Mini-Feature – Jazz Is Dead

5th November 2020

Today I am not so much featuring an album or particular artist, rather than a series of recordings under the label ‘Jazz is Dead’. The series was launched earlier this year and there are four releases so far, each of which is set to become collectors’ items for Jazz fans.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the legendary Roy Ayers, and Adrian Younge

The project initially started in 2017 as a series of Jazz concerts with a twist. The brainchild of music promoter, Andrew Lojero, the ‘Jazz is Dead’ concerts combined the talents of Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Hip-Hop DJ-Producer, and rapper formerly of ‘A Tribe Called Quest’) and Adrian Younge (film score composer, music producer and film editor). Younge and Muhammad had been collaborating on various projects since 2013 including the throwback Soul project ‘Midnight Hour’ and the Luke Cage TV series soundtrack.

Lorjero put together a stellar line-up of Jazz veterans for the concerts like Roy Ayers and Gary Bartz, Bossa Nova luminaries, João Donato and Marcos Valle as well as Azymuth, the Brazilian Jazz-Funk outfit who have been an active part of the music scene for the last 50 years. Needless to say that the idea was a great success.

Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Earlier this year, three years after the concert series, Younge and Muhammad launched the record label ‘Jazz is Dead’ to further the project with a series of albums that sees the extremely talented duo combine their many talents along with those of their musical heroes to create a collection of brand new tracks.

I only found out about the Jazz is Dead project and label a few days ago and listening to a selection of tracks across the albums I immediately knew that I had to share my find with the Jazz lovers among us. To start today I’ve chosen a track from the second album “Roy Ayers: Jazz is Dead 2” (June 2020). The tracks were written in collaboration with Roy Ayers (now 80-years-old),

Muhammad and Younge took nearly two years to complete the album. In Younge’s words “it sounds both like an unearthed and unreleased album from Ayers’ classic period in the 1970s as well as something new and unexpected”. Here’s ‘Gravity’. 😎

Some may think it’s strange that someone who became well-known as a Hip-Hop DJ/producer and Rapper ended up as a part of a Jazz project. Shaheed Muhammad was a member of the outfit ‘A Tribe Called Quest’ along with Q-Tip and the late Phife Dawg. These are the clever fellows who changed the face of the RAP genre by incorporating Jazz and BeeBop into the mix, and a whole new genre of music evolved thanks to this unexpected (but obvious) fusion.

Adrian Younge

Adrian Younge started playing bass and keyboards in a band during the ‘90s. It was when he started sampling records and recording that he developed a love for analogue sound and quickly learned to play a number of instruments, increasing the complexity of his compositions. His list of recordings for film and music collaborations runs into pages, as do his awards. Younge seems to be quite a pragmatic chap and apart from his musical pursuits he also has a degree in entertainment law from the American College of Law.

Both Muhammad and Younge are avid Jazz fans and the chance to play with some of the great names that have influenced them over their careers was an honour. “We want them to feel the love for what they have given us in a time where a spotlight may not be shining brightly on their works,” Muhammad said of the record series.

The second choice for today is from the third album in the series, ‘Marcos Valle, Jazz Is Dead 3’ (August 2020). Valle is regarded as amongst the greatest Brazilian artists of all time, and although now 77-years-old, his talent is undiminished. Here’s the beautiful bossa nova “Queira Bem”. 😎

While researching today’s look at the new record label ‘Jazz Is Dead’ I wondered about the odd choice of name. The idea was Ali Shaheed Mohammad’s who wanted a name that would start a conversation and I think it worked. It came about in the planning stages of the concert series that preceded (and sparked) the albums and stuck.

Adrian Younge had this to say about the project in the album notes; “When we sampled their compositions, none of us knew if it would come full circle. I never thought I’d be sitting in the studio with Marcos Valle or Lonnie Liston, writing with Brian Jackson and Azymuth; writing with Jean Carne and Doug Carn. It’s insane. It’s as if my career was meant for this moment.”

Brazilian legends Azymuth

Muhammad adds. “Admiring the way they are playing right in front of your eyes when at one time it was a dream to wonder what they were thinking about when they recorded their songs. Feeling humbled at the respect they give us for the music that we have made for them. Wondering how this wave of new music will be transferred by the next generation.”

To close Today’s selection I’ve chosen a track from the last album to have been released in October. ‘Azymuth – Jazz Is Dead 4’. Azymuth has been performing and recording for nearly 50 years, but this track shows just how fresh their sound still is. Here’s ‘Friendship Samba’.

It’s heartening to see a pair of talented people pay tribute to the heroes that inspired them to become as good as they are. I’m sure that with the success of the first four albums in the series there will be more coming our way soon. I’ll keep you posted. Catch you soon. 😎

The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.

The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.

Words © Andrew Knapp 2020

Published by Loving the Music

I am a music-lover who has been fortunate enough to live through six-decades of ever-changing musical styles and genres. Loving the Music is my eclectic collection of regular music-related mini-features and whatever else tickles my musical fancy. You can also find me on the Loving the Music Facebook group and page. Happy listening - Andrew Knapp

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