Madlib - Shades of Blue (New Vinyl LP)
Double vinyl LP pressing. It's a crate digger's fantasy: free access to the archives of legendary Blue Note records, plus an open pass to sample and remix nuggets from their collection of classics. Left Coast space cadet Madlib lived out this dream, and the result is a true hip-hop oddity. Falling somewhere between mix CD, remix project, oral history and tribute album, Shades of Blue is, in essence, a love letter from Otis Jackson, Jr.. to jazz. Interrupted by shout-outs from his jazz idols and snippets of Blue Note history, the album combines straight-up remixes, skewed cover versions by Madlib (under numerous guises) and one new composition. Of these, it's the remixes that fare best, as Madlib brings his off-kilter, ear-rattling beats to bear on jazz-funk tracks by Donald Byrd and others. There's a slightly outdated acid-jazz vibe surrounding the project, but at his best, Madlib's mix of California dreaminess and underground grit transforms the well-known source material into something that sounds utterly contemporary.