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by Ian Mann

September 16, 2006


Jazz/funk/hip hop fusion aimed at the younger audience

This 2006 offering from the Birmingham based saxophonist Chris Aldridge under his pseudonym Beebe sees him moving away from the jazz stylings of his earlier “Holy Island” album. “Xplain” is more frankly into a brand of jazz/funk/hip hop fusion. Only guitarist David Lowe remains from the previous album although trumpeter Bryan Corbett once more guests on a couple of tracks.

Four of the ten items are overdubbing extravaganzas with Beebe playing all the instruments himself.

The album opens with the title track which is heavy on grooves and beats. The repeated vocal line “are you gonna xplain what makes this jazz music different” weaves in and out of the track, but ultimately becomes tedious and outstays it’s welcome.

“Unimaginably” inhabits similar territory but mercifully without voices. It’s a big improvement with a heavy funk groove and fiery playing from Beebe and Lowe. Bob Pountney adds muted trumpet as drummer Robin Hill and percussionist Simon King lay down one hell of a beat. Keyboards and synthesiser courtesy of Dick Decent and Paul Sampson respectively whistle and fizz throughout it all.

“Hypochondriac” features Beebe on flute, Corbett on muted trumpet and Levi French on Rhodes. All are admirable players but the relentless chatter of programmed drums soon becomes irritating.

“2Mislay” originally appeared as a song on “Holy Island” with vocals by Graham Dee. Beebe revisits the tune by dispensing with the lyrics and overdubbing himself on several horns to form a “saxophone choir”. The results are haunting and effective. I rather enjoyed this.

“Bigin Up Over Nothing” is a brief return to hammer’n'tongs funk played by the same line up that cut “Unimaginably”.

“Silly Beggars” is Beebe showing that he can do pretty much the same thing on his own courtesy of overdubbing.

“Father, Mother, Sister” is a pause for breath with an attractive theme and more conventional jazz soloing. Lowe’s acoustic guitar is prominent in the arrangement alongside the leader’s soaring sax.

“Bingwoi” is a another Beebe solo piece. Dominated by flutes and underpinned by beats it is quirky and enjoyable.

“Nearly Headless Nick” is inspired as I seem to recall by a character in the Harry Potter books. It’s a piece that finds it’s way into Beebe’s live repertoire as evidenced at a recent show at Much Wenlock by the Edge All Stars featuring Beebe and Corbett. Here the central hard bop theme is stretched, mutated and electronically treated in funky fashion. It’s interesting, accessible and fun.

The closing “D’Ya Know What I Mean” is another solo overdubbing extravaganza with Beebe on saxes, keyboards and beats. It’s playful and fun if not particularly profound.

“Xplain” may contain jazz elements but seems to be targeted at a different, younger audience and as such is likely appeal to ears other than mine. There is some good playing here as one would expect but the relentless programmed rhythms and the overall funk vibe are not really up my street.

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