There’s a little of everything—and something for everybody—on Jeff Novotny’s most recent release, “Cygnus X-1”, which is part of his project affectionately entitled JAZZPRJKT. For the purists the tune starts out with static, much as one’s used to hearing when putting the needle to any piece of vinyl that’s about to come on.
Mind you, these are jazz purists we’re talking about, which is abundantly apparent in the freeform collaboration of instruments, sounds, and sonic energy displayed in this number. To that end the track is reinforced by live drums typifying the best sounds in this genre with a surfeit of rides, open high hats, and round bells—in addition to rapidly crashing cymbols to keep time and crank things up a notch or two.
The artistry in this effort, however, is in the melding of these classic elements with those that are anything but. For example, there’s a heavy dose of the electronic whirring in and out of the piece at different points in time. Some of these are tripped out synths that cut patterns and shapes of sound into the framework. There’s also a bass line which, though it very well may encompass different sounds and types of bass, has the propensity for sounding almost like video games in its artifice early on while gradually morphing into more and more of the acoustic variety as the track continues.
The best part, of course, is regardless of how electronic or programmed it might sound, the bass also has a distinctively improvisational feel, which is the cornerstone of the best of what jazz has always had to offer.
Still, there’s passages that are rife with electric guitars, the type that are more befitting of rock bands yet played with the same air of improvisation to keep things lively. Again, there’s so much packed into this 15-minute affair—which lets you know Novotny’s serious, both about his jazz and this tune—that if you listen long enough you’re bound to hear spurts of horns, streams of pianos (some of which could very well involve samples, if I’m not mistaken) and even desultory vocals snatches, all of which add to the deliberate cacophony that epitomizes this art form.
It makes for one heck of listen although, be forewarned, it’s certainly not for the fainthearted.