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Doctor Magnum - 'Magnum Carta Holy Grail'

Alex Marianyi
Contributing Writer
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi

In the past, I’ve tried to avoid music that is self-described as jazz and hip-hop. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a jazz standard played with an unnatural, ungrooving backbeat. However, we’re getting to a generation of jazz musicians who have spent large parts of their musical development in a world where hip-hop is more mainstream and more easily accessible.

This is certainly true for Doctor Magnum. While much of what they play sounds more like jazz, the production, specifically on the drums, is much closer to hip-hop or even rock, and their tempos sit right in a comfortable range for most rappers, making it feel like a freestyle verse could be spit at any moment. This feels especially true on certain sections of "Awkward".

"Awkward"

"ALL CAPS/N.Y. State of Mind" is one of those songs where you let out some sort of vocal approval for a familiar bit of music being played seemingly out of nowhere. It’s good to hear them take some liberties with one of the greatest hip-hop recordings of all time without totally beating you over the head with it. I’m not sure if this track is different enough from the version they put out just last year to merit including it on an album only six songs long, but it is still my favorite cut from this release.

Despite often changing grooves and sounds, a couple of the lengthier tracks stretch a little long for my liking. But in general, there’s enough going on musically to keep things interesting and to further blur the lines between jazz and hip-hop, such as the rock guitar tones, the simple blues form on "Boiler Room Blues", and the theme and variations concepts used throughout "good kid, m.A.A.d city". Doctor Magnum is able to recreate in studio much of the energy and intensity from their live recordings, and I think that’s what makes this album worth picking up. Also, owning a jazz album with a title that cleverly plays on a popular hip-hop release adds to your hipster cred.

"Boiler Room Blues"