The Shaolin Jazz—The 37 Chamber concept originated from graphic designer Logan Walters’ fascination with vintage Blue Note covers, and subsequent creation of an animated series of Wu-Tang album covers based on that aesthetic. Gerald Watson, while interviewing Walters, was inspired to manifest the images into an actual Wu-Tang/jazz inspired album and brought on DC based DJ 2-Tone to help him see out the project.
When Gerald Watson approached DJ 2-Tone about creating a “mixtape,” or a natural blend of some of the grittiest Wu-Tang verses in history, and some of the more obscure and varied jazz artists over a number of generations, a few questions came to mind. 2-Tone recalls, “When Gerald first approached me about the concept, I knew instantly this was going to be somewhat of a challenge. As an example, the time signature differences between a lot of jazz and hip-hop in their musical forms, and another factor was the sound quality of a number of older and earlier jazz records from some of the big band groups, some of the early Count Basie and Ellington.”
2-Tone describes Shaolin Jazz—The 37th Chamber as being far from a mash up or mixtape, though it probably will circulate out in the blogosphere as such. “A mashup to me is more so when you take things that are seen as opposites and you pit them together and maybe the timing might work and everything, but the feel of it doesn’t fit the essence. In this case I wanted to make sure everything that I put together, that it was still in the essence of Wu-Tang. I also took it a step further, I got different interludes to kind of round it out. My opinion is it’s not really a mixtape, but more so than a project that actually sounds like a Wu-Tang album from start to finish.”
The meticulous and thoughtful blending of Wu lyrics and jazz tracks (not just samples) ranges from the Ethiopian jazz in “Scalp’em” with a Method Man verse, a Super Cat verse, and a Ghostface verse each from a separate track that were blended seamlessly into one song, to Pharoah Sanders’ otherworldly polyrhythmic backdrop to “C.R.E.A.M” on “Astral C.R.E.A.M.”
2-Tone and Watson had their minds on giving the world a more thoughtful way of looking at the intersections of jazz and hip-hop. 2-Tone explains, “We hope that this is an example of ways that these two can coexist, and add to projects like GURU’s Jazzmatazz, or when Herbie Hancock experimented with hip-hop, or how Miles Davis—before he passed away—was experimenting with R&B and hip-hop sounds and samples from the ’80s. We want to show that connection between the two in hopes that this can continue in that lineage, and spark more conversations between hip-hop and jazz aficionados, and music lovers alike.”
Today is the release date. Peep a few tracks. Link for full album download at the bottom of page.