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The New Cool: Jesse Fischer Flips Jazz

Album design by Roland leFox.
Jesse Fischer flips generations of music on its side.

Multi-instrumentalist Jesse Fischer is also a songwriter, producer, engineer and musical anthropologist. OK, I added that last one to his bio, but his new album Flipped II seamlessly mixes cultures across decades and generations.

Flipped II checks a lot of my boxes. Fischer calls the music "a love letter to the hard bop, soul jazz, and jazz fusion of the late 60’s/early 70’s, as seen thru the lens of golden era hip-hop beats and future jazz sounds of today." Cool, right? The trick is putting these sounds together and making the whole more than just the sum of its parts.

Happily, Fischer's mission is accomplished. He calls each song a "flip" as opposed to a cover or a remix. To my ears, I hear each style alongside but not blended with the other. Imagine a kid's dinner plate with the various foods all kept carefully apart.

Jesse Fischer initiated this style in 2010 with Flipped. This sequel 8 years later continues the theme with Fischer playing keys, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. Special guests include a who's who of modern jazz: Monk Competition finalist Godwin Louis on alto sax, reed man and producer Sly5thAve, Boston-based Billy Buss and NYC's Clynt Yerkes on trumpets. Fischer adds extra percussionists throughout and Brooklyn singer Jaime Woods lends her lovely vocals to Stevie Wonder's "Creepin".

All the elements are built from the ground up: bebop horns join thick classic hip hop beats, shiny modern production, and the organic energy of the live instrumentation.

Flipped II begins with an intro that is more akin to a theme song - something Herbie and the Headhunters might have written for a spin off of Sanford & Son. It's groovy and fun.

The first proper song features the ensemble horn work of Louis and Buss, with acoustic piano from Fischer, all on top of a soulful hand-clap beat with atmospheric synths around the edges. It's a straight cover of Joe Henderson's 1964 classic "Punjab" and sounds like if Joe, trumpeter Kenny Dorham and pianist McCoy Tyner were all born that year. Check it out on The New Cool this weekend!

The energy is mostly lower mid-tempo through the album. Ballads by Herbie, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane are  revered but shifted through time to the groovy 70s and fat beat 80s at once. A bright version of Freddie Hubbard's "The Intrepid Fox" from 1970 is the lone uptempo groove, setting the driving horn line atop a retro-futuristic electro beat.

When pianist Emmet Cohen was in the KNKX studios this week, he reminded me that today's artists have 100 years of jazz to celebrate. There's no need to limit yourself to just one era or style. I know you'll enjoy the musical time travel through the 60s, 70s, 80s and into the future on Jesse Fischer's Flipped II.

Now for some of Fischer's one-man holiday cheer!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.