Harlem Experiment, Harlem Experiment (Ropeadope)

In 2001, Ropeadope Records began an interesting experiment. They took acclaimed musicians from varying musical genres but the same hometown and put them all in the same studio to see what happens. The experiment spawned the genre-bending albums The Philadelphia Experiment and The Detroit Experiment. For their newest venture, Ropeadope headed back to the northeast and zeroed in on Harlem, New York. The Harlem house band for this album sounds more like a an all-star team, and includes Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar, acclaimed jazz drummer Steve Berrios, and klezmer musician Don Byron. Rounding out the eclectic bunch are Ruben Rodriguez on bass, Eddie Martinez on keys, and arranger Steve Bernstein on trumpet.

The Harlem Experiment melds jazz, funk, klezmer, Afro-beat, and salsa together while stretching instrumental experimentation to its limits. On “One for Jackie,” the drums thrust through the chilled-out synthesizer and trumpet lines to give the song a dirty yet structured feel. The band takes Cab Calloway’s jazz standard, “Reefer Man” to new heights with a pulsating salsa backbeat. Between the tracks, Mums provides radio DJ-like chatter that gives the album a conceptual feel. In the end, the experiment is an overwhelming success, leaving us with one very funky album.