Jazz-Iz-Christ review by Serj Tankian

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  • Released: Jul 25, 2013
  • Sound: 5
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 5.7 Decent
  • Users' score: 6.1 (52 votes)
Serj Tankian: Jazz-Iz-Christ
1

Sound — 5
Serj Tankian is enjoying a new lease of life as a musician this year. It seems the swathes of money coming in from the System Of A Down tour have liberated the Armenian-American maverick artistically, freeing him to work on a range of non-rock projects which test his creative palette. "Jazz-Iz-Christ" is one of three albums to be released this year - the first was "Orca," a full orchestral symphony with a cinematic twist, while the forthcoming "Fuktronic" will be an electronic collaboration with Mindless Self Indulgence frontman Jimmy Urine. This one is an attempt to combine jazz, fusion, electronic and ethnic music, using a wide range of guest musicians. Together they stitch together an unusual patchwork which is best explained by starting with specifics. "Fish Don't Scream" is a System song at heart, sterilized and reworked for a jazz band but welded together by their chromatic riffing and box office melodies. Too familiar for you? Try the sitar and atonal piano of "Honeycharmed" on for size. Perhaps sample "Arpeggio Bust," which sounds like a prog rock band trying to jam with a jazz trio through six feet of plate glass, or "Waitomo Caves," which samples the Facebook notification noise on a bed of beatboxing and honky-tonk. Despite the idiosyncratic blend of styles, placid dabs of flute and piano leave the less eccentric pieces feeling rather loungey. See "Distant Things": a gentle vignette for which Tankian drafted in all-time drumming great Stewart Copeland only to have him keep time with a mild-mannered brush on the ride. Though the performance is full of dynamic ups and downs, the production does little to bring out the variation, only breaking through the low-level hum when heady electronics come into play on "Balcony Chats" and "Waitomo Caves."

Lyrics — 7
The man behind the curtain only sings on a handful of tracks and leaves the rest to the ensemble, but the moments aided by Tankian's unique voice are the most interesting on the album. The frequent lack of leading instrument explains much of the lounge feel, leaving some instrumental tracks featureless and in desperate need of direction. Vocals do help to address this problem when they appear. Without vocals "Song of Sand" would have been the feeblest track of all, while the tender "Garuna," sung in Armenian, is soothing just for the sound of human syllables. The whole album could have benefitted from more lyricism.

Overall Impression — 5
Serj Tankian ought to look at his growing body of solo work and be pleased. He's doing things most rock musicians never go near, and for all its weaknesses "Jazz-Iz-Christ" is still a coherent assembly of strange and refreshing sounds. That said, he'll be getting more from it than anyone else. While "Orca" surprised with its honesty and simplicity, this project is an exercise in self-indulgence, that onlookers will only enjoy on a profound level if they're willing to try really really hard. "Jazz-Iz-Christ" is stylistically brave but sonically shy, and like most works of its nature, it's destined to be ineffectual for the mass unenlightened.

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27 comments sorted by best / new / date

    azrael667
    For a jazz record it doesn't sound very much like jazz.
    acdcrocklover
    Considering Jazz is one of the most experimental and welcoming of all genres, you can't outright state that it doesn't sound like Jazz just because it doesn't sound like the Jazz you listen to.
    EpiExplorer
    Like Ron Burgundy, its nice when Serj dabbles. Btw, the hell is up with Dunc's boner for not liking lounge? Most of this is pure slow-sex music, really nice stuff.
    BealeStBlues
    Well Serj has clearly made enough money in his lifetime because this puppy isnt going to sell too well...
    myap0calypse99
    Not the best thing in the world, but it's something different and cool and i'm glad to see him having fun with music, soad is my favorite thing he's done, but i still like this stuff too. If soad will happen again it will, in the meantime open your mind to some cool new projects
    DystoCreativity
    Oh Serj, you did it again. A fantastically oddball album - a bit of it is merely interesting background noise, but the greatest tracks don't even have to try to demand your attention - as someone who enjoys lyrics in foreign languages, Garuna takes the cake.
    echoshard1
    I have just found about this album thanks to this article. Solid piece of work.
    Anjohl
    Oh god, someone get this guy under contract so he has to do nothing but SOAD stuff. This is getting ridiculous, and has absolutely NO audience.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Or you could, you know, just stop. Even if you dislike it (as I do, btw), there's no reason for your kind of reaction. No musician should be put under contracting that limits his creativity.
    wafflesyrup
    I've just gotta say, I have nothing but contempt for the attitude being displayed here. This mentality is the very thing that destroys art and the exploration of its forms.
    Anjohl
    No, too much economic freedom is what destroys art and the exploration of forums. You know what made "Appetite for Destrution", "Badmotorfinger", "Kill em All", and "Reign in Blood" so good? Hunger. It's easy to be hungry when you ain't got shit to lose. When bands get too big, and have too much money, they treat music like a high interest savings account, or an investment. Bands that are hungry, that are desperate for that $500 club payday are the artists, not the rich fatcats who gave any semblance of that up after the second hit album.
    thebigredjj10
    So having the freedom to make the art that an artist wants is the ultimate destroyer of art? The drive for money makes great art? Wow. Just wow.
    Hydra150
    The intro of that first track has a jazz-fusion sound to it in the way that Chick Corea would sound if Chick Corea didn't know how to play as light as a feather. When the vocals come in it sounds more like some form of eastern folk/classical music, quite nice though. The second track, I quite like. Not as much as I like the cheesy jazz-funk from the late 70s/80s that it is imitating, though. If you like this then check out The Brecker Brothers.
    travislausch
    I wonder how many of you haters actually listened to the album in full. It's actually pretty decent as far as jazz-fusion goes!
    JOHNSTONE6
    "fusion jazz" maybe...dunno. people don't think it's jazz but I'm pretty sure its some sort of sub-genre to jazz, not tradiotnal jazz but its jazz-like to me.
    Shimmeh
    Oh God. That Waitomo Caves song. I'm not sure whether it's the beatboxing, the cheesy synths, or the spazzy songwriting, but something went horribly, horribly wrong there.
    vIsIbleNoIsE
    the last few sentences of that review made it sound like there was genius to be found in the album somewhere, yet the rating is abysmal.
    Wolffather89
    i know serj style from soad,and also i am actually in love with this..... my love for music goes through many levels.... from norah J to slipknot and back , and i love to play all this stlyes on bass . and this album is great . and everyone there means that this a "bad joke" from serj is ,have no idea what is means to be a real artist . art is more than just listen and make just one thing ... its more than this !!! in german : horizont erweiternd - horizon border cross peace &love , Wolf F.