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This is such an exciting time in the world of modern jazz. We are in the midst of a new wave of fusion where jazz artists unabashedly embrace current pop and world music sound forms. When Miles Davis went electric in the Sixties, it caused quite a stir; I can only hope this new brand of fusion can create a similar unrest in the world of jazz. The process of discovery and assimilation of new insights into culture and music is the fascinating feature about this nameless entity.
Dubtometry is the latest document of the new thang to cross my path, and here again, the process is what I find interesting. This album represents a sonic experiment in a cultural labyrinth. Sure, it's bubbling over with dub, hip-hop, bhangra, and all sorts of other musical elements, but what makes this album a powerful statement from a jazz perspective is the difficult process of figuring it all out. This album will not work for everyone in the jazz camp, and why should it? It can easily be dismissed as a dub or hip-hop album, but that's missing the point.
First off, Dubtometry isn't as strong a recording as its motherboard, Optometry. That's often the case with too many chefs in the same kitchen, but it's a courageous effort on the part of DJ Spooky, in that he is open to the process of the aforementioned cultural labyrinth. Some of the invited artists rest on tried and true tricks a little too often, while most push the envelope of what they understand into new shapes and sounds. That is the strength of this recording...it helps pull the rug out from under what we think we know!
Snippets of the original tracks pop up throughout the album. Embedded deep in the mixes is the original music made by Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo E. Brown, Joe McPhee, and DJ Spooky himself; that music came about more or less from a jazz perspective. The remixers come from various orientations of other musics. In jazz, musicians often think in terms of taking the bandstand and hittin' it live, while remixers work mainly from a studio perspective. Miles Davis would often take his electric bands into the studio and ask them to play, then his studio engineer Teo Macero would cut and splice the plastic medium of magnetic tape into new jazz forms.
They were interested in the creative process, and DJ Spooky seems to be very interested in his unfolding process as well. He is an important artist well worth checking out, and Dubtometry is a document filled with valuable questions. It's not an answer to the new questions of modern jazz, but I certainly admire the creative struggles this record presents to modern listeners!
Personnel: DJ Spooky, Mad Professor, Alter Echo, DJ Goo, Karsh Kale, Colorform, Twilight
Circus, J-Live, I-Sound, Blend, Negativland, Yab Yum, Animal Crackers: remixes.
Lee "Scratch" Perry: Narration, Remix; Matthew Shipp: Piano;
William Parker: Bass; Guillermo E. Brown: Drums;
Joe McPhee: Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet;
Daniel Bernard Roumain: Violin;
Carl Hancock Rux: Vocals.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.