Music News

The Harlem Experiment

From the blues to hip-hop, from Yiddish-rooted pop to salsa, the Harlem Experiment draws into focus assorted elements contributing to Harlem's music legend. The "Experiment" started in 2001 exploring various sounds and talents in other cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit. On Harlem's version, the swing era meets the Latin dance tradition via Cab Calloway's "Reefer Man" sung by Taj Mahal. On "Rigor Mortis," funk and hip-hop combine with an Archie Bell & the Drells-type beat. The great Brit soul man James Hunter tips his hat to the town with his winsome take on "A Rose in Spanish Harlem," sung as if he were sitting on a summertime front stoop. Jazz clarinetist Don Byron opens up the Andrews Sisters' hit "Bei Mir Bist du Schön" in an emotive manner à la John Coltrane's transformation of "My Favorite Things." Steve Bernstein's trumpet adds jazz lilt to the simmering funk of "Think," originally sung by Godfather of Soul James Brown, here rendered by Queen Esther coming on like a young Aretha. Other contributors include guitarist Carlos Alomar (a longtime Bowie accompanist), jazz fellow-reborn-as-bluesman Olu Dara, and drummer Steve Berrios. It's the type of album that should be mandatory for schoolchildren (of all ages) all over.