“So Flute” is the missing ingredient

St. Germain’s new album adds the spice jazz music needs

By Patrick Patterson

This post should serve as a public service announcement in the interest of all of those JITM listeners willing to take their palates to the next level, whether for purposes of self-betterment or pretentious chin-waggery at fancy dinner parties:

In the hottest heat of the musical kitchen that is the appreciation of jazz, the serious foodie would notice the relative blandness of ingredients on the menu. Countless variations on the classical ensemble (a trumpet here, an upright bass there) yield the bulk of what we consider to form the canon of jazz cookery, including many of our favorites; the gustatory sensations evoked by masters like John Coltrane and the incomparable Mr. Mingus are the very picture of palatability and a testament to the uniquely reactive chemistry that comes from a deep and storied understanding of the basic ingredients of jive, and yet… what more could be said?

This mastery is cherished, in the romanticized view, which for this listener is on par with the cut scene from Pixar’s Ratatouille, where the once evil food columnist is humbled and transformed by a beautifully arranged dish, which brings him back to his childhood in rural France. But what if that dish, those carefully crafted layers of veg upon veg had just had an additional, more exotic ingredient that would set them apart from the original? Would that critic have been more inclined to fall at the feet of its new and possibly improved take on the classic? Would he hate it? What if this is akin to the harmony of line after line of sax on keys so well-beloved by so, so many? What if the addition of flutes, oboes, or a bassoon could be as inflammatory and potentially captivating as a dash of sriracha in one’s scrambled eggs?

“What if?” should indeed be the question on the lips of many in the world of jazz, and one that is not without an answer. There is an unnamed effort in the world of jazz on the part of a few revolutionaries (in this DJ’s humble opinion) which would bring more spice to an already sizzling musical melting pot.

“So Flute” refers to the killer flute-based track by St Germain which serves as the inspiration for this post, along with the works of one, Ron Burgundy (pictured, gloriously): work like this should not go unheeded by the serious listener, but rather sought out and lauded for its edge and relative freshness. Some good starting points, besides, are the furthered works of St Germain, opting for flute and organ to emulsify their sound, Hot Club of Detroit (now featured in the KJHK Jazz rotation) and their dandy chops on accordion jazz, as well as any of the works of Jazz Mandolin Project (self-explanatory, much?), or the more adventurous musings of Herbie Hancock or Marcus Miller (“Bruce Lee” is a particularly wonderful episode of weirdness), where electronics and sampling take pleasure to the level of molecular gastronomy… in any case, the chemistry of jazz should not be limited to as many elements found in the big band projects of the past.

Be adventurous in your listening, and don’t be afraid to spice it up. Food for thought, at least.

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