For the past three years, Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series has been quietly building an arsenal of some of the most interesting collaborations available on wax. They’ve teamed up their Blue Series Continuum jazz band with innovative rappers, producers, and musicians including Antipop Consortium, El-P, DJ Wally, Saul Williams, Meat Beat Manifesto, and DJ Spooky, among many others. The results are neither Hip-hop nor Jazz, but ride the lines between those and several other genres.
On Antipop Consortium vs. Matthew Shipp, APC leaves their usual bubbly, bleepy, IDM backdrop for bubbly, jazzy grooves. With pianist Shipp, bassist William Parker, trumpeter Daniel Carter, drummer Guillermo E. Brown, and vibist Khan Jamal, sometimes Beans, High Priest, and M Sayyid’s gruff vocal delivery feels out of place, but in others it transcends anything they had done previously.
Def Jux emcee/producer El-P steps in as composer on High Water, joining Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Daniel Carter on reeds, Steve Swell on trombone, and Guillermo E. Brown on drums. Don’t get it twisted, El-P isn’t remixing jazz compositions here. He composed pieces, gave the musicians themes and direction, then mixed it all down in post-production at Def Jux Studios. El-P credits his dad for getting him in to Jazz (he even mentions this fact on “Squeegee Man Shooting” from his 2002 Fantastic Damage record). To wit, his father Harry Meline a.k.a. Harry Keys, guests on one song on High Water, and the album is dedicated to him.
To commemorate their thirtieth entry into this series (yes, thirtieth!), Thirsty Ear brought in previous Blue Series contributor DJ Spooky (his Optometry finds him playing bass and kalimba as well as his turntables and mixing board in improvisations with the Blue Series Continuum, then remixing the results) to put together a double disc overview of the series. The result is Celectial Mechanix: The Blue Series Mastermix. On the first disc, DJ Spooky remixes eleven songs from the series, and on the second, he blends a continuous mix out of thirty-five compositions as only he can. If you’re curious as to what these between-the-lines collaborations are all about, this is certainly the place to start.
Upcoming releases feature compositions by underrated emcee/poet Mike Ladd (everyone please stop sleeping!), the Yohimbe Brothers (featuring Vernon Reid and DJ Logic), and a collaboration between Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantômas) and DJ Spooky entitled Drums of Death.
If you’re looking for something new, different, and nothing like what you’ve heard anywhere else, check out Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series. With the most creative minds in several genres (I’m just waiting to see Mike Patton, Justin Broadrick, and dälek show up), it’s an amazing body of work they’re building over there.
[DJ Spooky and Dave Lombardo in the studio.]