DJ Krush is a Japanese-born/Japanese-based turntablist/producer/composer who makes mostly instrumental hip hop-based records that sometimes veer into the land of acid jazz. This is not at all surprising; Japan was always a hotbed of acid jazz—just check out Instinct Records/Acid Jazz Records This is Acid Jazz series compilation The Vibe, an acid jazz compilation devoted entirely to music of the genre from that nation for proof. Trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, meanwhile, is a Miles Davis disciple who made his name performing with musical “weirdos” such as John Zorn. In 1998, the pair collaborated on the Ki-Oku album, which, unsurprisingly (it was released on Instinct,) while it could be considered a hip hop album, lands squarely inside the acid jazz camp.
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The acid jazz guys incorporated a lot of (among other influences) of hip hop into their new take on jazz, and Ki-Oku falls right into those guidelines. Miles Davis might have started the whole shebang off with his final album, Doo Bop, a melding of jazz and hip hop, and it’s not entirely out of line to imagine that Ki-Oku very well might have been the direction the genius might have headed in had he lived past the making of Doo Bop.
This is most evident on “Mu-Getsu,” which Instinct/Acid Jazz found good enough to include on their This is Acid Jazz: The Very Best of After Hours compilation. While it’s a fantastic piece of late night mellow—Krush lays down a layer of afterhours beats designed for ultimate chilling, it’s Kondo’s muted trumpet that will make you do a double take. It’s one of those “if you had no idea what you were listening to” tracks—and if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear it was a long lost Miles Davis track and wonder to yourself why the man didn’t bother releasing it. “Mu-Chu” is even more chilled out, venturing into ambient territory—hell, even Krush’s turntable scratches are so subtle that you might miss them upon your first ten listens—it would fit right in to the programming on your favorite “chill” channel on whatever music service you subscribe to. Krush provides a wash of watery background combined with very delicate beats while Kondo supplies restrained soloing over the top, and it works quite well if you want something quite mellow.
In the meantime, the pair remakes Bob Marley’s “Sun is Shining” into their own take on the Master Blaster’s tune. Krush engineer’s a vaguely rastafari feel to the entire proceeding (while still remaining true to his hip hop roots) by mixing out a groovy reggae-esque bassline that sounds just peachy with a hip hop beat. Kondo, meanwhile, manages to solo without stomping all over Krush’s groove, and it all manages to pay homage to the beloved reggae pioneer without overdoing it. “Fu-Yu” is a summery, happy groove that would’ve worked on any number of Acid Jazz’s compilations, with an easy-going Krush layer of beats underneath Kondo’s layered trumpet play. And “Ko-Ku” is about as funky as this album gets (remember, this is a pretty chilled-out excursion,) with Krush providing a mellow-yet-funky bed for Kondo to play an electric trumpet over (at times venturing into synthesizer territory—think Ben Neill.)
If you’re a fan of DJ Krush or Toshinori Kondo, you’ll likely find Ki-Oku a match made in Heaven. Myself, I’m a fan of both, and an acid jazz devotee, so this thing was right up my alley. Recommended for fans of acid jazz (particularly Japanese acid jazz, ) Krush or Kondo fans, and chill out music fans. Or if you don’t mind a few mellow hip hop beats mixed in with your trumpet, then this is for you.