates. "And I do not," he says, "hate this."

All this is to preface my review of Cleveland/NYC jazz band birth's self-released CD-R of a show this January at Cleveland's Beachland Ballroom. Although the band has a pair of 'legitimate' releases for sale on their website (see above), this little gem was slipped into my hand by saxophonist Joshua Smith when, following one of the band's sets, I announced my intentions of reviewing on this very site any complimentary CDs with which the band might provide me. But getting back to Mr. Burns. Forgive me, gentle reader: I know little of jazz. In fact, this past year saw your reviewer stumbling drunken down the streets of London's Soho district yelling "Fuck jazz!" after witnessing a particularly pedestrian (as I saw it) and masturbatory session of café noodling. So I'm not a jazz fan. The facial hair, the cute little hats, the step-up-and-do-your-improv motif. It's not for me. But birth's facial hair is better. 2/3 of this band have cartoonishly huge mutton chops. And all three — sax, bass, and drums — can do the steps. This record is a document of a birth live set, six songs of the band's mutated skronk, slipping between elegiac slow washes of deep low bass and high-stepping swing. Forgive me once more, my jazz vocabulary is wanting. But this is avant-garde, I suppose; it's the bridge between the coffeehouse fuckers I loathe and the full-throttle mathcore of Sweep the Leg Johnny, for whom birth could feasibly open. More technical and varied (and less heavy) than Sweep, yet still exciting, I'll be looking for more of this soon.

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