Punk jazz is a music genre that describes the amalgamation of elements of jazz (especially free jazz and free funk[1]) with the instrumentation or conceptual heritage of punk rock (typically the more dissonant strains such as no wave and hardcore punk). John Zorn's band Naked City, James Chance and the Contortions, Lounge Lizards, Universal Congress Of, and Laughing Clowns are notable examples of punk jazz artists.



Patti Smith, who (unsuccessfully) sought out collaboration with Ornette Coleman, and Television, also developed a sinuous, improvisatory strain of punk, indebted to jazz.[2]

In England, jazz musicians who performed with punk acts included the saxophonist Lol Coxhill, who recorded with the Damned.[3] Punk drummers who had played in jazz bands included Jet Black of the Stranglers and Topper Headon of the Clash.

The pioneering Australian punk scene of the mid-1970s was also influenced by jazz. The introduction of swing arrangements and a brass section on the Saints' 1978 album Prehistoric Sounds, were carried over into Ed Kuepper's subsequent band, Laughing Clowns. Kuepper sought to create a free jazz "sheets of sound" aesthetic similar to that of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and John Coltrane.[4] The early punk projects of Ollie Olsen also drew inspiration from free jazz, including Ornette Coleman.[5] the Boys Next Door, known later as the Birthday Party, were incorporating various elements of jazz during the late 1970s. The efforts of these Australian punk bands has been described as "desert jazz".[6]


James Chance in Berlin, 1981.
James Chance in Berlin, 1981.

During the 1980s, a relaxation of orthodoxy, concurrent with post-punk, led to a new appreciation for jazz.

In London, the Pop Group began to mix free jazz, along with dub reggae, into their brand of punk rock.[7]

Nick Cave stated that the Pop Group's song "We Are All Prostitutes" was a major influence on the Birthday Party.[8] Their sound on Junkyard (1982) was described by one journalist as a mix of "no-wave guitar, free-jazz craziness, and punk-processed Captain Beefheart angularity".[9]

In New York, no wave was inspired by punk and free jazz. Examples of this style include Lydia Lunch's album Queen of Siam,[10] the work of James Chance and the Contortions, who mixed funk with free jazz and punk rock,[10] Gray, and the Lounge Lizards,[10] the first group to call themselves punk jazz. Bill Laswell and his band Material mixed funk, jazz, and punk[11] while his band Massacre added improvisation to rock.[12] He was a member of the American free jazz band Last Exit[13] and Pain Killer.[14]

James Blood Ulmer applied Coleman's harmolodic style to guitar and sought out links to no wave.[15] Bad Brains, widely acknowledged to have established the rudiments of the hardcore style, began by attempting jazz fusion.[16] Guitarist Joe Baiza executed his blend of punk and free jazz with Saccharine Trust and in Universal Congress Of, a group influenced by the work of Albert Ayler.[17] Greg Ginn of Black Flag incorporated elements of free jazz into his guitar playing, most notably on Black Flag's 1985 instrumental EP The Process of Weeding Out.[18] Henry Rollins has praised free jazz, releasing albums by Matthew Shipp on his record label[19] and collaborating with Charles Gayle.[20] The Minutemen were influenced by jazz, folk and funk. Mike Watt of the band has spoken about being inspired by listening to John Coltrane.[21]

Dutch anarcho-punk group the Ex incorporated elements of free jazz and particularly European free improvisation, collaborating with Han Bennink and other members of the Instant Composers Pool.[22]

Greek-American singer Diamanda Galás approached jazz tradition from a thematically and stylistically transgressive perspective. Her album The Singer is a prototypical example of punk jazz applied to vocals and piano performance. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds bassist Barry Adamson recorded the album Moss Side Story, which also applies a punk and noise rock perspective to the orchestral jazz tradition, with Galás singing on one track.[23]


Free jazz was an important influence in the American post-hardcore scene of the early 90s. Drive Like Jehu took Black Flag's atonal solos a step further with their dual guitar attack. The Nation of Ulysses had Ian Svenonious alternating between vocals and trumpet, and their complex song structures, odd time signatures, and frenetic live shows were as much hardcore punk as they were free jazz. They even did a brief cover of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme on their Plays Pretty for Baby album, though they titled it "The Sound of Jazz to Come" after Ornette Coleman's classic album The Shape of Jazz to Come. Chicago's Cap'n Jazz also borrowed free jazz's odd time signatures and guitar melodies, marrying them with hardcore screams and amateur tuba playing. The Swedish band Refused was influenced by this scene and recorded an album titled The Shape of Punk to Come, where they alternate between manic hardcore punk numbers and slower, jazzy songs.


Yakuza from Chicago is comparable to Candiria, combining heavy metal with free jazz and psychedelia. Although Italian band Ephel Duath was credited with the inadvertent recreation of jazzcore on their albums The Painter's Palette (2003) and Pain Necessary to Know (2005), the band moved away from it to pursue a more esoteric form of progressive rock similar to the music of Frank Zappa. Midori made waves around Japan in the mid-2000s for their unrelenting and chaotic blend of hardcore punk and dissonant jazz before disbanding at the end of 2010.

Other punk jazz acts include Hella, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Talibam!, Youngblood Brass Band,[24] Aurora Beam and Zu.[25] Gutbucket,[26] and King Krule.[27]


Some hardcore punk-influenced punk jazz bands such as Zu, 16-17, Pain Killer/Painkiller, and Ephel Duath have been described as jazzcore.

Swing punk

Swing punk is a genre created by the fusion of punk rock, jazz, and swing revival elements. Cherry Poppin' Daddies have been described as incorporating punk and ska elements into swing and jazz music.[28]

Further reading


  1. ^ "Free Funk Genre". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  2. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Television bio, Allmusic. [1] Access date: October 8, 2008.
  3. ^ "Burt MacDonald with Lol Coxhill" LIST.CO.UK, 2008
  4. ^ "The Laughing Clowns play at Brisbane's GoMA". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Michael Hutchence – A tribute from his family, created by his father Kelland Hutchence". Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  6. ^ Australian Punk: The Birthday Party
  7. ^ Dave Lang, Perfect Sound Forever, February 1999. [2] Archived 1999-04-20 at the Wayback Machine Access date: November 15, 2008.
  8. ^ jarvizcocker (20 July 2010). "Nick Cave on The Pop Group (1999)". Retrieved 22 July 2016 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "The Birthday Party: Junkyard [PA] [Remaster] - Buddha Records - COLB 74465996942 - 744659969423". Archived from the original on 21 April 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Bangs, Lester. "Free Jazz / Punk Rock". Musician Magazine, 1979. [3] Access date: July 20, 2008.
  11. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Material". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  12. ^ Anderson, Rick. "Killing Time". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  13. ^ Dougan, John. "Last Exit". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  14. ^ Huey, Steve. "Pain Killer". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  15. ^ "James Blood Ulmer Biography". www.musicianguide.com. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Bad Brains". Punknews.org. 2010-07-13. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  17. ^ Sharp, Charles Michael (2008). Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles. p. 224. ISBN 9781109123777. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  18. ^ "www.citizine.net". www.citizine.net. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  19. ^ LOkennedyWEBdesignDOTcom. "Matthew Shipp". Matthewshipp.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  20. ^ "Charles Gayle Biography". Musicianguide.com. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  21. ^ Sharp, Charles Michael (2008). Improvisation, Identity and Tradition: Experimental Music Communities in Los Angeles (Ph.D.). Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  22. ^ Beissenhirtz, Alexander J. (11 May 2006). "Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink in Berlin". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  23. ^ Garden, Joe (1998-08-12). "Barry Adamson | Interview". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
  24. ^ "The Youngblood Brass Band". Npr.org. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  25. ^ Stefano Bianchi in Blow Up #150 (Italy), November 1, 2010 [4]»
  26. ^ "Gutbucket Addresses Their Flock". Pop Matters. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  27. ^ Brown, August (December 19, 2013). "Review: King Krule's spooky, angry musings at the Fonda". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 23, 2013. Sometimes, his debts to jammy jazz-fusion went on a little long, and some concision in the writing and playing would have sharpened the emotional fangs that these songs have at their core. But who knew the time was so right for a disaffected jazz-punk balladeer in a baggy suit?
  28. ^ "Music Sideshow". The Register-Guard. August 2, 2002.