Thiefs | Thiefs

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Thiefs

by Thiefs

A radical rethinking of the jazz vocabulary… a hybrid patois fluent in the jargon of electronica, hip-hop, and the limitless possibilities of modern jazz.
Genre: Jazz: Progressive Jazz
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1. Doute/S
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2. All Day
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4:08 $0.99
3. Daybaby
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4. The Actual Neef
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5. Olive Island
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6. Hurricane Daze
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7. Sans Titre (Huile Sur Toile)
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8. The World Without Us
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9. Twwu (Postlude)
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10. Play Me At Night
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Grammarians be damned; the members of Thiefs know that language is an
ever-evolving thing. Not just because the spelling of their name would
make their English teachers twitch – that’s just an inside joke born
of a Nas lyric. Their music, on the other hand, is a far more radical
rethinking of the jazz vocabulary, a hybrid patois fluent in the
jargon of electronica, hip-hop, and the limitless possibilities of
modern jazz.



On their self-titled debut, Thiefs – drummer/vocalist Guillermo E
Brown, bassist Keith Witty, and saxophonist Christophe Panzani –
retriangulate the jazz trio with a post-modern ethos, alive to the
myriad sounds and options available to the contemporary artist. Dense
with layers of sound and spontaneous invention, their music is
nonetheless inviting and thrilling to listeners better versed in more
forward-looking forms of modern pop music. If jazz hadn’t been
invented until the day after tomorrow, it would sound a lot like
Thiefs.



“It’s music made from a limitless sound palette,” explains Witty, “but
that aims to be straightforward in its delivery. There’s no end to the
experimentation that we might undertake to create sounds and rhythms,
but we always tend towards inclusion in the music that we make.”



Witty and Brown have been working together for almost twenty years,
since both were students in the renowned music department at Wesleyan
University, studying under the likes of Anthony Braxton and Jay
Hoggard. In the years since, they’ve worked together in a wide variety
of contexts, including bands led by Brown as well as such masters as
Dave Burrell and the late David S. Ware.



Brown was the longtime drummer in Ware’s groundbreaking quartet with
Matthew Shipp and William Parker, and leader of the avant-electronica
band Beat Kids and frontman for no-wave neo-soul group Pegasus
Warning. Witty has worked with fellow envelope-pushers such as
Jonathan Finlayson, Taylor Ho Bynum and Matana Roberts as well as
genre-defying singers Amel Larrieux, Somi, and Pyeng Threadgill. He is
also composer-in-residence for New York City Opera’s education
program.



Witty met Panzani during his frequent visits to Paris; the saxophonist
is heavily in-demand on the French jazz scene and has toured
extensively with the Carla Bley Big Band and French hip hop outfit
Hocus Pocus. Thiefs came together underthe auspices of a
French American Jazz Exchange grant , a joint program of FACE
(French American Cultural Exchange) and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.



Being scattered across two continents necessitated composing music
separately, though each piece has gone through an extensive editing
process by the trio as a whole. Natural disaster provided the
opportunity for the album’s sole group-composed piece, “Hurricane
Daze” – with a gig at New York’s Jazz Gallery cancelled by Hurricane
Sandy, the trio seized the chance to concoct a Thiefs tune from
scratch, resulting in a nervy, tension-fueled song with a crushing
momentum to match the storm that raged around them.



A producer in his own right, with credits including the singers Abiah
and Somi, Witty was determined to make the most of the tools available
to the trio in the studio, to make not a raw live document but an
album that stands on its own. Their approach ran the gamut from tunes
like “Doute/s” and “Play Me At Night,” recorded live on the Jazz
Gallery’s stage and left untouched, to pieces like “All Day” and
“Hurricane Daze,” which, Witty says, were “built like paintings, one
layer at a time.”



The bassist continues, “The idea of production and jazz seem to have
parted company in the modern era. The records that our generation grew
up listening to, even if they were recorded in Rudy Van Gelder’s
living room, had somebody there trying to sculpt the sound of the
record. Thiefs isn’t completely a creature of the studio, but we’re
clearly not afraid of using the studio as a space of development.”



They’re also not afraid of bringing vocals into the mix, as on the
poignant “Daybaby,” which Witty wrote on the day he and his wife
confirmed that a baby was on the way; the song blends all the hope,
fear, and joy that such a momentous occasion carries with it. “The
World Without Us” is a lament from the Earth’s perspective on the loss
of humanity, inspired in part by Alan Weisman’s speculative book of
the same name, while “Olive Island” is reconfigured from Brown’s
Pegasus Warning repertoire.



The latter is also a prime example of how the trio integrates vocals,
with Brown’s lyrics occupying only a brief portion of the track’s
eight minutes, but influencing the rich improvisation that stems from
it. “That concept stems from the roots of jazz,” Witty says. “There
was always instrumental jazz and there was always vocal jazz, and
vocal jazz was always very close to the popular song formats of the
day. Guillermo is truly a contemporary vocalist right now, singing in
styles that are very much of this moment in popular music, even if
it’s on the fringes of that popular music.”



Thiefs’ unique sound, at once adventurous and accessible, is a natural
outgrowth of its three members’ combined sensibilities, along with
guest appearances by Japanese pianist Shoko Nagai and French accordion
master Vincent Peirani.



“It’s all about putting personalities together in a room and seeing
what flows most easily,” Witty says. “If Christophe and I had gotten
together with a different drummer we would have made completely
different music, and the same would be true if Guillermo and I joined
another saxophone player. This was really a result what comes out of
these three people most naturally.”

- Shaun Brady


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