Spiritual Funk and High-Altitude Jazz to Calm a Bewildered Mind [Playlist]
After spending days in smoldering Utah covering Red Bull Rampage, this music writer constructed the perfect jazz playlist to survive the desert heat.
The desert is a confusing and unforgiving place. The sun rises far later than you’d expect and falls far earlier than you’d hope, but those few golden hours between copper cliffs can be a transformative stretch. I’m not sure how most people go about an introduction, but mine came by way of an unexpected email from the folks at Red Bull a few months back. They were rallying writers for an upcoming run of Rampage, an annual assemblage of world’s most daring freeride mountain bikers at the gates of Mt. Zion National Park in the southwest corner of Utah.
Founded in 2001 with a prize fund of just $8,000, the invite-only competition has perpetually expanded along with the sport’s reach, currently offering a six-figure purse to the top slots. Not merely a battle of tricks and technical ability, contestants are also judged based on their chosen line down the course. Rotating between bluffs each year, even Rampage vets can find themselves bewildered by the terrain, which they not only plunge down, but excavate and maintain with a crew of aspiring riders. It’s not rare for competitors to work on their line up until the last conceivable moment. When our team pulled up, a grip of cyclers were still digging out their arm of the mountainside, caked with the soot and sand of the vein that would soon test their mortality, focus, and bone dexterity.
The lone music writer on the trip, I was tasked with picking brains I couldn’t entirely understand. Genuine, unmistakable terror flooded me with each spill and slip of footing, while the crowd and the entirety of my press team remained mostly unfazed. Which is to say that I likely came off as a hyper-sensitive wreck in the media tent, and was clearly in need of more emotional support than anyone actually participating in the event. But I’d learned to be my own counsel in the desert, a sentiment echoed by Rampage silver-medalist Andreu Lacondeguy. When asked about his pre-run ritual, Lacondeguy admitted he “wasn’t much of a music guy,” preferring the steady, controlled cadence of his own breath. But I was here to make a playlist, damnit. And I can’t just huff and puff an ASMR sequence into existence.
And so, while I can’t speak for what the riders were using to ice their nerves, there was a collection of songs stitched into this strange, sobering accident. A set of cuts, both notable and obscure, that helped me find a little tranquility in the endless expanse of the Utah desert. Pulled from the sprawling orchestral suites of Italian library soundtracks, booming Hendrix-led proto-funk performances, and the gleaming genius of Junie Morrison’s devilishly indulgent melodies, You’re Gonna Fly features tracks with preternatural resonance in arid, wide open spaces. With traces of Donald Byrd’s sun-bleached explorations, an assortment of cosmic disco daggers, and spiritual jazz triumphs, consider it the cure for any case of desert-induced blues.
Hear the You’re Gonna Fly playlist below and hit the link to subscribe to Okayplayer’s Spotify channel for an endless supply of aux cord artillery. For a sense of scale and insanity, scroll on to relive the 2018 Red Bull Rampage competition.