Hidden Beach Recordings presents Unwrapped Volume 3 – reviewed by Chris Mann


You may know the gig by now, and maybe a revisit of my review of Unwrapped Volume 2 will serve as an introduction.  Hidden Beach Recordings, with the Unwrapped series of releases redefines the crossroads where jazz and hip-hop meet.  This selection, apart from offering respect to hip-hop heroes Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay, highlights successes by Fifty Cent, Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest to name just a few. 

Following the fleeting intro, In Da Club retains that powerful funk vibe but adds some great trombone like Brian Culbertson kicking it.  The scratching is vicious and the brass section is awesome. House bassist Andrew Gouché is in the pocket as always.  I Know What You Want has a romantic Latin sway.  It has a simple arrangement with lovely acoustic guitar from Dennis Nelson. Melena’s percussion is very sexy as is the lush flute of Lou Taylor.  There is plenty to enjoy and this could be my favourite song. 

With its steel drum sounds, P.I.M.P. gets a Caribbean-style treatment which benefits from the lovely, deft electric piano of Jeff Lorber.  The song is a little long for me.  Tainted is a very moody track with strong vocal performances and, does that sound like Earth, Wind & Fire’s long-time collaborator Larry Dunn on keys?  Well, it is.  Richard Turner’s vibes solo is a strong one.  Again, if this had been kept a minute shorter, I’d have enjoyed it more. 

Lose Yourself is a very intense song made more intense by the distinctive, soaring violin of Karen Briggs.  Peter Black’s heavily distorted guitar adds a menacing edge.  I really enjoyed the Tupac Tribute Medley, which contains strong renditions of Keep Ya Head Up and I Ain’t Mad at Cha which get you in a mellow groove.  You get shaken out of that mood by the funky How Do You Want It with some far-out Funkadelic-style guitar from Peter Black. 

The Biggie Tribute Medley is made up of a tight, funky version of Juicy with Larry Dunn soloing like crazy over the top of Gouché’s slippery bassline. Big Poppa again raises a big smile from the sexy treatment of the old Isleys/Biggie smoocher. Dennis Nelson’s guitar is sweet.  Gouché’s bass slapping on the Hypnotize track turns me inside out.  His feel is one of the key elements in tying all the jazz-funk/R&B/hip-hop strands together.  A nice funky guitar riff drives the lovely Beautiful.  Terry Stanton’s falsetto vocal is haunting and addictive.  Jeff Bradshaw’s heavily distorted trombone solo is superb and I’d love to hear him do this stuff over a really funky dance track. 

Doo Wop has lovely old-skool brass and that tinkling piano riff.  Vocals on this track are superb, both lead -courtesy of Tamika Peoples - and background.  Mike Phillips sax solo is up there with the best contemporary alto players.  Do I need to list them?  A strutting funk masterpiece – truly.  The Way You Move has a mellow Norman Brown-style semi acoustic guitar by the superb Dennis Nelson.  Gouché’s there on his “squelchy” bass (come on you Mu-Tron III freaks, you know what I mean) and Mike Phillips blows passionately on here.  The way the guitar and sax trade licks near the end is the stuff that great live shows are made of. 

A Tribe Called Quest’s Check the Rhime is deeply funky with sweet sax underpinned by Bootsy-style slippery bass.  I love this – it’s like breathing.  Paul Litteral’s trumpet cries out like Tom Browne’s back in the day.  No Jam Master Jay Tribute Medley would be complete without a screaming version of Walk This Way and this is a screamer!!  I like the way it slides into the minimalist groove of Sucker MC’s, which I always loved, and then into the heavy metal grind of King of Rock, then back into Sucker MC’s.  It’s frantic and fun and I could have taken much more of this… 

I’m coming to this as a jazz fan and some of this music is a surprise to me – and makes me want to hear some of the original songs, as much as some young hip-hop fans (I hope) will want to hear some of the music by the jazz and soul artists featured on this CD. 

Gangstarr’s assertion that “you gotta hear Blue Note to dig Def Jam” is well portrayed here.  You can’t separate music that’s got a groove – it’s got a groove and that’s it! 

These recordings just get better – the quality of musicianship is very high and the interpretation of what are becoming classics is respectful but adventurous at the same time.  To open-minded listeners I’d say go to the Beach as soon as you can…




Hidden Beach Recordings – Executive Producers – Steve McKeever, Tony Joseph, Darryl Ross