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Punk jazz

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Title: Punk jazz  
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Subject: King Krule, No wave, Punk rock, Experimental rock, Living with a Tiger
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Punk jazz

Punk jazz describes the amalgamation of elements of the jazz tradition (usually free jazz and jazz fusion of the 1960s and 1970s) with the instrumentation or conceptual heritage of punk rock (typically the more experimental and dissonant strains, such as no wave and hardcore). John Zorn's band Naked City, James Chance and the Contortions, Lounge Lizards, Universal Congress Of, Laughing Clowns and Zymosis are notable examples of punk jazz artists.



Patti Smith, who (unsuccessfully) sought out collaboration with Ornette Coleman, and Television, also developed a sinuous, improvisatory strain of punk, indebted to jazz.[1] Lol Coxhill also recorded with The Damned.[2] In Maine, The Same Band styled itself as a punk-jazz band, and was active from 1977 to 1980.[3][4]


James Chance in Berlin, 1981.

The relaxation of orthodoxy concurrent with post-punk in London and New York City led to a new appreciation for jazz. In London, the Pop Group began to mix free jazz, along with dub reggae, into their brand of punk rock.[5] Nick Cave was stated that The Pop Group's song "We Are All Prostitutes" was a major influence on his band The Birthday Party.[6] In NYC, no wave took direct inspiration from both free jazz and punk. Examples of this style include Lydia Lunch's Queen of Siam,[7] the work of James Chance and the Contortions, who mixed soul with free jazz and punk,[7] Gray, and the Lounge Lizards,[7] who were the first group to call themselves "punk jazz". Bill Laswell would become an important figure in punk jazz (in addition to his influence in dance-punk, dub and other genres) with his group Material, which mixed funk-jazz with punk,[8] while another of his groups, Massacre, added an improvisational quality to aggressive rock music.[9] Laswell would go on to take part in Last Exit[10] and Pain Killer.[11] James Blood Ulmer, who applied Coleman's harmolodic style to guitar, also sought out links to no wave.[12]

Bad Brains, widely acknowledged to have established the rudiments of the hardcore style, began by attempting jazz fusion.[13] Guitarist Joe Baiza executed his own blend of punk and free jazz with Saccharine Trust and especially in Universal Congress Of, a group highly influenced by the work of Albert Ayler.[14] Greg Ginn of Black Flag also began to incorporate elements of free jazz into his guitar playing, most notably on Black Flag's 1985 instrumental EP The Process of Weeding Out.[15] Henry Rollins has praised free jazz, releasing albums by Matthew Shipp on his 2.13.61 label[16] and collaborating with Charles Gayle.[17] The Minutemen were influenced by jazz as well as folk and funk music, and Mike Watt of the band has spoken about the musical inspiration provided by listening to John Coltrane.[18]

Australian punk has a strong jazz punk tradition. The Laughing Clowns, sought to create a free jazz "sheets of sound" aesthetic similar to that of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and John Coltrane.[19] The early punk projects of Ollie Olsen also drew inspiration from free jazz, including Ornette Coleman.[20] The Birthday Party experimented with various jazz elements during the early 80s; their sound on Junkyard was described by one journalist as a mix of "no-wave guitar, free-jazz craziness, and punk-processed Captain Beefheart angularity".[21] The efforts of these Australian punk bands has been described as "desert jazz".[22]

Dutch anarcho-punk group the Ex also incorporated elements of free jazz and particularly European free improvisation, eventually collaborating with Han Bennink.[23]

Greek-American singer Diamanda Galás also approached jazz tradition from a thematically and stylistically transgressive perspective. Her album The Singer is a prototypical example of punk jazz applied to vocals and piano performance. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds bassist Barry Adamson recorded the album Moss Side Story, which also applies a punk and noise rock perspective to the orchestral jazz tradition, with Galás guesting on one track.[24]


Free jazz was an important influence in the American post-hardcore scene of the early 90s. Drive Like Jehu took Black Flag's atonal solos a step further with their dual guitar attack. The Nation of Ulysses had Ian Svenonious alternating between vocals and trumpet, and their complex song structures, odd time signatures, and frenetic live shows were as much hardcore punk as they were free jazz. They even did a brief cover of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme on their Plays Pretty for Baby album, though they titled it "The Sound of Jazz to Come" after Ornette Coleman's classic album The Shape of Jazz to Come. Chicago's Cap'n Jazz also borrowed free jazz's odd time signatures and guitar melodies, marrying them with hardcore screams and amateur tuba playing. The Swedish band Refused was influenced by this scene and recorded an album titled The Shape of Punk to Come, where they alternate between manic hardcore punk numbers and slower, jazzy songs.


Yakuza, from Chicago, are comparable to Candiria, combining contemporary heavy metal genres with free jazz and psychedelia. While Italian band Ephel Duath were originally credited with the inadvertent recreation of 'jazzcore' on their 2003 full-length The Painter's Palette and its 2005 follow-up Pain Necessary to Know, the group later moved away from it to pursue a more esoteric form of progressive rock more akin to Frank Zappa. Errata from Melbourne, Australia are often cited as the most contemporary exponents of the emergent genre, having outlined its precepts in an interview with Music Vice in October, 2010.

Other examples of punk jazz include Youngblood Brass Band, Zu,[25] Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Hella, Talibam!, The 5th Plateau, the Japanese band Midori, La Part Maudite,[26] Gutbucket,[27] and King Krule.[28]


Some harder punk jazz bands, have been called jazzcore, such bands as Zu, Pain Killer, Ephel Duath (early) and others, the genre mixed jazz and hardcore punk or sometimes (however less often) metalcore.

Further reading

  • Berendt, Joachim E. (1992). The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond. Revised by Günther Huesmann, translated by H. and B. Bredigkeit with Dan Morgenstern. Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books. "The Styles of Jazz: From the Eighties to the Nineties," pp. 57–59. ISBN 1-55652-098-0
  • Byrne, David, et al. (2008). New York Noise: Art and Music from the New York Underground 1978–88. Soul Jazz Records. ISBN 0-9554817-0-8.
  • Hegarty, Paul (2007). Noise/Music: A History. Continuum International. ISBN 0-8264-1727-2
  • Heylin, Clinton (1993). From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock. ISBN 1-55652-575-3
  • McNeil, Legs and Gillian McCain (1997). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-4264-8
  • Masters, Marc (2008). No Wave. Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 1-906155-02-X
  • Mudrian, Albert (2000). Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Feral House. ISBN 1-932595-04-X
  • Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-303672-6
  • Sharpe-Young, Garry (2005). New Wave of American Heavy Metal. Zonda Books. ISBN 0-9582684-0-1
  • Zorn, John, ed. (2000). Arcana: Musicians on Music. Granary Books. ISBN 1-887123-27-X


  1. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Television bio, Allmusic. [1] Access date: October 8, 2008.
  2. ^ "Burt MacDonald with Lol Coxhill" LIST.CO.UK, 2008
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Dave Lang, Perfect Sound Forever, February 1999. [2] Access date: November 15, 2008.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c Bangs, Lester. "Free Jazz / Punk Rock". Musician Magazine, 1979. [3] Access date: July 20, 2008.
  8. ^ Jason Ankeny, Material bio, Allmusic Guide
  9. ^ Rick Anderson
  10. ^ "Last Exit" at AllMusic.Com
  11. ^ Steve Huey
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ The Laughing Clowns play at Brisbane's GoMA
  20. ^ Dogs in Space: Crew
  21. ^ The Birthday Party
  22. ^ Australian Punk: The Birthday Party
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Mia Clarke, "Carboniferous" review, Pitchfork. March 6, 2009. [4] Access date: March 7, 2009.
  26. ^ Stefano Bianchi in Blow Up #150 (Italy), November 1, 2010 [5]»
  27. ^
  28. ^
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