Marc Ayza: Offering (2008)
Marc Ayza accomplishes a task that many have attempted with uneven results: artfully combining jazz and hip hop. The two idioms have had countless encounters, sometimes subtly cross-pollinating ideas as with Kahil El'Zabar's Infinity Orchestra on Transmigration (Delmark, 2007), or more overt works including Marcus Strickland's Open Reel Deck (Strick Muzik, 2007), and Bird Up! The Charlie Parker Remix Project (Savoy, 2003).
Ayza gigs on both sides of the street. The Spain-based drummer/composer's dexterous traps have been heard in performances with jazz names such as Jason Lindner, Claudia Acuna, Mulgrew Miller and Giulia Valle as well as involvement in Spain's hip hop music scene and New York rap artist Core Rhythm. From Jeff "Tain" Watts-like dynamics to the backbeats of The Roots' drummer "?uestlove," Ayza can deliver a variety of rhythms.
This zeitgeist jazz ensemble includes bassist Tom Warburton, pianist/keyboardist Roger Mas, and DJ Helios, whose sampling, mixing, and turntables are essential yet never overpowering to the music's core. Add some cerebral spoken word by Core Rhythm on a couple of tracks and the vibe is set.
Smoothness permeates the recording, starting with the title track as the band supports Core Rhythm's sultry poetry, sprinkled with sampled voice and chilled keyboards. It segues into "Matilda," an uplifting melody featuring Mas' eloquent acoustic piano and sticky rhythm work that is further enhanced by an alternating piano/synth soloa fresh spin on the classic piano trio.
Old and new school sounds surface throughout the recording. The ultra-hip "Sisters In Love" finds DJ Helios in the mix, adding slight sound textures to the swelling groove, while Ayza's nod to the great R&B singer, "Marvin Gaye," features a soulful ostinato bass pattern. DJ Helios teases with some nice free-styling on the intermission-like "So Far To Go."
But there's more than just smoke-filled venue grooves. "Jalish" recalls the infectious dance of Spain's barrios, Brazil's favelas, or Africa's shanty towns. The music is intensified by Ayza's drumming, Mas' free flight piano and DJ Helios' incredible syncopated turntable scratching. Quiet highlights include Mas' church organ touch on the ending of "Embrace" and the hypnotizing "Juanito's Groove"the epitome of modern soul music.
Ayza's succeeds in showing the continuity between both hip hop and jazz. Perfectly balanced, Offering is a good indicator of that intent with music that flows smoothly through both waters.
Track Listing: Offering; Matilda; Sisters In Love; Marvin Gaye 6; So Far To Go; Embrace; Juanito's Groove; Ego Dance; Jalish; Hotel Alexander; Outro.
Personnel: Marc Ayza: drums; Roger Mas: piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ, Nord Lead II (10); Tom Warburton: bass; DJ Helios: turntables; Core Rhythm: rap vocals (1, 7).