Whenever I get a new jazz CD of any kind to review, I usually have to be ready for something that can only come from the "intuitive creative spirit that comes from within;" good, bad or otherwise. At first glance, 'Urban Excursions, Volume I' by DJ Rain appeared to be out of the realm of jazz most would know it to be, especially when the recording was being offered by a DJ. Upon placing Rain's CD in my player, I assumed he was trying to sneak something by me just to get it reviewed. Like many of the thousands of albums that are recorded annually, some never make it into the mainstream. Another curiosity struck me, 'Urban Excursions' was produced by Rain, but he does not play an instrument. His only musical contribution is drum programming and assembling all of the artists to create one of the most unusually stimulating albums I have heard to date.
Recorded in 2004, 'Urban Excursions, Volume I' begins a groove that incorporates the elements of contemporary jazz, gospel, fusion, disco, world and R&B musical styles. By most standards, the CD falls into the realm of "Acid Jazz," but more appropriately it is best described as "House Music." The latter terminology refers to the incorporation of remixes, hip/hop rhythms and soulful grooves to create upbeat danceable music for what many commonly call the underground club scene. In most instances, the rhythmic uptempo beat is ever present while keeping a constant hypnotic groove going. To perpetuate a semblance of jazz, DJ Rain combines all the elements associated with the underground club scene, as well as a variety of musical styles while bringing together some very special sidemen to complete the transformation. The result is a CD that is fresh and original. 'Urban Excursions' may not be your typical album, but there are a number of twists and turns to make things interesting. The recording possesses a cornucopia of musical influences that highlight an underlying layer of jazz. Musically, the strategic use of flutes, trumpets, various rhythms and distinctive percussive dynamic, coupled with Rain's innovative remixing ability provides a technically persuasive appeal. The baseline is ever present behind the melodic influences of some very superb instrumentals.
When you listen to this CD for the very first time, an open-minded attitude must prevail. Jazz purists will find 'Urban Excursions, Volume I' difficult to accept; however, with a different mind set there may be some inherent value in the album musically. This is DJ Rain's debut CD announcing his new label, which is appropriately entitled Magnify Music. Although this recording does not fit the traditional definition of America's "only original art form," it has the posture of sensibility. For over 100 years, jazz has continued to evolve into one style or another. In some ways, Miles Davis' ground-breaking fusion album entitled 'Bitches Brew' was the beginning of an entirely new excursion into sound. Criticized by many for breaking the sanctity of jazz at that time, Miles is now considered an innovator and a legendary influence. By and large his pioneering spirit has opened the door for a number of individuals, including DJ Rain.