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El-P: High Water (Mark)

New Yorker Jaime “EL-P” Meline is best known for his bombastic, psychedelic hip-hop productions and virulent rapping for Company Flow as well as his career as a solo artist for his Def Jux label. For pianist Matthew Shipp’s Blue Series, the caustic MC/producer hooks up with the resourceful house band, Blue Series Continuum, and overturns everything you know about him.

While El-P produces, arranges, composes and mixes High Water and adds idiosyncratic synth fills, he keeps a respectful distance from the crack jazz improvisers-and his trap shut. The brief CD bookends-“Please Stay (Yesterday)” and “Please Leave (Yesterday)”-find Roy Campbell’s mournful muted trumpet and Shipp’s lachrymose piano in a sentimental mood. Who suspected that beneath El-P’s gruff, nihilistic exterior, there beats the heart of a romantic softy?

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