Join in on today’s discussion of bop, be-bop, and Bop English in DJ Dad’s review of Constant Bop. Read on to see how artist James Petralli of White Denim catapults himself from his sunny garage jazz of yore into this succinct and toe-tapping new sound.
What is this “Bop”?
Well traditionally, bop (or bebop) is a style of fast-paced jazz music pioneered by Kenny Clark. Clark invented the classic airy ride-cymbal beat that has come to typify the common idea of what jazz music is today. The ching ching-cha ching thing, you know what I’m talking about.
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker pushed this breakthrough to unforeseen lengths with harmonious compositions which relied on their virtuous skills for improvisation. Bebop ushered in a new era of jazz music that resulted in hard-bop, post-bop, re-bop, you-bop and me-bop, but what does this have to do with Constant Bop?
Constant Bop is the first solo album from Bop English, and according to his Facebook page, “Bop English” is the working name of James Petralli.
That’s right, James Petralli from White Denim, the most awesome contemporary four-piece band who are most commonly characterized by provocative jamming, high energy noodling and even good ol’ fashioned rocking. For almost a decade, Mr. Petralli has been the lead singer of the band who has become the modern encapsulation of not just all things rock but the ability to crossover to R&B and Jazz.
You interject, “Yeah alright, but if they’re so awesome why is he making new music on his own?”
Well, “on his own” would be a bit of an overstatement, all the same old guys from the core band (beside Austin Jenkins, the bassist) are there, along with twelve other musicians. Petrelli orchestrates a large group of musicians for an album experience that at first listen, sounds very consistent…I would even go so far to say that it kind of sounds all the same. I was disappointed in the lack of risks taken and rhythmic breakthroughs that had been so important to his old band. It seemed flat and uninspired. Constant Bop seemed like an extension of White Denim’s latest release, Corsicana Lemonade, which to me is their weakest. Focusing more on roundness and a polished sound rather than their inspired sunny-garage-jazz which I had come to know and love.
Then you say, “Cry me a river, Dad.”
You continue, “James Petrelli uses Bop English as a vehicle for a more grownup distinct style of vocals that the rhythm-lead White Denim doesn’t necessarily allow. Bop English takes advantage of a more classic rock format, but digs deeper than ever before in terms of his themes and how he expresses them. It isn’t riddled with tempo changes and doesn’t have the same angular jazzy feel that many older White Denim songs, but Constant Bop is unashamedly succinct and simple in style, and it results in an extremely rich blend of vocal prominence and tasteful instrumentation. Listen to it a few times through with headphones and you’ll see that it is not only incredibly distinct in style but extremely elegant in it’s ability to not get tiring yet still be captivating. Plus, if you look at the entire trajectory of James Petrelli’s career you would see that Corsicana Lemonade is the obvious first step before he went off to Bop English. Also, listen to Corsicana Lemonade again it’s actually good, especially now with your new-found respect for Petrelli’s distinct style. And in regards to the whole ‘bop’ thing you were going on about, maybe you could draw connections between his his virtuosic skills as a singer/guitarist being layered over what you would call the ‘consistent’ rhythm and you’d get something similar to bebop jazz. Or just don’t read too much into it.”
Oh, you’re totally right, I love this album. – DAD