In the jazz world, folks are finally starting to recognize the influence of hip hop on jazz. It took a while for the jazz cognoscenti to get on board (we’re more than 15 years past the end of hip hop’s Golden Age), but finally there seems to be a consensus forming around the idea that rap music exerts at least as great an influence on modern jazz as, say, Bach.
But what’s been around for much longer is jazz-inflected hip hop. The music that grew up in the Bronx, with DJs cutting and splicing old soul records at block parties and dance halls, quickly moved across the country and incorporated other genres. Check out Ahmad Jamal on Nas’ “The World Is Yours,” or Lucky Thompson on “Jazz (We’ve Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest, or Herbie Hancock on Eric B. and Rakim’s “Untouchables.” You get the point.
Well, this weekend you’ll have the opportunity to hear a mixtape featuring the music of one of rap’s most influential groups, re-imagined entirely with jazz samples. The group is Wu-Tang Clan, and the freshly minted reworking is called SHAOLIN JAZZ – The 37th Chamber, a play on the band’s 1994 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The mixtape release party is at 9 p.m. on Saturday at Palace 5ive, a skateboard and sneaker boutique in Shaw. And there will be free Heineken. Yes indeedy.“I developed the idea of SHAOLIN JAZZ while interviewing a graphic designer by the name of Logan Mills, who had designed his own personal series of jazz-inspired Wu-Tang album covers called Wu-Note,” explains Gerald Watson, the blogger and marketing guru who produced last year’s the Classics series celebrating album art. Mills said he’d be happy to design an album cover for a Wu Tang jazz-rap album, if one existed, so Watson sought out DJ 2-Tone Jones, a friend who had provided background tunes at the Classics exhibitions. Jones agreed to rework a host of Wu Tang songs with jazz samples.
“The raw lyrics of Wu-Tang are amplified by the raw improvisational styles of the jazz music sampled, which, in my opinion, also gives one a different perspective on the Wu-Tang lyrics sampled,” Watson said.
The resulting mixtape is approximately 50 minutes long, and features samples from the likes of Herbie Hancock and Lonnie Liston Smith. The full list of tracks and samples haven’t been released yet, but after the official release on April 11, the album will be made available online as a free download.
As home base for the project, D.C. gets to hear the thing first, but there are two more listening parties scheduled: one in New York City on Mar. 31, and another in Los Angeles on Apr. 9.
The release party for Shaolin Jazz takes place at 9 p.m. on Saturday at Palace 5ive, located at 2220 14th St. NW.