The dreaded remix compilation – invented by labels, created with agents, made for a dollar and nothing more – has finally legitimized itself. Impulse, a key label in the jazz scene during the ‘60s and ‘70s, doesn’t have the greatest catalogue ever to be handed over for remixing, but the label chose the producers for this album brilliantly. The greats all come through, with excellent tracks from RZA, Prefuse 73, Kid Koala, and Sa-Ra. The filler tracks, while hardly disappointing, prevent this album from being a true must-buy, but Impulsive! is greatly rewarding.
Three tracks make the album. Sa-Ra’s “A Helluva Town (Go Remix),” the trio’s take on George Russell’s original, is pure funky jam. But RZA and Charles Mingus? Come on – “II B.S.” is amazing. It sounds like something off RZA’s great Ghost Dog score, surreal patterns of shaking beats and noir horns. It cuts out for a beat and comes right back with a swift loop and some subtle clicks, and you really see where this guy is coming from. This is the best hip-hop producer of all time remixing one of the best jazz musicians of all time. Then there’s Prefuse 73’s remix of Gabor Szabo’s “Mizrab,” which is nearly as invigorating. The remix sounds like nothing but Prefuse 73, and it’s the best thing Scott Herren has put out this year.
The album falls off slightly near the end, with a beautiful but boring string-laden mix of Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” from Telefon Tel Aviv and a similarly dull remix by Boozoo Bajou, of Pharaoh Sanders’s “Astral Traveling.” But Chief Xcel of Blackalicious provides a great remix of Archie Shepp’s “Attica Blues,” and Kid Koala’s offering, a remix of Yusef Lateef’s “Bamboo Flute Blues," is a fascinating mood piece.
Records like this can be so depressing when they’re done poorly, and even when specific tracks stand out (most notably Rae and Christian’s remix of Dinah Washington’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” on Verve Remixed in 2002), the albums are usually so disappointing I wonder if anyone has ever listened to them in their entirety. Impulsive! is a full record, one you can put on and leave on. And that, in my mind, is the highest compliment for a remix album.