King Django

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Reason Review

by Rick Anderson

The preceding solo effort from Jeff Baker (aka King Django) was a brilliant fusion of ska, reggae, and klezmer traditions that looked like a joke at first glance but turned out to be surprisingly serious and deeply moving. This follow-up finds him heading in an entirely different direction, focusing on his toasting skills and drawing on dancehall, metal, and reggae influences. It's an interesting departure for someone who is known primarily for his work with the Stubborn All Stars, whose strictly traditional ska and rocksteady recordings have always been the cream of the New York crop. Here he's working with some of the usual suspects (guitarist Agent Jay and keyboardist Victor Ruggiero from the Slackers) as well as a clutch of new faces, including drummer Michael McDermott and programmer/turntablist Frank Mendez. His sound is aggressive but elegant; on the title track he successfully combines funky drumming, reggae backbeats, and rockish guitar, and on "Nex Season" he mixes loops, scratching, and dancehall speed rap to stunning effect. "Chase Pum Pum" is a rather tiresome self-celebration, but the reggae/hip-hop/jungle fusion experiments on "Hustle the Mac" and "Cold Fronting" are brilliant. A must for fans of modern reggae.

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