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April 2006

Various Artists
Unwrapped Vol. 4
Hidden Beach Recordings

A few years ago, someone somewhere realized that kids weaned on hip-hop might like to get their freak on listening to their favorite tunes with a funky-jazz makeover. Many CD sales later, there are plenty of CDs doing just that. But it's working both ways: The funky fusion has also given contemporary-jazz fans some hip-hop samples (pun intended) without having to drop dollars on 50 Cent. In fact, it's a good bet that most folks indulging in the latest edition of the popular Unwrapped series haven't found the courage to pick up recent works by 50 Cent or Fat Joe, two of the artists reworked here.

Back for Volume 4 are the series' primary musicians: saxophonist Mike Phillips, trombonist Jeff Bradshaw, guitarist Dennis Nelson, keyboardist Frank McComb and violinist Karen Briggs. What's interesting are the couple of old-school tunes, including the grayest beard in the books: the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," bass line intact but given a Latin big-band treatment. The band also covers "Rollin' With Kid N Play," while newer classics include Terror Squad's "Lean Back" and 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" and "21 Questions."

The original songs may be all that, but the real winners here are fans who get to hear some top-notch jazz jamming.

Originally published in April 2006
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