Let me come out the gate with a strong statement: I firmly believe that the Young Lions movement is one of the worst things to ever happen to jazz. Don’t get me wrong, the music in and of itself isn’t bad, per se. Most of these folks, from Wynton Marsalis to Roy Hargrove to Mark Whitfield are incredibly talented, academy-trained prodigies. What I think was, and still is dangerous, are the extremely conservative views on not only defining jazz, but also condemning jazz that strays too far from the genre’s “roots.”
I mentioned in a previous review that Miles Davis famously called the music of these players “warmed over turkey.” And he was right. When you play copycat, especially in jazz, you get nothing but a diluted, throwback mess. The irony is astounding. Musicians trying to honor the creativity of artists of the past by stifling the progress of the genre. Charlie Parker isn’t alive today, but I’m going to guess he wouldn’t be appreciative of this mindset.
Honoring an artist doesn’t have to be a mime act, and thank God people like Brooklyn-based pianist, producer, and engineer Jesse Fischer fully understands that. Flipped II is Fischer’s self-described love letter to the hard bop, soul jazz, and jazz fusion of the late 60’s/early 70’s, as seen thru the lens of golden era hip-hop beats. Other than the intro which is credited to Fischer, these tracks are all re-imaginings of tunes by artists that have, at one time or another, played one of the above genres. Fischer understands though, that often times, the best way to honor artists that were so well known in being forward thinking musicians, is in fact, to also be forward thinking yourself. And he does just that in this sequel of sorts to his 2010 release Flipped.
Fischer has an excellent ear. He can seamlessly take some of the most characteristic sounds of different genres/regions and make them flow together in ways unheard before. Never have I heard an artist take the sounds of the Punjab region of India, Moog-heavy synth jazz, disco, fusion and 80’s hip hop and truly make it his own. His continual breaking down and building back up these elements in songs like “Creepin'” and “The Intrepid Fox” present a fresh, exuberant way of honoring his idols.
Fischer is so smart with his musical ideas, which really makes this album both an incredibly easy album to throw on in the background as well as one to listen to academically. His liberal use of four-on-the-floor percussive beats modernize some of the bop horn sections while also acting as an aural example of literally “moving forward.”
On top of that, Flipped II shows just how much of an accomplished musician Fischer really is. Fischer is credited on the album as playing: piano, Rhodes, organ, Moog Little Phatty, Juno 106, Prophet REV2, DX7, glockenspiel, melodica, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, MPC 2000XL, drum programming, sound design. And he is never overwhelming in his playing. Everything is so precise and always in the right place.
Fischer isn’t new to the scene. He has been a mainstay in New York City for some time. This record certainly shows how important of a figure he is. Yes, this is a jazz blog, so obviously fans of this site and the genre as a whole will likely really enjoy the record, but this is one I highly recommending passing on to your uninitiated friends. Easily one of the best albums of the year.
Jesse Fischer’s Flipped II is out now on Soul Cycle Music.
Jesse Fischer: piano, Rhodes, organ, Moog Little Phatty, Juno 106, Prophet REV2, DX7, glockenspiel, melodica, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, MPC 2000XL, drum programming, sound design
Billy Buss: trumpet (2, 5)
Godwin Louis: alto sax (2, 5)
Jaime Woods: vocals (3)
Sly5thAve: flute, tenor and bari sax, Bb and bass clarinet (4)
Clynt Yerkes: trumpet and flugelhorn (4)
Keita Ogawa: percussion (5)
Mino Cinélu: percussion (3)
Kenneth An: auxiliary percussion (6)