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Ethnomusicology, Vol. 2

Russell Gunn

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Album Review

Trumpeter Russell Gunn moves to the Canadian indie label Justin Time for the second installment of his Ethnomusicology project, a hybrid of jazz and hip-hop. Like volume one (from 1999), volume two is hobbled by a certain conceptual stiffness and never quite hits its mark. Ultimately, volume one has more to recommend it. There's a paucity of original material this time around; too much time is spent on halfhearted funk arrangements of jazz classics: Monk's "Epistrophy" and Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Caravan." Gunn also reworks the Mike Flowers urban contemporary ballad "I Wish" and Lalo Schifrin's "Anita." (The latter is retitled "Del Rio"; it reappears as a hidden track well after the disc has played out.) There are only two full-length Gunn compositions: the mellow Brazilian-tinged minor blues "Dance of the Concubine" and the smooth jazzy "Lyne's Joint." Stellar playing is heard, however, not only from Gunn himself, but also tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams, trombonist Andre Heyward, and pianist Marc Cary, who doubles capably on Fender Rhodes. Bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Woody Williams lay down the rhythm, which is well-recorded and huge-sounding. In support roles are guitarist Carl Burnett and turntablist D.J. Apollo, with Sherman Irby making a particularly effective guest appearance on flute. Track number six, at one minute and 15 seconds in length, finds Kebbi Williams blowing over a furious drum'n'bass groove. Titled "Kebbi Williams Interlude," it seems intended as a brief bonus and not much more. Oddly, it's the best thing on the record by far, a clear indication of what this band can do when they let their hair down. Why there isn't more music like this on the album is a mystery. ~ David R. Adler, Rovi

Biography

Born: 1973 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s

Trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Russell Gunn was born and raised in Illinois; weaned on rap, he turned to jazz in his professional pursuits, although hip-hop remained a primary influence on his work. First attracting the attention of critics and audiences through his contributions to Wynton Marsalis' Blood on the Fields, Gunn also backed the likes of Jimmy Heath, Roy Hargrove, James Moody, and R&B hitmaker Maxwell, appearing on the latter's MTV Unplugged session. After a handful of independent...
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Ethnomusicology,  Vol. 2, Russell Gunn
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