New York City-based Imperial Triumphant have issued their third full-length, Vile Luxury, via Gilead Media. On their third full-length, Imperial Triumphant have managed to mature their labyrinthine, free jazz-informed black metal to frightening heights. As much inspired by the works of Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus as they are moved by the works of Emperor and Enslaved, the Empire Staters are moving in a direction that’s intrinsically connected to black metal (the atmosphere of it) but culturally far away from it. That is to say, Vile Luxury is more about New York City, its myriad cultures, its history as a power center, and the darkness that it contains above and below ground.
But to understand Imperial Triumphant’s Vile Luxury is to understand the symbolism in and around New York City. What were the architects, designers, and artists trying to convey? Like anyone who lives in or visits the The Capital of the World, power and control are two overarching attributes that are on display, either conspicuously or not. Conversely, what were the Jazz artists who lived in, played in, and resonated in Gotham thinking as they created new music with new thinking, effectively changing the course of modern music by bridging off of or splintering from Bob, Cool, and Hard Bop, while under the symbols of concentrated Western power.
Since New York City is such an important component to Imperial Triumphant, Decibel decided to challenge — on the spot, no less — Kenny Grohowski, Steve Blanco, and Zachary Ezrin on their Top 5 Jazz albums. Collectively, speaking.
5. Ben Monder – Hydra (2013)
NOTE: Ben Monder’s Hydra is not on Youtube.ENDNOTE
OK, you asked us for a more contemporary artist and that has to be Ben Monder. He’s a very good guitar player. Anything he does we’re going to dig. Hydra is a killer record. Skúli Sverrisson is on bass and Ted Poor is on drums. Skúli has played with Allan Holdsworth among others, while Ted plays with Bill Frisell. Ted is one of our favorite drummers of all time.
4. Duke Ellington – Money Jungle (1963)
The way the bass opens up the first track, “Money Jungle,” it’s so non-traditional from what you’d expect from a Jazz bass. It’s classic [Charles] Mingus, but it’s not classic Mingus. There’s an anecdote behind that session… The way they all play on that is amazing. The tension of it. Duke Ellington, Max Roach, and Mingus. They were a trio. We’re a trio. We definitely like trios. There’s a strength to it. The triangle is a very strong shape. An important shape.
3. Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream (1963)
We would say Thelonious Monk is number three because his voice is so identifiable. His tunes were unmistakable. As soon as you hear a few notes, you know it’s Monk. And if you try to play them, you know it’s Monk. No matter who you are, Monk’s music is so unique. That’s what I love about Monk is the uniqueness. Also the way Monk plays with his group. He’s got Charlie Rouse on tenor. That rhythm section created a counter-culture way of comping. That was the time where Monk would get up from the piano and start twirling around while the rhythm section would just groove. Amazing!
2. John Coltrane – Interstellar Space (1974)
Interstellar Space is great! Huge! It’s the culmination of what Coltrane was aspiring to and cultivating over the years. At that point, the group he was with had cultivated that sound with him. That was just the beginning of where that group was going to go. At that point, he was really disengaged from the actual playing of music. He was more expressing. Literally, he was searching for a spiritual loftiness, so it was less about the playing than the journey. It became transcendent. That’s the goal of music. To get to that place.
1. Miles Davis – Nefertiti (1967)
I think we can say without a doubt what our #1 Jazz album is. Miles Davis’ Nefertiti. Hands down. Nefertiti is Miles’ group, but it’s him ushering in the real generation of artists who were going to shape music from there on in. There’s Herbie [Hancock] and Wayne [Shorter], who’s basically writing it all. It’s not Miles’ music. He didn’t write it. He’s the choreographer of the music, but Wayne was the architect of the music. Then, there’s Herbie, Ron [Carter], and Tony [Williams] who are shaping the future of how musicians in Jazz were going to play Jazz. Go to any Jazz school over the last 15-30 years and they all produce what came out of Nefertiti. Nefertiti was the blueprint as to what interplay and improvisatory orchestration was going to be birthed out of. Mingus and Ornette were part of that generation, where small groups were going beyond a small Big Band. It wasn’t just a trio with a horn player to solo. Non-traditional soloing became the blowing. For example, Miles would have the rhythm section soloing the entire time, while the other guys were holding the melody down. Doing the comping. That has a huge impact on how we play.
** Imperial Triumphant’s new album, Vile Luxury, is out now on Gilead Media. Click HERE for digipak CD or 2XLP. Order now or find yourself not imbibing in the vilest luxury from the darkest towers of New York City.