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Yesterdays New Quintet: Yesterdays Universe

The Stop Smiling Tuesday Reviews

Stones Throw

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Yesterdays New Quintet: Yesterdays Universe
(Stones Throw)

Reviewed by Graham Sanford

As Madlib recently proclaimed, Yesterdays New Quintet is dead. The title of the disc in question implies as much — that it's a been-there, done-that swan song and it's time for its creator to move on. For the past six years, the LA-based producer and beatmaker has used the YNQ moniker as a means of exploring his jazz-oriented affinities. As with prior YNQ outings, Yesterdays Universe constitutes a tribute to those artists of a certain era (the late Sixties and early Seventies) who aimed to keep jazz vital, dynamic and expressive at a time when many were aiming to streamline it for the sake of commercial viability. The result is 15 honorary replies to the artistic spirits behind bygone labels like Strata East and Tribe Records rather than, say, the contemporaneous proto-fuzak of the CTI and Kudu coteries.

Madlib's many familiar alter-egos — the Otis Jackson Jr. Trio, Sound Directions, Ahmad Miller — make a return, but fragment further into a total of 10 fictional entities such as the Suntouch, the Jahari Massamba Unit, the Eddie Prince Fusion Band, et al. The range of musical styles is likewise multifaceted, running from the Young Jazz Rebels in full, free-jazz mode, to the wah-wah fueled trot of Kamala Walker and the Soul Tribe’s "Street Talkin’.” There are also a few jaunts into “cosmic” and Indo-fusion domains. Thanks to contributions from Azymuth percussionist Ivan Conti, there are a few numbers that coast by on a heavy dose of samba breeziness and a melodic sensibility that recalls Herbie Hancock, circa Empyrean Isles. But there is also an ample supply of funky breakbeats as 'Lib gets loose on the kit under the Otis Jackson Jr. Trio moniker, serving up some cuts that run deep with punchy flute, vibes and fuzzed-out electric keys.

Admittedly, many of the tracks fall short of full-blown compositions, with a few feeling truncated or abrupt. The main exception is the 12-minute cover of Phil Ranelin’s “Vibes From The Tribe,” which stretches out in the languid groove of the original tune before flexing into double-time for a sprint to the finish line. In the end, the premise of this being a compilation — an offering of varied efforts by the scattering associates of YNQ — provides a varied musical palette. And as anyone familiar with Madlib's copious output would expect, it's sufficiently off-kilter enough to set it apart from your standard “acid jazz” fare.

 

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