The Young Jazz Giants is proof positive that community outreach programs do, in fact, pay funky dividends. Mentored by the legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins at the World Stage in South Central L.A., the band has released its first effort, a delicate platter of mid-Sixties-style jazz tempered by hip-hop energy.
"Yenne" opens up as a four-minute showcase of the individual talents that compose the group. "Tears of Sorrow and Rage" is a longer jam on which the Giants create a grandiose scheme of classical orchestration. "Spider Walk" and "Stephen's Song" infuse funk and rock elements, while "YJG" incorporates the slam poetry of Jacques Slade. The closer is equal parts homage and revamping of John Coltrane's aptly titled "Giant Steps."
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Kamasi Washington (who is also part of Snoop Dogg's touring band) is the articulate saxophonist that heads the quartet. Brothers Stephen and Ronald Bruner provide a responsive and rock-solid rhythm section on bass and drums, respectively. Cameron Graves stocks the tracks with a buttery flow on the piano that betrays his young age. The musicians' youth keeps Young Jazz Giants teetering on the edge between masterpiece and complete fuckup, while simultaneously giving them their explosive edge.