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The Philadelphia Experiment
Taking a Risk With Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop

Start streaming audio Listen to the band's conversation with Scott Simon.

July 28, 2001 -- The fluid and sexy riffs that are The Philadelphia Experiment lift jazz to a new and suprising level. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Uri Caine and Christian McBride created their new CD at The Studio, a recording studio in Philadelphia where, in three days, they cut all of the songs on the group's album.

Members of the group Philadelphia Experiment
From left: Uri Caine, keyboards; Ahmir Thompson, drums; and Christian McBride, electric and acoustic bass
Photo: Ropeadope Records

The idea: to get three differently styled, gifted, Philadelphia-born musicians in the studio to play Philadelphia-inspired music, and to record whatever jazz, funk, hip-hop, or heretofore unknown beats resulted.

It was, in all senses of the word, an experiment. While the three knew each other well, they'd never attempted to play together professionally.

Thompson is the drummer for the popular hip-hop group The Roots. Caine is a classical and avant-garde jazz pianist whose interpretations of classical works have brought him international recognition. McBride is a master acoustic bassist whose performance on the album is said to have "scared a lot of people out of the profession."

Cover for the album The Philadelphia Experiment
Cover for the album The Philadelphia Experiment
Photo: Ropeadope Records

Their collaboration was conceived by independent producer (and fellow Philadelphian) Aaron Levinson.

He took a risk on the unrehearsed venture, convincing the small but powerful Ropeadope Record label to take a risk as well. The result is an album that is haunting, beautiful and, in many ways, unclassifiable.

Scott Simon talks to bassist McBride and producer Levinson about The Experiment -- and what it means to be a Philadelphian.

Web Resources:

Read more about The Philadelphia Experiment at the Web site of their record label Ropeadope Records.