It was a calm, quiet Wednesday night in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. With the streets hardly packed, some headed home to end their evenings early, others made their way to the Subway for their night shifts, while scattered groups searched for a potential brouhaha to jumpstart their night. New York City has a suis generis aura because not only is it one of the world’s marquee Metropolitans, but it is also the cultural hub of the world. And on any given night something amazing could be happening around the corner.
Such was the atmosphere inside the intimate setting of Blue Note Jazz Club. Founded in 1981, Blue Note’s motto is centered around preserving the history of jazz, according to their website. “The club is a place where progression and innovation – the foundations of jazz – are encouraged and practiced on a nightly basis…while regularly showcasing up-and-coming jazz, soul, hip-hop, R&B and funk artists” and has seen the likes of Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Liza Minelli, and Quincy Jones grace their stage.
But on this night, Blue Note did not play host to any developing talent, but rather two established hip hop legends. For two consecutive nights on August 24 & 25, GZA of the Wu Tang Clan headlined the culturally historic club accompanied by Talib Kweli and of course live music as the Phunky Nomads shared the stage with the two hip hop greats.
Thus, on a cozy summer night the two Brooklynite’s performed a medley of records that reminded those in attendance of a simpler time in the world. Fans lightly serenaded the club, singing along to some of GZA and Wu Tang Clan’s more recognizable records and even some album cuts.
GZA is a master of his craft, so it came as no surprise that he had memorized not only his rhymes, but those of his groupmates as well, performing several verses from the deceased Ol’ Dirty Bastard and other Clan members. In one sequence in particular, the Liquid Swords emcee began performing the Clan’s hit record, “Triumph.” You know, the one where Inspectah Deck “lyrically performs armed robbery” before transitioning into “Shame on a N***a” and performing ODB’s verse.
The live music only added to the atmosphere as the Phunky Nomads took command of each record, seamlessly sequencing between jazz, classical, funk, hip hop and rock instrumentation. They made each record their own, evident when GZA began performing “C.R.E.A.M.” backed with classical sounding music (They even did a rendition of The O’Jays’ “For The Love of Money”). Their choice of musical direction often kept the audience on edge, wondering what new possible twist they would put to classic Clan records.
At 55 years old, GZA continues to tour with 34 scheduled dates upcoming. For information on when and where to see the Genius live, click here.
Information on the Blue Note Jazz Club’s weekly performances, can be found here.