AVANT-ACTIVIST Metal-Jazz from the LA Underground
"Burning Ghosts [is] one of the best bands to emerge from L.A. in years." —Downtown Music Gallery (NYC)
BURNING GHOSTS, Los Angeles's avant-activist metal-jazz mavens, are turning heads around the globe as cultural provocateurs. Since their inception in the summer of 2015, they have released a critically acclaimed debut on Orenda Records, performed at some of California's premiere creative music venues, and taken their sociopolitically motivated music abroad to Jazzfestival Saalfelden in Austria. Burning Ghosts recently completed their second album, which has been signed to John Zorn's iconic Tzadik Label and is due out summer of 2017.
BURNING GHOSTS explodes from the Los Angeles Underground with an expressionist metal-jazz opus that singes the fabric of a fraying American culture. An ambitious and scathing referendum, this eponymous debut comes at a moment when our civic morality and sense of social justice, our communal values and even our very national identity, find themselves under brutal scrutiny. Holding the mirror close and clear, Burning Ghosts is an uncompromising, incendiary artistic response to ubiquitous injustice. This is music without restraint.
Daniel Rosenboom | Trumpet
Jake Vossler | Guitars
Richard Giddens | Bass
Aaron McLendon | Drums
Now available from Orenda Records.
Excerpt from John Skipp's liner notes:
"The streets are alive with flaming specters, their sorrow etched in fire. They are the ones who passed before us. Who stood up and got mowed down for their trouble. Who never stood up, got mowed down anyway. Who barely got a chance to even stand before they were leveled low.
"These are the ghosts that flame amongst the living. Who haunt us every step of the way. Whether we ignore their fire...is entirely our call.
"But the dead call to us. And what they're saying is this:
"SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, WHILE YOU'RE STILL ALIVE TO DO SO.
"The flaming ghosts of the past are only here to inspire and inform. It's the only toehold they have left on a world they no longer inhabit. Memories. Legacies. Priceless artifacts, if we're lucky enough to have preserved them.
"They had their day.
"But this is ours.
"And lemme just say: the full weight of legacy burns through every note on this frankly astonishing record. The world we inhabited. The world we're in now. Like Miles Davis and King Crimson went to Ornette Coleman's house, where Frank Zappa, Ennio Morriccone, and Buckethead were also ready to jam with every other great musician who ever lived. Said 'Let's pretend the world matters.' And took it all the way to town from there."
—John Skipp, Los Angeles (August 16, 2015)
****BEST OF 2016 — Avant Music News****
Official Music Video for "MANIFESTO"
Live Concert Video
BURNING GHOSTS & FRIENDS // Live at bluewhale (Los Angeles, CA) // May 7, 2106
"...unruly...raging...visceral...raw...pure...expressive...a multi-faceted epic... Is Burning Ghosts the ‘Rage Against The Machine’ of jazz? Maybe that isn’t the conscious goal since there are those other precedents; it just seems to be the right time to bring up age-old issues that continue to fester, within the context of music that can match the passion on the streets. But listening to this music leaves the impression that Daniel Rosenboom & Co. wouldn’t shy away from the comparison with that other band from L.A., either."
—S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews
"Daniel Rosenboom turns up the simmering menace of '70s Miles to a full boil of modern social warfare with a new band and album by Burning Ghosts, wherein the trumpeter's cool lyricism contrasts against the noisy electric onslaught of guitarist Jake Vossler; bassist Richard Giddens and drummer Aaron McLendon lend flexible support to a variegated soundscape that also offers oases of lovely repose."
—Greg Burk, MetalJazz.com
★★★★ "A timeless meditation on the unsolved problems of economic and racial inequality, Burning Ghosts is a modern jazz protest record in league with the politically-charged efforts of the New Thing, extending the innovations of luminaries like Max Roach and Archie Shepp into the new millennium."
—Troy Collins, All About Jazz
"The frontline of trumpet and electric guitar is an especially powerful blend. Commencing with “Anthem”, Rosenboom plays some solemn trumpet over the intense, raging guitar-led trio erupting underneath. “Defiance” is aptly titled since it is powerful, tight and defiant. The interplay between the trumpet and guitar is incredible, spewing out fast & furious lines in tight orbits, the entire quartet as one intense force. What makes this quartet so unique is the way Rosenboom's trumpet draws from a more tradition sound while Mr. Vossler's guitar blends jazz, rock and noise elements in equal measure. On "Elegy" Rosenboom's muted trumpet is laid back and enchanting and well matched by Vossler's laid back, skeletal guitar, the mood is somber and contemplative, hence the song's title. "Dissent" starts out quietly and builds in intensity throughout with some inspired trumpet and guitar flurries, crisscrossing and erupting into a grand conclusion. On "Flashpoint", guitarist Vossler gets a chance to stretch out and take a long, spectacular solo, shredding at times before calming down. There is an ancient tug-of-war going on here between the triumphant tone & playing of the Rosenboom's great trumpet and the seething anger of the guitar led jazz/rock trio kicking up a storm underneath. Along with their cohorts in Evil Genius, Burning Ghosts show that they are one of the best bands to emerge from L.A. in years."
—Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter
★★★★½ "Daniel Rosenboom has the sort of explosive imagination that triggers creative breakthroughs. Nothing is off limits, and he delights in making high art and anarchy kiss and tumble into bed together. The LA trumpeter has released two new albums simultaneously. The first, Book of Storms, the latest instalment in his occasional Book series, is a maelstrom of spectral abstractions and crunching rock. Burning Ghosts, the eponymous debut from a new band, is even fiercer, pressure-cooking an anger that could be the corollary of the Trump phenomenon. Rosenboom's trumpet is a laser-beam that pulverises any arbitrary lines between idioms, including thrash metal and jazz. The trumpet is muted on the more restrained Elegy, but the laser-beam is amplified in terms of emotional impact. The band is completed by electric guitarist Jake Vossler, acoustic bassist Richard Giddens and drummer Aaron McLendon, all players who can engage with the compositions' demands, then throw off the shackles to deliver fearless, monstrous performances when required. The constant dialogue between primality, beauty, instinct and intelligence sets this – and all Rosenboom's projects – apart. Gripping."
—John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald
"...I think that Burning Ghosts is the band I’ve been looking for all this time. Hailing from LA, and signed to the experimental independent label Orenda Records, Burning Ghosts brings everything in jazz I like—lots of passionate, full-bodied playing and tons of free improvisation—and mixes it with metal. The group is a quartet, featuring trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom (who is also the founder of Orenda Records), guitarist Jake Vossler, bassist Richard Giddens, and drummer Aaron McLendon. This lineup alone makes me pretty excited—it’s a something you don’t see a whole lot. Usually when there’s a band crossing these genres, a saxophone player is usually part of the personnel (VIRTA being an exception to the rule). Having a trumpet take that spot stirs the pot a little bit, so to speak—it offers sounds and techniques of jazz that you don’t hear a whole lot.
To describe Burning Ghosts’s sound is a little difficult, honestly; they’re one of those bands that blends the gritty edge and heaviness of metal with the passion of jazz into something completely their own. If I had to, I’d say that they take a little bit of what White Suns does—that is, play a sort of noise rock with a unique emphasis on noise—and mix that with Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis. I can’t honestly say how much of the band’s music is improvised or not—though it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it’s completely improvised—but there’s a significant element of freedom and abstraction to the music. The instruments don’t feel confined to their normal duties (i.e. bass guitar and drums only exist to keep rhythm, etc.)—they each take control at one time or another, which keeps things fresh. Rosenboom’s trumpet playing also reminds me a lot of Dave Douglas (of Masada fame)—full of heart, but also willing to dive into a bit of insanity, with squeals and various extended techniques.
Then there’s the political edge to these guys. In his review of the band, S. Victor Aaron (of Something Else Reviews), described Burning Ghosts, in a sense, as “the Rage Against the Machine of jazz,” which, the more I think about it, seems pretty apt. There’s a distinct hint of social justice and political outcry with this band, but it’s not in a Neil Young-beat-you-over-the-head-with-political-ideology kind of way. If anything, their music is an instrumental song of hope; just listen to the beginning track of their self-titled debut, “Anthem”, where Vossler’s guitar creates this incredible wall of noise in the background while Rosenboom wears his heart on his sleeve in some of the most passionate trumpet playing I’ve ever heard. It’s unconsciously saying (to me, anyway—feel free to agree or disagree) that, yes, there is a lot of horrible bullshit going on in the world, but we can still rise up and be the better people, and make a change. They aren’t complaining about the political climate of the world as much as they’re just doing something about it, albeit in their own way.
So, if you want metal and jazz fused together that isn’t full-on Jaga Jazzist-esque prog, that can get nitty gritty when it wants to be, that sounds like really nothing you’ve ever heard, I highly, highly suggest checking out Burning Ghosts. If I had known about this band earlier, I can almost guarantee that this would be on my top ten of 2016."
—Jimmy Mullet, Heavy Blog Is Heavy
For our Spanish-speaking friends:
"Burning Ghosts nos ha entregado un álbum impactante en el que, además de sus (muchas) virtudes musicales, se vislumbra un gesto vital de rebeldía, una necesaria e imprescindible reacción en defensa de las víctimas de tanta injusticia y el obligado recordatorio de que debemos luchar por los que hoy están sufriendo."
—Sergio Piccirilli, El Intruso
A beautiful reflection on "Anthem" from Mouser:
"The lazily meandering trumpet. It’s a character those of us conversant with jazz feel a familiar affection towards, with its self-assured quality so naturally paired with its uneven gait. Such is a familiarity Burning Ghosts evokes effortlessly, and as naturally they hurl that beloved character into a chaotic frenzy of distorted guitar and a fit of hysterical drumming."
"'Anthem' comes from Burning Ghosts’s self-titled album that takes a post-historic look at present day America, or rather, a look back at the unraveling of a society in future tense. I imagine the coolly loping trumpet as my guide through this hellish landscape, in a time when excesses and intolerance has overrun every aspect of society, a kind of scorched earth of American national identity.
"I feel in 'Anthem' a yearning towards redefinition, of subverting traditional hierarchies and fleshing out a new form on the stripped skeleton of the old. There is a recognizable element to hold onto in the trumpet as a storm of grinding guitar screams, 'This is not the place you know! You are not safe here!' The two dichotomous elements joining hands as a way of holding a mirror to the fabric of civic morality in America and watching to see if that mirror catches fog from breathing too faint to perceive by less subtle means.
"I can’t help but feel a certain affinity for the anxieties of Burning Ghosts, while the Surface is an inherently more violent place; we’ve seen our fair share of violence and tension in the Great Below as of late. I do not hold the belief that our glorious society will suffer as I see here on the Surface—and certainly do not fear that we will fall. Ha! The history of the Mouser Organization is the very definition of history itself! But that being said, Honeybear, I know you cognize when I say I understand their unease."
Photographs from the debut album recording session
All photographs by Eron Rauch, unless otherwise noted.
© Eron Rauch 2015. All Rights Reserved.