Bill Evans

Escape

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From Miles Davis' Doo-Bop to albums by Greg Osby and Steve Coleman, much of the "jazz/rap fusion" released has been more hip-hop than jazz -- essentially, hip-hop with jazz overtones. Bill Evans, however, has featured rappers in much the way a hard bopper would feature a singer -- on "Reality" and the poignant, reggae-influenced "La Di Da," rapper Ahmed Best successfully interacts with an actual, spontaneous, improvisatory band instead of merely pre-recorded tracks. Best's rapping style -- a cerebral approach akin to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest instead of more hardcore rappers like Tupac Shakur and Ice-T -- is well-suited to this challenging and complex jazz-fusion setting. On the instrumental side, Escape's triumphs range from the hard-edged jazz-funk pieces "Undercover" and "Rattletrap" to the sensuous, Brazilian-influenced "Coravillas." Though capable of tenderness and vulnerability, Evans has the good sense to avoid bloodless "smooth jazz" altogether.

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