It's do or die for devilish solo artist 

Chad Jasmine -- singer-songwriter/saxophonist/guitarist -- epitomizes seduction with a jagged edge. If you want to get into his head and understand what drives this wild-eyed, 6-foot-6 alpha-macho performer with the spiked Mephistopheles goatee, don't go alone. And be sure to take weapons, and/or his favorite book, "These Lovers Fled Away" by Howard Spring. Then maybe you'll understand the paradox of this Jacksonville-based peace-love/punk, psychedelic rock & roller. He's an artist who ignites the stage with dervish drama by stepping irreverently over the boundaries and propriety of political correctness.

For example, along with his complex arrangements, three-part harmonies, and instrumentation of devil-funked grooves that transition into sweet and moody N.Y.C. jazz or Hammond organ-and guitar-heavy alternative rock, he elicits a sort of sanctified intimacy with the audience at the opening of every show.

"It breaks down the barrier between performer and audience," says Jasmine of the practice that began back in his California days with his one-man shows and his former band, National Peoples' Gang. That's when he perfected the ambience and cinema of light, sound and performance art. "My approach is to artistically deliver things that are enlightening as well as disgusting. It's just as important to make people feel on the edge ... uplifted," says Jasmine.

Inspired and edgy certainly describes his recent self-produced, 74-minute release, "Music Four Fucking," a queasy, languid, looped, acid-jazz groove, woven together by a homeless, back-alley trumpet. It was a creative process Jasmine describes as "liberating." The title is just one example of how his controversialness is often misunderstood.

"In my opinion, it's not really vulgar or shocking. It's the way people talk," offers Jasmine. But the way people talk won't ever get him airplay, according to some critics. "I don't care. You have to go with your first inspiration, your first vision," he responds.

Then there's the often-requested song "The Wind" from The Greatest of Ease (1998), which may seem to be a love song but is really about an abusive relationship. "`It is` about some guy holding onto this lover's face so they can't get away. It's disturbing, but issues like that have to be brought up," says Jasmine.

"I Don't Do Shit" is another one people think is funny but is really about social responsibility. Says Jasmine, "If they see someone in the street, they won't help. They're into themselves instead of extending themselves. People thinks it's funny because they're afraid."

But Jasmine doesn't have time to worry about how people interpret his music. He continues to focus on composing and playing, and self-propelling his band -- Greg Isabelle (drums, cymbals), Scott Borland (guitar), Marcus Parsley (trumpet), Kip Kolb (keys), Chris Gibbs (bass) -- with integrity. That's also why he's not currently courting any labels and is more interested in getting his music into the hands of people who are looking for something new. "I'd enjoy having some help," admits Jasmine. "`But the labels` are not searching for new music. They're trying to hold onto their jobs."

Meanwhile, he operates in the do-it-yourself mode, booking tours and recording on his independent label, Parlay Records. In addition to three other releases, a new double album, Live at the Freebird (a documentary of his new work), and an untitled 12-song CD are due out in September.

Regardless of the outcome of his prolific career, Jasmine is still just about his art: Music is "crazy, fascinating. It's what wakes me up in morning. I can't quit. I'll do it until I die."

More by Sonja S. Mongar


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