The Jazz Universe Inside My Head

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Monday, April 03, 2006


Stones Throws Records

One of the great elements about jazz is that everyone has their own interpretation on it. People who really try to search for a new land take their chosen instrument and expand the genre further into infinity. That same philosophy is the same for hip-hop, and when you put the two together a beautiful relationship is often times the result.
Think back to Guru’s Jazzmatazz in the ‘90s. The first two volumes are out of this world. Today, though, the reining master of the merger has got to be Madlib, coming at you with his entire arsenal of alter egos. Let’s see: Madlib is Quasimoto, part of the Lootpack, half of Jaylib, half of Madvillian, the entire band Sound Directions, the entire band Yesterday’s New Quintet, among various other projects, along with being the one of the most sought out hip-hop producers today. His real name is Otis Jackson, Jr.
He's made "hundreds of records that y'all haven't heard. When you buy the records that come out, that's not even my favorite stuff," explains Madlib. Ideally he'd like to put out a record "every week." Here’s a little taste of the complexity on the more jazzy side of life.
Madlib connection to jazz is deep, so deep that he was given full access to the storied Blue Note archives for a remix album that Blue Note was to put out. In 2003, Shades of Blue was released and featured the mixer’s interpretation of such classics as Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” Donald Byrd’s “Stepping into Tomorrow,” and Bobby Hutcherson’s “Montara.” It’s a perfect album of subconscious grooves.
Closely related to the Shades of Blue project is Yesterday’s New Quintet. Don’t be fooled by the thought that there has to be five people in a quintet, it’s not true, at least not for Madlib. Although the albums says that Malik Flavors is on percussion, Monk Hughes thumps the bass, Otis Jackson, Jr. hits the drums, Joe McDuphrey plays the keys, and Ahmad Miller dances the vibes, it’s all Madlib (Otis Jackson, Jr., that is). Using instruments in his studio to create the sound, Madlib then samples and arranges the results.
The “quintet” dropped Angels Without Edges in 2001. Nic Kincaid of All Music says, “This is a hip-hop record made with jazz principles of improvisation, spacy cut-and-paste passages of drifting solos, and periods of vamping grooves that are layered handsomely with uncut breaks that build on top of themselves, eventually creating what may be the Bitches Brew of the new millennium.”
After that, Yesterday’s New Quintet put out Stevie, an instrumental tribute to Stevie Wonder. It’s a dreamy take on such classics as “Superwoman (Where Were You Last Winter),” “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” “Too High,” and “Golden Lady.” Legend has it that Madlib was not very happy with the results of the album, so he gave it out to record stations and a select pick of critics who ate it up entirely. After he realized that everyone loved the album, he released it with a bonus track, “That Girl.” Smart man.
Just this past winter, Madlib put out an album by Sound Directions (AKA Madlib) called The Funky Side of Life. It’s 30 minutes of purely energized instrumental funk hip-hop that’s full of layered horns, Madlib’s keys, odd percussions, steady beats, and bumping bass lines. In many instances free jazz is prevalent. It’s like a pocket-sized version of The J.B.’s that is enjoyable all the time. Listen to tracks like “The Horse,” or “Play Car” and you’ll see.
That’s an overview of Madlib’s most jazzy stuff, though he incorporates it throughout all his projects. Madlib is a true lover of jazz and says before you check out his stuff you should pay homage to what got him to where he is today. I say do it all at the same time if you haven't begun yet. Download Madlib spinning at a Santa Monica radio station here: Free Music

What My Ears Have Heard Lately:

Art Ensemble of Chicago Live in Paris
Sun Ra Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy
Akia Sasajima & Ron Carter Akioustically Sound
Bobby Hutcherson Montara
John Coltrane Lush Life


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