You Might Have Missed: The Young Mothers
I often at times find myself in the position where I miss something that I either have in my possession, or that somehow got lost in the mix of day to day life. I hate when it’s something that’s truly amazing, groundbreaking, and on a whole new level. I really hate, that for my friend Jawwaad Taylor, this is the second time I’ve missed one of his works. Last year, Jawwaad dropped a full length album with his jazz band, The Young Mothers, and it’s taken until now to tell you about it. That album, “a mothers work is never done” is one of the most intense of fruitful records I’ve ever heard. In seven songs this six piece reimagines what jazz can be, and does it in such a crazy new way that it feels like something from another planet.
The album kicks off with what would be considered a hip hop beat where Taylor meets the drums and an upright bass and rhymes atop the notes that are emanating on “The ‘Wood.” Funky keys, a spacey guitar, and this random feeling guitar on another tip comes gliding in and off the track. To the untrained ear, that secondary guitar is off key, but that’s the point. Noodling on the saxophone and trumpet match up with the vocals in the same key like a sound that’s coming from outer space. The groove heavy bassline from Ingebrigt Haker Flaten changes direction and the horns take flight where it’s almost a battle between Taylor’s trumpet and Jason Jackson’s sax. Throughout this small waged war, a very different guitar crafts a rhythm of it’s own choosing while drummer Francisco Rosaly goes nuts while keeping things in their own time signature. This gets followed by the intensely grooved track, “Mole.” The band keeps in time while creating a jam that feels on time while it also has moments that feel like a train coming off the rails. The elements of traditional jazz met with freeform jazz are simply beautiful where you never know what’s coming next. At certain points, this crazed guitar from Jonathan Horne comes in and feels like a crazy acid induced frenzy while the rest of the band keeps their groove going.
The third song, “Theme from Fanny & Alexander,” starts off in an East meets West sort of way, while elements of chamber music float the track along. However the song ends before really breaking away from the initial intent. However, this gets followed by “Wells, the original,” where the band mixes indie rock elements with psych rock and electronica. When the horns come in before Stefan Gonzales adds vocals, the song feels less like jazz and more like something you’d hear from the sixties hippy scene. What’s nuts about all of this, is that it doesn’t feel foreign on this album. Distorted vocals buried underneath various elements take the song in a whole new direction while the band picks up the pace and blows your mind just enough to make you question what you’ve just heard. This all culminates into a frenzy of screaming, chaotic drums, and varying instruments popping in and out before the track closes off. The spacey yet beautiful opening on “Virgoan Ways” comes on next, and has these splices of vibraphone dancing on top of a thick stand up bass, while guitar gets played with a bow. Tripped out and LSD soaked notes from all of the players are met with a traditional horn section, and for a moment, it feels like a whole different band. Then the horns go for a walk, they stretch their legs and add this whole grimy feel as the drums pop along as they also get a little more free with each verse. When the track gets near it’s end, the instruments clash together like a violent sex scene before the vibraphone attempts to bring things back to normal. However this is met with a whole new rhythm change, further placing the band on a whole different level from the bulk of their contemporaries.
Those pretty vibraphone notes start the sixth track, “Ruth” while Taylor comes in with some easy going mic flow. This would be enough for some, but the band starts what’s closer to a whole new song where they speed up drastically and mix elements of early rock n’ roll with doo wop while Taylor picks up the pace on the mic. Before you can find your happy place, the band changes direction two more times before returning to their original pace, then again with the quickness from before. The song feels more like an emo core song than a jazz track, but it’s again doesn’t feel like a song that shouldn’t be contained on this album. Instead it feels like another curveball from an act who’s going to do things their own way and this is done with an ease that makes the changes feel natural and almost free even though they have a precise timing to them. The band closes things out with “Terrestrial Impact Theory.” The song begins with a mix of what feels like big band jazz mixed with freeform and contemporary jazz playing in the background. Everything has a “normal” vibe until this almost Hendrix sounding guitar comes in only to get intersected with free flowing horns that seem to create their own world. The way that these two elements come in, it’s very easy to forget that the same thing is happening with every other instrument being played. Though the band returns to the original pace of the song, there are still continuing jams happening that put the track into a completely new realm, but still on par with how this band operates.
I can’t make you love jazz music, as I know that it’s not for everyone. However, The Young Mothers craft a sound that’s so different while sounding familiar and relevant, that it could also be the one jazz album that’s closer to an introduction than a departure to the genre. These guys tour the world, they rarely play in Houston, and even though they’re primarily based out of Austin, they’re definitely an act to watch out for. I could tell you that they’re so far ahead of what’s happening in jazz right now, that they’ve placed themselves light years ahead of everyone else. But I feel like you’ll realize that when you give this record a listen.