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Jim Black Alasnoaxis: Splay

Drummer Jim Black’s debut as a leader in 2000 with AlasNoAxis may have been a straw in the wind that argued for a more inclusive approach for 21st-century jazz, but it was still persuasive. With the diversity of influences that swam through his music, whether it be world, electronics, minimalism, computer samples or Icelandic rock, Black seemed to suggest there are no boundaries in music, responding to the challenge of a new millennium by making the transition from the tradition, as exemplified by jazz’s heroes, by using established values on the one hand and new concepts on the other to create meaningful change.

Splay builds on AlasNoAxis’ questing precepts, reaching for a group identity and benefiting from a set working ensemble with Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet and Icelandic natives Hilmar Jensson on guitars and electronic skullduggery and Skuli Sverrisson on bass. This pan-cultural coalition again brings its collective energies to blend Black’s compositions with improvisation, from the Gnomic “Ble” to the metal-influenced “Aloe Evra” that acts as an unlikely cloak for Speed’s clarinet.

Those familiar with the Nordic tone in jazz will see many parallels with the Icelanders’ influence on the opening of “iCratic” and on numbers like “You Were Out” and “War Again Error,” which project the stark imagery of nature near the Northern Lights.

Originally Published