Andrew Binder, Conspiracy Deliracy Review

Jazz and Conspiracy: Andrew Binder's Ingenious Blend in Conspiracy Deliracy


Andrew Binder, Conspiracy Deliracy Review

Jazz and Conspiracy: Andrew Binder’s Ingenious Blend in Conspiracy Deliracy

by Nolan DeBuke

Andrew-Binder-The-Jazz-Word-cdAndrew H. Binder, an accomplished bassist and composer from St. Louis, Missouri, brings an inventive fusion of jazz and pop culture with his album Conspiracy Deliracy. With a D.M.A. from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and a robust academic background, Binder demonstrates his profound musical understanding and innovative spirit. This album, a self-released project supported by the 2023 Urbana Arts Grant, features a stellar ensemble of Midwest jazz musicians: Justin Dyar (trumpet), Brian Stark (saxophones & flute), Frank Niemeyer (trombone), Jose Gobbo (guitar), Kurt Reeder (keyboards), Maxwell Osawa (drums), and Binder himself on bass.

The album’s concept revolves around modern jazz compositions inspired by pop music icons and conspiracy theories. Binder’s clever use of musical references and reharmonizations adds depth and humor, reflecting today’s era of misinformation.

The opening track, “Squatch Watch,” is a delightful reharmonized contrafact on John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” intertwined with Wayne Shorter-like writing as found in “Witch Hunt.” This track sets the tone for the album, immediately immersing listeners in Binder’s intricate interplay of myth and melody and the ensemble’s chemistry. The rhythm section and soloists’ ingenuity create an engaging listening experience that keeps the audience on its toes.

“Stevie Isn’t Blind” takes inspiration from the conspiracy theory that Stevie Wonder faked his blindness. Musically, it nods to Wonder’s iconic songs “Superstition,” “Sir Duke,” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” with an inverted and stretched bassline from “Superstition.” Binder’s playful yet respectful treatment of Wonder’s work showcases his ability to blend homage with originality, offering a fresh perspective on familiar tunes. The flow of the composition is excellent, with the two horns dancing over the deeply funky groove. Reeder’s solo matches the energy and builds to a convincing climax, leaving listeners both entertained and impressed by the musicianship on display.

“Mandela Effect,” a musical interpretation of collective false memories, stands out with its seven iterations of the melody, each slightly altered to reflect the theory’s nature. The bass notes spell “Mandela,” and the first and last iterations present starkly different melodies, highlighting the disorientation of false memories. This track showcases Binder’s imaginative thematic development and variation approach, demonstrating his compositional skill and stylishness. Stark’s flute solo adds new color and energy, while Binder’s bass solo shows he is equally gifted as a soloist as he is a composer.

“Rush for Area 51” captures the chaotic energy of the 2019 event where people attempted to storm Area 51. The piece features free improvised sections and a unison melody of 51 notes, interspersed with quotes from famous space-themed movie scores. This track’s eclecticism and dynamic shifts create an exhilarating auditory journey that mirrors the unpredictability of the event itself. The ensemble’s performance demonstrates their skill in conveying complex music with an energy that is both captivating and moving.

“Moonwalk,” a subdued 12-tone piece inspired by the faked moon landing conspiracy, provides a stark contrast with its minimalist approach. The sparse texture and eerie atmosphere evoke the surreal nature of the conspiracy, allowing listeners to reflect on the blend of reality and fiction. Binder’s bass solo is melodic, flowing seamlessly with the energy of the serial theme. Niemeyer’s trombone solo is anchored in his melodic ideas and warm, rounded tone. Gobbo’s guitar solo brings us back to the theme with swirling rhythms and rapid lines.

“Katy is a Lizard,” referencing the theory that Katy Perry is a shape-shifting lizard, cleverly combines elements from her songs “California Gurls,” “Peacocks,” “Dark Horse,” and “Wide Awake” with Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” Binder’s synthesis of pop and jazz elements in this track is entertaining and musically rich, making it a standout piece in the album.

“Dark Side of the Mattress Firm” explores the conspiracy that Mattress Firm is a money-laundering scheme. The track blends Pink Floyd’s “Money” with Brahms’ Lullaby, using a combination of 7/4 and 9/4 time signatures to represent “cloud 9.” This innovative rhythmic structure and harmonic interplay highlight Binder’s creativity and technical skill. Stark’s flute playing is impressive, as his solo builds energy over the well-tuned rhythm section. Gobbo’s guitar solo is angular and active, reflecting the thrill of motion and activity between the composition’s styles, rhythms, and sections.

“Birds Aren’t Real” starts with an introductory medley of bird songs and calls, followed by a composition based on Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology.” The cuckoo and mourning dove calls add an element of whimsy, while the sophisticated arrangement showcases Binder’s deep understanding of jazz history. Reeder’s piano solo is fiery, setting the stage for Stark’s energetic saxophone solo. The swing feel provided by Binder and Osawa is buoyant and infectious, creating an overall feel-good atmosphere.

“Avril is Dead,” inspired by the theory that Avril Lavigne was replaced by a doppelganger, combines rock ballad elements from “Sk8r Boi” and “Complicated.” The track’s emotional intensity and melodic hooks reflect the raw energy of Lavigne’s music, reimagined through a jazz lens. The ensemble’s straight-eight feel is excellent, providing a solid foundation. Stark’s growing solo feels like a natural extension of the melody, while Gobbo delivers his best solo of the album with a perfect balance of melodic and intense playing.

The album concludes with “Beyonce is the Illuminati,” incorporating altered aspects of “Crazy in Love” and “Love on Top,” with a Roy Hargrove-inspired groove. This final track encapsulates the album’s theme of blending conspiracy theories with musical tributes, leaving listeners satisfied and intrigued. The ensemble’s contemporary jazz feel is exceptionally funky. The horns buzz with energy as they convey the well-written melody, their tutti playing grooving and hip. Binder’s groove-based playing is full and enriched with colorful fills, creating dynamic interplay with Osawa’s drumming.

Conspiracy Deliracy is a beautiful addition to the contemporary jazz catalog. Binder’s talent as a composer and musician is his ability to interweave complex jazz harmonies and rhythms with contemporary references and humor, makes this album a must-listen. This album is storytelling through music and a delightful exploration of the intersection between music and popular culture.

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