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Russell Gunn: Ethnomusicology Volume 3

Russell Gunn serves up his latest installment of Ethnomusicology, his explorations of combining jazz and hip-hop, with far better results than the previous one. Whereas Volume 2 was mostly marred by poor song choices and a noticeable lack of bite to support its provocative CD cover, which dressed the trumpeter in blackface against an American flag, Volume 3 offers more bite and less shock treatment.

As evident from the boom-bap beginning of “Celebrity Room Intro,” Gunn’s main hip-hop references date back to its golden age (1987-1995), when the genre was first seriously cozying up to jazz and seemed to brim with endless sonic and thematic possibilities. With DJ Neil Armstrong, Gunn brings back the art of turntablism, which is sadly, missing from much of today’s mainstream hip-hop, and on songs like “Variations (on a Conspiracy Theory)” and the deep-house stomp of “East St. Louis,” Gunn waxes a gothic, almost Italian-mafia vibe to the proceedings that speaks to both his fluidity with European classical stylings and his understanding and love for gangsta rap. Even the melancholy, R&B tone poem “John Wicks,” which almost tips over to smooth jazz, speaks to hip-hop’s golden years as Gunn inserts a taped conversation of various people reminiscing about Wicks and his haircuts and fashion sense back in day.

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