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Streetwize: Streetwize Does Dre

Although his name doesn’t appear on the cover, this album-the fourth in the series of contemporary jazz versions of today’s urban and hip-hop hits-is the brainchild of smooth-jazz saxophonist Kim Waters. The latest installment is the first to focus on one artist: gangster-rap pioneer Dr. Dre. This project might have been laugh-out-loud bad if created with radio-focused smooth jazz in mind, but like on all Streetwize CDs, Waters and cohorts stretch their considerable chops over the songs’ melodies. So on “California Love” and “Gin and Juice,” for example, familiar hooks are secondary to masterful jamming by Waters, saxophonist Dave Mann, keyboardist Davy D, guitarist Adam Rogers and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin.

Waters once again chucks his sax to handle programming and some nasty keys work. Vocalists Dequina Moore and Isaac Clemon inject soul to selections such as “My Name Is” and “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” And like the Hidden Beach label’s similar CD series of jazzy takes on popular urban tunes, the vibe is relentlessly uptempo, swinging and anything but smooth.

In fact, you’d have a pretty good argument if you held to the position that the Streetwize and Hidden Beach projects are as improvisational and musically challenging as it gets in contemporary jazz these days.

Originally Published