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Yesterdays Universe: Prepare for a New Yesterday, Vol. 1

Yesterdays New Quintet

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Album Review

Madlib lets you know what he's after at the onset, with cover art emulating Ornette Coleman's free-jazz pioneering Ornette! and a hip-hop-rooted revision of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" as the album's first song. The familiar "Brew" vamp is updated with Madlib's genius sensibilities and a welcome addition to Yesterdays New Quintet: the jazz-drumming, hip hop-producing Karriem Riggins. For the next 14 tracks, Madlib, Riggins, and Azymuth's Ivan Conti create the most stunning fusion of jazz and hip-hop to date. Madlib began this in March 2001, indulging all of his eccentricities, tastes and ideas with Angles Without Edges, where Madlib one-man-banded his way to a forward-moving testimony that appropriated everything from jam band vibes of Soulive and Beastie Boys-style organic hip-hop, combining it with freewheeling, experimental jazz ingredients to produce an album hailed as an evolution. Yesterdays Universe, however, is meaner, nastier and even more ambitious. Madlib has clearly grown as an artist, mastering the area where the improvisational nature of jazz meets the sampled urbanity of hip-hop. The additions of Riggins and Conti give the music even more textures and emotion. While "One for the Monica Lingas Band" is pretty and expressive, the hallmarks of this album are tunes such as "Street Talkin'" and "Marcus, Martin and Malcolm" — the former sounding like a jazz breakbeat and the latter sounding like a new-millennium, reared-on-hip-hop version of Joe Henderson's early '70s work. You don't hear music this daring and edgy in the jazz idiom, nor do you often encounter music this evolved and creative from its hip-hop peers. The 12-minute "Vibe from the Tribe Suite" is an instance that happens rarely in music, when it seems that new terrain has been discovered and you aren't just listening to a quirky hip-hop producer dibble and dabble at his whim, but that a full-fledged, unique musical idea has developed. The bassline is sinister, the drum rhythm is as head-nodding as it gets, the distorted flute staccatos with an MC's cadence, the piano chords are from the school of Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock, and the soprano sax is off-kilter. The result is a musical and creative statement that caps an album full of new statements. This album is an early 21st century landmark flushed with the optimism and possibilities of a new frontier. Madlib and Yesterdays New Quintet are the bold first settlers waiting for other musicians (if they can) to follow the leaders.

Biography

Formed: Oxnard, CA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Touted as a jazz group, but openly acknowledged as a solo project of left-coast rap producer Madlib, Yesterdays New Quintet boldly experimented with the fusion of hip-hop and jazz. Playing instruments live in his studio and then sampling and arranging the results, the first Yesterdays New Quintet long-player, Angles Without Edges, dropped in 2001. Madlib, who is no stranger to pseudonyms, went so far as to name each of the fictitious players in his group (Monk Hughes, Ahmad Miller, Joe McDurfey,...
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Yesterdays Universe: Prepare for a New Yesterday, Vol. 1, Yesterdays New Quintet
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