Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey

Butcher Brown

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Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey Review

by Thom Jurek

MC Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey featuring Tennishu and R4ND4ZZO BIGB4ND takes the notion of collaboration to an entirely new level in modern popular music. The set's roots lie in the band's rapper/multi-instrumentalist/producer Marcus Tenney (aka Tennishu) creating beats for both this band and other artists during 2020's quarantine. Bassist/composer Andrew Randazzo (also director of the Randazzo Big Band) began writing and arranging music for them as a deconstructive meditation on the big band. Employing the premise that this tradition is historically a vehicle for dancing, he crafted an expansive harmonic palette that relied on rhythm tracks first. The end result doesn't remotely recall the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, or Glenn Miller. If anything, this has more in common with Nils Landgren's Funk Unit or the WDR Big Band, but above all, this is a party album.

Opener/intro "Triple Trey" is introduced by moaning trombones, a swinging drum kit, saxes, and muted trumpets laying down a sweeping groove behind Tenney, who exhorts listeners to "get ready and strap in." "Freeze Me" employs a tuba bassline and keyboards in framing a fat, dirty vamp for striated horns, vibes, syncopated beats, and a massive drum kit behind the bumping double-time rap of the MC. Loping instrumental crescendos add swirling depth and texture. "Lawd Why" establishes its sweeping, swinging palette of brass and reeds with a piano. Tenney enters chanting the title before meditating on trying to understand forces in life beyond his control. It's one part prayer, one part confessional, one part existential argument. The three-part "777' is a mini-suite. Its warm, lush intro features Tenney on trumpet atop drummer Corey Fonville's breaks. Though the first section is a languid instrumental, the tune's core finds Tenney rapping about trouble, acceptance, and hope as the big band unfurls behind him with gorgeous harmonics and a sweet guitar break from Morgan Burrs. "Brevina" sounds like a chart arranged by Johnny Pate for a cop film. Undergirded by DJ Harrison's jagged keys and Randazzo's rubbery bassline, Fonville creates a backbeat groove while the big band adds spiky punctuation under Tenney's rap before cutting loose during the bridge. A fingerpopping cover of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Unbelievable" is introduced by Tenney chanting, "Biggie Smalls is the illest" before horns, keys, and backing vocals create sweeping funk with bluesy trumpet and sax breaks and a driving bassline. MC Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey featuring Tennishu and R4ND4ZZO BIGB4ND is startling in its scope, musicality, and execution. It registers right alongside innovative work from Nubya Garcia, Kamasi Washington, Yazz Ahmed, and Nerija's Shirley Tetteh in creating a fertile, sophisticated approach that extends the big-band tradition in the context of modern hip-hop.

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