DJ Spooky Optometry

The Blue Series, Thirsty Ear's jazz imprint, has been suffering some growing pains recently. They have issued a number of electronic records that have been unsatisfying for both beats and jazz. It seemed as though the musicians in Blue Series main man Matthew Shipp's axis were feeling out the process of working with DJs and beats in general, their startling creativity as musicians taking a backseat to a programmed groove. DJ Spooky is exactly the kind of conceptualist required to forge a more involved synthesis between live and programmed elements. Spooky has achieved a nice balance between the blistering improvising of musicians like Joe McPhee and William Parker with head nodding grooves. One player who has seemed comfortable working with beats has been drummer Guillermo E. Brown. Brown pushes and pulls at the rhythm of the samples, fattening the beats up with smears of percussion. Shipp sounds more relaxed than on his Nu Bop release earlier this year, with his doom-y chords and circular patterns gaining sympathy from Spooky's rhythms. Spooky's aptitude for vocal presence and dub tweaks is much appreciated, and the rap tracks featuring Carl Hancock Rux and High Priest (of Anti Pop Consortium) feature vocalists unbound by meter, suitable for such a project. There are many more highlights to come, as improvisers and beat scientists continue to collaborate, but this is one of the first discs I've heard where the potential is beginning to be fulfilled. (Thirsty Ear)