Beans featuring William Parker and Hamid Drake Only

It’s a mouth-watering union on paper and, in most instances, Only works to the strengths of this all-star trio. With only sporadic contributions as an MC on this record, Beans defies expectations of what progressive hip-hop is all about. His primary role here is to produce a document that pushes the limits of the relationship shared between jazz and electronic music. It’s not a mindless genre mash-up that Beans is after though; this is fucking art and, when it’s on, it’s a challenging proposition. A hall of fame rhythm section, William Parker and Hamid Drake do little to dispel notions that their playing is a joyous gift, and Beans wisely gives them room to breathe on "5.” His heavier hand also works well on the dub approach to "1” and the funked up "20.” Pieces like "3” and "71” are moody, with their sparse soundscapes coming across defiantly brash. Speaking of which, when Beans does show up to rhyme on songs like "7,” "4” and "118,” it’s an exhilarating rush of wordplay that makes the already heady listening experience that much more gratifying. Only can be a baffling, unsettling trip but it’s also an inspiring accomplishment by three musical masters relishing their uncommon ground. (Thirsty Ear)