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Jazzfest: The audio magic of Tin Men & the Telephone

By Alejandro Bustos on June 29, 2015

What will jazz sound like in 100 years?  200?  Would we even recognise this genre if we could somehow live for five centuries, or would “jazz” by that point be unrecognisable to 21st century ears?

These questions swirled around my mind as I listed to the incredibly creative sounds of Dutch trio Tin Men and the Telephone, who play the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Tuesday, June 30 at 6 pm at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage.

While the roots of the group’s inventive music is definitely based on modern jazz, their particular genius lies in their skillful use of audio clips and theatrical techniques.  For instance, in previous show’s the band has used a telephone as a prop, where they pretended to receive messages from their dry cleaner that their clothes were ready for pick up.  This comedic moment, however, was then transformed into impressive art when the band started playing along with the message.

This ability to take random audio clips — an excited soccer commentator; a mooing cow; traffic noises — and incorporate them into complex jazz riffs is what makes this group so special.  It also reminds us how jazz can really evolve, while also making us wonder what the Tin Men of the future will sound like.

Now, that being said, I should note that this music is not for everyone.  If you don’t like avant-garde jazz then you will likely not appreciate this band.  For while many people may love Thelonious Monk, they may be less impressed if his brilliant piano chords were mixed with samples from the Twilight Zone or an AM Radio traffic report.

On the other hand, if you enjoy art that pushes boundaries, then this group may blow your mind.  If you want to listen to a sample before making up your mind on whether to see them live you should check out the group’s SoundCloud page.

Tin Men and the Telephone play on Tuesday, June 30 at 6 pm at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage.  Tickets are $25.

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