Isotope 217: Now you’re fusing with jazz

the unstable molecule - isotop 217

Originally called just “Isotope,” the band changed its moniker to Isotope 217 to avoid confusion with the 70s experimental rock/jazz outfit of the same name.

But whether by direct inspiration or after-the-fact realization, I-217’s modus operandi is remarkably similar to its nomenclatural predecessor, specializing in a kind of improvisational, “experimental” jazz, similar to the jazz+rock fusions of the 60s/70s, but updated for the late 90s. Released on Thrill Jockey, the group forms an intermingling triumvirate with Tortoise and the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Orchestra as well as a number of other Chicagoland side projects, sharing members, ideas and in some cases, melodies and song titles across multiple records and banners. It also shares those groups’ ethos of merging the compositional prose of post-rock with the expressionism of jazz.

Though Isotope 217’s later albums are somewhat less accessible, the group’s 1997 debut The Unstable Molecule features some compelling grooves and is heavily centered around percussion, as is evidenced by Phonometrics below.

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Isotope 217 - The Unstable Molecule - Phonometrics

The Unstable Molecule at Amazon

Trotter Trio – Sketchin on Star Wars Jazz

star wars jazz at amazon

Interpretations of John Williams’ Star Wars music is a veritable cottage industry. A portion of it is sure to turn up at any concert performance featuring “movie music” as well as concert recordings featuring the same. Then, there’s Meco’s disco versions, The Evil Genius Orchestra’s excellent cocktail versions as well as countless techno/dance/club versions.

So it should come as no surprise that there is at least one jazz variation. The Trotter Trio lays out nine tracks from the original trilogy plus one “inspired by” song that incorporates quotes of the “Force Theme.” The styles range from uptempo swing jazz to mellow cool jazz. There’s even a hint of “smooth” jazz mixed in too but I won’t hold that against it.

Listening to this record, I can’t help but imagine Star Wars set, not as an epic space opera, but as a mirky black-and-white film noir, particularly when hearing Han Solo and the Princess:

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starwarsjazz.png

Bill Evans – Up With The Lark

bill evans tokyo concert

Widely cited as the most influential post-1950s jazz pianist, here’s Bill Evans (with Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums pay attention to those) from The Tokyo Concert, recorded at “Yubin Chokin Hall,” Tokyo, Japan, January 20, 1973. The song is Up with the Lark.

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June Christy & Stan Kenton – Shoo fly pie

june christy

This song never fails to put a smile on my face. Coming at you from 1945, here’s June Christy singing with Stan Kenton and his orchestra on the song Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy.

It’s full of jazzy soul. Enjoy.

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shoo fly pie at itunes store