A year or so before there was an actual band called Breakestra, there existed a first Breakestra recording. An explanation is required. In 1996, Miles Tackett gathered together a group of friends for an extended jam session. The object: take vintage soul, funk, and jazz breaks and replay them as a live "mix," sort of funk with a hip-hop ethos. That session was recorded and became the cassette-only collector's item Live Mix, Pt. 1. The group, under Tackett's direction, would eventually evolve into Breakestra, and it sold the cassette in the Los Angeles nightclubs where it held a showcase fittingly called "The Breaks." By 2000, Breakestra had finally emerged on the international music scene, and after word had gotten out about Live Mix, Pt. 1 (particularly in Europe), Tackett and manager Charles Raggio decided to make it available for the first time on CD as a limited run of 1,000 copies, sold exclusively through online retailer Giant Peach. (It was also later made available in Japan by Stones Throw with initial sales of Breakestra's Live Mix, Pt. 2.) A complicated back-story that still doesn't answer the important question: Is it worth going to the trouble of tracking down? Indeed, it is. And it sounds just like you might expect from the above explanation: a Tower of Power for the rap generation. The set that takes up the opening two-thirds of the album is the aforementioned continuous mix of breakbeats (Jimmy Smith's "Root Down," Herbie Hancock's "Open Your Eyes," Bobby Byrd's "I Know You Got Soul") as sampled by artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest and then translated back into the live vernacular. Breakestra's versions pass the blindfold test and then some. That leaves a trio of songs: the band's initial 1999 single, "Getcho Soul Together," a funky howl of a song that channels the spirit of the J.B.'s at their juicy best; a facsimile cover of the rare Sly & the Family Stone track "Remember Who You Are"; and "Sexy Popcorn Pot," which might just as well be an original as a hybrid of James Brown's "Mother Popcorn" and Tony Alvon & the Belairs' crate-digger classic "Sexy Coffee Pot" (the obvious prototype), even if you can never quite make the distinction of which it is. A bit rough in spots, but no matter -- funk is supposed to be messy. And this album is funk to the bone.
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