Cheap Jazz Ain't Bad (on eMusic)
Trying to get my wishlist down to around 350, and actually buying the many jazz albums under $4 on it seemed to be a fast way to do so. Here’s ten I like a lot, and a warning for purists that the list is heavily colored by my skewed taste (i.e. tending to have electronica and rock elements)—in no way do I claim these are the best jazz albums left on the site. Most are from far-flung locations across the globe, and I’d never heard of a single one before wishlisting them. Not one seems to be on AMG, so I’d say they’re all very obscure. Unfortunately, I have a jazz description handicap, not knowing my bops from a hole in the ground, so by all means, sample first!
1. “Asanisimasa” - Silberman Quartet (2019). A good heuristic tool for searching the remaining jazz without knowing names of artists, groups or labels is to type something like “quartet, quintet, trio, orchestra,” etc. Audio Cave is one of the labels that I’d just download the whole shebang if I could. There’s some keyboards on these long tracks as well as electronic elements, given to abstraction and experimentation. “Bez tytulu 2” is probably the darkest, scariest jazz song I’ve ever heard.
2. “S/t” - Julian Haugland (2018). One of the more conventional albums here still begins with a bass solo before letting anyone else into the studio with him. Nordic.
3. “Kau” - Silvio Paredes (2011). Starts off being the least electronic music labeled as such, but ends up sounding, to my delight, quite a bit like a pared down Jaga Jazzist. At other times, it goes into sky scenery territory plied by Royksopp’s Steve Reich remix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUiUaoG7nrA I’ll leave it to others whether the album as a whole is jazz or not.
4. “MOMENTUM” - Roman (2018). Another one not to judge by its first track, there was no way this list wasn’t going to have some jazz rock guitar jams. I hear a lot of Zappa, the extremely obscure but closely related Octafish, and some Darediablo as well. Pretty tight. Maybe my favorite on the list.
5. “Due Fois Cinq” - Tentet Franco-Italien (2011). A ten-person group can really bring the chaos better than a smaller one, as this live album shows. Yet when all the members come together, it can also be a powerfully moving experience. Silent pauses play a more prominent role here than on any other album, allowing each section of controlled chaos to start from scratch for maximum impact. Probably the closest to free jazz on this list, but again, there are structured passages.
6. “Burns” - Birmingham Jazz Orchestra Directed by Sean Gibbs (2015). Swingin’ guitar and brass albums aren’t usually my thing, but for $2, it’s not offensively pleasant, and the opener barely hints at what’s to come. I assume some are standards, but I don’t know.
7. “Rosa” - Koyari (2017). Female vocal jazz en español. Both her singing and accompaniment manage to be understated, somehow. Very wrong of me to prefer this over something classic like Billie Holiday, but I do.
8. “Ocho Chino” - Mauricio Barraza Quinteto (2013). Much slower tempo than most others here, these songs usually feature a clarinet in the lead, backed by piano and vibes. I couldn’t ask for a better combo. “Gud Bay N Way” adds an accordion, a guitar, and a spring in their step, if you prefer things wilder and noisier.
9. “El Jugo” - Quartetto Minimo (2010). Built around a pair of sprawling, 12-minute songs…I prefer the second to the title track…, the guitar jazz ramble here isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s a nice enough way to pass almost an hour. A bit of sabor Latino finds its way into this one, nicely spicing up the proceedings.
10. “EP” - Zura (2017). The cheapest entry (though not 99-cents) is also among my favorites for being the most electronic. Since one of the two albums from an earlier post on “funky electronic jazz” disappeared before I could get the remix EP, this has substituted. A bit of an Amon Tobin feel rhythmically and with twinkling sounds, but the blaring sax on the second track definitely isn’t. I just wish it were several times longer.
All these are instrumental unless otherwise noted. I’m ready and anticipating being told that these albums are not important jazz, but some of them are quite serious. A 99-cent serious, important jazz list could just as easily consist entirely of albums on ESP-Disk, but I’ll leave that to someone else. I’ve still got a few jazz albums on the wishlist that aren’t cheap, and maybe having gone 10/10 without a lemon on these will get me off the fence. If I were willing to pay more than $4 for my eMusic jazz, I’m sure I could remake this list anew several times over again. Plenty of interesting stuff left, and the price point remains a big draw to stay subscribed!
On previous lists: "Oofth" - Massimiliano Milesi (2019). "Unbalanced: Concerto for Ensemble" - Moisés P. Sánchez (2019). "Breath" - Arek Czernysz Trio (2019). "Hill Spell" - Northing (2019). "Be Glad" - Tom Terrien (2016). "Nonagram" - Soweto Kinch (2016). "5 Journeys" - Sumrrá (2015). "A Pudding oO CD" - Pudding oO (2015). A lot of the 99-cent list is jazz, too.
I won’t include a list of all the jazz labels left on eMusic with this post, as I think this one is still basically accurate, with several notable losses (Gondwana, We Jazz, Yellowbird, etc.) https://www.reddit.com/r/eMusicofficial/comments/cag85f/very_little_left_at_least_blues_and_jazz/