Reviews:: Herbie Hancock & The Harlem Experiment

It's the holidays. You either love them or you hate them, but chances are you have at least one gathering to attend. As much as you'd like to throw on the audio accompaniment to the Pretty Toney book and motivate your guests to invent a new toilet bowl or something, you might need some tracks that are exciting, but mellow enough to blend into the background.

One record that fits the bill is the new release from Herbie Hancock. Now, back in the day my knowledge of Herbie was limited to Rockit and its appearance on the NBA Superstars II tape as the backing track for Mark Price and Hang Time's Reggie Theus, but over the years I really got into Herbie's funk era recordings and his early jazz work. He lost me for a bit when he started doing records like Future2Future, but he's like Stevie or Hall & Oates. Lifetime pass.

His latest release is River and the songs are his take on Joni Mitchell's style and influence. Herb twinkles the ivories in jazzy, sincere tributes to Joni and the album features some fantastic guests (Corine Bailey Rae, Joni, and Leonard Cohen) and the soothing grooves are a perfect pairing for your holiday get-togethers.

He crafted the tracks based on Joni's lyrics and the results are very nice. I think my favorite track is Tea Leaf Prophecy, just because it's great to hear Joni's trademark vocals over the simplistic percussion and piano fills. It's like the Dude's rug, it really ties the record together, but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I was shocked by Tina Turner's take on Edith And The Kingpin.
MP3:: Tea Leaf Prophecy

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On the other side of the coin is the Harlem Experiment. This is the latest in Ropeadope's series that started with ?uestlove's Philly based project. This record roams the back streets of Harlem and touches on the nitty, gritty styles that helped shape Harlem's music scene.

Instead of sounding dated, the effort manages to glance backwards and still look forward at the same time. It's a great mix of old and new, with big drums and scratching mixed seamlessly with a Latin-inspired cover of Cab Calloway (Reefer Man with Taj Mahal stepping into Cab's role), a Benny Goodman mambo or a radio classic like A Rose in Spanish Harlem (featuring James Hunter on vox).

The record opens with DJ Arkive production on One For Jackie, a drum heavy number with horns dotting the horizon. They twist up Rigor Mortis - a classic by Shane's fav cod-piece sporting band, Cameo - and make it a funked out Hammond driven number instead of the super disco breakin you'd expect. The collaborators are able to transform classic tracks - Harlem River Drive is a ripper and the Jimmy Castor track (It's Just Begun) let's Arkive dismantle the track and former Run-DMC keyboardist Eddie Martinez builds it back up.

The record is a time capsule, but one that wasn't buried for years as the music has lived on. The album closes with Olu Dara and one of his trademark lyrical paintings. Walking Through Harlem gives us all a glimpse into what it's all about.
MP3:: A Rose in Spanish Harlem - The Harlem Experiment ft. James Hunter

Video:: Reefer Man


@ 8:26 PM, Blogger Freddie Sirmans kicked the following game:

This is a very, very interesting blog.

 

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