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10 Best Albums: John Lewis

By John Lewis | Posted 12/20/2000

Otha Turner and the Afrossippi Allstars, From Senegal To Senatobia (Birdman) A trio of African drummers, a kora player, and a North Mississippi blues legend (playing the funkiest fife you'll ever hear) team up for a multigenerational jam that's both entrancing and moving.

Uri Caine Ensemble, The Goldberg Variations: Aria and 70 Variations Adapted, Arranged and Composed by Uri Caine (Winter & Winter) With the likes of Don Byron, DJs Logic and Olive, and poet Tracie Morris in tow, Caine fuses Baroque and jazz and rockets the results into another universe altogether. Fans of John Zorn will be pleased.

Outkast, Stankonia (Arista/LaFace) Everything you've heard is true. This is the craziest, most creative hip-hop record of the year.

Richard Buckner, The Hill (Overcoat/ Convent) Buckner frames lyrics from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology with tunes that are appropriately hushed and haunted. The text is a classic, and so is the music.

Jurassic 5, Quality Control(Interscope) J5's two turntables and four microphones add up to a wild style that's both old and new. "The Influence" is like beat-box doo-wop, "Great Expectations" is straight-up funky, "Monkey Bars" sounds like a cut-and-paste percussion symphony, "W.O.E. Is Me" brings Grandmaster Flash to mind, and "Swing Set" sounds like rappers time-warping to the 1930s. Damn.

Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2 (SuperEgo) If most rock tunes were as hook-laden and memorable as Mann's pop gems, we wouldn't be administering last rites to the genre.

James Carter, Chasin' the Gypsy (Atlantic) Carter gets sweet and lowdown on a set of tunes written or inspired by guitarist Django Reinhardt. The saxophonist's take on Reinhardt's "Nuages (Clouds)" is absolutely sublime, a head-tilting, eye-closing meditation steeped in melancholy.

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek, Reflection Eternal (Priority/Rawkus) Kweli finally steps out of Mos Def's shadow to claim the spotlight for himself. Here, his conscious lyrics have a sharper edge to them, thanks in part to Hi-Tek's crisp beats.

Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 (Epic/Hidden Beach) Scott's debut has infused the R&B scene with some much-needed soul. With traces of jazz, blues, and hip-hop also in the mix, the album's a subtle reminder that substance beats style every time. Scott's world is a refreshing, thong-free zone.

Giant Sand, Chore of Enchantment (Thrill Jockey) Another meandering romp through Sandman Howe Gelb's psyche, one that further establishes him as an underappreciated genius of American song. Listening to "Punishing Sun" and "Raw," you'd swear he was Alex Chilton's younger, more affable cousin.

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10 Best Albums: John Lewis (12/20/2000)

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