The general discourse around popular music in the last century has treated the term “jazz” with an increasing amount of critical disdain. Jazz might signify the old school of music, an antiquated approach to structure and theory of what sounds and feels good. But the synergistic integrity that defines jazz, its integral roots, can be traced to nearly every boundary-pushing and progressive tributary of contemporary music ever conceived.
Such a confident claim can easily be derived from the wordless musings of 26 year-old bassist/educator Joan Torres and his seven-piece All Is Fused jazz ensemble. These virtuosic and unquestionably inspired musicians take the basic form of jazz and contort it to their every want and will throughout the eight sprawling tracks of their sophomore album The Beginning. Songwriter and bandleader Joan Torres is more comfortable using the word “fusion” (versus the somewhat reductive implications of jazz) to describe his freewheeling and often fiery compositions. The Beginning abandons the approachability and uninterrupted calm of its musical antecedent, 2012’s Before, artfully negating the record’s conceptual framework of jazz as “easy listening.” This most recent LP, self-released in August 2014, is challenging and purposive, as masterful as it is meandering. And despite its general blueprint, The Beginning contains more vexed and convoluted ideas than any kind of jazz I’ve ever come across.
Joan Torres maintains a careful sense of control throughout The Beginning that’s apt to be overlooked among the powerful hysterics of each player. His dynamic presence on the bass guitar often indicates a distinct counterpoint from the aural trajectory the rest of the band takes: the sparse surreptitious flubbing of “Nightmare” or the frenzied fallout of “Disjunct Realities”‘s last minute and a half, where an amphetamine rush of a bassline swaggers brisk and senseless. The album’s most notable moments occur between alternating states of intensity, where sublime introspection and turbulent, nightmarish visions meet as a satisfying catharsis of sounds. It’s a hard-driving record, equally suitable for methodical concentrating or visceral lovemaking.
Each track, whether it’s the nearly eleven-minute soul-savvy groove of “There Was You” or the initial improvisatory skirmishes of opener “Summoning,” is an altered state of mind, succinct and separate from the greater whole. The final seconds of “Release,” when the rushing tumult of melody comes to an unexpected close, feels like a sharp gasp of air, as if for the last six minutes you’d forgotten to breathe.
Stream The Beginning in its entirety below.