Jaspects - Double Consciousness (2008)

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The Jaspects latest CD, Double Consciousness is a jazz record with a nice helping of hip-hop. The Jaspects' respect for hip-hop allows the sextet to merge two genres that - on the surface - appear to have nothing in common. Part of the group's strength in this area is they know one style has to take precedence over the other, and that jazz gets the top billing in their case. So while there is rapping on Double Consciousness, and a track such as "Be-Hop" has that hip-hop swagger, this is a jazz record at its core. An example of that is "Goodbye Love." The song features a rap in the middle. However the beginning and ending of the song feature improvised solos around a jazz melody.

The Jaspects latest CD, Double Consciousness is a jazz record with a nice helping of hip-hop. The Jaspects' respect for hip-hop allows the sextet to merge two genres that - on the surface - appear to have nothing in common. Part of the group's strength in this area is they know one style has to take precedence over the other, and that jazz gets the top billing in their case. So while there is rapping on Double Consciousness, and a track such as "Be-Hop" has that hip-hop swagger, this is a jazz record at its core. An example of that is "Goodbye Love." The song features a rap in the middle. However the beginning and ending of the song feature improvised solos around a jazz melody.

What the Jaspects' outside-the-box way of thinking does is open their minds up to new ways of presenting the straight ahead jazz that is their specialty. That can be heard in the group's arrangement of "A Night in Tunisia." The song includes a rap, but what makes this tune compelling is the way it's arranged. I've heard this song played Latin style. I saw Wynton Marsalis perform it as a Souza style march. However, most groups play it as a somewhat up-tempo song conceived by Dizzy Gillespie when he wrote the tune. The Jaspects play it as a slow drag, which goes real well with the love story told by the rap.

Listeners will also hear a lot of funk and blues on Double Consciousness (on tunes such as the very entertaining "Please Step Up Your Game," "You Got Me Funked Up" and "Shawty Dead Wrong") as well as hip-hop. If fusing other genres with jazz is the measure, perhaps the Jaspects should have titled this record Quadruple Consciousness. The Jaspects even drop a little rock on the electric guitar jam "One Last Cry Before I Say."

Still, the Jaspects never let the listener forget that Double Consciousness is a jazz record - and a pretty good one at that. The Jaspects' sound has definitely evolved and grown in the years since their first two records, In "House" Sessions and "Broadcasting the Definition" were released. The six members have become more confident as improvisers. Their solos are more creative, and the group is developing the kind of rapport that comes from playing jazz together for many years. That comfort and confidence might go a long way toward explaining why the Jaspects wanted to make a record that fused the jazz they started playing together at Morehouse University the with hip-hop, blues and funk music that influenced them over the years.

It's been nearly 20 years since Quincy Jones hooked up jazz giants such as James Moody and Sarah Vaughn with rappers on Back on the Block, and more than a decade since rapper Guru dropped the first of his Jazzamataz albums (part four came out last year). Jazz purists will probably never accept this experiment. Still, these jazz students realize that jazz has historically drawn energy from its ability to comment on the popular music of the day. In 2008, hip-hop is the popular music of the day, and the Jaspects make a serious and credible effort at reconciliation. It's largely successful because the members of this sextet know that they are jazz musicians, and that genre remains the base ingredient in the musical stew that the Jaspects cook up. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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