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El-P with the Blue Series Continuum

High Water (Mark) (Thirsty Ear)

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With the latest in the Blue Series Continuum -- a conceptual pairing of non-jazz artists with famed New York pianist Matthew Shipp and his talented cohorts -- El-P has whipped up another stimulating recording. This time, though, the intellectual rapper/producer belies the mic-throttling to focus on the potential beauty culled from the marriage of instrumentation and improvisation. With his attention on the electronic atmospheres and beats, El-P allows a vast work space for Shipp, bassist William Parker, and the rest to navigate and carry on in their trademark mind-boggling fashion.

Virtually every piece of the lengthy recording process is captured here, from the brief between-cuts banter to even briefer sound checks, making this one of the most polished free-form releases to enter the fray. The key tracks that prove the success of this collaboration are the hip-hop-meets-left-field jazz of the back-to-back "Intrigue in the House of India" and "Something Is Wrong," followed by the heartrending piano blues/sampled vocal combination of "When the Moon Is Blue." High Water (Mark) establishes this outfit as a resplendent, cohesive, electro-fied jazz troupe that should garner fans from either side of the board. Though an ominous tone carries most of the recording, there is a certain loose, upbeat spirit that serves as a fitting complement. Here's hoping for a sequel.

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