Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Philadelphia Experiment - 2001 "The Philadelphia Experiment"

The Philadelphia Experiment is the self-titled album resulting from a collaborative project including Uri Caine (keyboards), Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson (drums) and Christian McBride (bass). Guest musicians include Pat Martino (electric guitar), Jon Swana (trumpet) and Larry Gold (cello and arrangement).
Though all from Philadelphia, each musician brings their unique musical background. Caine is an avant-garde pianist, Thompson is a hip-hop drummer and McBride a jazz bassist. The result is an "insanely funky" album. "Mister Magic" is followed by a "hidden track", where Christian McBride plays a cover of "Just the Two of Us" by Grover Washington, Jr., with bass tracks only, starting at the 4:30 mark of the song.
Ropeadope later issued two follow-up albums:
The Detroit Experiment featured Carl Craig, Bennie Maupin, Marcus Belgrave, Geri Allen, and Regina Carter.
The Harlem Experiment featured Carlos Alomar, Steve Bernstein, Don Byron, Eddie Martinez, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, and drummer Steve Berrios. Guests includes multi-genre vocalist Queen Esther Marrow, bluesman Taj Mahal; vocalist/guitarist James Hunter; trumpeter Olu Dara; turntablist Larry Legend; and the poet muMs da Schemer.

This loose trio date brings together three Philadelphia-bred musicians with radically divergent careers but a lot in common nonetheless. They are pianist/keyboardist Uri Caine, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer/programmer Ahmir ("?uestlove") Thompson from the Roots. It's a textbook example of how jazz, soul, and hip-hop were becoming deeply intertwined at the outset of the new millennium. The album features a number of original tunes and improvisations, as well as covers from sources as diverse as Sun Ra, Marvin Gaye, Elton John, and Grover Washington, Jr. Along the way the trio is joined by John Swana on trumpet, Pat Martino on guitar, and Larry Gold on cello. Caine relies heavily on the Fender Rhodes piano, with McBride switching between electric and acoustic basses and Thompson combining live and programmed beats. Two of the covers, "Ain't It the Truth" and "Ile Ife," are by the early-'70s group Catalyst, whose members used to back Pat Martino. Some of the material is a bit lightweight, and one of the more gripping pieces, "(re)Moved," fades away before it can become anything substantial. That said, the playing is great and the grooves are irresistible -- particularly the opening title track. Caine closes the program with a solo acoustic rendition of Grover Washington Jr.'s "Mr. Magic," and then McBride extends the Washington tribute with a hidden track, a playful solo bass reading of "Just the Two of Us." Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom," performed as a piano/cello duo, is eyebrow-raising but a bit contrived. Ultimately the date comes across as three extraordinary talents just having fun, although the ramifications for eclectic music-making in the future are profound.

In the '40s, a time-travel experiment allegedly occurred in a Philadelphia naval yard. This fantastic combo of Philly musicians--pianist/keyboardist Uri Caine, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of the rap combo the Roots--takes its name from that fictional event, and combines fusion, mainstream jazz, and R&B styles from the '70s to today. Augmented by guitar-legend Pat Martino and trumpeter John Swana, Thompson lays down some tricky jungle beats on the title track, while the threesome venture into the avant-garde on "(Re)moved" and into Latin on "IIe Ife." The group reincarnates Sun Ra's "Call for All Demons" as a funky instrumental, and they brilliantly revisit Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," while Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" is redone as a classical-style McBride/Caine duet. The late saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. was Philly's patron jazz saint, as evidenced by Caine's reverent solo piano rendition of Washington's hit "Mr. Magic" and McBride's funky, overdubbed one-man electric bass version of "Just the Two of Us." This threesome reminds us that the City of Brotherly Love still swings. 

The Philadelphia Experiment is a trio made up of three of Philly's finest, drummer ?uestlove, keyboardist Uri Caine and bassist Christian McBride. The group is a jazz combo, but they inflect hip hop beats and attitude thanks to ?uestlove who day job is drumming for The Roots. The eleven tracks are mostly made up of covers like Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" which shimmers with a funky, cool vibe and Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" which they slow down from an up-tempo song into a plaintive celebration of their home town. They acknowledge the influence of and celebrate the music of a Philadelphia legend, the late Grover Washington, Jr. on a cover of his "Mister Magic" and the original "Grover". Mr. Washington was a classy and brilliant musician who is often overlooked, but it is heartening to see that younger musicians like the members of The Philadelphia Experiment appreciate his contributions.

You can't go wrong with ?uestluv (Roots drummer) backing up the productions. Christian McBride another great talent in Philly and Uri Caine an amazing talent that meshes well in this jazz trio. If I had the skills to produce a jazz CD, this is what it probably would sound like. Good sounds, great vibe...... an ear candy treat.

In late 2000, three native Philadelphian musicians teamed up for an experimental Jazz-based eclectic mix of sounds. The outcome promised to be an impressive and unique touch which crosses the boundaries of three genres in the art of music; Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Classical. The three revolutionaries were drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson (of the progressive, live Hip-Hop band, The Roots), famed Modern-Jazz bassist Christian McBride, and Classical pianist and keyboardist, Uri Caine.
Throughout the eleven tracks on the self-titled Rope-A-Dope Records released "The Philadelphia Experiment," the listener (you) falls into a sense of soothing relaxation as Caine tickles the ivories, Thompson dribbles the toms and rides the cymbals, and McBride slides his fingers up and down, right and left on his acoustic and electric basses.
The album is by no means any competition for classics as "Kind Of Blue" or "A Love Supreme" (parts of the album aren't really Jazz at all, and the general sound is more of a modern groove than a timeless classic from yesteryear in Jazz). But for what it's worth, "The Philadelphia Experiment" is an innovation in the obscure arena of rhythmic connections in Jazz, Soul, Funk and other forms of instrumental and vocal expression. From the Smokey-Club feel of "Lesson #4" to the laid-back title-track, to the covers of Marvin Gaye's classic "Trouble Man" and Grover Washington/Bill Withers' "Just The Two Of Us" (with the latter being a bonus hidden track at the very end), TPE is well worth the purchase. Guest musicians include Pat Martino and Larry Gold.

Track Listings

1. Philadelphia Experiment
2. Grover
3. Lesson #4
4. Call For All Demons
5. Trouble Man Theme
6. Ain't It The Truth
7. IIe Ife
8. The Miles Hit
9. (Re)Moved
10. Philadelphia Freedom
11. Mister Magic


Christian McBride_acoustic & electric basses
Ahmir Thompson_drums
Uri Caine_piano & keyboards
Pat Martino_guitar on 1,2,4
Jon Swana_trumpet on 1 & 5
Larry Gold_cello & arranger on 10
Aaron Luis Levinson_handclaps & SFX on 2 and 9



  2. been looking for this one,thanks

  3. I heard a track off the The Harlem Experiment 3 or 4 years ago and immediately bought the album. If this is as good it should be a treat. Cheers.