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Mike Ladd – Negrophilia

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First posted on Mark Is Cranky:

Negrophilia? It’s a book written by Petrine Archer-Straw about the prevalence of black culture in jazz-age Paris. Mike Ladd uses that topic as a partial point of origin for this most excellent Blue Series release.

Ladd and company (Vijay Iyer on piano,organ and synthesizer, Guillermo E. Brown on drums and electronics, Andrew Lamb on winds, Roy Campbell on trumpet and Bruce Grant: tape loops) combine bits of tape and synthesized weirdness with some seriously funked up acoustic music. Ladd’s own spoken word and rap vocals occasionally pop in, providing more commentary on the concept. This is some exhilarating stuff:

The opening “Field Work (The Ethnographer’s Daughter)” begins with a sample of a country-blues-ish guitar along with some skeletal percussion. This widens out with what I began to think of an an aural model of what jazz-age Paris might have sounded like, with various horn notes coming from near and far, left and right. Then the funk begins as the Campbell’s trumpet works hard against a synth-bass groove. “The French Dig Latinos Too” starts with a quick ride cymbal pattern that is soon mirrored by the bassline. At first, the sax and trumpet seem to careen out of this funk. Later on all instruments drop away except for the drums, which are soon joined by the piano, dropping broken shards of chords all over the floor.

Phew! There’s almost too much to describe here (maybe like Paris in the 1920’s?) A few more attempts:

“Appropriated Metro” almost approaches Photek-like electronica with its skittish opening and Dali-melted, mediated programming. “Nancy & Carl Go Christmas Shopping”. Hmmm. I can’t explain this, but it reminds me of “Sentimental Walk” from the soundtrack to the movie Diva…except that “Sentimental Walk” is all about romance while this tune is all noir.

I tell ya, if Miles Davis had lived into our current age of digital technology, sampling and mash-ups, he would have made a record just like this one. Coming from the other direction, if Public Enemy had a jazz thing goin’ on, they also might have ended up here.

This isn’t to say that Mike Ladd’s Negrophilia is in any way derivative. It’s just that the deep groove and funk of electric-years Miles and the Bomb Squad-like sonic elements resonate here throughout, very much like the far-reaching influence of that collision of cultures in the 20’s.

(Negrophilia will be released February 8th, 2005 on Thirsty Ear Records)

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