no categories allowed

Void (self-produced)

Java Men

by Tim Roberts

It's good when you can't accurately describe a jazz band, if it transcends categories and transgresses a few unjustly-imposed rules about how jazz should sound. It keeps us reviewers from making too many comparisons to other bands and styles. It demands that we hear the music fresh, without preconception.

Void, the latest release from Java Men, Louisville's experimental avant-garde trio, is like that. It is eight tracks full of bold challenge and unpredictable joy that cannot be heaved carelessly into any category.

The Java Men - keyboardist Todd Hildreth, guitarist Craig Wagner, and drummer/percussionist Ray Rizzo - recorded five tracks live (three at Twice-Told Coffee House, two at Bellarmine College's Wyatt Hall) and three at Ramcat Studios. Yet each track contains spontaneity and raw expression.

The opening pair, "It'll Never Happen" and "William & Lil' Leigh," were recorded at Twice-Told. "Never" starts out disjointed but slides right into a fast be-bop, followed by the lovely, quiet "William," slightly tinged with a bossa-nova beat.

The first challenge comes with the third track, "Sometimes It's Better to Beg for Forgiveness Than to Ask for Permission," recorded live at Wyatt Hall. Todd and Craig split off in different melodic directions on their instruments, yet follow the rhythm throughout. The track isn't too long, though. And it may be finished by the time you read its title off the back of the CD's jewel case.

"Hip Like Me" is a fast, original be-bop selection, followed by "Embrace the Void" and then "Big Ben," which alternates between a relaxed waltz and a rapid straight-four rhythm. (and where Wagner sneaks the five-toned spaceship theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind into the introduction) "Chaz Implodes Again" - which may or may not refer to Louisville's Chaz Rough - and "Spoon" close out the recording.

Put aside the standards, fusion, and the insomnia-curing contemporary stuff. Challenge your ideas about jazz with Void from the Java Men.