The Harlem Experiment: The Harlem Experiment

By: Nathan Rodriguez

After three listens, I remain vaguely attracted to the idea of a one-word review: "Meh." Nothing's wrong with any particular track, but taken as a whole the album flirts with the snooze button. The Harlem Experiment (Ropeadope) is predominantly jazz-rock instrumentals, save for a few rapid-fire scat vocals, some random rhapsodizing about Harlem and a couple of traditional tunes. And while the spoken word bits were certainly intended to bridge it all together, it comes off as an unfocused afterthought.

However, there are some highlights. "It's Just Begun" offers the most inspired, driven effort by the group while guitarist James Hunter excels in the Phil Spector-penned "A Rose in Spanish Harlem." "Reefer Man," a light ditty, aided by Taj Mahal's gravelly vocals, infuses big band swing with Caribbean-tinged rhythms. Finally, Bobbi Humphrey's soul-jazz standard "Harlem River Drive" plays like a distant echo, with Steve Bernstein's (Sex Mob) trumpet acting as the siren call that keeps things together.

But, the effort is uneven. About half the tracks feature a sizable backbeat and thick groove but somewhat lackadaisical jamming. To some, this may be an outstanding exploration of minimalism, but the album becomes intriguing without being convincing. Indeed, it might make more sense as a b-sides and outtakes disc from a defunct all-star group rather than a first effort. This is exactly the type of band that likely excels in a live setting but has trouble translating that experience to the studio.

JamBase | NYC
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[Published on: 1/14/08]

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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} star Tue 1/15/2008 03:17AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

U completely missed the point of the album!!!

"but somewhat lackadaisical jamming" they are not a jamband!!!

Its a showcase of the different styles of music that were born in the streets of harlem. Jazz, funk, soul, blues, latin.

This article misses the point of what the band is trying to convey to listeners. terrible!!

Beeno star Tue 1/15/2008 08:58AM
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I agree with milesgone, the reviewer completely missed the point.

gmoo Tue 1/15/2008 10:14AM
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I third that opinion

barnburner star Tue 1/15/2008 01:41PM
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That was truly the worst review I've ever seen on Jambase. Ropeadope is a breakthrough, seminal nu-jazz label, whose 'Experiment' series is universally respected. The goal here was to capture the various sounds and influences of Harlem culture and meld into into a cohesive product that represents.

The 'jam' reference is beneath the release, and any reviewer that claims the 'Experiment' series is 'the type of band that excels in a live setting but has trouble translating that experience to the studio', should be banned from reviewing jazz albums indefinitely. Simply, the reviewer doesn't have the frame of reference or vocabulary to deal with releases such as this

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/16/2008 05:31AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} star Wed 1/16/2008 05:32AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
snappy Wed 1/16/2008 08:33AM
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Uh, maybe he just thought it was boring and didn't feel it deserved much praise. That is a possibility.

nathanjrod Wed 1/16/2008 09:26AM
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Haven't gotten this many "bad reviews" since I ripped on moe. a few years back....hahaha...

Anyway, I appreciate the concern. I don't think I "missed the boat" on anything here. I understand it was intended to be a Harlem melting-pot-ish release. I understand Ropeadope is a badass label. I understand that Taj Mahal, Sex Mob, etc. are legendary - trust me, I've seen them live before.

But I would be shocked if anyone is talking about this album in 5 years. Like DC hinted at, I found it boring. There isn't a genre of music that I shy away from -- and even though the band embraces this "all good" mentality as well, I found it utterly underwhelming.