Tuesday 28 April 2020

"Jazz in an Uncivilized time"

Uncivilized - the nine-piece jazz ensemble from New York - are steadily cultivating their reputation as not only an incredible live act but for being a "no rules" jazz collective fully embracing every prefix of jazz that someone could conjure up from "folk-", "free-" and "psych-" jazz.

The variety of tags must read like respective badges of honour - to be part of a collection of musicians that makes the music that comes natural to them and then have the luxury of sitting back and not only watch people bask in its brilliance but, at the same time, try to position it within the boxes we've become accustomed to - to be able to carve your own path in this context is surely why any musician would want to make music in the first place.

What makes Uncivilized so enigmatic is their ability to have their music transcend these different styles and environments: while singles 'Yams' and 'Reign STOMP' showcase the band within the crisp confines of the studio, 'Uncivilized Plays Peaks' demonstrates the group's raw live chops through their October 2017 performance at Barbès in Brooklyn which saw them celebrate the music of David Lynch's Twin Peaks; or Uncivilized could subvert expectations once again through their project 'Placebo - Ish' which is comprised of a nine track collection of guitar-only compositions by Tom Csatari who, once again, takes the brand "Uncivilized" into entirely new directions.

In a poignant and inspiring self-penned article entitled "BRAIN", Csatari once described Uncivilized compositions as "hard to play and involve a mixture of four-on-the-floor grit with fast metric modulations against bluesy melodies (I guess) which are referential to doom metal; Frank Zappa’s freak-jazz; and the Stomp song form from New Orleans—some sort of post-postmodern, Experimental Americana, or whatever".  And while the charm in Uncivilized may very well rest in this seemingly unfocused approach to their music, the unpredictable nature of it - the exciting mish-mash and cacophony of styles, genres and sounds - is in itself the focus.

With the single 'Reign STOMP' having been released in March of this year and new single 'Yams' mere days away from being introduced to the world, Uncivilized are certainly not letting any conditions of everyday life having ground to a halt put a dampener on spreading their universal, and musical, message.  'Reign STOMP' served as a rebel rousing and political call to arms - asserting their desire for political revolution - while 'Yams' boasts three minutes of delightful discordance with twelve musicians constructing a stunning sonic backdrop that's nothing less than a joy.

On the band's Bandcamp page, there's a comment by band supporter "eagleboy", who had the great fortune to be present for the Barbès performance back in 2017, and he references Uncivilized as "jumping in with both feet to the unknown".  Although the comment is clearly intended with complete affection, I'd dispute the "unknown" quality of that statement in that I don't think what the group are jumping into is unknown to them at all - I think Csatari and company have a very clear idea of who they are and what they plan to achieve and with more time to grow and develop, their master plan won't be unknown to everyone else for much longer.

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