May 02, 2005

Verve Remixed 3

Depending on what side of the jazz fence you sit, you'll think the third volume of jazz label Verve's remix series Verve Remixed is either an ingenious reinterpretation of some of the jazz world's greatest hits or an unforgiveable desecration of timeless works of art. After all, who should be allowed to damage the classics by Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone or Dinah Washington? No one, that's who, especially a bunch of young, hip masterminds of that "electronica" genre. What do they know about jazz, and who allowed them to destroy these musical jewels?

Actually, the Verve Remixed series is not that bad. It's not as if the temple has been raided by unappreciative vandals (or P. Diddy). The artists are generally expert remixers, all of whom make music that's as cool and as downbeat as the songs they're revisiting, and such is the case with volume three. Sure, some of the remixers (or the songs they are remixing) might not be familiar, but that doesn't decrease the quality. The Postal Service's remix of Nina Simone's "Little Girl Blue," which sets the song to a new-wave version of"Good King Wenceslas," makes an extremely sad Gershwin song into a theme song for the SAD-minded hipster. The Album Leaf's remix of Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine" sounds less like a remix than it does a collaboration from Jimmy LaValle's unfinished collaborative series. Carl Craig's take on the lesser-known Hugh Masekela's "The Boy's Doin' It"and RSL's rethink of Anita O'Day's classic "Sing, Sing, Sing" turn some great jazz melodies into lost club hits, and you really shouldn't miss Max Sedgley's remix of Sarah Vaughan's "Peter Gunn," either.

A series like Verve Remixed has the potential for disaster, but so far it hasn't happened yet. Volume three is a fun, interesting and enjoyable little collection that shouldn't upset your jazz sensibilities. (And, as usual, Verve's also released a companion Unmixed collection, containing all of the original versions of the songs on Remixed 3.

--Joseph Kyle

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