Jazz has had its day, feels Jojo Mayer
The artiste shares his thoughts on the genre, his influences and more before his gig in Bengaluru
Jojo Mayer has a laconic reply when asked to define jazz in 2017. “Anachronistic,” he says. The Swiss-born drummer who brings together jazz with other genres, and is a savant when it comes to drumming techniques, heads to Bengaluru with his act, Nerve, for his first-ever India tour.
The band recently released their self-titled album, Nerve. “It is an attempt to express our point of view about human evolution in the technological age. It's a negotiation concerning human performance vs. automated performance in order to create new syntax,” says the New York-based musician. He opines that we have entered the technological age at the atavistic stage of cavemen and need to evolve quickly in order to be able to coexist with the technology coming at us in the future. And this new syntax will be the language and the gateway to articulate this development. “Aesthetically, the music is reminiscent of sub-genre electronically programmed music, whereas the modus operandi of its creation is driven by improvisation and real-time performances,” he adds about the album.
His sound pushes the technical boundaries, but always strikes a balance between digital and analogue. “The core question is not about the legitimacy of a human performance versus an automated one, but about the legitimacy of the values behind any performance, either human or robotic. Once we can gain more clarity about the underlying values we can address the approach towards creating this balance. One of the realisations I made a few years ago concerning digital versus analogue is that a digital signal is hi-impact with low emotionality and analog is low-impact with high emotionality,” he says addressing the topic. But you can’t have the cake and eat it so he feels it requires a choice, and one driven by curiosity to create or discover an inspiring environment.
Talking of influences, he names The Beatles, Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Weather Report, Aphex Twin and more, adding, “I usually get inspired when I see or hear someone fearless enough to take a risk to express a new idea. As far as drumming goes, I learnt from so many greats, but the most devastating blow was dealt by Tony Williams when I was a teenager. His influence opened my mind to the artistic potential of the instrument.” He says a person's development and process to create great work is just as compelling as the work itself. He also adds Stanley Kubrick, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Van Gogh and Gustav Mahler to the list.
While Jojo is credited with playing jazz blended with drum and bass, and jungle, he feels there is an issue with defining or interpreting the term "jazz" in today's age. “For instance, let's compare the evolution of the first 30 years of the music with its developments in the last 30 years. Under this comparison, it's quite evident that jazz has had its day,” says the musician who has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone. He further adds that jazz used to be music created and listened to by forward-thinking, radical people demanding social change, but now jazz stands for conservative music. “It's preoccupied with creating new renditions in reference to the past within a restricting mindset that is the opposite of the pioneering spirit of Armstrong, Parker, Monk, Miles or Coltrane,” he elucidates. “But unfortunately, the word jazz has been co-opted to an extent that it would be a disservice to our music to call it jazz,” he ends decisively.
Rs. 2,400. December 8, 8:30 pm. At Blue Frog, Church Street.