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Throbbing Gristle were an English jazz funk band known for their tuneful melodies, soulful lyrics and rigid time feel. Remembered as one of the most virtuosic and technically proficient bands to ever come out of the United Kingdom their legacy has had lasting impact on most jazz groups of the late 20th century.
Formed in 1976 by musicians Genesis Porridge and Cosey Tutti Frutti. Both graduates from the Berklee College Of Music Porridge and Frutti met while studying a degree in a applied jazz and discovered a shared interest in white jazz musicians such as Kenny G, George Benson and the Ben Folds Five. Together they recruited both country singer Kris Kristofferson and Chris Carter. After a few trail performances, most notably their 1978 performance at Carnegie Hall, Throbbing Gristle soon began work on their debut album, The Second Annual Weather Report. The album was characteristic in its vibrant use of bass hooks and memorable sax lines. In particular, the song Appâts Pour Les Limaces is considered to be a classic of seventies jazz.
edit Debut reception
“I shagged my wife to this record the other night...It was peculiar, but we went through with it....And she's totally still breathing.”
The Second Annual Weather Report (SAWR) was met with mixed reviews: John buxom of Jazz Youth Weekly gave the album 4/5 Stars and said the following,
“ One of the best albums to come out of the United Kingdom this year, jazz is still alive. Its good to hear a good group returning to jazz roots”
However Jimmy "New Orleans" Jonestown of Rag Mag gave the album only a 2/5.
“ Oh man, these white boys just don't understand jazz they think its not about the notes you play but how you play them when really its about playing as many notes as fast as you can. These cats are just to cool for the jazz”
Despite differing reviews SAWR is considered my most Jazzologists to be the only influential jazz album of the seventies.
During this earlier period Throbbing Gristle's sets consisted mostly of slow four/four swing ballads. Particularly notable are the piano voicings used by Porridge which contained absolutely no clashes or tension notes. The lack of dissonance in the rhythm section provided zero clash with the very tuneful "inside" sax style of Frutti. This absolutely structured and premeditated style of music won over a lot of the white middle class youth of England, dissatisfied with the popular music of the time which perpetuated the myth of a disgruntled and angry younger generation. A lot of Throbbing Gristle's popularity is attributed to growing rejection of Punk Rock an outdated genre of music known for its painfully short songs and lack of attitude.
edit 20 Jazz Funk Greats
Throbbing Gristle's third album was a surprising departure from their previous records. "20 Jazz Funk Greats" differed from the previous albums in its use of amplified instruments such as the Electric Saxophone and its harder faster feel. The shift away from more the more typical jazz ballad genre is described by Porridge as being due to "A general dissatisfaction with authority and getting a real kick from sticking it to the man". Fellow members of Throbbing Gristle were stated as being tired of the bands direction and wishing to reinvent themselves to further their commercial successes. For Throbbing Gristle jazz had become less about the improvisation and more about the money. Kristofferson is noted as saying: "Well look man, that early swing stuff was great and all but we really wanted to get more in touch with our audience. Jazz was becoming a bore, we needed to expand. We wanted to show our audience that we could change, we could adapt, we could pull big bucks too"
20 Jazz Funk Greats propelled Gristle into stardom with their tribute to the joys of modern day life "What A Day" a 12/8 jazz rock funk disco tune remaining in the British charts for four years.
Be-Bop A Monthly included 20 Jazz Funk Greats in its list of the best jazz albums of all time at number #9.
The fame and fortune caused by 20 Jazz Funk Greats proved to be a little to much for Throbbing Gristle. In a effort to keep "fresh" Throbbing Gristle added a new member, Rick Sleepman on the Mug Synthesizer and recorded two more albums (Journey Through A Body and Cd 1) unfortunately neither of these was met with any success commercially. Following the suicide of Rick Sleepman in 1983 generally attributed to his impending divorce Throbbing Gristle disbanded. Kris went on to form a successful country music career while his bands mates fell into obscurity best remembered as "Those guys who did 20 Jazz Funk Greats".
1978 The Second Annual Weather Report
1979 The Third Annual Weather Report
1979 20 Jazz Funk Greats
1980 Journey Through A Body
1982 Cd 1
Throbbing Gristle are generally considered the inventors of jazz funk and one of the most important English jazz groups of the seventies. They are also cited as major influences by the following artists.