It's a real insult to people who try
January 21, 2016 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Comedian H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob's Burgers) has released his first experimental jazz album. He can't play the piano.
posted by BungaDunga (112 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am dying. Oh god.
posted by cortex at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


hee hee hee hee hee

It's like I'm listening to Bob Belcher having to suddenly take the stage at a jazz performance after some sitcom misunderstanding about who the musician was supposed to be.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:47 AM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


i am dead. this is so good.
posted by nadawi at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I almost read the transcript instead until I realized, OH YEAH H. JON BENJAMIN'S VOICE.
posted by pwally at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


He can't play the piano, I can't watch the clip: "This video is not available."
posted by Pendragon at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Second clip not working.
posted by zardoz at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


This thing is the best thing.
posted by GamblingBlues at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2016


On track three the saxophone starts really playing off him and he just sort of volleys back like an overstimulated toddler and it's amaaaaazing.
posted by cortex at 11:59 AM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm listening to his take on "It Had to be You". The best part is when he just happens to luck out and land on a good note, and there's this moment of suspension when you just know that the very next note is going to absolutely suck. I think this is what is known in the biz as comic timing.
posted by vverse23 at 12:00 PM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


My husband listens to a lot of experimental and free jazz and it basically all sounds like this to me.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2016 [20 favorites]


I think this works because the comedy here isn't "ha ha a guy that can't play piano sounds the same as all experimental jazz". It's closer to I Love Lucy (google says she did something similar with pretending she knows saxophone) where the comedy comes from failing, hard, but the other musicians are so good that they sometimes make him sound alright until he veers off again. When he starts playing the same note over and over again at one point was genius. He can't play the piano but he gets comedy so well it makes up for it.
posted by Green With You at 12:02 PM on January 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I sent this to a coworker who teaches piano and has perfect pitch. He got halfway through "I Can't Play Piano, Pt. 1" before shutting it off in exasperation.
posted by segfaultxr7 at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


second link worked fine over here. here is a spotify link if that works better for some.
posted by nadawi at 12:03 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


And I should note that my above comment is a testament to my own complete lack of musicality, not the validity of experimental jazz as a genre.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Second clip not working.

I think it's region-locked. On the plus side, the NPR clip gives the feel pretty well.

Current favorite bit is him yelling "You can do better!" at the saxophonist.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Do Golden Raspberry-like awards exist for music, television, and stage? Because I want H. Jon Benjamin to win them all for the Bizarro EGOT.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Best Album of 2016?

It's in the running for me.

This should have been the soundtrack to Dr. Katz.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


That is totally the best thing I've seen all week, maybe all month, and it makes me v happy.
posted by holborne at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2016


"Still better than Cecil Taylor" ROFLS
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:08 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is definitely A Thing and it is funny AF. LMAO
posted by todayandtomorrow at 12:09 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also can't play the piano, but I'm just an amateur. I have to say he doesn't play it a lot better than I don't. I'm not surprised he got a record deal.
posted by Naberius at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2016 [26 favorites]


I also can't play the piano, and I have to say he doesn't play it a lot better than I don't. I'm not surprised he got a record deal.

I say the same thing whenever there is a sporting event on TV and one team is losing badly. I always think "I wonder what they pay that coach? Because they could pay me half as much and I guarantee I would be able to lose the game just as well."
posted by nushustu at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's available on Spotify. There goes the rest of my afternoon.
posted by one of these days at 12:13 PM on January 21, 2016


This reminds me of Cecil, Sonomatics' autocomposer for OS X that was meant to minic a small child pounding the keys.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:14 PM on January 21, 2016




This is beyond fantastic. Anyone considering just reading the article without listening to the interview: stop now and hit the play button. It is so so worth it.

He will always be Ben Katz to me.
posted by Mchelly at 12:15 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


My husband listens to a lot of experimental and free jazz and it basically all sounds like this to me.

Yeah, I think my automatic response when listening to jazz is just to totally tune it out, so this sounds functionally the same as actual good jazz to me until he hits some egregious off notes, or in It Had to Be You where he's almost right at some points but otherwise painfully wrong.

No judgment to jazz lovers, god knows I listen to some stuff that's essentially weird noise.
posted by yasaman at 12:16 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is way funnier than I thought it would be.
posted by slogger at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Was this ... just a measure of the jazz economy...?

QF(unfortunate)T.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:24 PM on January 21, 2016


The best part is when he just happens to luck out and land on a good note

Well, there's only 12 of them
posted by thelonius at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


It only works because he really, really, say it with me
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:25 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fuggitabodit
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:26 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


...TIMING!
posted by tonycpsu at 12:27 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]




soren_lorensen: My husband listens to a lot of experimental and free jazz and it basically all sounds like this to me.

A friend likes noisy, off-kilter electronic music, which leads to some fun moments of confusion, as told by his wife. One time, he thought the music got better thanks to a fairly repetitive beat, but it was just something thumping in the dryer. And another time, another piece suddenly had an added depth of sound, thanks to a passing garbage truck or the garbage disposal unit in the kitchen.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:30 PM on January 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is how I feel about math. All those stupid little symbols, and people acting like they "get it". Come ON. Hey, look, I "solved an equation":

2p[(4xz-9i)*4]/-1=q

LOL

People are such phonies.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The basic idea of this joke dates back to the mid-1960s at least, maybe even back to the beginning of jazz, so Jon Benjamin gets no points for originality. And it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur." What's next, some cutting-edge parody of hippies and psychedelic rock? Or maybe he'll get an acoustic guitar and make fun of folk singers? Because no one's ever done that before.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:44 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nice...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2016


i've listened to the whole thing, and i strongly feel he is making fun of himself, not jazz. i don't get any "my 3yr old could do that" feel from it (he could have left off the butt rap).
posted by nadawi at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


If he at least had a sense of rhythm the bad notes wouldn't sound *quite so bad
posted by Clustercuss at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2016


Yeah, this isn't about "oh all jazz sounds like this hur hur" at all. If anything it's the opposite.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


i strongly feel he is making fun of himself

Did the Evel Knievel suit on the cover give it away?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:02 PM on January 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Once when I was a church-going individual I got drafted to accompany the hymns for my seminary class (in Utah Mormon high school students can go to a class devoted to church, usually just off campus, and they call it seminary), on piano. I could play the piano...kind of, in that I could read music and I knew which keys went with which notes and I could sort of play melodies but I have no sense of rhythm WHATSOEVER and had never ever played for other people. It was a situation where you try to say no but end up getting bulldozed into it from the sheer goodwill of the person who's suggested it.

Listening to this album reminds me so strongly of that day that I almost want to vomit from the residual shame and embarrassment I felt back then.
posted by jenjenc at 1:02 PM on January 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Sometimes the difference between a sophomoric gag and high-concept comedy is the degree of follow-through. See, for example, Andy Kaufman. At a certain point, the humor transcends the premise of the original joke--it's the absurd amount of commitment that's funny.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:03 PM on January 21, 2016 [11 favorites]


Amazing. I imagine him playing while dressed in a tactical turtleneck.
posted by foodbedgospel at 1:06 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Amazing. I imagine him playing while dressed in a tactical turtleneck.

A tactleneck?
posted by Talez at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


This is what I want playing at my most EEEEELLLEGAAHHHNT dinner paaaahhhrties.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


jenjenc - oh good. i'm remembering every public embarrassing mormon thing that happened to me by sheer force of wanting to get along...
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


The basic idea of this joke dates back to the mid-1960s at least, maybe even back to the beginning of jazz, so Jon Benjamin gets no points for originality. And it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur."

Jazz Grinch.
posted by Lyme Drop at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


And it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur."

That's not the joke though. At no point is he trying to pass off his playing as equivalent to a real jazz musician. He even calls it out in the title of the Album - "I should have . . . . learned to play the piano".
posted by Think_Long at 1:28 PM on January 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


If he at least had a sense of rhythm the bad notes wouldn't sound *quite so bad

Nah he's just swinging it really hard.
posted by atoxyl at 1:30 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The funny part is how he's not just banging around but doing a superficial impression of jazz piano tropes without actually knowing what chord - or sometimes what beat - they're on.
posted by atoxyl at 1:36 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


And obviously three trained musicians as straight men. It's a pretty classic comedy setup.
posted by atoxyl at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


And it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur."

In fact if you're somebody who came into this thinking that that jazz players have no rules and just play notes at random, what you learn by listening to this is that, no, the idiom definitely has right and wrong notes.

I love it. He's obviously listened to this kind of music before. He sounds like he's trying for certain kinds of gestures and just has no idea how to execute them. And the way the rest of the band stays rock solid no matter what happens is great.
posted by bfields at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


I can almost imagine him playing this while sitting at a piano sipping a Woodhouse martini and occasionally bending over to snort some cocaine of the top of the Piano.

Needs more "Lana...................Danger Zone!"
posted by vuron at 2:01 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I made the unfortunate decision to purchase the vinyl edition of this because I love HJB. After I got the mp3 download link and listened I was... sad. I get the joke, I just don't find it funny. Because I am grumpy.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


It reminds me of the clip that went around a while back What Phish sound like to people who don't like Phish.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:06 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait, there are actually people that like Phish?
posted by vuron at 2:07 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


. After I got the mp3 download link and listened I was... sad. I get the joke, I just don't find it funny. Because I am grumpy.

Not snarking, just curious, but what were you expecting/hoping for?
posted by Think_Long at 2:07 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I cannot stop laughing. I have not been this pleased by comedy since the first time I read Calvin and Hobbes in elementary school. So much delight!
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2016


Not snarking, just curious, but what were you expecting/hoping for?

Something more than him just kind of pooping all over a piano. Which, you know, caveat emptor. And there was no false advertising - I just made an incorrect assumption.

On the bright side I have the first pressing, still shrinkwrapped, so maybe it will be a collectors item one day.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2016


Yup, it's on Spotify and Apple Music. Absolutely worth a listen, if only because the serious chops of the rest of the band throw his desperate attempts into sharp relief. Once in a while he stumbles onto something that works, so he repeats it right or nine times for good measure.

As mentioned upthread, the joke is entirely on him. It's wonderful. Somehow it is music with Jon Benjamin's sense of understated awkward comedy.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:40 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Are you sure you want to buy...", iTunes asks me, a quiet sense of judgement lurking in its perfunctory dialog prompt.
posted by cortex at 2:43 PM on January 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


"Are you sure you want to buy...", iTunes asks me, a quiet sense of judgement lurking in its perfunctory dialog prompt.

Try buying anything by Nickelback. Both options are "No".
posted by Talez at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


The funny part is how he's not just banging around but doing a superficial impression of jazz piano tropes without actually knowing what chord - or sometimes what beat - they're on.

He's actually got a fair bit of facility with the mechanical part of hitting the keys! Like, I did take piano lessons (albeit very briefly) as a kid, and I couldn't today do fake jazz nearly as well.
posted by kenko at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


You know his voice, playing the title roles on the animated TV series Bob's Burgers and Archer, not to mention a can of vegetables in the movie Wet Hot American Summer.

AND BEN IN DR KATZ!
posted by kenko at 3:13 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


...and let us not forget Coach McGurk, either.

This album rules.
posted by zchyrs at 3:16 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


That was ok, but is how you get the job done.
posted by lagomorphius at 3:22 PM on January 21, 2016


He doesn't know how to play the piano, but he has listened to jazz and he has enjoyed listening to jazz. You can tell because he often hits the (random) chords at the right time. And he listens to the other musicians, which is the secret trick to being a good musician. This clock is right more than twice a day. And the costume is perfect.
posted by kozad at 3:31 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Very cute. Kind of a 180-degree swing from Jonathan and Darlene - skilled musicians who deliberately muff it.

Most of all, I like Benjamin's attitude - no pretense or anti-jazz sentiment, just "I have no talent and I want to share it with the world."
posted by QuietDesperation at 4:05 PM on January 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Wait, there are actually people that like Phish?

There was only one person, really, but sadly the world lost him and his genius brain last year.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:05 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Damn, that guy put it on the chainwax...
posted by etherist at 4:31 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I used to play bass, during which time I developed the firm belief that a solid enough rhythm section can make anything listenable. This album is a very strong vindication of that belief.

I seriously love this, but then I enjoy well executed anti-humor and I also like Melt Banana, so YMMV.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:12 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


This brought back something that happened to me in high school. I had taken many years of piano lessons, and could read and play music decently, and improvise a bit. The high school jazz band needed a pianist, and someone asked me if I could sit in and see what it'd be like. I got sheet music for some of the songs they played, and it all seemed doable until I sat down with the whole band. Everything musical inside me totally turned off. I couldn't play a single note. Hearing this makes me wish I just said "fuck it" and started playing like H. Jon Benjamin, but I can't help but think it wouldn't be as good as what he's managed to pull off here.
posted by zsazsa at 5:14 PM on January 21, 2016


This is amazing.
posted by SarahElizaP at 5:27 PM on January 21, 2016


My wife claims she can't tell this apart from normal jazz. "This is a good song!" she says. Either she is a genius or I am for marrying her.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


You have to know jazz and love jazz to do it this badly. If it were just somebody whacking on the keys, it'd be different. As a datapoint of one and not being representative of anythingI've been a bassist for 30 years and a serious jazz listener for something like 20, and I adore this. I kind of wish the local jazz station would put this on and then open the phone lines. The reactions would be amazing.
posted by scrump at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2016 [20 favorites]


Oh my god, I can just imagine. That would be so delightful.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The basic idea of this joke dates back to the mid-1960s at least, maybe even back to the beginning of jazz, so Jon Benjamin gets no points for originality. And it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur." What's next, some cutting-edge parody of hippies and psychedelic rock? Or maybe he'll get an acoustic guitar and make fun of folk singers? Because no one's ever done that before.

The funny thing about this comment is how meta it is, because in fact the person doing the "my three year old could paint that" thing is you, by not appreciating how difficult it is to pull off this joke so effectively.
posted by one_bean at 6:27 PM on January 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


Countess Elena: "It's like I'm listening to Bob Belcher having to suddenly take the stage at a jazz performance after some sitcom misunderstanding about who the musician was supposed to be."

That's exactly it (although in my imagination it was more of a Quantum Leap situation). Even the whole enterprise is (admittedly) kind of stupid and could easily be seen as mocking, I really don't think he's trying to make it sound stupid or mocking. In fact, to my ear, he's really putting in a good faith effort at trying to make it sound good and failing hilariously. I think this is especially the case in "It Had to Be You" where you can hear him trying to hit the melody and getting pretty close a bunch of times. Or in "I Can't Play Piano, Pt. 3" where he takes his shot at call and response. And then later he figures out that if he just hits one note over and over again, he can at least get the rhythm right. But then he realizes he can't just play the one note so he wanders over to some neighboring notes, then finds out it's not quite right so he flails around a bit to get out of it. There's really so many delightful things going on here.
posted by mhum at 7:09 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mean all you have to do is learn not to press a bunch of consecutive notes, channel some rhythm and you're half way there. It pisses me off when people pretend that pretending to play a piano (with a jazz bass) is that hard. Just don't be Schoenberg or a hand-pounding toddler and you'll be OK.

(I've been doing this for decades because no one in my family could ever own a fucking piano, while I drooled at the constantly unplayed pianos sitting in other family's houses. My grandpa had a Wurlitzer though - what they heard as noise I considered turgid improvisatory early baroque organ music, like that lady who played on the religious channel.)

This has become oddly emotional for me. You know, like there really are good folk improvisers, type of thing?
posted by sylvanshine at 7:32 PM on January 21, 2016


He can't find the right note, but there is something about his phrasing
posted by kurumi at 7:46 PM on January 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


I fully expected to hate this or think it was a one-off joke - I mean, so he can't play piano and put out an album? Ok, I guess that's funny. Also, I am one of those with perfect pitch, and I usually find arrhythmic and out of tune music to literally be physically painful. But no - this is absolutely incredible.

I don't know if I've ever come across humor so laser targeted to me ever before, but here we are - and I cannot stop laughing, as the tears keep rolling down my face. As many others have said, this is absolutely the result of an uncanny hyper-awareness and love of jazz.

I really wish I had it during my short-lived music school days, so I could have played it relentlessly and antagonized the Extremely Serious Jazz Students.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:50 PM on January 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's blind luck, but there are bits here and there where he hits a note or chord that works, musically. I find myself rooting for him and being alternately happy and disappointed at his efforts.
posted by Thistledown at 7:56 PM on January 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


So my dad loves to listen to Jazz all the time - Some good, some bad. It tends to affect his demeanor a bit in ways he isn't always aware of.

I'm absolutely positive that he has no awareness of this albums existence. I'm really tempted to burn a CD for him that it mostly "serious" Jazz music with this randomly cut in. The other tempting idea is to set up a jazz playlist with occasional forgettable bits of NPR in it, then cut over to this album - with again, NPR bits spliced in every two or three songs - and use a FM transmitter to take over his radio feed when I visit him, just to see how annoyed he gets before he realizes why.

This sort of antagonization is a bit of a family tradition that's way overdue, but I'll only have a limited window - so it needs to be perfect.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:57 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


but there is something about his phrasing

Is that still a thing? I thought we weren't doing that anymore.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:46 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love this so, so much. He's like an over-caffeinated Nora the Piano Playing Cat.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:24 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is that still a thing? I thought we weren't doing that anymore.

...said Ripley to the android Bishop.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:26 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: "it's a dumb, obvious joke, the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur.""

I'm going to just assume that you really like the album, then, since it does the exact opposite of what you describe as a dumb, obvious joke.
posted by Bugbread at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


This sort of antagonization is a bit of a family tradition that's way overdue, but I'll only have a limited window - so it needs to be perfect.

Sounds exactly like something Ben Katz would do to his dad. Do it!
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2016


This thread is a good example of the subjectivity of humor. I understand perfectly well what he's attempting to do; I just find it unoriginal, tedious, and not funny. YMMV.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:56 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Out of curiosity, what is it you think he's trying to do?
posted by kenko at 9:58 PM on January 21, 2016


Well, it's unambiguously obvious, I think that may be part of the problem.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:07 PM on January 21, 2016


Given that different people in this very thread have evidently thought he's doing different things, the obviousness and lack of ambiguity is not so clear.
posted by kenko at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is to me, so there. Nyaah.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:28 PM on January 21, 2016


Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: "I understand perfectly well what he's attempting to do"

Well, you wrote this:

Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner: "the musical/audio equivalent of "my three-year-old can paint just like Jackson Polllack, hur hur hur.""

So either you don't understand what he's attempting to do, or you chose an example that's the opposite of what you meant.

kenko: "Given that different people in this very thread have evidently thought he's doing different things, the obviousness and lack of ambiguity is not so clear."

Meh, it's only one person. Terrence Howard thinks 1 x 1 = 2, but despite that dissenting voice, I still think it's safe to say that "1 x 1 = 1" is obvious and unambiguous.
posted by Bugbread at 11:55 PM on January 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


The way the guy plays is funny. For me, it comes down to that. He's not fucking around, just like the competent guys aren't fucking around. He's just doing something different, which is being funny in a musical way. He frames his way of playing as mere incompetence but there's clearly a remarkable transfer of what happens in verbal comedy to a nearly purely musical medium. It's (arguably understated) musical slapstick comedy.
posted by treepour at 11:56 PM on January 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


BungaDunga: “A short documentary on the recording process ”
I listened to the link in the post and was amused, but I didn't laugh. I watched this, and after two minutes of build up when it got to the first line of the song, I laughed so hard I snorted. Just beautiful.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:09 AM on January 22, 2016


I think he is making fun of jazz but in a gentle way where he's ultimately the butt of the joke. And again, what makes it funny is that he does try. (It seems like maybe he's played an instrument before or else he's underrating his innate sense for music.)
posted by atoxyl at 2:18 AM on January 22, 2016


Reminds me of Trout Mask Replica. Part of me is convinced that everyone who says they can tell the difference between this and real experimental jazz is lying.
posted by surlyben at 2:19 AM on January 22, 2016


I like people like Cecil Taylor and Borah Bergman and Matthew Shipp. I also like this. I am not a musician, but I can tell the difference.
posted by box at 4:38 AM on January 22, 2016


The video link no longer works. And I really wanted to hear this!

Top fact: Les Dawson was actually a very able pianist, but hammed it up for camera.
posted by mippy at 4:50 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do we really need to resort to name-calling when people don't think stuff is funny?

I think the concept, trailer and cover art are funny. The album itself just, to some of us, can't sustain the joke for its 30+ minute running time. It is like a skit where a clown sneaks into an orchestra and tries to play the violin. Funny, for a skit! Look at the stuffy conductor getting all flustered! See how the clown connects with the unpretentious humanity of the audience! But who wants to listen to an entire concert of that? Not me. However, unlike others in this thread, I won't hurl invective at people who disagree with me, because that is their prerogative.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:55 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Part of me is convinced that everyone who says they can tell the difference between this and real experimental jazz is lying.

Even if there were no other ways to tell, the fact that everyone else is playing straight ahead would be a clue. But really, people who listen to real experimental jazz have a lot more of a feel for it than people who don't (like, I would guess, you).

I just noticed in the "documentary" video that he's visiting Odean Pope!

See how the clown connects with the unpretentious humanity of the audience!

I don't think that's remotely the joke. I think the music, itself, is funny. Maybe you have to actually like and listen to jazz to get it?
posted by kenko at 7:01 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's great that you think it is funny! And I do like and listen to jazz, yet I don't think it is funny. These two opinions can coexist peacefully.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:03 AM on January 22, 2016


The skits, however, are hilarious.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:10 AM on January 22, 2016


The NPR interview is interesting, and shines some light on what Benjamin might be thinking about (then again, it may all be a lark):
Now, you're playing with professional jazz musicians: Scott Kreitzer on sax, David Finck on bass, and Jonathan Peretz is playing drums. Was this an act of friendship, or just a measure of the jazz economy — that you gotta do whatever gig comes along?

They were very nice to do it, and I'm not sure they realized what they were doing until we got there. And then they were mad. But not mad enough to stop altogether. So they went through with it, and they were great.

[Robert Siegel and Jon Benjamin listen to "I Can't Play Piano, Pt. 1"]

That is real untapped un-talent.

[About saxophonist Scott Kreitzer] He's good.

Yeah! He knows what he's doing.

He really does. But that's just not as interesting.

Do you think it lacks the complete sense of free-form surprise that you're after?

He's not taking any risks. He just knows how to do it.

How safe, to actually—

[Laughs.] I feel bad for people like that.
This kind of reminds me of something I heard about the musicians who played for the brief school band scene in the opening of The Simpsons - they had to learn how to play poorly, and how Zach Condon of Beirut had to get studio musicians to loosen up for his early albums because he wanted more of a casual "street music" feel. While the former was to get professional musicians to play the part of kids, the latter seems to speak more to Benjamin's thoughts. There can be more joy and fun in playing loose.

But without the straight men, the slapstick schtick can get old fast.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:15 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Listening to the NPR interview is worth it just to hear Robert Siegel break character and crack up.

And, yeah. This works far better than some dude slamming on the piano over some random jazz track. Jon Benjamin obviously masters the comedic timing, but his band seem to be playing along with the joke more than he let on to -- they're obviously really talented, and their (fairly impressive) attempts to roll with the punches and rescue the performance only add to the comedy.

It's actually a pretty great demonstration of their skill, and adds to the charm -- the album never comes across as Jon Benjamin trying to ruin the performance of a talented jazz trio -- instead it sets the stage for the other musicians to prove just how fucking good they are.

Also, don't forget that Jazz + Jazz = Jazz.
posted by schmod at 8:07 AM on January 22, 2016 [6 favorites]


RICK

RICK

RICK

THE NEW COMPUTER IS DEFECTIVE

IT HAS NO SCREEN AND THE KEYS ARE WEIRD

I WAS TRYING TO USE IT TO SEND YOU MESSAGES ALL DAY AND YOU DIDNT RESPOND RICK

RICK

DO I USE THE BLACK KEYS FOR CAPS LOCK
posted by schmod at 8:10 AM on January 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


TBH, I don't believe that the other musicians were actually mad.
posted by kenko at 8:38 AM on January 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just put this on as potential background can-listen-but-ignore music while trying to get a bit of writing done, and, boy howdy, it does not fit the bill there. Benjamin's playing is far too gripping to just tune out, all else aside.
posted by cortex at 10:58 AM on January 25, 2016


Do we really need to resort to name-calling when people don't think stuff is funny?

Do you really need to be here if you don't?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


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