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April 1999

Russell Gunn
Ethnomusicology Vol. 1
Atlantic Records

This album is a rough-shod, self-conscious attempt to mix the rhythms and concepts of scratchy, hip-hop aesthetics with the atmospheric, Miles-inflected trumpet of Russell Gunn and an ensemble of other young musicians.

The result doesn't satisfy; while at times they get a good funky groove going, the beats ultimately are pale and monotonous, and the clash of the mismatched cultures is jarring. The sum of these parts doesn't make a whole, while I'm sure that the album will gain adherents from a fusion-driven popular crowd. However, the effect has no lasting value.

Some of the musicianship is fine, and the saxophone solos of Gregory Tardy and Andre Williams are searing at times. However, the rambunctious interplay, not without its charms, has no sustaining vitality. The interpolated rap snippets are pretentious and shallow, and add nothing to the presentation.

Originally published in April 1999
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