Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Carl Filipiak and the Jimi Jazz Band's What Now

I'm pretty sure this isn't jazz. It's not even jazz-rock, whatever that might be. This is rock that's pretty straightforward, thinking man's rock, the kind of stuff Bill Frisell puts out once in a while. It might be informed by jazz in the way intricate themes are explored, but tell me this--when you listen to jazz, any jazz, are you compelled to crank up the volume and rock out? I didn't think so.

Carl Filipiak has been referred to as "a dynamic jazz guitarist," part of a genre referred to as "new fusion," but when you listen to his new album, What Now, you think of one thing: rock and roll. With his Jimi Jazz Band consisting of drummer Frank Young, sax player Paul Hannah and bassist Matt Everhart, Filipiak creates the kind of rock and roll you might hear from very seasoned session musicians. (I have to admit that Young reminds me of Jim Keltner in a big way, solid and precise without being flashy.) These guys sound like they're the best in the business, and they all got together to play one day just for fun. They're not as cohesive and connected to a singular vision as most rock bands, but they are skilled. They're professional. They play their asses off.

Another distinction is that these eight tracks--six originals, "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Sunny"--are instrumentals, and I think that omission might tempt the average listener to say yeah, I guess it might be jazz. A typical rock singer in the Lou Gramm-Paul Rodgers mold would completely push this into rock territory. There are other details that support the jazz label--there are a couple of spots where Jimi Jazz as a whole dips momentarily into a more jazzy feel, almost as a tease. There's even a spot or two where the band feels like they're channeling Santana and wandering into the world of Latin jazz. But for the most part, this is great rock and roll that's been recorded with care--as if they were an intimate jazz ensemble. This is a clean, clean recording.

It's so clean, in fact, that you can really turn up the volume and it still sounds great, unlike most of today's victims of the Loudness Wars and all that compression. The label, Geometric Records, may have stumbled onto something: record rock and roll as if it was jazz. Works for me.

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