The Jahari Masamba Unit concept is part of the larger Jazz Universe project led by Otis Jackson, Jr., aka Madlib, DJ, beatmaker, multi-instrumentalist, rapper, activist, and promoter of Black American culture. His connection to jazz has always been obvious, as was the case for many of his associates on the road to high-quality hip-hop: the late J Dilla, Freddie Gibbs, Georgia Ann Muldrow, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, etc. Now 47 years old, Madlib has become a complete musician and here, he demonstrates his versatility. His back and forth with the excellent drummer Karriem Riggins, his multi-instrumental ease, and the complementary integration of participating jazz students generate a very inspired production. The aesthetic crossovers tend to cover a large part of “Black classical music”, an expression put forward here by Jahari Massamba, all the titles of which are written in French. Thus, several stylistic re-creations assembled in the manner of hip-hop beatmaking are scattered throughout the palette of colours: free jazz, jazz-funk, hip-hop jazz, groove jazz, electro-jazz, all orchestrated by a hip-hop artist, who is also a master of integrated collage. Keyboards, piano, organ, synths, bass, double bass, trumpet, flute, saxophone, trombone, drums, vibraphone, percussion, guitars, software, machines, and poetic spoken word are part of a refined progression. These musical styles are all part of the same vista, fused together with various Afro-jazz explorations and quotations built on the grooves of the drums, while huddling close are the spirits of Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock & Head Hunters, Weather Report first albums, Santana in his jazz cycle, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Mulgrew Miller, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Robert Glasper, Grover Washington Jr. and other Afro-American jazzmen who have distinguished themselves, from the ’60s to today. Assuredly Black, and frankly very, very cool!
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