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Praxis: Praxis: Transmutation Live

Achieving a cohesive fusion of improvised music and hip-hop is a feat that so far, has evaded most of the groove jazzers that have attempted it over the past five years or so. While most of the solutions have involved dropping a rapper into a live jazz setting, Praxis: Transmutation Live (Douglas Music, ADC5 60:03) throws out a different, and potentially more fruitful approach: Find some virtuosic turntablists, preferably the ones with enough plumbing to dive into uncharted territory when required. Then drop them into a live setting, and let them trade ideas with some forward thinking instrumentalists, preferably the ones with enough plumbing not to be intimidated by someone who can fuse Lonnie Liston Smith and Vivaldi on a whim.

This set, recorded live at the Jazznojazz Festival in Switzerland, throws some members of the Bay area cut-n-scratch crew. Invisible Scratch Piklz (Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Shortkut and Disk) up against bassist Bill Laswell, drummer Brain and guitar terrorist Buckethead, splatter funksters supreme. This latest incarnation of the Praxis non-group (past collaborators have included Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell), stretches its sonic high-wire attack over the course of four extended movements, Laswell’s bass and Brain’s knotty thumbing winding in and around a barrage of turntable bleeps and burps and processed-guitar squawks (it’s hard to tell, sometimes, where Bucket ends and the Piklz begin). It’s often stunning, with sometimes tantalizing implications (as in: ‘I wonder what would happen if Matthew Shipp were to throw his hat in this ring?’).

Originally Published