Monk Hughes

A Tribute to Brother Weldon

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The meandering grooves on A Tribute to Brother Weldon are rubbery and jumbled. Only on occasion do they seem to be directly inspired by Weldon Irvine, the late soul-jazz veteran who embraced and mentored numerous members of the hip-hop generation, Madlib (the figure behind this set) included -- the brief flickers of resemblance tend to take place when the keyboard work is at its most far-reaching and spaced-out. If you're looking a tribute to Irvine in a truer, more traditional sense, seek out the interpretations singled out by the man himself in the liner notes -- Freddie Hubbard's "Mr. Clean," Stanley Turrentine's "Sister Sanctified," Donny Hathaway's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" included, along with unmentioned desirables like Bernard Wright's "Won't You Let Me Love You" and Horace Silver's "Liberated Brother." Irvine, who has had his work sampled by Boogie Down Productions, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, and many others, deserves any and all recognition he can get. (He took his own life in 2002, and his legacy is much greater than the size of his devout fan base would indicate.) Though Madlib has clearly made a substantial effort to keep Irvine's spirit alive, this unfocused set lacks a tether and perhaps a conceptual angle -- two elements that helped make Irvine's solo recordings work so well. Plus, this disc is 74 minutes in length, making the trek from muddled beginning to fizzling end all the more difficult to plow through.

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