Moodymann

Black Mahogani 2

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The only genuine connection between Black Mahogani and Black Mahogani 2 is that the same person is responsible for both releases. The first Black Mahogani, released earlier in 2004, was the fifth in a series of quasi-compilations from Kenny Dixon, Jr. that wickedly interlaced loose ends of the producer's vinyl releases with some new tracks. Black Mahogani 2, put out just a few months after the predecessor, is a real head-scratcher. It's not terribly surprising to hear Dixon go with a mostly organic instrumental setup, with little in the way of sampling and programmed rhythms. It is, however, unsettling to have him break a streak of five full-lengths (three of which happen to be masterpieces) with something so slight and insignificant. The album, if it's supposed to be considered an album, contains four tracks that clock in at just over half an hour. The opening cut is a circular soul-jazz jam that lasts nearly 18 minutes. Over a drum kit, standup bass, and electric piano -- along with traces of alto sax and string-sample smears -- Dixon intones a few lines in whispers. It's so subdued that the group who laid it down could've been keeping the energy level low enough to be respectful to the passed-out stragglers in the lounge it might've been recorded in. That's not the problem, though. The problem is that the whole thing is so loose and off-the-cuff that only traces of useful ideas are contained within. The following "Rectify" is relatively succinct; there's a little more pop in the bassline, but again, it sounds too much like everyone involved is just messing around and beginning to feel each other out. "Dirty Little Bonus Beats" is a brief extension that allows the drums and piano to flex just a little more, and "When She (Reprise)" adds a little more percolating energy. Anyone who has heard more than a few minutes of Dixon's work knows that the man is one of the most versatile producers around. He's been known to pump out a poor track every now and then, but it's rather alarming to see it happen on this scale. If he has already released his Mwandishi, Crossings, and Head Hunters, consider this his Lite Me Up.

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