"At the end of reconstruction southern whites who wanted to reinstitue slavery, in the Jim Crow system, were so adept at defining what black people authentically were, that black entertainers' success or failure was solely based on their ability to convince white people of their authenticity, the authenticity being actually myths that were created by white people themselves. so you had all these brothers like, you know, Bert Williams, who was a Shakespearean actor and a great singer, and he had to play it cool. whenever he tried to do something beyond that role there was outrage saying, well, man you know, why are you trying not to play the nigger you know this is where you sound best, this is what you naturally are. so my brother would say something like hip hop is another form of minstralcy, and there would be outrage to that, and people really weren't expecting Wynton to come out that strong against hip hop so they were saying he hated all hip hop. i mean i know for a fact that wasn't true but the part that he did object to was the idea that there were obvious levels of minstralcy going on"
-Branford Marsalis on Freedom Suite
It was a great loss earlier this year when Keith Edward Elam, A.K.A. Guru, passed away. His Jazzmatazz series was revolutionary, bringing together hip hop artists with jazz musicians who they normally would sample to play together live and make an amalgamation that was innovative and musically rich. Thankfully, The Beast , along with legendary jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon, have stepped up to fill the breach with their release Freedom Suite.
Like the Jazzmatazz series, Freedom Suite seeks to break down the barriers between jazz and hip hop, fusing the two together showing that they do not need to be mutually exclusive of each other. The album features six original compositions that combine elements of flesh and blood jazz musicians with hip hop lyricists and electronic beats, four interpretations of older songs, and most interestingly, some interviews with contemporary intellectual voices including Questlove, Herbie Hancock, Amiri Baraka, Branford Marsalis, and Angela Davis. about a variety of topics including the above quote on the acceptance (or lack thereof) of hip hop by jazz musicians, blues music, and the LGBT community's plight amonst the larger black community.
To top it off, the entire album is available for free from The Revivalist, an online jazz journal. That the album shares its title with the classic Sonny Rollins album (whose 19 minute title track is one not to be missed) seems entirely too coincidental. Check out a track from it below (which features the above quote from Branford Marsalis at the end) and then download the whole thing. Honestly, this album's worth a whole heck lot more than nothing, so grab it now.