When bassist and producer Bill Laswell puts together a project like this one, it's hard not to feel a little twinge of trepidation: his ability to pull together top-drawer talent is nearly unparalleled (and in this case he's gathered such A-list names as Grandmaster Melle Mel, Roc Raida, Amina Claudine Myers, Graham Haynes, and Bootsy Collins, among others), and he frequently puts them together in unusual and revelatory ways and draws exceptional performances from them. But when a Laswell project falls flat it falls really flat, and for this one he's set himself an unusually daunting challenge: to recast classic jazz and jump-blues songs in a dub/funk/electro/hip-hop setting. And this one really is a success, if at times an unlikely one. Opening with the obscure King Pleasure song "Little Boy Don't Get Scared," which is given a strangely laid-back, loping hip-hop arrangement, he proceeds to build dark and dubby structures into which the swinging vocals of Asante, Dana Bryant, Myers, and Alicia Renee are able to float and dance with plenty of room but also solid rhythmic support. At times the result evokes Skip McDonald's various projects with On-U Sound (notice the especially Little Axe-ish "I'm Gone"), and at others it evokes the early Material funk-soul project One Down. But every single track sounds unmistakably like a Laswell joint: the focus on old-school turntablism, the bottomless but richly melodic basslines, the retreating dubwise drum echoes. And in one thrilling departure, he takes the Duke Ellington standard "Cottontail" down a junglist rabbithole, with dubbed-up trumpets, skittering turntables, and layers of reverb-laden drums swirling in concentric circles of polyrhythmic bliss. Chalk this one up as another Bill Laswell triumph. ~ Rick Anderson
44694MBill Laswell - Little Boy Don't Get Scared (CD)http://oldies.scdn5.secure.raxcdn.com/i/boxart/large/11/74/3660341174616.jpg?v=431.49USDDiscontinuedDouglas RecordsCDJazzBill-Laswell2010-10-13
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