NEXT Collective: Cover Art

Balancing the experimental with the accessible can be quite the tightrope act, especially if you're a new band. How do the NEXT Collective fare on Cover Art? The first 72 seconds will tell you all you need to know.

NEXT Collective

Cover Art

Label: Concord
US Release Date: 2013-02-26
UK Release Date: 2013-04-01
Label website

New bands -- are they always worth the hype? Is the advantage of youth a fail-safe way of making exciting music? Or is it a double-edged sword more often than we would like to admit? When it comes to jazz music, all this crap about young musicians becomes even more suspect. The longer you live, the more blues you log into your life. The older you are, the more respect you have for your elders, who got it right the first time, damnit! We live in an age where, despite our intrepid adventures within the genre, some curmudgeon in Europe will demand his money back after seeing Larry Ochs perform live, and somehow Wynton Marsalis winds up rewarding the dude with a big vinyl collection of trad jazz. When new talent hits the stage, aficionados will find the talent guilty until proven innocent. Positive opinions are dismantled before the first note, and if said artists can impress these people bit by bit, then they are on their way to becoming acceptable.

The NEXT Collective's debut album Cover Art represents where our young jazz lions are right about now. When you first hit (or click) play, you are greeted with backwards saxophones. This goes on for a good nine seconds before the main theme of "Twice" is stated. The sax lines dance on top of one another in brief high-fives, sometimes dipping down to an emphasized lower note for a boppily-funkified effect. The drums propel this with a skittering pattern, but not for long. At the 1:12 mark, we are in Bad Plus territory with a straight-up 4/4 drumbeat and some chunky triads on the piano. So you see, less than two minutes into the album and we're already off to a great start. Fortunately for us, it doesn't peak there. Cover Art just steams ahead like it's in everyone's blood, bending the jazz barriers like it's business as usual.

This new band is made up of Logan Richardson and Walter Smith III on saxophones, Matthew Stevens on guitar, Gerald Clayton and Kris Bowers on the keys, Ben Williams on the bass and Jamire Williams on drums. And one other big deal is the appearance of trumpeter Christian Scott, aka Christian aTunde Adjuah, on half the album. There are plenty of modern influences at work, even within the conventional makeup of the band. Stevens' guitar isn't always going for the hard bop fluidity of those who came before him, while Clayton and Bowers take turns on the Fender Rhodes, giving passages of Cover Art that Bitches Brew flair. And Williams' drumming can throw you for more than one loop, giving a smooth jazz groove to Stereolab's "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" one moment and a bitching solo at the start of a cover of N.E.R.D.'s "Fly or Die".

Covers in jazz today are often interpreted as big, unsubtle gestures that scream "look at me!" I never spoke to anyone who complained, but I'm sure there were many grumblings when Brad Mehldau was on his Radiohead kick. But like Mehldau and the Bad Plus, the NEXT Collective have found a batch of songs that translate into modern jazz pretty well; Pearl Jam's "Oceans", Kanye West and Jay-Z's "No Church in the Wild", Drake's "Marvin's Room" and Bon Iver's "Perth". You must be thinking, 'man, give up the gimmick already.' I am being genuine when I say this is no mere gimmick. These tunes stand together without blinking. For fun, find an old school jazz fan and play him or her Me'Shell Ndegéocello's "Come Smoke My Herb" or D'Angelo's "Africa". And of course, don't let them in on who they are listening to or what kinds of covers these are. I bet they'll dig them.

The NEXT Collective's Cover Art isn't just bold and new, it's also great. It's a modern album that complements the modern times and comes highly recommended, whether you want something just for surface shine or if you want to pop in the earbuds and really plunge in.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.