VIKTOR TÓTH — Viktor Tóth & Mahasimbadavi Players : Lamu (review)

VIKTOR TÓTH — Viktor Tóth & Mahasimbadavi Players : Lamu album cover Live album · 2018 · Eclectic Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
js
Jazz and rap coming together should be no surprise to anyone. Jazz musicians have been rapping since the turn of the previous century, Louis Jordan was known for his hip poetry and so was Duke Ellington, which brings us to this outstanding rap/jazz fusion CD from Viktor Toth’s Mahasimbadvi Players titled “Lamu”. Toth’s players are an international group that features Toth on sax, Bart Maris on trumpet, Simple One on lyrics and poetry, Matyas Szandi on bass and Hamid Drake and David Hodek on drums. Does anything sound more jazz than a boppin alto sax and trumpet front line. Toth and Maris’ energetic harmonies and unisons recall similar classic frontlines like Diz and Bird, Ornette and Don Cherry, and Dolphy and Booker Little. The Mahasimbadvi rhythm section provides kinetic support, often with African and Afro-Brazilian grooves, but also with forays into hip-hop and funk. The way in which this ensemble can combine an earthy backbone with avant-garde tendencies may remind some of The Art Ensemble of Chicago or The World Saxophone Quartet.

The make or break for this album is the rapping of Simple One, who comes through by perfectly balancing his role with the other musicians. If you were afraid that the rapping would dominate this recording, rest assured your fears are unwarranted. In fact, I found myself wishing Simple One had been given a little more room to go off. The man has a beautiful flow that is very syncopated and just as rhythmically complex as his fellow musicians. His word play is both thoughtful and humorous and holds up well to repeated listens. If you know your classic hip-hop than you will recognize when Simple One pulls out an old Q Tip audience call and response, “Can I Kick It …”, which the audience gladly calls back on. During some of his raps the horn players pull out Herbie Hancock’s modernized intro to “Watermelon Man”, which provides a very Africanized backdrop for our MC. Speaking of MC, Simple One also plays the part of the classic ‘emcee’ by giving props to the musicians and providing some humorous interplay with the audience. The musicians also get plenty of space to go off with solos and interlocking group rhythms. Toth has a hard edged alto sound that recalls Steve Coleman and Jackie McLean, and Bart Maris takes a very no gimmicks approach to the trumpet that recalls the aforementioned Booker Little, as well as Marquis Hill.
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