I must preface this piece with the statement that I'm not quitting. I'll be covering the last few days of this year's Montreal Jazz Festival for the first time. I am booking at least two more shows in San Antonio, Texas, under the banner of Nextbop by the end of the year. I still intend to throw the annual Jazz for the Masses day party in Austin, Texas, during the South by SouthWest Music Festival next March. I am still the host of KRTU San Antonio's The Line-Up and still love doing that show dearly every week. I burrowed my way into this jazz world and I don't see a way for me out of it, for better or for worse. I'm not quitting. However, if anyone who pays attention to Nextbop may have noticed, it's clear our output here has been diminished over the last few years.
Follow guitarist Horace Bray on Instagram and one often sees little sketches of ideas. Follow him for a while and one can see these little sketches come together. Bray is a technician, a recent graduate from the University of North Texas music school, and saying such thing about music school grads is pretty common these days in the jazz era. However, Bray has constantly managed to steadily grow his chops, gig about, and maintain a sense of soul in his accompaniment and particularly in his compositions. Dreamstate, Bray's long time coming debut album, best encapsulates this.
Brian Eno's 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports is Capital "I" Important. It's a landmark album for what was at the time a fledgling genre, ambient. It's an album open to contemplation. It settles on the ear and has done so for almost forty years, so it's understandable that it's an album apt for reinterpretation by a certain brand of musical weirdo. Chris Schlarb is that weirdo.
Okay, let's just be real. I have to ask. Is Bobby Avey tone-deaf? Is the young pianist, praised in certain jazz circles as an innovator and a sharp voice, just so brilliant that he doesn't actually hear melody? Does he know what it is? Does he care? Over his body of work, I have asked this question time and again why Avey constantly makes what I consider unlikeable music. We know unlikeable music. Those tonally off, minor all around, completely unnatural sounding hodgepodge of notes that just must be too smart for the rest of us. I have quite a few snobbish tendencies, no doubt. Bobby Avey still makes unlikeable music. However, perhaps he does care, to a degree, what a melody sounds like, maybe in a mathematical sense, throughout his latest album, Inhuman Wilderness, out June 24 on Innervoice Jazz.
I was worried a couple years ago when Chris Schlarb, the band/cult-leader of the Psychic Temple, told me he was going in a more folk/pop direction in the next album. I was doing a lot of juggling of balls back then when I was hosting Schlarb's show in San Antonio in 2014 in support of his solo album, Making the Saint, but I'm not sure if Pet Sounds entered into the conversation (which if it did, is a bit of a shame, since I had woefully yet to hear the album back then). Nevertheless, vocals were mentioned, something a little less familiar was around the corner. This was said in the midst of him embarking across the country on his own, experimenting with what the results of touring can be, putting himself out there as an artist and a businessman, and revealing his talent as a guitarist, craftsman, vocalists, and teepee builder (though his psychic temple, the frame in front of which he performed his solo shows, seemed more half a teepee, more a teepee). This work seemed foundational to the work that he would bring to the rest of his band in III, the aptly named third release from Chris Schlarb and the Psychic Temple.