September 25, 2021

J. Spencer - Chimera (1993)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Jazzdance
Label Number: 374 637 004-2
.FLAC via Florenfile
.AAC 256 kbps via Florenfile

© 1993 MoJazz
Chimera Review by Alex Henderson
When J. Spencer's debut album, Chimera, came out in 1993, Mojazz/Motown exalted the Oakland saxophonist as one of the people fearlessly bridging the gap between jazz and hip-hop. But truth be told, Chimera is more hip-hop than jazz -- this is essentially an album of rap with jazz overtones. And that certainly doesn't make it bad, although it does mean that the CD should be judged by hip-hop standards instead of jazz standards. Chimera, quite honestly, doesn't have a jazz mentality. Improvisation and spontaneity are the things that make jazz what it is -- that's what Al DiMeola has in common with Django Reinhardt -- and Chimera sounds produced rather than improvisatory and spontaneous. The rappers who Spencer features are really the main attraction; the soprano saxman doesn't get enough room to stretch out and he ends up sounding like a sideman on his own album (to borrow a phrase from keyboardist Jeff Lorber). If you want to hear how different saxophonists can do radically different things with rap, just compare Chimera to some of the albums that saxman Bill Evans (not to be confused with the famous pianist) recorded in the '90s. When Evans featured rappers on some of his '90s albums, he maintained a jazz mentality -- MCs were expected to interact with a spontaneous, improvising fusion band just as a jazz singer would interact with such a band. For Evans, featuring rappers was a lot like a hard bopper featuring Abbey Lincoln; Chimera, however, is really about technology rather than improvisation. But again, that doesn't automatically make it a bad album. Some of the tracks are mundane and pedestrian, but more often that not Chimera is a decent (if imperfect) example of alternative rap with jazz overtones.

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tags: j spencer, chimera, 1993, flac,