Bassist Todd Sickafoose Walks the Line Between Pitchfork and Down Beat


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It seems telling that Todd Sickafoose describes his new CD, Tiny Resistors (Cryptogramophone), as “instrumental music." Despite his years leading jazz units, first in his native California and more recently in his adopted home of Brooklyn, Sickafoose is best known as Ani DiFranco's regular bassist, and also tours with folk-jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman. Those generic strands weave together in his own music, resulting in a decidedly modern sound that would fit in amid the reviews at Pitchfork as well as it does in the pages of Down Beat.

But despite the seeming stylistic schizophrenia, Sickafoose has no qualms about using that tired old “jazz" tag. “Of course it's a jazz band," he says. “I'm trying to write music that has a lot of improvisation that we play in clubs for people listening and drinking. I guess that's jazz music."

Still, it's a modern concept of jazz, one with the narrative structure of pop songwriting. The word-painting titles of Sickafoose's tunes -- “Invisible Ink, Revealed" or “Pianos of the 9th Ward," for instance -- are reflected in the vivid imagery suggested by the music, an emergent quality that wrings new colors out of a combination of traditional jazz instrumentation, resonant indie-rock guitars and electronic effects.

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