CD Review: Zoid vs. the Jazz Musicians of Ireland
When asked to comment in 1971 on the growing presence of electronic instruments in jazz, the pianist Bill Evans remarked that the means of production were of rather less importance than the mind brought to bear on the new electronic gadgets and gee gaws. As a graduate of both the jazz programme at the Newpark School of Music and the music technology course at Trinity College, Daniel Jacobson a.k.a. Zoidan Jankalovich is in possession of a mind sensitive enough to the mores of both idioms to attempt an effective marriage of both. While laptops are now de rigueur in texturally-driven free improvisation settings, they have yet to secure a consistent presence on the jazz bandstand, due in part to the longstanding difficulties laptop performers have had in matching the fluid quick fire interplay of their acoustic counterparts.
Zoid vs. the Jazz Musicians of Ireland, however, is not an album particularly rooted in the live interplay of musician and electronics. Rather the instrumental performances are used as fodder for post-production manipulations. Jacobson’s antecedent in jazz terms is Teo Macero, who as far back as Miles Davis’ 1958 album, Porgy and Bess, was using cut-up techniques to reorder fragmented instrumental performances into singular tracks. This technique became an increasingly important compositional tool for Davis, reaching its apotheosis with the later Bitches Brew and On the Corner albums.
For Jacobson, with this, his debut album, the performances are stepping stones in a broader compositional process. Each track on the album pits one of the musicians against a primarily beat-driven electronic sound world. The instrumental material is treated with broad brushstrokes of electronic manipulation, thus dislocating it from any discernible jazz context. Frequently the solo and accompaniment jazz model is supplanted by textural or rhythmic reconfigurations of short instrumental figures. The soloists then weave lines between the detritus of their own spliced phrases.
Only ‘Zoid vs. Michael Buckley’, which features Jacobson himself on guitar, allows the soloists to extemporise relatively unimpeded over a chord sequence in what might be loosely termed a traditional way. The tracks featuring guitarists Tommy Halferty and Mike Neilsen are particularly strong. Neilsen sounds as if he really sank his teeth into the project, armed with electric, classical, microtonal and synth guitars. The only disappointment here is that, on such a rhythmically structured album, Jacobson does not pit his rhythmic machinations against those of drummer Sean Carpio, opting instead for a loose, textural juxtaposition of musician and machine. Perhaps it’s unfair to question the artist’s prerogative on the issue, but on an outing billed as Zoid vs. The Jazz Musicians of Ireland, this track promised to be the heavyweight attraction that could really test the mettle of both pugilists. It might be a rematch to look forward to.
Published on 1 January 2008
Rob Casey is a Dublin-based musician and composer of electronic and acoustic music.