Entertainment & Arts

Bowie hires jazz artists for new album

David Bowie Image copyright Johan Renck
Image caption David Bowie will premiere the video for his new single on Sky Atlantic on Thursday

Rock star David Bowie has hired a group of young jazz musicians to push his 25th album in a new direction.

"Having jazz guys play rock music turns it upside down," Bowie's producer Tony Visconti told Mojo magazine.

Called ★ (Blackstar), the record will be released on 8 January 2016 - the star's 69th birthday.

Unlike his 2013 comeback, The Next Day, it deliberately refrains from referencing the musician's back catalogue.

"The Next Day started out trying to do something new but something old kept creeping in," Visconti said. "Not this album."

Recording in New York between January and May this year, Bowie sought out jazz artists to stop him falling back on rock cliches.

Led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, the core group includes virtuoso guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Mark Guiliana - recently named one of the world's top 10 drummers.

They are joined by pianist Jason Lindner and bassist Tim Lefebrve - who has previously worked with Donald Fagen and Jamie Cullum, and was part of the the house band for Saturday Night Live.

Image copyright Donny McCaslin
Image caption Bowie met Donny McCaslin while making 2014's one-off single Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)

"If we'd used David's former musicians they would be rock people playing jazz," explained Visconti. "Having jazz guys play rock music turns it upside down.

"Their approach to the music was so refreshing, I looked forward to every day in the studio. Nothing was done recalling the past."

Footage of the musicians playing in Chicago and New York - without David Bowie - can be found on Youtube.

Music video

The first single from the album, also called Blackstar, will be released on Friday, 20 November.

Fans have already been able to hear a truncated version of the song, which appears as the theme music for the TV show The Last Panthers.

The dark, brooding track finds Bowie intoning in the style of a monastic chant: "On the day of execution / Only women kneel and smile" before a sinister beat kicks in.

The bleak, haunting underscore is reminiscent of the instrumentals on the b-side of Bowie's 1977 album Heroes.

Image copyright Jimmy King
Image caption Blackstar marks the first time Bowie has composed a piece of music for television since 1993's The Buddha of Suburbia

A short film for the song will premiere on Sky Atlantic tonight (Thursday) before the second episode of The Last Panthers, a European crime drama starring John Hurt and Samantha Morton.

A preview image for the 10-minute video shows the musician wearing a gauze blindfold, with buttons stitched over his eyes.

Like the series, the video has been directed by Johan Renck, whose previous work includes Breaking Bad and music videos for Madonna, Suede and The Libertines.

"I haven't done a music video in a long time," Renck told NME, "but when Bowie asks, you'd jump at it."

"They say don't meet your heroes but when it comes to Bowie, he truly is the most brilliant person I've ever met."

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