Jazz and hip-hop once constituted a popular combination thanks to the likes of Gang Starr and A Tribe Called Quest. And though the mainstream has seemingly lost its taste for the blend, there's plenty of flavor left in it at least when Future Jazz Project is plugged in. The group's latest does right by both genres, offering impeccable playing and a surfeit of soul. Keyboardists Greg Raymond and Greg Harris set the tone for FJP's sound, but there's plenty of swinging, too, courtesy of rhythm section mates Casey Sidwell, on bass, and Dameion Hines, who handles drumming and DJ duties. Because these instrumentalists are interesting on their own, the passages in which they support MC Big House and vocalist Selina Albright feel doubly blessed. On the likes of the mellifluous "Stress," Big House injects a persuasive, rumbling flow that perfectly complements Albright's smooth, confident vocalizing. Design's recipe might not be new, but the results are quite tasty. Michael Roberts
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