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John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet at the Earshot Jazz Festival

After ruling the hip-hop underground, championing the cause of black rock, starring Off-Broadway and appearing in films of both blockbuster and art-house varieties, Mos Def has proven himself an explorer as well as an eclectic. Along the way, the Brooklyn rapper has amassed a sizeable and dedicated following–hip-hop aesthetes ready and willing to follow his lead. And on a recent Friday the 13th, they were led to a noisy stretch of West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village, where their hero was launching a three-night incursion onto conspicuous jazz turf.

Mos had chosen propitious partners for this endeavor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney has been an advocate of the early-’70s fusion of mentor Miles Davis; one might reasonably assume that his sax-playing brother Antoine shares the sentiment. Pianist Orrin Evans has long nursed an affinity for Afro-centric soul and R&B, most recently with the falsetto crooner Bilal. Bassist John Benitez is well accustomed to cultural and musical fusions. And drummer Will Calhoun is a member of the Black Rock Coalition’s biggest success story, Living Colour–as well as Black Jack Johnson, Mos Def’s spirited tribute to the movement.

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