Free improvisation is probably the oldest music tradition known to man. No doubt this is where it all began, back when early humanoids tried to figure out what to do with some hollowed out logs, reeds or bamboo. As music developed throughout the globe, some forms of improvisation remained in many cultures, but not so much in the Western world. Flash forward a few centuries and a new generation in the US and Europe 'discovered' free improvisation, both in the concert hall domain, as well as in the worlds of jazz and rock too. Moving into the 21st century, the worlds of 1960s free jazz and 80s post punk noise collided into new improvisational hybrids, which leads us to The JazzFaker’s new CD, “Hallucinations”. The JazzFakers are a talented bunch who know their chosen genre well, and I would imagine their live shows are good, and some of that comes across on the new CD, but some parts of this CD are undermined by sound issues.
Probably the biggest concern many have about ‘free improv’ is that they assume the musicians are playing this way because they lack the technique or discipline to play anything else. That may be true of some post punk wannabes, but not the Fakers, especially drummer Matt Luczak, saxophonist David Tamura, and bass player Raphael Zwyer, who all have decent chops and maybe have even taken some ‘giant steps’ somewhere along the way. There is no lack of skill here, but there is something lacking in the mixing and production department. The biggest problem is that the sound of the drum set lacks definition and presence, mostly you can only hear the cymbals, which is a shame, as Matt sounds like a good drummer, if only you could hear him a little better. Another problem is the use of overly loud clack-clack-clack persistent mechanical rhythms, probably played by a looping device of some kind. This problem mars both the beginnings of track one and two. When the band is allowed free reign without the repetitive sounds, they sound great. Some highlights include an incredibly creepy violin solo on “Delirium Tremens”, a classic free jazz drums vs. sax duo on “The Sacred Disease”, and excellent all out mayhem on the closing track.
The JazzFakers are a good band, and “Hallucinations” shows that in many places, but it could have been better with a different mix. All the same, this is good enough to recommend to those looking for something in between 70s Sun Ra, Stockhausen and early Pink Floyd, but in a modern NYC stylee.