Thursday, October 05, 2006

Radical Reconstructive Surgery

This was a bit of a random purchase, but a good one all the same. It's even more surprising when you consider the background to the record. Scott Harding (aka Scotty Hard, aka Radical Reconstructive Surgery) is a Canadian born producer who spent the 80s and 90s working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Biz Markie, Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang Clan. Some of that influence percolates through into his latest release on the independent Thirsty Ear label.

He's gathered together a simmering collection of talent including keyboard maestros John Medeski and Matthew Shipp. The coming together of sequenced, often heavy beats with jazz virtuosity is beautifully balanced and goes way beyond any ideas you might have about 'jazz-rap' production from previous excursions into the genre. There's a real sense of flow to the album - the tracks have been sequenced carefully to give the impression of listening to a single, constantly evolving piece of music. Opener 'Primray Humor' and the following 'St. Clare's Hospital' layer big hip-hop beats over abstract electronic sounds and some amazing piano work courtesy of Shipp. As the album continues the pace gets less frantic, the beats die down in intensity, and the funky hammond of Medeski gets a chance to shine - first dirty, as on 'Eclipse', then bluesy and funky on 'Apothecary's Cabinet'. The arrangements are constantly challenging - the beats might be sequenced, but we're not talking four-to-the-floor here, intricate rhythmic patterns are augmented and lightened by live drums and bass.

Standout track on the album, though, is the closer, 'Round 2', which sounds as pugilistic as it's title would suggest. A mid-paced grinder, it sees John Medeski playing some seriously dirty hammond, which is then further processed into a staggering wall of sound that bombards and delights in equal measure. This record really does sound like nothing else out there at the moment. It's another example of jazz innovation that totally does away with any association with bop or it's many offshoots, free-jazz included. It's still high-quality, cleverly constructed improvised music, simply with a different set of influences than those that Bird had in the late 1940s. To paraphrase Miles, 'It's about time'.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

Thanks so much for highlighting this album... I grabbed a copy last night and am mid-way through it now... it's got that rare 5 star potential. Really phenomnal, unique, genre-crossing stuff.

And I know what you mean about previous jazz-rap crossover attempts. The best efforts of ten years ago feel painfully antequated now. Something like this, though, may be looked at as a turning point.