In the late eighties, my mind was shot to pieces by the maniacal brilliance of a group of London jazz musicians called Loose Tubes, under the mirthful goading of their band leader, enfant terrible Django Bates.
Today, I am listening to Iron Maiden Voyage, the new EP by metal jazz big band Valtozash, and am again reminded of what skilful jazz musicians can create, when called to walk that tightrope of surgical precision and uncontained expressiveness.
Iron Maiden Voyage is a 4-track EP. It’s a kaleidoscope of glorious jazz and deafening metal. Andre Bonetti (bandleader, composer, vibist) writes with largesse: he keeps the orchestration tight, yet individual musicians escape into an ether of their own, like effervescence spilling from Bonetti’s mischievous cauldron.
The first two tracks are covers: Iron Maiden Voyage and Moanin’. Followers of the band will know these arrangements with fondness. Valtozash (named loosely around the word váltóz, the Hungarian word for change) has a huge sound, and the musicians stay true to the beauty of the original tracks, despite an onslaught of metal distortion. It’s a terrible beauty.
The other two tracks are originals: Smokey Dokey Whiskey Cat Yazz Yeah and The Nihilist Agenda.
Smokey Dokey Whiskey Cat Yazz Yeah opens like a classic LA gumshoe soundtrack. Sure enough Bonetti’s rhyming narrative begins, his tone is blithe and completely at odds with the macabre tale he is telling. Musicians bleed horror into the music, then clean it all up…almost. It is gorgeously nauseating. At first I could barely listen to it but now it’s my favourite track.
The Nihilist Agenda climbs like a spiraling staircase, the horns stab and cross over like angst in a deranged mind. A groovy bass and trumpet is disco in a madhouse, and a frenzied saxophone completes the work of lunacy. At the end of the track, I believe I can hear John Stefulj saying “nom nom” and other human utterances.
Valtozash will make you laugh, shudder and be amazed.