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je'raf: Throw Neck (Amalgam)

Reminding of Downtown NY bands in the vein of No Safety or Curlew, this Chicago/NY 7-piece blurs rock, jazz and funk forms with intelligent and often satirical lyrics, upbeat and joyful music that defies categorization through groove-based songs that playfully critique while keeping it all danceable and fun, in a wonderfully talented and enjoyable album.

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product information:

UPC: 888295985635

Label: Amalgam
Catalog ID: AMA019
Squidco Product Code: 30591

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Pallet Sound, in Chicago, Illnois, on February 2nd and 3rd, 2019, by Seth Engel.


Brianna Tong-vocals

PT Bell-vocals, bass

Ishmael Ali-guitar, electronics

David Fletcher-trombone

Wills McKenna-saxophone

Eli Namay-bass

Bill Harris-drums, percussion, Microkorg

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Artist Biographies:

Brianna Tong is a Chicago-based vocalist and improviser. A former community organizer and librarian originally from Delware, she moved to Chicago to attend University of Chicago in 2011. She is a member of groups Cordoba, Je'raf, and Bussy Kween Power Trip.

-Squidco 8/8/2022

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P.T. Bell is an American bass player and vocalist based in Chicago, IL. He is a member of groups Blacker Face and je'raf.

-Discogs (

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"Ishmael Ali is a first generation Filipino-Arab-American cellist, guitarist, improviser, composer, and electronic artist currently residing in Chicago. His work centers on exploring sound through improvisation, experimentation, collaboration, as well as a wide array of idiomatic approaches in an ever-changing, always-growing list of projects with diverse focuses and influences.Though varying drastically from group to group, a common thread in his work is the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements to create something new: both foreign and familiar.

In addition to performing, Mr. Ali is a co-founder and audio engineer at the recording space Marmalade in Chicago and was the founder and director of the now inoperative music and art space, Orotund Music. He continues to work as an organizer and promoter through the music series OBTC."

-Ishmael Ali Website (

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David Fletcher is a Chicago trombonist, a member of groups Cordobaand jə'raf.

-Discogs (

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Wills McKenna is a Chicago saxophonist and composer. His own Wills Mckenna Quintet is a Chicago-based group that plays music drawing from a variety of styles including jazz, rock, shoegaze, grunge, improvised and noise music, using its double guitar formation to create a full and complex yet melodic sonic landscape. The music is mostly written by saxophonist Wills Mckenna, and the band plays regularly in the Chicago area. He is also a member of the genre-merging band Je'raf.

-Squidco 8/8/2022

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Eli Namay (He or They) is a Lebanese/Syrian Chicago and Pittsburgh based composer, writer, bassist, community organizer, and educator. His work focuses on affirming creativity as a fundamental human need, and illuminating the intertwined and always moving nature of human minds, musical traditions, and socioeconomic realities. This is accomplished through improvisation and experimental notation; a critical embrace of eclecticism; and writing and composition that is informed by scientific studies of acoustics, perception, political economy, and the brain.

Master classes include at DePaul University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Southern Illinois University. Performances include at venues, and with ensembles and artists such as Northwestern University, DePaul University, Chicago Symphony Center, Constellation, Experimental Sound Studio, Fonema Consort, Mocrep, Adiaphora Orchestra, Jessica Aszodi, Yeyha Khalil, Michael Ibraham (National Arab Orchestra), Ronnie Malley, Katherine Young, John McCowen, Phil Sudderberg and more. Eli has been a part of The Bridge - a transatlantic network for creative music and Homeroom Chicago's 10x10 (2015). Eli has a BA in music from Columbia college where he studied under Dennis Luxion, Chuck Webb, and Dan Anderson. He has also studied upright bass with Anton Hatwich and Greg Sarchet (Lyric Opera of Chicago), and classical music from the Levant with Ronnie Malley. Eli regularly curates comedy and improvised music shows with Gilded Records at Cafe Mustache, works with musicians associated with Amalgam Records, and performs with the hip-hop/avant-jazz group Jə'raf and American folk group Can I Get an Amen, amongst many other periodic formations.

As a community organizer, Eli has worked with the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America contributing to the development of their Socialist Night School program, coordinating political education for the 2019 Chicago teacher and staff strike solidarity campaign, and as a full time organizer with SOUL contributing to the campaign for Medicare for All on Chicago's South Side.

As a writer, Eli has contributed to Cacophony Magazine, Midwest Socialist, various Chicago DIY publications, as well as developed pamphlets for Chicago DSA and SOUL."

-Eli Namay Website (

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"Bill Harris is a percussionist, composer, improviser, and audio engineer from Pittsburgh currently based in Chicago. He also operates and produces for Amalgam, a Chicago-based collective.

(B. 1987, Pittsburgh, PA)

Bill has been active in Chicago's music communities since 2011, working at the intersection of free improvisation, jazz, noise, rock, and country. His music has been presented at Constellation, Elastic Arts, The Bop Stop, The Hungry Brain, The Hideout, Experimental Sound Studios, Spot Tavern, Beat Kitchen, Empty Bottle, and Comfort Station.

Bill is humbled to have played or recorded with Jim Baker, Dave Rempis, Kent Kessler, Brian Sandstrom, Ed Wilkerson, Carol Genetti, Angel Bat Dawid, Jeb Bishop, Peter Maunu, Josh Berman, Brandon Lopez, Keefe Jackson, and Jason Roebke, among many other experimental and improvisatory musicians and artists.

Bill is constantly inspired by and thankful to work with his frequent collaborators: Ishmael Ali, Jake Wark, Timothee Quost, PT Bell, Gerrit Hatcher, Eli Namay, Matt Piet, Brianna Tong, Wills McKenna, David Fletcher, Jess McIntosh, Aaron Smith, Jeff Kimmel, Adam Shead, Molly Jones, Jakob Heinemann, and many others...

In 2015 he started Amalgam, a 100% artist-run collective and label dedicated to showcasing works of improvised and experimental music in Chicago. Bill is also an audio engineer working in both studio and live situations, and operates an independent studio in Chicago with engineering, mixing, mastering, and production credits on labels such as Amalgam, Astral Spirits, No Index, 577 Records and Ears&Eyes."

-Bill Harris Website (

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track listing:

1. Black Holes As Waste Management 6:06

2. Olive Juice (Love Is A Power Struggle) 5:45

3. Fifth Cycle 5:20

4. Oy 4:05

5. (This One's) For The Ether 4:01

6. Umbra 3:32

7. S.S.H.P. 5:57

8. Sad Boi (Feels Entitled) 7:08

9. Ballad Of The Flat Earthers 5:59
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Danceable woke conspiracy theory noise hip-hop metal jazz funk monologue-core. Je'raf is a Chicago/New York based band that formed in 2017. They combine hip hop, funk, and free jazz elements into tightly arranged songs that leave room for improvisation and looseness, while incorporating critical and satirical social commentary on police, conspiracy theories, religion, cults, and the emergence and trajectory of the American Bro.

Je'raf has held a monthly residency at Cafe Mustache in Chicago since July of 2019, playing every third Tuesday of the month. Their debut record, Throw Neck, [was released at[ the Hungry Brain, with a split release on both Amalgam and No Index Records based in Chicago."-Amalgam

"An unclassifiable outfit with members who have lineage in Chicago and New York's underground scenes, Je'raf are well versed in jazz, punk, funk and hip-hop, and they mesh them all with an eccentric and highly skilled delivery that few, if anyone, could replicate.

"Black Holes As Waste Management" starts the listen quirky and unpredictable with a free jazz approach as brass and dual gender vocals complement the funk friendly setting, and "Olive Juice" follows with frisky percussion and hypnotic bass lines as soulful vocals guide the exciting, hip-hop influenced unusualness.

Things only get more interesting from here, believe it or not, with the initially bare "(This One's) For The Ether", which recruits soft horns and elegant musicianship, while "Umbra" takes on a hypnotic quality as rapping enters the feral jazz. "S.S.H.P.", one of the album's best, then leads sparse with soaring vocals before a busy display of cabaret rock sweeps in with timeless melodies that's both rowdy and calculated.

Towards the end, "Sad Boi (Feels Entitled)" benefits from spoken word alongside gentle drumming before playful saxophone contributes, and "Ballad Of The Flat Earthers" exits the listen with ominous story telling as strategic brass and a call and response tactic finishes out the affair.

Perhaps most closely related to art-rock, Je'raf never stay in one place very long, and it makes for a fascinating listen where each subsequent listen brings new finds as all 7 members contribute their respective talents to an iconoclastic brand of fusion."

Get additional information at Take Effects Reviews
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Rock and Related
Song Based Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Chicago Jazz & Improvisation
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New in Rock Forms
New in Improvised Music
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Other Releases With These Artists:
Recommended & Related Releases:
Baker, Jim / Brandon Lopez / Bill Harris
Cordoba (Brianna Tong / Eric Novak / Cam Cunningham / Zach Bain-Selbo / Khalyle Hagood / Zach Upton-Davis)
McKenna, Wills / Norman W. Long / Ishmael Ali / Bill Harris
Anemoi [2 CDs]
Four Letter Words (Piet / Wark / Harris)
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