Mondo Grosso


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Shinichi Osawa, the pioneering sole member of Mondo Grosso, has been credited with Japan's stylistic music renaissance since his 1993 debut. Opening the doors to an R&B boom in Japan, Osawa's experimental musical alchemy incorporates the seemingly incongruous elements of crossover jazz and hip-hop with bossa nova and two-step. With MG4, Osawa takes on a global melange of styles with an eclectic variety of guest appearances. Former Brand New Heavies' lead diva, N'Dea Davenport, breathes life into the up-tempo electronic R&B cut "Show Me Love." Former Groove Theory siren Amel Larrieux's restrained, melancholy vocals drive the quiet "Now You Know Better." Other standout tracks include "Life," with its pulsating samba rhythm and lyrical offerings from Brazilian songstress Paula Lima and the moody straight-ahead jazz tune "1974-Way Home." Osawa's avant-garde artistry is well-taken here as jazz, electronica, and R&B collide with often stellar results. However, some of the synthetic instrumentation clashes with the vocal tracks and fails to capture any sense of mood at all. The Eastern interpretation of urban music here also lacks the genre's usual grit and fortitude. When Osawa sticks to the neighborhood of jazz and R&B, MG4 rises above Mondo Mediocro.

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