In September of 1935, George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” premiered; it would later be adapted for a seminal Miles Davis record and become a jazz standard in itself. On the other hand, today, in the year 2019, Portland’s Korgy & Bass make beat tapes. Listen closer, though, and they make almost the opposite.
A self-identified “creative beat-making duo” that nevertheless takes its name from the jazz canon, what Korgy & Bass really create are concept albums. Most recently, their cryptically titled LP “24000:4=2500” was released one side at a time, with Side A fully embracing their freedom to experiment and make noise and Side B giving way to accessible, groove-based compositions.
The band, a collaboration between jazz drummer Barra Brown and analog beatsmith Alex Meltzer, continues its observation of tension and release on forthcoming record “Remote,” due out June 14 on Cavity Search Records (Elliott Smith, The Helio Sequence).
Enlisting New Orleans-based trumpeter and longtime collaborator Cyrus Nabipoor for the project (but unable to all get together to record), Brown and Meltzer decided to piece together, chop up, sample and re-sample the melodies Nabipoor sent them — as well as lines from bassists Milo Fultz and Sam Arnold — without all of them ever being in the same room.
The result paints the vibrant landscape between the natural and man-made world and sets up moments where harmonic tension syncs with the tension between what is produced naturally and what is produced by technology — ultimately challenging the idea that tech-assisted art and the human hand are at odds. Reflective, thematic and lovingly produced, this music is also very, very fun.
Lead single “Fatty Hat” poses more questions than it answers; is this for dancing or sitting down and listening to intently? Is that trumpet texture sampled or live? How exactly was this made and how exactly am I supposed to feel?
There’s a fearlessness here — both of experimentation and of pop sensibility — that’s often lacked by both experimental and “popular” music (whatever that means).
Needless to say, the ethos of “Fatty Hat” gives it away as unmistakably jazz: bold, distinctly of-the-moment, and disruptive in all the best ways.