Courtney Pine

Underground

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The first thing that becomes clear on Courtney Pine's Underground is that the hip-hop-jazz hybrids of the 1990s (such as Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, US3, or even the Dream Warriors) missed their target; the combination is much stronger when it's jazz-hip-hop, and the latter becomes a textural element. Pine sticks to his guns-frenetic melodies, engaging song structures, and a keen ability to keep his jazz cool and never lite. Those talents shine further when given the icing of exquisite samples, particularly when the rapid-fire cuts and sharp sense of humor show a respect for turntablism. And lest Pine's jazz fans be dismayed, tracks like "Invisible" seamlessly slip back into Pine's masterful (more traditional) jazz persona. Of particular note is "Tryin' Times," one of the few tracks with vocals, which acts as both a lounge singer vehicle as well as venue for Pine's dizzying saxophone acrobatics. Underground is a great introduction to Pine's work, and if there's any justice, will someday be recognized as a benchmark jazz-hip-hop hybrid experiment.

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