The Java Quartet
3 + 1/2 stars
It's 65 years since rock 'n' roll routed jazz as the popular dance music of the day. The 1990s "acid jazz" fad and its "nu jazz" sequel were, in part, attempts to restore it. Now the Java Quartet's leader and bassist, Michael Galeazzi, has married some of the Sydney band's past material to recent music forms.
Where he, saxophonist Matthew Ottignon, pianist Greg Coffin and drummer Mike Quigley have usually made moody acoustic jazz, here they are often a supporting cast for beats and samples.
The hypnotic Wedding Song is revisited as "trance" music, with an acoustic drum beat and Bobby Singh's tablas wandering in and out. Nursery Crimes becomes "ambient dub", the piano notes like raindrops against a window of swishing brushes and sparse bass and the saxophone initially mixed down, as though outside that window.
The new Yeah Man has a slow electronic beat, a repeated motif from Adrian mcNeil's sarod (decorated with Singh's tablas) and rapping from Morganics.
Shadow Dancing is reinvented as "Euro trash", with a chattering electronic beat and polyester synth washes. Linda Janssen adds R&B vocals to the "nu soul" synthetic beat of Only You, which could do big business in the clubs.
Whether the "glitch translation" of the ballad Little Boy does much for Ottignon's breathy saxophone is debatable but In The Swim seems happy to be riding on a swift drum 'n' bass current. Good fun.
Sydney Morning Herald - Spectrum
November 27-28, 2010.
48 Hours, The Age (Melbourne)
The seeds of the Java Quartet’s latest CD (Rejavanation) were sown when composer-bassist Michael Galeazzi started exploring the connections between modal jazz and other trance-inducing forms of music – both old and new. The result is an intriguing amalgam of contemporary jazz, North Indian percussion and digital beats, where the bandmembers interact with programmed samples and electronic dance rhythms. Since the CD was recorded, Galeazzi and his colleagues have been developing the project for a concert environment, replacing the sampled parts with live musicians whilst maintaining the hypnotic, multi-layered feel of the recording. The core members of the Sydney-based quartet (Galeazzi, saxophonist Matthew Ottignon, pianist Greg Coffin and drummer Mike Quigley) are currently touring the country to launch Rejavanation. The band will perform at Bennetts Lane tomorrow night, with two additional Java Men to help recreate the quartet’s human-digital sonic hybrid on stage: Bobby Singh (on tablas) and hip-hop producer/beat-boxer Morganics.
The Age Saturday 21/8/10
The Java Quartet Rejavanation
CD review by Des Cowley in Extempore No 5 (Australian Jazz Journal)
In an era of short attention spans, when musicians seem to coalesce into new ensembles every other week, The Java Quartet, with more than fifteen years under its belt, seems something of an exception. While there’s been the occasional line-up change since their first EP Slumber for Nordic Wonder in 1994, founder and bassist Michael Galeazzi, pianist Greg Coffin, and drummer Mike Quigley have been main-stays since the band’s second recording Glow in 1996. The most dramatic change has been in the saxophone chair, with current NZ tenor player Mathew Ottignon having come on board for the band’s previous album Deep Blue Sea (2005).
The title of the new CD, Rejavanation, with its clear overtones of renewal, seems a particularly apt one for band wanting to stave off the onset of middle-age. Galeazzi has admitted to a long-term interest in the modal music of Miles Davis and Coltrane – though not without some quirky side-trips (Nordic Slumber, after all, was reputedly a tribute to Bjork) – and the new album is both a consolidation of this interest, as well as a radical departure.
Rejavanation emerged out of Galeazzi’s post-graduate research into the relationships between modal music and other forms of trance-inducing music, from Indian ragas through to contemporary dance electronica. The idea was to re-imagine and re-interpret material from the Quartet’s back-catalogue, combined with new pieces, via an eclectic blending of samples, beats, trip hop, and electro-jazz. While its genesis as ‘post-graduate research’ could have led to the project being scarily academic, the resulting music, thankfully, is anything but.
For the recording, the Quartet swelled their line-up with a raft of guests, including Bobby Singh on tabla, Adrian McNeil on sarod, Linda Janssen on vocals, and local hip hop artist Morganics. Each of the album’s seven tracks is playfully designated by a stylistic label: trance, ambient dub, euro trash, nu soul, drum ‘n’ bass. The opener ‘Wedding Song’ begins with the beautiful, gentle strains of Galeazzi’s bass, before exploding into a flurry of rhythmic percussion and beats, overlaid by a repetitive, hypnotic saxophone motif. ‘Nursery Crimes’ is an evocative and minimalist piece, all texture and colour, featuring Greg Coffin’s haunting piano, along with ex-Java Quartet member Richard Maegraith on sax. ‘Yeah Man’, one of the album’s stand-out tracks, fuses Indian rhythms with Morganics’ beatbox and rapping, in a way that’s reminiscent of Bill Laswell’s dub experiments on his Axiom label.
The album shifts gear a little mid-way, nudging more commercial territory. ‘Shadow Dancing’ is a catchy, melodic piece that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-period Moby album. Linda Janssen’s vocal track on ‘Only You’ feels like it could have been lifted off any number of dance compilations. Thankfully, things get back on track with the album’s most adventurous piece, ‘Little Boy’, which highlights Ottignon’s breathy, barely audible, sax over an ambient mix of static, bleeps, and pops. The final track, ‘In the Swim’, cranks it up a notch. Mike Quigley lays down a merciless percussive rhythm, joined by Galeazzi’s agile bass – classic drum ‘n’ bass; and Ottignon finally gets the opportunity to cut loose, showing what an exciting player he can be.
As bandleader and composer, Galeazzi has earned the right to re-interpret his earlier compositions. After all, Ornette Coleman did something of the same with his brilliant double-album In All Languages, which saw him revisit the sound of his classic quartet, and then radically deconstruct the same compositions with his new band Prime Time. Rejavanation is very much Galeazzi’s project, and his compositional stamp is all over it. But where it lets itself down is in overplaying its hand when it comes to stylistic diversity. I suspect it might have been enough to pick one or two of these pieces – particularly those drawing upon Indian music – and explore them more fully over the course of the album. Certainly artists like Erick Truffaz and Nils Petter Molvaer have experimented with jazz and beats in a more consistent fashion on their albums.
Rejavanation begs the question: is it jazz? In the end, it doesn’t matter. Jazz has always been a mongrel music, capable of plundering what it needs from other musical forms – whether it be classical, world, pop or electronica – to re-vitalize and renew itself. Are the Necks jazz? Is Joseph Tawadros improvising with John Abercrombie and Jack Dejohnette jazz? If nothing else, Galeazzi, Coffin, Quigley and Ottignon are to be congratulated for refusing to rest on their laurels. The best of Rejavanation signals a band willing to undergo a radical makeover in its quest for new sounds. After fifteen years in the game, they’ve shown us they don’t intend to age gracefully.
See The Gig The Same - Rejavanation CD launch In Canberra
Canberra Jazz Blog - Eric Pozza (Canberra Jazz).
Canberra Jazz Blog
Michael Galeazzi of the Java Quartet was telling me of a mate and PhD studies in music. He was investigating how different performers in a band see the same gig in different ways. It’s an interesting study, and I guess any highly trained performance art person must have experienced it. Jazz can be quite an emotional roller-coaster, but it’s part of the commitment and fascination and seriousness of it all. The time the band was in accord, after this Java Quartet gig at the University of Canberra, as was the audience. This was a great gig. Michael was up front, happy and joking and enjoying every minute. The percussion section (here I include the beatboxer along with the more obvious drums and tabla) were throwing challenges back and forth and revelling in the different sounds and styles of each of their instruments. Greg on piano and Matthew on tenor were laconic and cool but their blissful interplay said it all. This was the first gig of the tour to launch the Java Quartet’s new CD, Rejavanation, and the quartet was accompanied by two of its CD guests, Morganics on beatbox and freestyle rap, and Bobby Singh on tabla. It’s something I like, this fertile, cross-cultural experiment. It worked a treat and the band’s response just confirmed it.
I wondered if rejavanation hinted at rejuvenation, because there were a series of tunes from older JQ CDs that had been reimagined for the new CD and this concert. The album cover describes each tune by a style: trance, ambient dub, boom bap, etc.. The CD’s press release explains the music as a component of Michael’s Master studies at the Sydney Con, exploring “notions of hybridity through contemporary hypnotic landscapes” through the “meditative aesthetics of contemporary dj/dance culture and Hindustani ragas”. Intriguing and different, interesting beyond the jazz field, and obviously entertaining for the band. Because getting back to the band, they were having a great time.
Firstly I noticed the wonderful rhythmic feels. Drummer Mike was intense at surprisingly low volumes, then letting go at the end with double kick pedal; fabulous interplays between the complex tika-tak of the tabla and jazz drums and even vocal percussion; the way the beat squared up for the beatboxing from the more swung jazz segments. Then the simple, repeating melodies accompanied by moving chordal harmonies or echoing piano lines and the rippling piano and fluttering tenor bursting into full blown sax solos over intense and busy grooves. And the frequent bass solos on a Whitehead SASE that were sharp and edgy, but surprisingly deep in the recording I made on the night. Not at all strict jazz, but obviously jazz informed, and one branch of where it’s heading as it touches on other valid forms. Solos that just appeared from a band that has played together for years, and shows an unspoken interplay. There was even a ballad in there, a deeply felt, sparse thing of synth swells then sax then a touch of percussion. The whole was structurally and chordally simple, but subtly mobile and with an underlying percussive intensity. And it was even political, perhaps more validly than the current election. I missed most of the rap lines, but caught a few that spoke of Brisvegas: “Visions, valleys, concrete”; and refugees: “sometimes / we find / that time”, “sometimes / the best form of attack / is defence” and then a rap in 15 languages.
It was an intriguing jazz for a modern ear, and a mix of styles for a modern world. Great stuff. And very much enjoyed by performers and audience. The Java Quartet are Michael Galeazzi (acoustic bass), Greg Coffin (piano), Matthew Ottignon (tenor sax) and Mike Quigley (drums). Their guests were Bobby Singh (tabla) and Morganics (beatboxing, freestyling).
Posted by Eric Pozza
THE sixth album in 15 years from Sydney's Java Quartet introduces a new musical palette for the group led by bassist Michael Galeazzi, who composed these seven tracks. Described as an eclectic romp through digital beats, the music incorporates aspects of hip-hop, electro-jazz, drum 'n' bass, Hindustani music and serious improvisation; it's an adventurous collection of new, remixed and reinvented material. The idea is to weave the band's acoustic improvisers -- pianist Greg Coffin, drummer Mike Quigley and Matthew Ottignon on saxophone -- into digital soundscapes. No doubt some younger audience members will find plenty here to enjoy. All tracks have short explanatory labels appended. Yeah Man (boom bap) brings Bobby Singh on tablas and Adrian McNeil's sarod to the fore against digital beats, hip-hop and sampling, a combination that may be an acquired taste. Only You (nu soul) features vocalist Linda Janssen delivering a pleasant sounding ballad with a fine solo from Ottignon and a repetitive hip-hop beat throughout. A murky opening to an out-of-tempo Nursery Crimes (ambient dub) leads to some mystical saxophone from guest Richard Maegraith and atmospheric piano passages. Influences from Indian music and digital effects from rock and hip-hop are being increasingly heard in jazz groups, but it remains to be seen whether Java's fan base will enjoy this latest release.
The Australian Saturday 11th September, 2010
HEAD AND HEART
Drum Media 17/8/2010
Some readers will probably know Michael Galeazzi best as the cheerful bass player in Karma County. Outside the pop/rock realm, he has a whole other life, an essential part of which is The Java Quartet. He talks to Michael Smith.
Like all jazz musicians, Michael Galeazzi seems to be involved in a dozen different projects at once. The afternoon Drum caught up to discuss the latest Java Quartet album, Rejavanation, he was recovering from depping the night before in Sandy Evan’s trio, while after our chat, he was off to rehearse the quartet with guests tabla player Bobby Singh and sarod player Adrian McNeil, before sitting in on a set of traditional Indian music with karnatic singer Srangan Sriranganathan. Galeazzi has also been working on a Hebrew music project with former Gelbison member Nadav Kahn.
“I wanted to do some more study,” Galeazzi explains the genesis of Rejavanation, “so I went back to my old alma mater Sydney Conservatorium of Music and just as part of my proposal for a postgraduate research project…I’ll give you the academic terminology – I really wanted to ‘explore the transcendental quality of my writing as it related to modal jazz stylings that I used with the quartet over the past ten years’.
“Basically I’m just a fan of Coltrane and Miles and they had these long modal landscapes, not many chords but a huge, hypnotic groove and great soloing. I was looking at the parallels between that and, say, modern traditions, which are computer-generated repetition and dance music, which I’ve also been a fan of because that’s how I earned my living in the late 80s and that relationship to an older tradition, juxtaposing old and new. All Coltrane’s work was like a romantic vision of eastern traditions, so I wanted to look at those relationships, of hypnotic grooves providing a bed for melodic exploration, taking all these cultural tags away from it and just looking at the music and the similarities between modal jazz and drone music and emotional outcomes – take away the chord changes, the improviser’s free – where do they go?”
Over the next couple of years, Galeazzi revisited a few tracks the quartet had recorded previously, “reimagining, remixing and reinventing” them and towards the end of the postgraduate work composed two new tunes to flesh out the collection for a full album release. “Taking from the back catalogue took away one variable, because that’s stuff you’ve already got and establishes a precedent. Now I’m going to look at it through a drum and bass filter, through a techno filter, through a trance filter and let’s see what comes out. Then I got soloists (fellow quartet members Matthew Ottignon and pianist Greg Coffin – Mike Quigley on drums) to re-solo over the new beds, so you can look at the change of perspective of the soloists as well.
“I knew In The Swim was going to be drum ‘n bass. I used to love all that Roni Size and A Tribe Called Quest before I went to the Con and discovered the jazz improvisational thing, so it was like a stroll down memory lane. Morganics (who features on Yeah Man) is amazing. He just brought his laptop in, we started jamming and he started building beats. I just started playing bass parts, he sampled it and turns it around, flips it and we got songs.
“Then I had to do a couple of new ones and one was roughly based on some raga harmonic material and again I got to say its like a romantic vision, because the little I’ve found out about it, the more I know I don’t know anything about it, but you know with your heart, you know with your ears - I can understand emotional context, using a little of the melodic material from another tradition.”
REJAVANATION - THE JAVA QUARTET
Sunday Herald Sun 15/8/10
JUSTIFIABLY The Java Quartet has many loyal fans. But will they follow bandleader Michael Galeazzi on his postgraduate research relating transcendental qualities of modal jazz (Miles, Coltrane) to traditional Hindustani music and modern dance electronica?
Fans of digital culture may rave at the result, dubbed “jazz you can dare to dance to”, in which a hip-hop artist, vocalist, sarod and tabla players join Galeazzi (bass), Matthew Ottignon (sax), Greg Coffin (piano) and Mike Quigley (drums).
Yet lovers of the quartet’s five previous albums may prefer the originals of tracks re-imagined here. Some — Little Boy, Shadow Dancing — seem to add on, not re-invent. Galeazzi’s challenge — partly met — is to forge a new unity from these disparate influences.
File between: Flanger, Bill Laswell
CD launch: Sunday, August 22, Bennetts Lane, Melbourne
This review appeared in the Play section of the Sunday Herald Sun on August 15, 2010
Ambience, atmosphere and all that jazz
(review of The Java Quartet's Darwin Festival performance 25/8/10)
NT news August 27th, 2010
By Kate Humphris.
THERE was something a little off when I walked into the Lighthouse ready to enjoy the Java Quartet.
It had to do with the crisp riesling in my hand.
My past experience of jazz has involved dimly lit, smokey bars and large glasses of expensive red. But the Java Quartet was ready to challenge my expectation of jazz.
Playing under the fairy lights resulted in a multitude of colours bouncing off each instrument, lifting the mood of the whole show.
Even mellow songs were played with joy; and the choregraphy between each musician was perfectly balanced to allow all to shine.
Group leader Michael Galeazzi thrived in the Tropical environment - at one stage begging artistic director Jo Duffy to bring him back for next year's Festival.
He promised to bring his 'friends' with him, including festival favourite, hip hop artist Morganics.
I can't imagine how beat boxing will fit in with the chilled sounds of the Java Quartet but, after this week's performance, I'll be lining up to buy tickets.
THE JAVA QUARTET
Vitamin Records DHR 006
3 - 1/2 stars
After a series of five acoustic jazz albums, composer-bassist Michael Galeazzi has departed from tradition. Most of these pieces are re-adaptations from the best of Java using contemporary modes such as trance, dub, euro-trash, drum 'n' bass etc. Guests include Richard Maegraith on the moody Nursery Crimes, Linda Janssen singing what could easily be a pop charting Only You and Bobby Singh on two Indian-influenced tracks. The greatest interest for me lay in what I call a melodious computer virus or the electronic "glitch translation".
ABC Limelight Magazine, October 2010.