Jason K. Addae, also known as Jokatech, is a multifaceted artist from New York of African and English heritage. A jazz trumpeter, Addae attended the Berklee Music School, has studied under the tutelage of highly respected saxophonist Steve Carrington, and has produced over ten previous albums of varying length, exploring the endless parameters of an avant-garde approach to music. Apart from music, Addae is also a comic book artist, has played semi-professional football, and has studied various forms of martial arts for a number of years. Addae’s latest musical offering, titled “Standing Still Symphony X”, was released this summer.
Attempting to process, analyze, and appreciate avant-garde jazz can be an exhausting and frustrating experience, especially for the individual that doesn’t fully understand and appreciate the contextual premises and objectives that underlay the concepts of making music without regard for orthodox limitations and expectations. However, if one takes the time to truly become submerged in the bombastic whirlwind of noise that asserts itself throughout the extensive musical landscape of “Standing Still Symphony X”, they will find that their exercise in patience might be generously rewarded. The collection of unbridled expression in the lofty, poetic, spoken word segments that appear on several of the tracks, in addition to the experimentation with synths and wild drum patterns complimented by smooth, sophisticated trumpet solos create a series of enveloping and tense motifs that sound as if Dizzy Gillespie and Cecil Taylor are in a heated experimental jam during the middle of a hail storm surrounded by metal trashcans. This music is unapologetic in its creativity and expression; Addae breaks barriers and thumbs his nose at everything that is typical and expected throughout this eight track journey into the perspective of a man that appears to have truly found his own domain of artistic voice. This album is incredibly frustrating, as it should be. The tension, rage, and anger is vibrant, yet is always complimented by flashes and opportunities of beauty. Take a defining track such as “Internally Eternally” as the epitome of this dynamic. Percussion in this album will nearly drive one insane, especially considering the long duration of these tracks. However, Addae’s beautiful trumpet is always nearby, as if in a chaotic dance with the fiery drumming where each is providing balance to the other. “Standing Still Symphony X” is exhausting, incredibly obnoxious, chaotic, intricate, dynamic, complex, thoughtful, expressive, and beautiful.
It is difficult to offer a critique on this particular sort of album, especially if one is not fully acquainted with and knowledgeable on the subtitles of jazz; a task that would take several lifetimes to come close to mastering. The simplest concept to note is that to the average person, Addae’s music will be completely misinterpreted and not taken seriously. It is easy, and probably accurate from a popular standpoint, to deem this music a terrible, unrelenting chain of disorganized noise. However, those that would say this are most likely missing the point of what Addae is trying to do with his work on “Standing Still Symphony X”, and do not have the patience to understand the musical voyage that they are being taken on throughout this album. If a fair, honest critique was to be made, it would be that Addae is creating music that is for a very limited, select audience that is most likely very particular and knowledgeable of their jazz. While the album is very good, it probably isn’t revolutionary to the jazz world, and will probably be ignored in terms of mainstream popularity.
Do not burn this album. This is not terrible music, this is actually very good avant-garde jazz that requires patience and understanding in order to appreciate. Addae is bold, vastly creative, a quality trumpeter, and is capable of making music that will truly benefit those who choose to give it a chance.
Album: Standing Still Symphony X
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Sounds Like: Cecil Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 2/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 5/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: Standing Still, Simultaneous Paradox
Strengths: Unapologetic in creativity and boldness
Weaknesses: A great listening undertaking; complex and largely inaccessible