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The Ripple Effect: Hybrids

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Hybrids is a jazz album in name only—specifically the names of multi-instrumentalist John Surman and drummer Jack DeJohnette, who leads this collaborative ensemble.

One of the few musicians to have recorded or performed with Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, DeJohnette's jazz credentials are obvious. But Hybrids tosses his cap into the modern electronica realm. With producers Ben Surman (John's son) and Big Al (the mastermind behind the Sonic Kitchen, one of UK's biggest and brightest electronic music studios), DeJohnette reinterprets seven of his own pieces in modern electronica. Four come from his recent collaboration with Mandingo griot Foday Musa Suso (Music From the Hearts of the Masters).

Hybrids does feature jazz and world music, but only as raw source materials for Surman to manipulate in the creation of a new electronic music hybrid. "I wanted to extract some of the grooves and melodies that I was drawn to and use them in a different context, retaining the groove and feel but placing it in a different musical setting," Surman says. "I wanted to move outside of the more traditional acoustic approach and add elements you wouldn't normally find in jazz." In this respect, these Hybrids might be more Surman's than DeJohnette's.

The opening track, "Ancient Techno," says a great deal about this set. DeJohnette's fluid drums bubble up from underneath their accompaniment, constantly changing patterns and sounding like... have you ever seen a sleight-of-hand artist spin several basketballs or china plates simultaneously, running between them all to keep them spinning and in balance? His drumming sounds like that looks.

"Na Na Nai" opens with Surman on either bass clarinet or saxophone, which then washes away in electronic ripples; next, vocals by Marlui Miranda, one of the world's leading researchers and performers of Brazilian Indian music, are shredded then laid in between the instruments. As Surman ghostwalks from the background into the foreground, the multiple layers (drum, voice, sax/clarinet, and electronic) coalesce to create a very new musical sound. DeJohnette again sets shifting tides of rhythm and sound, like a painter sampling from his palette, to create a new sound for futuristic "Worldwide Funk."

"The Just-Us Department," the final track (and the only new song), crunches out DeJohnette's most pronounced drumming on the entire set, pounding thick African drumming hewn in a modern, brittle icy metallic sound.


Track Listing: Ancient Techno; Na Na Nai; Worldwide Funk; Rose Garden; Dubwise; Ocean Wave; Corn Song; The Just-Us Department.

Personnel: Jack DeJohnette: drums; Foday Musa Suso: kora, vocals; Marlui Miranda: vocals; John Surman: saxophones, clarinet, recorder; Big Al: producer, engineer; Ben Surman: remixes, engineer.

Title: Hybrids | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Kindred Rhythm

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