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El-P

With the latest in the Blue Series Continuum -- a conceptual pairing of nonjazz artists with famed New York pianist Matthew Shipp and his talented cohorts -- El-P has whipped up another stimulating recording. This time, though, the intellectual rapper/producer belies the mic throttling to focus on the potential beauty culled from the marriage of instrumentation and improvisation. With El-P focusing on the electronic atmospheres and beats, he allows a vast workspace for Shipp, bassist William Parker, and the rest to navigate and carry on in their trademark, mind-boggling fashion.

Virtually every piece of the lengthy recording process is captured here, from the brief in-between banter to even briefer sound checks, making this one of the most polished freeform releases to enter the fray. The key tracks that prove the success of this collaboration are the hip-hop-meets-left-field jazz of the back-to-back "Intrigue in the House of India" and "Something Is Wrong," followed by the heart-wrenching piano blues/sampled vocal combination of "When the Moon Is Blue." High Water (Mark) establishes this outfit as a resplendent, cohesive, electro-fried jazz troupe that should garner fans from either side of the board. Though an ominous tone carries most of the recording, there is a certain upbeat, loose spirit that serves as a fitting complement. Here's hoping for a sequel.

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Kiran Aditham

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