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Published: 2002/11/23
by Jason Gossard

Find – Birth

Hopscotch 11

"Jazz isn't dead. It just smells funny."

Or so thought Frank Zappa in 1973, commenting on the current state of jazz and essentially forecasting its relevance for the next three decades. While there have been the occasional flashes of brilliance in recent years, the term "jazz" more often than not has been used to refer to such atrocities as fusion masturbation, New Age nonsense, and Kenny G. But fear not, you jazz diehards, because there is a new smell in the air. It is Birth, and even though it smells funky, dirty, nasty, angry, sultry, beautiful, chaotic, random, and at times, offensive, it is, without a doubt, the smell of jazz.

Find is Birth's second release, and what a find it is. Captain
Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, King Crimson, and Primus can all
be heard lurking in the background, and that is during the first track only.
Proceed deeper into the album and you hear the ghost of John Coltrane
blowing chaos against the orchestrated aggression of Crimson's wildest
rhythm section. Even deeper and you encounter the spirit of Coleman jamming
with Black Sabbath at Wetlands on Halloween for an audience of punks and
head bangers.

Simply put, Birth is the freshest thing I have heard since Nirvana made me
sit up and go "What the fuck is this?" ten years ago. Birth is the wildest
thing I have heard since I was 15 and I bought "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" for
a dollar at a garage sale, ran home, dropped the needle, and sat stunned for
the next 45 minutes. Birth makes me want to dance, scream, write poetry,
run around the room in a frenzy, and stare out the window in a hypnotic
trance, sometimes all at once.

Birth is unpredictable. Track 4 – "Bismillah" – starts with electronic
noises, which are interrupted and momentarily do battle with a danceable
drum beat, which eventually explodes into a tango-tinged saxophone melody
that makes me get up and wish I was shaking it at Studio 54. Track 5 – "Untitled r_d" – with its cautious melody and notes picked and played to
perfection, evokes memories of late nights listening to Kind of Blue,
before it slowly builds into a chaotic frenzy that teeters on the verge of
chaos before abruptly returning to its seductive theme.

Behind this amazing music we discover three guys, who somehow seem to
instinctively know when to cut the reins loose and let the madness fly, and
when to hold the reins tight and proceed carefully. Saxophonist Joshua
Smith demonstrates incredible range, evoking both the torrential wildness of
a Coltrane and the stingy passion of a Davis. Drummer Joe Tomino, while
demonstrating obvious technical brilliance, always seems to know exactly
what to play, when to play it, and how hard (or soft) it needs to be.
Bassist Jeremy Bleich is the glue that holds it all together, somehow
inspiring the other two to greater heights while at the same time making
this listener want to dance and sway and hum along. Special guest Cuong Vu
sits in on trumpet, holding his own in this incredible ensemble, and letting
us know that these guys also know a thing or two about jazz arrangement.

Birth is, to put it simply, one of the most exciting things I have heard in
years. Find this album and own it.

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