Where Pat Metheny and Nachtmystium Overlap

Tomas Haake warming up before a Meshuggah gig ...
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From, a comparison of the similarities of jazz and metal.

Jazz stages and metal stages are places where a certain kind of experimentation happens: brainy and cabalistic, with a hint of a smile. Both increasingly depend on educated virtuosos. In both genres you can develop curious harmonic worlds, warp the tempos, brush against folkloric or conservatory music, play many notes very speedily and engage sturdy American grooves or a more studied system of fitting odd-number beats into even-number meters. Pat Metheny, jazz guitarist, meet Paul Masvidal of Cynic; Jeff (Tain) Watts, jazz drummer, meet Tomas Haake of Meshuggah. Both forms seem to have a neatly divided audience: maybe two-thirds respectfully fixated on the music’s past, one-third concerned about building paradigms for the future.

Both have become increasingly local and international at the same time; they depend on the scenes of certain communities — whether Brooklyn; Chicago; or Savannah, Ga. — but their audiences are everywhere. As of the late ’00s both have been the subject of serious academic conferences. And aside from a few tanklike, old-favorite examples — Metallica and Keith Jarrett, say — if you want to keep up with either, you have to listen to cuts on MySpace pages and go to gigs.

Jazz and metal are both diversifying at a fantastic rate, feeding on their old modes and languages, combining them and breaking them down. (In both, the fans have become more suspicious of genre heresy than the musicians.) An album by a typically ambitious ’00s metal group — like Baroness, Isis, Krallice or Nachtmystium — might put a dozen kinds of metal in a supercollider, as well as kinds that lie outside the genre, spewing them all out in complicated, episodic song structures. So too with some of the better current jazz groups, including Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life, Stefon Harris’s Blackout, Mostly Other People Do the Killing and the similarly named groups Bad Touch and the Bad Plus.

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