Race Records

By Hua Hsu Jul 21, 2004

Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd
In What Language? (Pi)

Last April, pianist Iyer and poet/rapper Ladd teamed for this one-off show examining lives lost in transit. Set amidst the hustle and bustle of the international airport, Iyer’s fiery playing and Ladd’s words slyly indicted the cold paranoia of our post-9/11 era without accusing it directly.

SeÑor Coconut and His Orchestra
Fiesta Songs (Emperor Norton)

Uwe Schmidt is a very confused man. Having recorded groundbreaking minimalist techno sides under the names Atom Heart and Geez ‘n’ Gosh, Schmidt returns to his most playful alter ego for another border-smashing mash-up of poppy German-Latin fusion. Ever wonder what “Beat It,” “Smoke on the Water” and “Riders on the Storm” sound like en español with maracas and marimbas? Me neither, but it’s great nonetheless.

Andrew Hill
Passing Ships (Blue Note)

Originally recorded in 1969, the pianist Hill’s inspired session was shelved for years because of unfounded concerns over its sound quality. Swirling with dense poly-rhythms, striking textures and excellent playing from Hill and his pseudo-big band, the record revisits an exciting moment of exploration in jazz. Better late than never.

Tasty (Arista)
Let’s hope Kelis’ upcoming marriage to rapper Nas doesn’t end up overshadowing her own excellence. Kelis second American album is full of the spunky attitude, sexy come-ons and out-there production one has come to expect her. Check for “Millionaire,” wherein guest producer/rapper Andre 3000 of Outkast does his best Joe Jackson impression.

Thelonious Monk
Live at the Olympia (Thelonious)
Few of us ever had the chance to see Monk live and this two-disc set is an excellent primer for anyone interested in just how great the man was. The first disc features a sparkling date from the Olympia in Paris in 1965, while the second is actually a DVD featuring a live set from Oslo in 1966. Truly marvelous stuff.