Jazz Mafia Brass, Bows & Beats

Jazz Mafia's Brass, Bows & Beats is a one-hour work commissioned by SFJAZZ that's being marketed as a hip-hop symphony, but the hip-hop here is represented by only a few rugged beats, a handful of DJ cuts and a bunch of raps mixed in with jazzy singing and spoken word pieces. The rap element is infrequent, but the 60-member band of collaborators do a superb job of seamlessly combining a diverse mix of musical styles, bringing together jazz, big band, classical, funk, electronic, rap and spoken word, often in one song. "At My Window" is a perfect example of this diversity. Almost 17 minutes long, it starts with a funky beat that morphs into cartoon-y brass then full-on big band. As the DJ's cuts begin to take centre stage, the funk comes back and Lyrics Born (an MC well versed in the live band element) drops a verse before Jazz Mafia MCs Aima (a pretty dope female rapper) and Dublin (who sounds a lot like Lyrics Born) trade lines until they're harmonizing in a way similar to Lyrics Born and Lateef on "Latryx," and are eventually joined by a singer and then a choir. Following a funky brass band breakdown, the vocalists go a cappella and the song "ends" before Dublin brings it back over a simple beat box and it begins again. With seven other songs that also twist and turn, like "At My Window," Brass, Bows & Beats is certainly a wild ride, but even recording the album live on stage doesn't capture what would most likely be a much more enjoyable live experience. (Jazz Mafia)