Jazzy. This word has no meaning, and somehow has a shred of every meaning. People throw it around with particular intention when it's a hip-hop qualifier. When people say "jazzy" hip-hop they could mean anything. A lot of what turns up with regularity is hip-hop that samples jazz music, but may or may not actually bare any of the characteristic trademarks of jazz music's composition or performance. And in these contemporary times how do we even qualify and/or distinguish jazz music? In these times of disappearing structures, equivocated stylizations, and vanishing distinction how do we define jazz music?

If we look to the past we can't find the answers, we can only find the origins. So, we shouldn't expect that jazz right now would sound like jazz in 1942, 1953, 1964, 1975, or even 1986. Jazz in the United States has been in the thick of technological developments since the earliest times of recorded music, the development of the studio as an instrument itself, the continuous development of new technologies for synthesis/performance/composition. The development of free jazz happened in part as a response to societal circumstances, and the pressures they exert on individuals. In comparison to hip-hop---and other younger music forms that came into existence in conjunction with the technologies that facilitate them---the practice of jazz has been partially isolated from the technologies that facilitate it. That is to say, although the times have changed, jazz hasn't changed in many ways.

When you listen to groups like Digable Planets, and more recently Shabazz Palaces, when you listen to rappers like Busdriver, Milo, and Open Mike Eagle, you don't hear jazzy. You hear jazz, or at least you hear much of the musical sensibilities that created and perpetuated jazz. A structure that relies on the careful and studied collapse and and near-collapse of convention in order to allow for motions in sound that otherwise could not exist. One of jazz's most determining facets is the way that it obscures time. In jazz syncopation, cadence, and rhythm are used to create an immediacy that overshadows the future. If the motorik style of music embodied by Kraftwerk can be represented by driving down the straight and narrow autobahn, then the skipping syncopations of jazz music are more like Ken Block's Gymkhana runs. The masterful manipulations of jazz that allow a player to focus years of practice into fractions of a second are central to the precise manipulations, and studious exposition of the circuitous.

So what happens if someone who is studied in jazz then comes to hip hop? Imagine that any notion of novelty is dismissed because the practitioner has already had transcendent revelations through the divine stylizations of players such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane? Kreg Komodor found a reverence for music through jazz while he was in high school, and spent a good deal of time understanding the dynamics of cultural signification, and the nature of influence in art. He came to hip hop with the sensibilities that define jazz, and has spent the last 5 years practicing the creation of beats, raps, and songs. His approach is defined by an urgency of rhythm, in his own words: "A rap is a crazy thing because it can make or break many listeners opinion on the music and I think it's been more recently neglected as solely a poetic format or lyrical function instead of a rhythmic exploration, which in my opinion should make a comeback." And here, even in the way he indirectly describes the stylizations and character of jazz as "a rhythmic exploration" Kreg Komodor reveals a unique imperative.

When you listen to Bird you won't hear someone who is aligning with the past so much as resonating with it. Kreg's imperative is a rhythmic exploration. This exploration takes him deep into the moments of the music's creation, where seconds break down into fractions of seconds, and a kind of transcendent manipulation of time and space takes place. Kreg uses contemporary technologies to compose music that transcends time and space, but through his formative years in music training he styles limits within this transcendence and the result is an entirely contemporary manifestation of jazz. This isn't throwback music, it's update music. In recent years many people have looked to New York to revive the "jazzy" sound of rap that defined the golden age. But, that music could never be in keeping with these times.

In these times jazz has a different sound, perhaps more nuanced but only in as much as nuance is the only kind of distinction that actually registers in the contemporary era. When time and space separated people to such extents that the non-integrated silos of genre-defined music were natural and sensible summations of cultural distinction things were inherently different. And within a catalog of difference distinction is formed by things that you can put your finger on, and further your whole hand, and in many times much of your arm. The differences between pop punk and jazz were so substantial that you couldn't have put your hand on jazz and punk at the same time. In the contemporary era time and space have been diminished to the point that they are not a pre-determined factor. This means that the separation of musical styles into difference-defined genres doesn't make sense. When everyone is in one common space and time, we can't distinguish based on difference, distinction becomes a matter of nuance. There's nothing to put your finger on, it's more along the lines of scents, auras, and the ineffable.

Kreg Komodor's Bird traces the essence of the ineffable qualities of jazz through 10 tracks and 35 minutes. The songs appear and persist with well-crafted and even keeled drum lines. These drum lines are surrounded by a stuttering, wavering, oscillating, and melodious ether of carefully crafted phrases of sound. At times the music breezes along in a unified fashion languishing in the ripples of time in synchronicity. And at other times the musical structure flickers with such rapidity that the notes become an oddly woven quilt that can neither be in keeping nor out of sync. At times the music teeters on the verge of jazz's refusal of structure but it remains bound to the fundamentals of hip-hop: straightforward, loud, and driving drums provide a common ground for people to share music. Kreg Komodor's Bird album is a potent example of the ever-adapting, and ever-refreshing capacity of hip-hop in the contemporary era.

Kreg Komodor: Soundcloud / Facebook / Bandcamp