Release Date: 10.21.03
Record label: Savoy Jazz
Genre(s): Classical, Jazz
Bird's STILL Spinning in His Grave
by: matt cibula
My low grade for this disc is not based on some kind of purist crap like that. Sure, my eyebrows almost shot up offa my head when I heard about this, but they returned soon enough; hey, why the hell not turn over the master tapes of the most important saxophone player EVER to a bunch of different modern musicians and let them mess around with them? Y'know, if it' s done right.
Well, dammit, it ISN'T done right. Not here. Not most of the time, anyway. Things get off to an ugly start with Red Hawk' s version of " Now' s the Time" (now called, cleverly, "The Time is Now" ). This is just an unambitious untuneful uninteresting waste of time, the original riffs with a dull-ass thump superimposed over it, and a duller-ass mumbly chant superimposed over that, and a boringly duller-ass soprano sax solo over that. Who is this Red Hawk? Who is sax player Deke Damascus? I DON' T CARE. I hope I don' t have to hear any more of this stuff.
Another offender with a bigger name attached: System of a Down' s Serj Tankian. What this guy does to "Bird of Paradise" is criminal, horrible, and a bunch of other words I'm too mad to look up in a thesaurus. He caterwauls tunelessly, he makes it into a ranty spoken-word piece, he obscures the pretty melody, he does everything you could think of to ruin a song. I actually didn' t hate System of a Down until right now.
Who else do I hate here? Well, there's someone called Donk, who gets a couple of tracks to ruin, and does a good job of that: "Congo Blues" is the most needlessly complicated sludge on the disc, and the new version of "A Night in Tunisia" (called "Downpour" ) is only slightly better, because of the actual Charlie Parker sax break at the 1:32 mark. And El-P applies his traditional sledgehammer murk to the closing track, with no good ensuing, but at least he' s trying to do something different. Better to go out on your sword.
There is some good stuff here: Hal Willner's group Whoops I' m an Indian fails to suck on their two tracks, which is impressive considering their ambition; Choco and the RZA (here called ZigZagZig) do a credible hip-bop fusion; the cool strut that Dan the Automator does on his two tracks is very impressive; and I am digging very much the stuff Me'shell Ndengécello is doing right here with her tune "August 29."
But the best thing on the disc BY FAR is turned in by The X-ecutioners. Rob Swift, who has got to be the finest turntablist of all time, has arranged Bird' s song "Cheers" into a group piece for his four-man scratching crew, wherein they scratch every single note of every single solo. Perfectly. I' m not kidding; it's inspiring and weird and fun and historical and modern all at the same time. This is the only reason this disc is getting two stars instead of one from me.
And the producers better be glad that I don' t review liner notes, because what Touré does here is a hype job and a damned shame. Dude: you' re a good writer, seriously; stop with the hack for-hire jobs already!
So yeah, ick. Don' t waste your time here. Someday someone will do this better, but today is not that day.