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Thirsty Ear has been the most successful label at bringing the worlds of hip-hop, jazz, and electronic music into one room... if they indeed belong in the same room.
Does one dilute the other? What does the word on the street reveal? There is no doubt that jazz has always had the ability to absorb and utilize other musical forms, from classical to samba to rock. The turbulence occurs as others are informed by jazz, smoothing it out to suit their needs.
Like his former outfit, Anti-Pop Consortium, Beans has the ability to deal with the concepts of jazz on his own projects. He has worked with Tortoise, Arto Lindsay, and Vernon Reid. Here he borrows bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake to make a nonconformist hip-hop record.
From a jazz perspective, Only offers the big fat bass sounds of William Parker's fingers projecting vibrations in multiple directions, as well as the drumming of Hamid Drake. To that add beats, loops and the occasional rhyme. For the most part, these 39 minutes feel like a work in progress, fragments of thoughts. The "something raw" aspect is the treasure. Too many hip-hop records are polished and commodified, but like Philadelphia's sons The Roots, Beans utilizes strong musicians to add authenticity.
I guess if Jackson Pollock could name his paintings using numbers, Beans can title his tracks the same way. The electronic hum of "Only 20 is bathed by Parker's bowed solo and Drake's brush work. As the track progresses, Drake plays the funky drummer and Parker pulls some heavy licks. Satisfying in itself, this track could indeed have been a live piece with no overdubs. And that, in my humblest opinion, is where jazz and hip-hop will have the best chance at cross-pollination.
Track Listing: Only 5; Only 1; Only 7; Only 4; Only 3; Only 71; Only 118; Only 20; Only 56; Only
Personnel: Beans: vocals, production; William Parker: bass; Hamid Drake: percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.