CoolNasty, “Light Green” (Independent)

reviews-coolnastyIf there was ever any true indication that hip-hop has evolved into the go-to African-American improvisational form, this jazz-funk ensemble is it. There’s not one bit of spoken word on these ten songs, yet hip-hop as a modern classical art form moves through all of them, though they’re straight fusion all the way. Wayne “Doc” Matthews’ drums are always front and center, with the kind of swinging snap usually heard in hip-hop, while Ben Kahn’s guitar (and, one assumes, basses) squirm around in the middle providing a shifting foundation for Phil Sylve’s cosmic explorations on sax. Myla Bocage’s cool vibes and synth washes usually provide the atmosphere when she’s not going totally old school on a Moogish lead. God only knows how they all work it out with four people on stage.

Still, it’s a heady mixture. The big standouts are “Marigny Jam,” in which Doc alternates between a maniacal disco hi-hat and a timbales-tinged breakdown; “5 Minute Miracle,” which actually runs 8:42 and features Phil’s sax playing backup to Doc’s brutal improv; and the 10-minute opus “Soaring Flower,” where CoolNasty’s straightest and most swaggering groove gets incongruously used as a backdrop for its mellowest series of shifting moods. Light Green is a primer on how many NOLA jazzfunkers actually lead from the back of the stage; CoolNasty exists just as much in the street as it does in your mind.