ed/ge stands for Ed Jones and Geoff Wilkinson. Geoff Wilkinson has the drum and beat programming history, with London based Us3. Ed Jones is a saxophonist who has a similar interest in combining horns with modern day beats. Both men have been actively involved in combining loops and programming with live horns. Here we have an interesting collaboration that also includes many other guests to fill out a horn section.
I seem to recall some referring to this style as "new jack swing", but that wouldn’t accurately describe what has been accomplished here. This is more like a futuristic combination of urban beats and big band horn sections (but don’t think Star Wars Cantina). The music does not make any attempt to hide the fact of the drums being programmed and looped, but the instrumentation (horns, saxophones, piano, etc.) is all the "real" stuff. I have heard similar attempts by little known artists Dr. Onionskin and Trip, however those artists used looped horns and such. Here we have written musical pieces, with the techno elements driving the foundation. The promotional material says the disc is an "attempt to update the big band sound using beats and up-to-date technology". I’m not sure ed/ge completely hit the bulls-eye, but they are on target.
The CD opens strong with "Hannibal", but my first highlight was the double bass on "Darkness". I found this to create a nice jazz feel, which can be lost in the loop-based music. This isn’t the case. The "real" double bass combined with the live horns help make this experiment more appealing to me and much different from the "garden variety" techno jazz. The final track, "Mozaic", has a salsa feel and here we have some additional live drums and percussion (Great percussion solo!). This tune is one of the best on the disc, but isn’t exactly representative of the rest of the release.
Most of the music here is original, with only two exceptions. One is an arrangement of "Billie Jean" from Michael Jackson. Upon a casual listen, there isn’t much new ground covered in the arrangement. The trombone solo is great, but the groove is exactly the same as the original. The other "cover" is Gil Evans "Las Vegas Tango", which is very nicely treated with the futuristic feel.
The supporting players are all excellent, and they are doing a great job of supporting this adventurous musical experiment. In that respect, this may be one of the more "jazzier" releases I have heard.
My only complaint is that this music genre can get repetitive, if not handled carefully. The variety of a "real" drummer and the creativity of a human rhythm section can avoid some of the "ear fatigue" created by a constant diet of programmed drums. Although the arrangements are interesting and well performed, the modern beat format creates a bit of a monotonous feel to the overall project.
I would recommend this disc to the more adventurous jazz fan, which may have an appreciation for what modern technology can add to music. It will most likely not go over with the traditionalist. ed/ge gets as close as I’ve ever heard to combining great jazz with current drum programming and loops. Plenty of hard work and effort has gone into this, and unfortunately that may be over-looked by many. If you feel a bit daring, pick up this disc and enjoy a truly pioneering effort by some of the best in the genre.