William S. Burroughs turned the literary world on its ear with his "cut-up" style of writing. He simply chopped completed texts into pieces, mixed bunches of different texts together, then glued the results together into juxtaposed compositions. This often made for some interesting albeit convoluted reading. John Cage applied similar techniques to his writing and music composition in an attempt to free minds from following well-worn conceptual pathways. Mike Ladd's Negrophilia
follows in those footsteps to some degree; the music appears to be rather "chopped" and reorganized, although the lyrical content of this effort is quite linear and not terribly abstract.
As with Ladd's In What language (Pi, 2003), pianist Vijay Iyer plays a significant role in the overall feel of this music. Drummer Guillermo E. Brown provides a great deal of form and direction to the music, while it seems Ladd is the wordsmith and main architect of the cut-ups. Ladd's main strength as a leader lies in his ability to collaborate with such talented sidemen and provide them with the means to fully contribute in the formation of so much of this music. He has assembled a group of very strong improvisors who obviously are concerned with ensemble and compositional results.
This music is hip to the current directions of pop and rap, and it possesses a complex, multi-faceted emotional character that references Astro Black -era Sun Ra, middle period Funkadelic, and Don Byron's Tuskeegee Experiments (Elektra, 1990).
From a compositional point of reference, this music is quite strong. Brown's rhythmic pulses do much to bring this disc to life. By way of his keen sense of style and rich lexicon of rhythmic styles, he glues the most abstract portions of this musical stew together, transforming the disparate bits into a teeming, cohesive whole. Ladd and company have done a fine job of cutting, recontextualizing, and then reconstructing the various chunks of information they have to work with.
This music has a strong emotional qualityit's charged, dangerous, passionate, dispossessed, repossessed, stoned, and beautiful. It is a wonderful marriage of rage, discipline, intelligence, and flat-out funk (check the bassoon section of "Back At Ya"). This album represents yet another cultural step forward in the evolution of modern jazz. This is refreshing, vital music for a new generation of listeners, and of course, any older ears that are still open.
As a side note, the artwork used throughout this effort is superb and brings out another distinctive layer of information to an already information-rich work of art. Highly recommended.
Personnel: Andrew Lamb-winds; Roy Campbell-Trumpet; Vijay Iyer-piano, organ and synthesizer; Guillermo E.
Brown-drums and electronics; Bruce Grant-tape loops; Marguerite Ladd-sampled composition; Mike