Gary Thomas – Overkill (CD, Winter and Winter)


Overkill [Audio CD] Gary Thomas


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34-year old Gary Thomas is one of the most acclaimed saxophon players of contemporary jazz. Gary was a regular member of the Miles Davis Group and of Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition. Gary Thomas released five CDs with his own groups on JMT. Downbeat called his style “post-bop-techno-hiphop-out-jazz” and a German daily described his music as “a fusion between John Coltrane and the rapper Ice-T”.

In 1994 Gary Thomas decided to record Overkill, a pure hiphop project. It features a hiphop-experienced five piece band, Baltimore based rappers like Ransome, Barrikade and Pork-Chop and as very special guests the Italian rap-star Jovanotti and ex-Incognito singer Maysa.

Gary Thomas sums up his motivations to do the Overkill – project the following:

“For the last few years I wanted to do a hiphop record. To be honest, hiphop is really my first love as far as music is concerned. I played jazz for a long time – and a lot of other kinds of music – but the music with the rappers is different: it’s just so close to home and I’m used to it from where I grew up. It’s just one of those things that’s close to the heart.

I don’ t think that a definition of hiphop is important, it’ s just like when you ask people what’s jazz: you get 20 different definitions. Definitions in music are something that record companies need to make money ’cause people are so label-oriented and need categories. For me the bottom line is whether it’s good music or not.

In the beginning of the Overkill project, I started working from the music. But somehow the music wasn’t happening: some people came by and rapped on this stuff and it sounded like a joke. So we started to work more from the lyrics. It’s just been some sort of evolution: the rappers came in and wanted to do certain things. After all we were working on this thing for the last year and a half and things have changed over that time period. At first the music really sounded like a joke because I approached the project from the musical background where most of my other records come from. So I was for example using rhythmically complex structures which just sounded funny to the rappers when they came in. In the end I think the whole thing was very good for me because I got to the point where I began to appreciate simplicity. I couldn’t stand it at first and now I’m hopefully at a point where I can find some middleground. People who listen to the record and say the music is just sensless or too violent should realize that it’s a response to things that happened and in itself a social commentary. It’s just not about being ‘profound’.

I grew up in a neighbourhood where people carry guns and people were shot and killed. I’ve had people that were close to me who vanished. These are things all the rappers talk about in their lyrics – and I know it from firsthand experience too. I regard some of the rappers – especially Ransom who did a lot of the lyrics – as close friends and the lyrics they wrote reflect the lifes they live. The whole thing of people complaining about rappers and their hard lyrics has been going on for years now. I think a lot of the problem is just because most of the rappers are black and some people just don’t like to think of black people wearing a gun or having even access to something like that. On the other hand the same people sit and watch movies where Arnold Schwarzenegger kills someone almost every minute: but Arnold Schwarzenegger is still a hero and married to one of the richest families in the United States and no one has a problem with that. Maybe not a lot of white people will understand the anger of the lyrics because they never had to live in the social conditions the lyrics thematize. If you are white you have a protective colouring and people won’t make a complete assessment of what and who you are just from looking at the color of your skin. But you can’t blame people for what they feel – especially when it’s completely justified. I’m not a naturally angry person – which I don’t think anybody is. But we all have some things that we become angry about. It just means to make a point about some things. And after all it’s still a record and not what we do.”


– Bill Shoemaker (Original Press Text written in 1995)

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Winter & Winter




Winter & Winter

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