It’s odd how rarely heavy metal and jazz intersect, given how many of their core features overlap: the twin obsessions of tone and technique, the complexity of meter and melody, and the tradition of imposing harsh limits on a musical style for the pleasure of boldly breaking them. But it does happen: in the riotous fusion of John Zorn, in the extemporized tremors of Sunn O))), and, most overtly, in the growling fantasies of Dan Weiss.
A drummer and tabla player who ranks Metallica and Yes alongside Coltrane and Jarrett in his musical pantheon, Weiss, who also has his own acclaimed jazz trio, is probably the only Florian Weber collaborator who has also moonlighted in a doom metal band, let alone one with a name like Bloody Panda. In 2018, he blended those close but seldom crossing paths in the stunning self-titled debut of a new quintet, Starebaby.
Flanked by the pianos and synths of Craig Taborn—whose performance with Vijay Iyer at Big Ears 2019 was singled out as “coolly mesmerizing” by NPR’s Nate Chinen—and Matt Mitchell, Weiss modulates his sophisticated rhythms between muscled grooves and obsidian moods. Bassist Trevor Dunn, on solid ground thanks to his time in Mr. Bungle and with Zorn, adeptly frames the meters, while guitarist Ben Monder judiciously steps out to play quantum solos. Unflinching one moment, almost tender the next, Starebaby makes metal and jazz the best bedfellows they can be.