Billy Bang

Forbidden Planet

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While violinist Billy Bang is well known as a deep improviser who has done time with everyone from Ronald Shannon Jackson and James Blood Ulmer to Dennis Charles and Henry Threadgill, this set is of a different order altogether. Hanging out with a bunch of German funk musicians, Bang has issued his debut as the leader of a funk/rap jazz band. Forbidden Planet is an amalgam of tunes that calls old-school Sugar Hill rap music into the stream with slippery midnight funk, groove jazz, and just a touch of vanguard improv in the shadows. When the album begins with "I'm Billy Bang" and the leader begins to boast of his achievements and rap about the hood, you know something's up. But it would be unfair to dismiss this recording as a sellout attempt. Especially when there are gorgeous tracks like "Don's Dream" in the mix with its off-minor, Native American groove over a double-break backbeat of hand and kit drums and a twinned guitar line that comes straight from the Delta driven by a funked-up bass clarinet line and a killer set of loops. On "Gotta Dance," Bang creates a funk vamp on an augmented minor seventh and rides it into the groove, rapping subliminally with backing vocalists laying in the cut. The slow, ringing, dirty slide guitar on "Monkey Joe Coleman" is enough to send chills up the listener's spine as Bang raps a Langston Hughes poem and keeps his violin in shimmer mode, slipping through one glissando after another in a slow, bluesy funk that cuts it from the middle until the rock & roll crescendo on the refrains. It smokes. This may not be the Billy Bang everybody knows, but I'd like to hear more from this guy.

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