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Various Artists: Unwrapped, Vol. 1

A frequent device in hip-hop is to sample hooks from pop and classic jazz. The intriguing idea behind Unwrapped, Volume 1 (Hidden Beach EK 85653; 61:53) is to turn the tables and “borrow back,” by having a group of creative jazz artists take a turn at stretching and reinventing some of hip-hop’s modern “classics.” With such typically innovative spirits as guitarist Paul Jackson, keyboardist Patrice Rushen and electric violinist Karen Briggs going to work, you might expect vibrant results. What you might not expect are some truly inspired improvisations, from Briggs’ amazing, flying riffs over hypnotic keyboard revolutions on the Roots’ “You Got Me,” to Paul Jackson’s sweaty, stinging guitar work on a hard-bopping read of Common’s “The Light.” Throughout, familiar tunes are dissected and wrung out, revealing hidden treats in their structure. Great examples of this are flamenco strums and stinging bent-note chords on an organic, mellow “Danger (Been So Long)” and a zinging, stately bounce wrought by Andrew Gouce on “Ms. Jackson.” Briggs’ violin lends an almost Middle Eastern quality to “Forgot About Dre,” while Rushen’s sparkling vibes give “Crush on You” bustle and exuberance. This invention and joy energizes the entire album, and illustrates the inexorable links between genres.

Originally Published