Serj Tankian - Jazz-Iz-Christ
Label: Serjical Strike
Reviewer: Sama Shahrouri - 2013-08-09
Highlights: Jinn, Miso Soup, Song of Sand
When the most unpredictable of things becomes the normal, and when what is traditionally and most commonly known as “the normal” becomes the well, abnormal, you get a hunch of who might be the person behind that master plan. He’s the master of surprise, the craziest of them all, the personification of Mr. Kite! Serj Tankian never fails to impress.
You would think that human creativity had reached its limits, and that no one could offer something new to the world, then someone like Serj tags along and takes something so classic and so vital in history like Jazz music, and modernizes it in ways that keep its integrity but present a completely new and different sound to its public in return- something never heard of before! –and you begin to wonder if there really is some hope left in humanity after all!
Jazz-Iz-Christ just happens to be that little spec of light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Lebanese born, Armenian-American, singer/song writer/musician/political activist weirdo Serj Tankian’s fifth record released under his own name. How if you haven’t already heard this album, just imagine for a second the most classic of Jazz music in your head… done?
Now try adding a bit of that “GRABABRUSHANDPUTONALITTLEMAKEUP!” vibe to it… done?
Talk about mindfuck.
Yes, that’s exactly how this record sounds. You’ve got the signature jazzy Saxophone sound merged with a bluesy bass, Trumpets, Flutes and funky fresh atmosphere all around, and then WHOOP comes in the electronic sounds of digital beats jumping in here and there and everywhere! A Tankianian trip of the mind! You get that feeling off this record from track one. It’s different from any release in the scene these days, definitely takes Jazz music to a whole new level. It’s jazz with elements of progressive rock and even Middle Eastern and Indian inspired music here and there. If anything, it’s full of surprises.
One of these surprises happens after the first 5 tracks, the record goes into a darker side. It shifts the atmosphere from this summery lounge
music-esque kind of audio to a sadder state. This second part mostly relies on wind instruments to present that atmosphere; Flutist Valeri Tostov and Trumpist Tom Duprey are the men behind those sounds. For example, “Scotch in China” is the after midnight taste of Jazz you need in your life. But then, Serj lends us his voice in the trio of “Distant Things”, “Garuna” and “Song of Sand”, here is when you say good bye to the good mood you were put in at first. Against the sound of the gloomy trumpet/flute then slow piano, Serj’s voice plays a vital part in depressing you, which is absolutely gorgeous to say the least.
But it doesn’t last long, the album kicks back into the same air it was in before. More piano and winds merged with that weird technical music in the background is heard again. It almost seems like an improvised jam session from here on. Like in “Jinn” there’s this really cool piano/trumpet/flute arrangement that suddenly breaks into this apeshit crazy sound, another ‘wow’ factor.
And for all of you who think that Tankian wasn’t true to his musical message, he added “Miso Soup” as a closing track to the album just to prove you wrong. It’s the track that SOAD fans will call their favorite, since it contains that System element they all miss so much.
So in a way, Jazz-Iz-Christ was a well-rounded experimental Jazzy record. But I’m guessing Serj’s fanbase will have a 50/50 opinion on it… it’s different from anything he’s done, but at the same time, it’s SO HIM. Everyone needs a Jazz record or two on their playlists, so don’t hesitate to get it. It’s a JorZine recommendation.