DJ Smash

Phonography, Vol. 2

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The second volume of DJ Smash's trawl through the archives of Blue Note and their various foreign outposts is on par with the first volume, less successful than expected. Too many of the tracks reside in the netherworld between hip-hop and jazz and result in an album full of unconvincing rap and overly smooth jazz. A few songs are complete disasters: the Hi Tek remix of Soulive's "Bridge to Bama" sounds like a weak '90s George Benson track, the Joe Claussell remix of the Wild Magnolias unsuccessfully attempts to jam a bunch of styles into one messy package, and worst of all is DJ Kingsize's lame jungle remix of the Bob Belden Project's already ill-advised cover of the Beatles' "Come Together." It is truly an embarrassment that even the great Cassandra Wilson can't salvage. A couple tracks cross over into club/dance territory: Marc Moulin's "Into the Dark" is a bland house cut and Goran Kajfes' "Mesqulero" is a slightly more successful song blending carnival sounds with house and some fiery trumpet blowing, but still comes up short. DJ Smash contributes to the overall malaise with his remixes. His remix of the Bob Belden Project's version of Prince's "Kiss" drains all the fun and funk out of the tune, leaving it vapid and lifeless; his remix of Bobby McFerrin's "Pat & Joe" is repetitive and more conducive to sleep than dancing. His remix of Medeski, Martin & Wood's "Uninvisible" is more successful, it is sonically interesting and brimming with energy. Among the dross, there are a few gems: the Henri Salvador track "Jazz Mediterranee" from his charming disc Room With a View is given a funky, loungy remix by Koop, and DJ Spooky's radical remix of Don Byron's "Belmando's Lip" features spooky, disembodied vocals, strange loops, and a memorable melody. Best of all is the last track: Jason Moran's reworking of Afrika Bambaata's "Planet Rock" is a genius act of invention from his Modernistic record. It is the one track that possesses any originality and heralds Moran as an inheritor of Thelonious Monk's madcap spirit and brilliance.

This series is one that is liable to satisfy few of the listeners it is aimed at: hip-hop heads will find it boring, jazz fans will wonder where the improvisation is, and dance kids will find the beats uninspiring. Blue Note should ask DJ Smash to turn in his key to the archives.

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