Review: The Harlem Experiment

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cover to the 2007 recording The Harlem ExperimentI’m listening to what may be the coolest contemporary jazz release of 2007. Following their eternally enjoyable Detroit and Philadelphia Experiments, Ropeadope is releasing The Harlem Experiment to retail on October 30.

Grammy Award-Winning producer Aaron Levinson has “assembled another genre-bending tribute to perhaps America’s greatest cultural crown jewel.” Genre-bending is accurate – spoken word, Latin, hip hop, soul, and blues are all heard – but, at its heart, it’s jazz. It would take me several hours to write out what I thought about each track. Each song has its own identity. The variety of styles all flow together. “A Rose in Spanish Harlem” is featured twice – in a traditional Spanish setting and as an instrumental – and both are just beautiful. There are a number of killer grooves.

I had recognized some of the names of the Harlem House Band that made the music but now I’ll remember all of them: Carlos Alomar (guitar, David Bowie), Eddy Martinez (keys, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Run D.M.C.), Steven Bernstein (trumpet, Sex Mob), Steve Berrios (drums, Chick Corea), Don Byron (clarinet) and Ruben Rodriguez (bass, Tito Puente). Olu Dara and Queen Esther (Duke Ellington), and James Hunter are also featured.

I think people use the word “brilliant” too often. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review where I’ve used that term. This is a brilliant recording – one that should not fly under the radar. I can’t promote it enough. It’s one that I’ll be recommending to everyone I know.

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