Since succumbing to lupus in 2006, producer J Dilla has become a revered figure in the hip-hop community, while his estate became the subject of dispute between business acquaintances and family.
Hence Suite for Ma Dukes, a tribute piece dedicated to Dilla's mom, created from orchestral arrangements of his work by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, aka Timeless. It's a haunting sequence of pieces, highly evocative of grim urban reality redeemed by occasional shafts of hope: morbid cellos underscore noir horns that recall 1960s crime series like Perry Mason, harp glissandi tumble deliriously in the manner of Bernard Herrmann's Taxi Driver score, and wah-wah guitar whiplashes echo Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man", while brief piano études like "Affolements Granitiques" and "Le Yachting" offer tantalising oases of calm among the turmoil of frantic reeds and strings. J Dilla would have approved – and so would Gil Evans, come to that.
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