I was in college when I learned the story of how Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky didn’t recognize one of his own works, even when he had just been working on it moments before. On this particular day, he was wrapping up work on a painting as it lay sideways on his easel. He then left his studio to go for a walk. Upon returning, he did not recognize the painting. Just by leaving the painting on its side, it was transformed beyond recognition, even within the eyes of its creator. It’s a wonderful story, and I hope it’s true (you just never know these days).
Listening to the music of the modern jazz trio The Kandinsky Effect isn’t quite like that. You probably have to travel far and wide in order to experience the strange euphoria the artist did on that day when he found his own work to be so foreign to him. But these guys certainly understand the idea behind taking familiar elements and casting them in new light. The Kandinsky Effect have been chugging along for about ten years now and Pax 6 is their fourth album, so it’s safe to say that the jazz-meets-rock-meets-electronics formula is safe when it’s in their hands.
Saxophonist Warren Walker and bassist Gael Petrina get to have all the fun with all of the effects pedals used to create Kandinsky Effect’s mysterious and often times very moving backdrops. It is drummer Caleb Dolister that has to keep as these subgenres moving along as one unit all while making sure it still grooves and/or rocks. A majority of the pieces are composed rather than “jammed” into existence. Despite the potentially hard sell, all of these elements work. Not once does music of the Kandinsky Effect come off as pretentious or unnecessarily busy. There is not a single melody or a polyrhythmic pattern designed to go over the head of any listener. Pax 6 is just another excellent example of how far a certain musical hybrid can go when its creators aren’t so concerned with showing loyalty to any one genre.
When you listen to the brisk tempo of “This One Is For You” followed by the spacey atmospherics of the title track, the last thing you’ll be is bothered by their genre-hopping. That goes double for the funk rumblings that drive “Iron Lion” and the glassy-eyed synth pads making a bed for “Glass Bottles”. Good luck trying to play a rousing game of Name That Genre with Pax 6 because, strike me down if I’m lying, some of these miniature genres might not have names yet. For that reason, I don’t know if I can proclaim it as one of the year’s best jazz releases or one of the year’s best rock releases. All the same, Pax 6 is still one of the year’s best releases.