From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Punk jazz describes the amalgamation of elements of the jazz tradition (usually the free jazz and jazz fusion of the 1960s and '70s) with the instrumentation or conceptual heritage of punk rock (typically the more experimental and dissonant strains, such as no wave and hardcore).
The stylistic origins of punk rock are bound up with the reception of developments in jazz. The Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and the MC5, accepted as the roots of punk by experts such as Legs McNeil and Clinton Heylin, were all vocal in their fascination with, and at times direct sonic debt to, jazz, and specifically the free jazz movement that began in the late 1950s.By the 1960s, avant-garde jazz musicians, such as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Roscoe Mitchell, Sonny Sharrock, and Peter Brötzmann, were exploring much of the aggression, political themes, and DIY distribution efforts that would later become characteristic of punk rock.
Frank Zappa's work is also foundational for much punk jazz.
As punk rock was cemented as a style, it appeared to be in direct opposition with any "jazziness", and particularly the jazz fusion that had become intertwined with progressive rock. The emphasis on amateurism, speed, and brevity seemed to declare jazz elements anathema. Other developments in the jazz of the 1970s seemed equally far from the punk ethos, as ECM began to produce a calming, elegant, and refined variety of jazz at the antipodes of punk values. The exceptions to this stylistic divorce were Patti Smith, who (unsuccessfully) sought out collaboration with Ornette Coleman, and Television, who also developed a sinuous, improvisatory strain of punk, indebted to jazz. Lol Coxhill also recorded with the Damned.
The relaxation of orthodoxy concurrent with post-punk in London and New York City led to a new appreciation for jazz. In London, the Pop Group began to mix free jazz, along with dub reggae, into their brand of punk rock. In NYC, No Wave took direct inspiration from both free jazz and punk. Examples of this style include Lydia Lunch's Queen of Siam, the work of James Chance and the Contortions, who mixed Soul with free jazz and punk, and the Lounge Lizards, who were the first group to call themselves "punk jazz". Bill Laswell would become an important figure in punk jazz (in addition to his significance to dance-punk, dub and many other genres). Laswell's group Material mixed funk-jazz with punk, while another of his groups, Massacre, added an improvisational quality to aggressive rock music. Laswell would go on to take part in Last Exit and Pain Killer. James Blood Ulmer, who applied Coleman's harmolodic style to guitar, also sought out links to No Wave. These developments led the L.A. hardcore punk group Fear to taunt the scene with the song "New York's Alright (If You Like Saxophones)".
Ironically, hardcore punk itself also took shape under the influence of jazz. Bad Brains, widely acknowledged to have established the rudiments of the hardcore style, began by attempting jazz fusion. Greg Ginn of Black Flag also began to incorporate elements of free jazz into his guitar playing. Henry Rollins has praised free jazz, releasing albums by Matthew Shipp on his 2.13.61 label and collaborating with Charles Gayle.
Greek-American singer Diamanda Galás also approached jazz tradition from a thematically and stylistically transgressive perspective. Her album The Singer is a prototypical example of punk jazz applied to vocals and piano performance. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds bassist Barry Adamson recorded the album Moss Side Story, which also applies a punk and noise rock perspective to the orchestral jazz tradition, with Galás guesting on one track.
Early screamo band Swing Kids would experiment with jazz instruments, such as the piano and double bass, in addition to slower tempo drum work in a number of their songs, most notably "Disease." Like other hardcore acts of their time, the combination of free jazz and general hardcore, would allow the band to make a subtle contribution to the developement of jazzcore in addition to what is currently known as math rock.
John Zorn began to make note of the emphasis on speed and dissonance that was becoming prevalent in punk rock and incorporated this into free jazz. This began in 1986 with the album Spy vs. Spy, a collection of Ornette Coleman tunes done in the contemporary thrashcore style. The same year, Sonny Sharrock, Peter Brötzmann, Bill Laswell, and Ronald Shannon Jackson recorded the first album under the name Last Exit, a similarly aggressive blend of thrash and free jazz.
These developments are the origins of jazzcore, the fusion of free jazz with hardcore punk. Groups like Nomeansno, Massacre, and Naked City laid the foundations for what would later be described as math rock.
In 1989, Zorn formed Naked City with Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Fred Frith, Joey Baron and Yamatsuka Eye. Taking inspiration from British grindcore and Japanese noise rock on their Torture Garden album, Naked City eventually became too polystylistic to be confined to the "punk jazz" tag. In 1991, Zorn also worked with former Napalm Death guitarist and drummer Justin Broadrick and Mick Harris, respectively, and Bill Laswell, in the group Pain Killer.
The Japanese group Ground Zero, formed by Otomo Yoshihide, pursued a similar, though even noisier and less accessible, variety of thrash-jazz. Mike Patton's group Mr. Bungle also began performing around this time, and also worked with John Zorn. Keiji Haino also worked in this vein.
At this point, punk jazz and jazzcore began to reflect the increasing awareness of elements of extreme metal (particularly thrash metal and death metal) in hardcore punk. Hardcore in the '90s began to reform itself as what's now known as metalcore. A new style of metallic jazzcore was developed by Iceburn, from Salt Lake City, and Candiria, from New York City, though anticipated by Naked City and Pain Killer. This tendency also takes inspiration from jazz inflections in technical death metal, such as the work of Cynic and Atheist.
Candiria recorded their first album in 1995. While aware of Zorn's work, Candiria came from a different angle, combining NYHC metalcore with jazz fusion and East Coast hip-hop elements. Members of Candiria also formed an ambient/psychedelic jazz side-project in Ghosts of the Canal. The metallic jazzcore groups took greater inspiration from 1970s jazz fusion, in addition to or instead of earlier free jazz.
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