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Latest Jazz from NPR Music

Five Ways Jazz Can Be Punk

The quartet Garage a Trois.
The quartet Garage a Trois.

Jazz is a sponge for outside sounds. Add another idea to it — say, European classical or gospel-inflected R&B music — and it absorbs, assimilating the sound into a new subgenre: like "third stream" or "soul jazz," respectively. Wring it out, and its own improvisatory essence remains in the mix.

It's hard to imagine something that could be further in sound and structure from jazz than punk rock, but punk and jazz do have elements in common — the most important being attitude. Whether it came from the boundary-pushing free jazz of the late '50s or the experimental electronic sounds of the late '60s and '70s, the spirit of adventure, creativity and thumbing one's nose at "the rules" has always been a part of jazz's historical trajectory.

Here are five possibilities for how that attitude might sound. Some might argue that the songs in this sampler owe their sound structure more to the New York-born subgenre known as "no-wave" than to true punk rock. But for our purposes, let's just call it punk jazz.

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