Blue Cranes say ‘Eff you, elevator jazz’
Maybe jazz, in the context of contemporary music, has been relegated to the confines of hip-hop samples, public radio and elevators for a reason. Perhaps it’s being punished for stubbornness—for keeping to tradition for almost 100 years without much room to wiggle. But as the punishment subsides, new jazz acts with something different to say are emerging. Take into account “Broken Windmills,” from the Portland, Ore., quintet Blue Cranes: Drums exist within the natural momentum of wildly interesting orchestration, rather than simply to dictate a pace. Yet there’s a sense of excitement and urgency within the band’s strangely arranged melodies, which is not always the case when discussing experimental jazz. Rock critics are even using words like “polished,” “unique” and “innovative” to describe the band’s textured sound. But the band also conveys a certain old-time romance, reaching middle ground between structure and playfulness. Whether it’s the jarring Latin polyrhythm of “Awesome Hawk” or the punk rock bassline on “X,” Blue Cranes provide a new amplification of jazz, allowing listeners to hear a stream of water pass through a storm drain thick with sediment.