Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note
DJ/producer/musical renaissance man Madlib (born Otis Jackson Jr.) has spent a brief but prolific career dreaming up musical irritants, everything from the froggy, helium-voiced rap of alter ego Quasimoto to the meandering keyboard noodling of his jazz side project Yesterday's New Quintet. And while others might use his bag of irritants to slice barnacles off garbage trawlers, Madlib remixes them into hip-hop, reggae and jazz, transforming already wild sounds into citizens of an alternate universe, both beautiful and strange. And that's what he does when let loose in the archives of the venerable jazz label Blue Note, dumping Blue Note's funky '60s catalog into a dense cauldron of psychedelic sounds that will drive purists crazy. On stand-out track "Peace/Dolphin Dance," first recorded by Horace Silver and Herbie Hancock, a pristine song first gets reduced to a train wreck of sounds—audience noises, distorted vibes and a peppy high-hat shuffle—that seem aimless until his method kicks in. Then they're gently shepherded by flute and guitar melodies into a gorgeous sound that's light and playful—worthy of the name "Dolphin Dance." That's what happens when irritation works, and that's what Madlib does.