The Harlem Experiment
Released On: Oct 30, 2007
Released By: Ropeadope
Unlike its predecessors the Philadelphia Experiment and the Detroit Experiment, this "Experiment" is transmitted via an imaginary radio station, hosted by favorite Harlem radio personality: Mums. He takes the listener on a musical journey from the teeming boulevards to the narrow back alleys and back again, daring the listener to remember a simpler time when the freshest sounds in music were discovered over the airwaves. Drawing on a dazzling array of artists versed in jazz, klezmer, funk, boogaloo and salsa, this mighty amalgamation is a sound experiment that quite literally has never been heard before. Not only does it draw songs and players conversant in each of these proud traditions, but it takes the whole idea one step further than expected and cross-pollinates the genres. "It's Just Begun" is a slice of summertime jazz-funk mashed-up against modern hip-hop scratching. The jazz standard "Reefer Man" from Cab Calloway is transformed into a smoking Cha-Cha. The Yiddish swing of the Andrews Sisters' classic "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" grooves on a crisp scratch guitar, while the sweet sounds of clarinet sing the melody. "Harlem River Drive" is underpinned by mambo rhythms with an "Across 110th Street"-influenced break that signifies the best of '70s Harlem R&B soul music. "A Rose In Spanish Harlem" maintains its Latin identity, but adds flourishes of early R&B and doo-wop that might have been sung on the front stoops of a Harlem brownstone or street corner.
The musicians tapped for the Harlem Experiment band had to be versed in the many styles that defined the historic neighborhood. Guitarist Carlos Alomar, while best known for his work with David Bowie (including a co-write on the smash hit "Fame"), was performing in Harlem's live music Mecca, The Apollo Theater, as part of the house band by the time he was 16. He later toured with James Brown among others. As a producer and musician, keyboardist Eddy Martinez has worked alongside some of Latin music's most legendary players ranging from Tito Puente to Ray Barretto. Growing up in East Harlem, bassist Ruben Rodriguez has been noted for revolutionizing the sound of contemporary popular salsa. As an in demand session player for over two decades, he's equally adept at electric, acoustic and Ampeg baby bass. Drummer Steve Berrios was a founding member of the highly influential Latin jazz group, The Fort Apache Band. Legendary drummers like Max Roach and Billy Higgins regarded Steve as the master of bridging the Latin and jazz traditions. In the Harlem Experiment house band's horn section, none other than clarinetist Don Byron holds court. Highly regarded as a jazz player and music historian, it's his mastery of klezmer and salsa music that made him the perfect choice for the project. Finally, none other than trumpeter Steven Bernstein rounds out the group. Bernstein, who leads his own groups Sex Mob and Millennial Territory Orchestra, is one of the most called upon trumpeters in the business. Here, in addition to his standout performance on trumpet, he takes on all of the arranging responsibilities.
In the words of Mums: "No, this isn't the Harlem of the past, this is the Harlem of the fast arriving future. Marked by new attitudes and ways of thinking. For we don't have to remind ourselves of the struggles fought right outside our windows because we will never forget. The heart of Harlem is its creative spirit and the revitalization of that creative spirit is only just begun."
"Reefer Man" by The Harlem Experiment