Drexciya: it’s not just music, it’s a mythology! Like the Saturnalia of Sun Ra, Drexciya’s aquatic electronics are perfectly integrated with theories about a sub-oceanic mutated species, the offspring of pregnant slave women who were thrown overboard with the sick and dying during ocean crossings. THE QUEST, Drexciya’s career-spanning previous release, was reported to be their last transmission from the murky depths, but happily that was not the case. NEPTUNE’S LAIR contains all-new material, every bit as unique and brilliant as their previous releases: part electro, part techno, and all Drexciyan. This is some of the most important music coming out of Detroit, period.
One of the busiest trumpeteers in modern jazz, Dave Douglas has recorded with everyone from Braxton to Zorn, and released several albums under his own name with various instrumental configurations. This time it’s a quartet, featuring Douglas on trumpet, Chris Potter on tenor sax, James Genus on bass, and Ben Perowsky on drums. The result is a melodically sophisticated but perhaps too polite collection of nine original Douglas compositions, ranging from the swingin to the moody and meditative. On “Padded Cell” the band plays a little more freely and this, for me, was the most interesting track.
Jamaican deejay Dr. Alimantado is primarily known for his deejay toasting and for his Lee Perry-inspired dub productions from the mid- 70’s. Unfortunately, this 1979 album features neither. (Check out BEST DRESSED CHICKEN IN TOWN for the “classic” Dr. Alimantado sound.) What this album does feature, however, is some fine roots reggae vocals by the good doctor, along with instrumental accompaniment from some of Jamaica’s finest, including members of the Revolutionaries, Roots Radics, etc. Until the next Pressure Sounds or Blood & Fire reissue, this’ll do just fine.
Half philosopher and half con artist, DJ Spooky is one of those musicians who remain interesting almost in spite of the erratic quality of their output. While I wasn’t particularly enthralled with his album FILE UNDER FUTURISM, the title track, offered up here in the album version plus two remixes from A Guy Called Gerald, was certainly the best thing on it. The (original) “Grooveprotocol Mix” is a relentless and funky beat barrage, like taking a more ordinary drum’n’bass track and puree-ing it in the musical veg-o-matic. A Guy Called Gerald offers up a more conventional drum’n’bass mix, plus an ambient mix of the track, and rounding out the EP is “Osmose” a trip-hoppy non-LP track that features an effective use of strings not unlike the more pastoral work of The Raincoats.
The “fourth member” of Medeski, Martin, and Wood has amassed a staggering amount of downtown NYC talent on his debut CD. But despite the constantly shifting lineup, it sounds as cohesive as the best Bill Laswell fusion projects. From John Medeski’s Hammond B3 workouts, to rap from the Anti-Pop Consortium, to the Eastern vibes of tabla master Karsh Kale, to go-go, trip hop, and Latin beats, the whole shebang is marveously sewn together by the textural skitting and whizzing of turntablist Logic. A truly impressive debut.
DJ Krush drops another musical bomb, this time in the form of a DJ mix CD. But when you’re one of the world’s foremost turntablists, you don’t just crank out any old collection of tunes. No, this is an honest-to-god “composition,” blending elements of jazz, pop, and hip hop into a virtually seamless whole that retains the familiar “blunted beat” sound Krush is known for. A few previous Krush cuts show up here, along with some recognizable vocals from Beats International and Esthero. But mostly the source material is unfamiliar, and sounds as fresh as anything Krush has previously come up with. Dope, dope, dope!
DJ Food could well be considered the “flagship artist” in the Ninja Tune roster, since half of the label’s first ten albums were released under that name. But “DJ Food” began life as more of a pun than an actual group; their JAZZ BRAKES VOLUMES 1-5 were collections of breaks and beats intended primarily for DJ’s rather than casual listeners. The DJ Food lineup was also fluid, with original members Matt Black and Jonathan More (aka Coldcut) fading in and out of the project as time permitted, eventually turning things over entirely to their cohorts Patrick Carpenter and Kevin Foakes. By their sixth release, A RECIPE FOR DISASTER, the DJ Food output had gotten too sophisticated for the background of a DJ set. This latest album is the most ambitious one yet, with beats taking a back seat to atmosphere. The first half of the album is simply stunning, featuring some wonderful collaborations with Bundy K. Brown and Ken Nordine, as well as some inspired collages featuring the cult albums HUSTLER’S CONVENTION and HOW TO SPEAK HIP. After track 7, the album starts to meander, but overall it’s as eclectic and inspired as the Ninja Tune label itself. File under postmodern urban soundtracks.
Master crate digger Egon of Stones Throw (and offshoot label Now-Again) dusts off two more rare-as-hens-teeth funk 45s and gives them a new life on this split 12″ for the more budget-minded funk lover. Combining the original 2-part tracks into one seamless groove on each side, this release showcases the output of Herb Miller’s Indianapolis-based Lamp Records, circa 1969-1972. The Diplomatics’ “Hum-Bug” kicks things off on the A side with a mid-tempo, Hammond-fueled instrumental featuring a chorus of funky horns and an extra long drum break. Then on the flip we get Amnesty’s “Everybody Who Wants to Be Free,” a prime slice of uplifting, Afro-centric soul from this eight-member vocal group. Thanks, Egon!
The evolution of New York jazz continues with this latest release from the infant AUM Fidelity label. Whit Dickey is a first-class drummer best known for his work with Matthew Shipp and David S. Ware. On his first recording as a leader, he is aided and abetted by Rob Brown on alto sax and Chris Lightcap on bass. Inspired by the music of Thelonius Monk and David S. Ware, the trio skitter and squonk through eight tracks of exhilarating free jazz. All three players are equal partners on this recording, creating an intricate conversation of rhythm and mood. While challenging at first, the record opens up upon repeated listening. Favorite tracks: the intensely moody Penumbra, the drums/bass/flute combination of “Tableau,” and the excellent ensemble piece “Kinesis.”
Repeating the success of his brilliant album of Jimi Hendrix covers (THIRD STONE FROM THE SUN), renowned flautist Robert Dick again teams with the Soldier String Quartet to re- interpret the work of others. This time the goal was to cover songs that had, up until now, remained relatively uncovered, including compositions by Coltrane and Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Eric Dolphy, and Hendrix (again). The arrangements by David Soldier are stellar and the performances, particularly by flautist Dick and violinist Regina Carter, are awe-inspiring. Of special note: the blues jam of Hendrix s Machine Gun, the complex eastern funk of Coleman’s “Three Wishes,” and the cinematic exotica of Coltrane’s “India.” An album that refuses to be ignored.
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