Real innovation is rare in popular music. When it happens, it is usually so deeply underground not many people get to hear it. An interesting idea was hatched in Los Angeles in 2000 by B+, the hip hop writer and film maker, but for once this innovation is available to a more mainstream audience.
It began as a photo shoot for Tokion magazine, when four of the most prolific and influential jazz session drummers Roy Porter, Earl Palmer, Paul Humphrey and James Gadson got together with B+ and some young guns from the hip hop scene. As they shot the breeze about recordings, their lives in the jazz world and how their beats had influenced hip hop, the shoot slowly developed into a documentary and then full blown CD and DVD package released by Ninja Tune meshing gigs, recording and what is now called Keepintime.
The DVD starts with Talking Drums Whispering Vinyl, which is a wonderful beginning. We see Earl, Paul (wearing his slippers!) and James, (Roy Porter had by then died) listening to Babu, J Rocc and Cut Chemist mixing and scratching their tunes. The mix of bemusement and amusement on their faces is beautiful. They might not be able to remember being in the studio to record the tracks first time round, but what is soon clear is that the beats remain strong in their hearts.
The second part of the DVD is a 2002 gig and shows musos and DJs Jurassic 5's Numark, Cut Chemist, Babu, J-Rocc and Shortkut of the Beat Junkies, Madlib and behind the pads the drummers kicking it some at the El Ray Theatre in Los Angeles. To see these drummers play is stirring, whether you like jazz or not, and to see them play with the scratchers, whether you like hip hop or not, is also moving.|P>
Special features include an interesting though not exhaustive suggested listening list - there is no John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy, but viewers are encouraged to check out Charlie Parker, The Howard Roberts Quartet, and David Axelrod. The CD has live recording sliced and diced by 12 DJs and producers, including Charlie Dark, Ammoncontact, OHNO Quantic Soul Orchestra and Daedelus and is a thick and rich brew. The Keepintime Theme is a beauty of a hook, growling and mesmeric. Infinity Of Rhythm Mix offers a jazzed heaven. Song For Sophia/You Can Know Her, features LA-based singer Mia Doi Todd, and her beautiful voice married to a charming song works exquisitely.
Some might find tunes such as A Remix In 3 Parts too dense, too jazz in complexity, however rhythm changes and melodic chasings are games that tickle and delight and will reward listeners who stay. What is true of that track is true of the whole set: if you remain the course, you won't hear a package that excites as much as this in a long time. This is wonderful music, and you must hear it.