Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Yesterdays New Quintet: Stevie

As with Cole Porter, there’s gluttony of Stevie Wonder tributes, especially in the neosoul sector. Madlib’s one-man ersatz jazz project Yesterdays New Quintet serves up a baffling tribute with Stevie (Stones Throw). As an idiosyncratic hip-hop producer and DJ, Madlib brings a jazz sensibility to his sample-based music, but when he actually plays the keyboards, vibes, bass and drums-as is the case here-his studio brilliance is vastly overshadowed by weak musicianship. His inchoate, almost antivirtuosic noodlings have a certain inital charm that wears off quickly. The samba take on “Visions” goes nowhere, the reverb-heavy “Superwoman/Where Were You Last Winter” just drones on and the hazy rendering of “Rocket Love, Pt. 1” nearly implodes. Stevie would have made a better homage had Madlib brought some of the rhythmic fire he displayed on Theme for a Broken Soul (Stones Throw), his transcendental broken-beat project with DJ Rels, or his tribute to Weldon Irvine Jr., Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm (Stones Throw), also under the Yesterdays New Quintet guise. (No denying he’s prolific.) Or Madlib could have simply brought his remix gifts to some of Wonder’s original cuts as he did with Blue Note’s Shades of Blue. Instead, Stevie amounts to a meandering failure.

Originally Published