Wednesday 25 November 2020

'Garden' by Uncivilized

2020 will surely go down as a year of incredibly mixed emotions for the New York jazz collective known as Uncivilized.

On the one hand, this year has seen the creative fulfilment of the band having released a fantastic set of singles in 'Reign STOMP' and 'Yams'.  While 'Reign STOMP' served as a rebel rousing and political call to arms - asserting their desire for political revolution, 'Yams' boasts three minutes of delightful discordance with twelve musicians constructing a stunning sonic backdrop that's nothing less than a joy.  And then there's the release of the much-anticipated full-length Uncivilized project, 'Garden', which takes the band's distinctive and expansive style of jazz and presents it over the course of 27 delectable Dilla-Donuts-esque bite-sized pieces.

The flip-side of this year clearly requires little summation.  In these extraordinary times that has seen the world reduced to quarantining, face masks, social distancing and curfews, the arts too have suffered tremendously with independent and touring musicians unable to perform and live music venues forced into closures.  For Uncivilized also, not only did these events derail what would have been the band's first live performance alongside pianist Aaron Parks, but not being able to tour in support of 'Garden' undoubtedly would also have come as a crushing blow particularly as Uncivilized, at their core, are a band that thrive off of performing their music to live audiences. 

Headed up by guitarist and founder Tom Csatari, Uncivilized have mined a series of live recordings from sessions taken place in August 2018 and subsequently re-mixed, re-edited and repackaged them to form what we now have as 'Garden'.  The music throughout is gloriously indicative of the variety of tags that tends to accompany any subsequent dissecting of Uncivilized's approach to music-making with descriptions ranging from "psych-jazz" to "folk-jazz" to "free-jazz".  Almost effortlessly, the collective create honest and sincere music with no regard to external perceptions of what boxes the end-result will fall into. 

And whether that end-result comes as Uncivilized tackle Joni Mitchell's 'Woodstock' - presented here as a suite of recordings comprised over the course of six tracks - or whether they are turning their attention to the music of Stevie Wonder, like they do with their interpretation of 'Evil', or whether the music finds them celebrating the music of David Lynch's Twin Peaks as they do through two tracks on 'Garden' (making a nice extension to their 2017 recordings 'Uncivilized Plays Peaks' recorded at Barbès in Brooklyn) - the end-result is as focused as it is unpredictable.

Already boasting a fantastic ensemble of musicians that comprise Uncivilized, the line-up for half of the tracks on 'Garden' is bolstered by the thrilling inclusion of International Anthem trumpeter, Jaimie Branch.  Branch really delivers as the ideal collaborator for Uncivilized with both acts celebrated for their incredibly innovative styles, known for creating passionate pieces of music calling out injustice and challenging political reform (see Branch's 'FLY or DIE II: Bird Dogs of Paradise', 2019).

'Garden' feels like it's arrived after a really long wait and what's even more satisfying is that it's everything long-term listeners would want it to be.  Hopefully though the next Uncivilized full-length will arrive with the world having found itself in a happier and safer place.

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