Before we start, that's not a typo. It's a band name. Thiefs is a modern jazz trio spanning the Atlantic with musicians based in Paris and New York City. As I discovered on my recent vacation, Paris has many similarities to New York. The big city hustle and international "melting pot" communities, the youthful energy and progressive attitudes all come through on Thiefs' impressive second album, last year's Graft (La Greffe).
Co-led by American bassist Keith Witty and French saxophonist Christope Panzani, the group excels in fusing — sorry, grafting — the acoustic and electronic angles of jazz, EDM, and socially concious, bilingual spoken word. It's jazz at its core, but with extensive use of electronics and guest vocalists/rappers on two-thirds of the songs, including American-in-Paris Mike Ladd and French star Gaël Faye.
Earshot Jazz presents the concert at the Timbre Room in Seattle Friday, May 17, and notes that "Thiefs’ newest band member, drummer David Frazier Jr., is one to watch." Indeed, Frazier shows impressive jazz chops and an equally adept hand on electronic beats. Not quite funky but a master of the groove, his drumming combines with Witty's bass to shape the character of each tune for Panzani's sax to color with melody and mood.
A heaping helping of jazz street cred on the album comes from pianist Aaron Parks, playing subtle but quite effective piano and electric keyboards on most of the record. His role is mostly embellishment, and his choices are always the right ones.
I've spun the album a few times now, and despite the musical shifts from driving hip-hop mode to explorations of jazz balladry, Graft succeeds in uniting the varied styles into a unified sound. It's natural and synthetic at once, pulsing and soothing, resonant and fractured.
Most music doesn't attempt, let alone accomplish, this feat. Catch Thiefs (pun intended) in Seattle next Thursday to see and hear for yourself, with guest vocals from Seattle's DoNormaal and visual projections by Scott Keva James. Tune in to hear "The Leaf Node" from Thiefs featuring Gaël Faye on The New Cool Saturday afternoon, and for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the show!
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.