Third World Cop and Monty Alexander and Horace Andy
Monty Meets Sly and Robbie, and Living In the Flood (Palm Pictures)
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., June 2, 2000
Third World Cop
Monty Meets Sly and Robbie (Telarc Jazz)
Living In the Flood (Melankolic/Astralwerks)It's hard not to compare Third World Cop's riveting soundtrack to that of 1973's The Harder They Come, the album and film that introduced most of the world outside London and the Caribbean to Jimmy Cliff and the wondrous sounds of reggae music. Like its predecessor, Third World Cop provides the musical backdrop to a "police and thieves" gun ballet played out on the mean streets of Kingston's tropical ghettoes; the musical shift from reggae's classic Seventies riddems to the more aggressive electro sound of the mid-Eighties coincides with the usurpation of the ganja trade by cocaine smuggled through the island on its way north from South American cartels. This harsher reality is reflected convincingly here, as a slew of Jamaica's top-ranking DJs and singers, including Beenie Man, Luciano, the Marley Brothers, and Lady G get in yo' face with attitude to burn. When Red Dragon menacingly exhorts, "We run tings, tings nuh run we!" he means business. A hardy "big up" goes to Jamaican riddem twins Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass), who supply an up-to-the-minute turbo-groove that propels this hard-charging compilation. Their ongoing mastery of incorporating Afro-Cuban, Soca, and hip-hop elements into the music to create a truly pan-Caribbean/international sound is one reason they remain at the forefront of our increasingly interconnected musical planet. Moreover, their collaboration with Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander expands that wide vision even further. A highly respected player in the jazz world with a long and varied track record, Alexander delivered one of last year's most satisfying releases with Stir It Up, his tribute to countryman Bob Marley. That album relied primarily on an acoustic rhythm section of American musicians to provide its pliant underpinnings. This time out, Sly & Robbie's signature electro-riddems give the set a more universal appeal without depriving Alexander of a springboard for his soulful and funky improvisations. If anything, the new setting seems to give the pianist a fresh creative spark, as evidenced on a truly righteous rendition of "In Crowd." Likewise, it's interesting to hear the duo lay down their grooves on soul-jazz chestnuts like Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder," Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon," Bobby Timmon's "Moanin'" and Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy." Speaking of soulful, reggae veteran Horace Andy, whose career has been reinvigorated of late through his association with trip-hoppers Massive Attack, has delivered Living In the Flood, a heartfelt set of roots-conscious music that evokes the same Golden Age to which he was an integral contributor. Andy's high-pitched, quavering, slightly nasal voice is among reggae's most easily recognizable, soaring gracefully over a thoroughly relaxed, in-the-pocket foundation laid down by unfortunately unidentified musicians. The exciting, high-octane, gun-play music of Third World Cop may quicken the pulse, but Andy's calming, back-to-basics mediations soothe the worried soul.
(Third World Cop)