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July/August 2003

Detroit Experiment
The Detroit Experiment
Ropeadope

A project called "The Detroit Experiment" would have to include something, at least, loosely connected to Motown Records. Stevie Wonder's "Too High" is the entry, and it shines here as it has countless times before by many others. This time Wonder's tune is under the guidance of a lone artist, vocalist and keyboardist Amp Fiddler, whose commitment to taking Wonder's legendary composition to another dimension is evident from the moment he begins to moan the lyrics. This is a foreshadowing to the listener too: The Detroit Experiment will take chances while upholding Detroit's rich music tradition.

Like the 2001 release from Ropeadope by the Philadelphia Experiment, the goal in the Detroit Experiment is to let great musicians make great music. There are jazz greats here (Geri Allen), and there are rising stars (Regina Carter). There are classic songs ("Space Odyssey") and there are spiritual numbers that seem to belong on another album ("There Is a God"). The album's diversity is considerable too. Case in point is just as Allen and Carter conclude their spiritual statement on "There Is a God," the album erupts into "Church," a sanctified rock-fusion number that recalls jazz's funk-rock period. And just as Fiddler concludes his tribute to Wonder on "Too High," the offering is "Highest," an atmospheric journey of quirky accessibility. There is superb flute work by Allan Barnes on "Midnight at the Twenty Grand" and even better trumpet work by local Detroit legend Marcus Belgrave anywhere he appears. There is some rap here as well (Detroit, like most cities, cannot ignore it), on "The Way We Make Music," but it is underdeveloped.

Yet there are so many bright spots on this CD, and it isn't likely you will be turned off by the appearance of an average rap song. If anything, the effort and nerve of the individuals who put this project together will be celebrated by many while we wait for Ropeadope to come to our city next.

Originally published in July/August 2003
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