Gunter Hampel

Next Generation

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Back in 1995, Gunter Hampel, the irrepressible vibraphonist and bass clarinet player, assembled a new band in New York and began recording experiments in blending jazz and rap and hip-hop. He wrote jazz texts that embraced the teeming rhythms of R&B and charts for bringing rappers into the mix as well as a series of backing charts for singers. According to the inside booklet (in a truly amazing package), European kids were storming the stage and dancing their butts off to this music live. Here it sounds hackneyed, forced, and, well, confused. One of the problems is that in addition to writing the charts, Hampel fancies himself a lyricist as well -- big mistake. The lyrics are laughable to say the least -- full of clichés and exhortations for young people to get it together and "sweat your troubles out of your system." The other problem is that while the choruses of singers are prominent -- yet considerably mixed below the horns -- the rappers are barely audible. So on this level it becomes an R&B-driven jazz record with distractions. Hampel hasn't left his vanguard leanings at home, though; the horns, his bass clarinet, and saxophonist Christian Weidner solo over the top on almost the entire record, making for a muddled-up mess of a record and a lost-in-the-supermarket view of cultural miscegenation. To his credit, however, at least he tried, and given the fact he'd made around 80 or 90 records at this point, a bad one once in a while is no big deal.

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