The Jazz Mafia's Big Score

I was lucky enough this weekend to catch the world premiere of “Brass, Bows, & Beats,” an original composition by Jazz Mafia don Adam Theis, at the Palace of Fine Arts. My thoughts after seeing a 50-piece big band freely blend symphonic arrangements with hip-hop? It's about time.

Hip-hop and jazz have much in common, and in many respects, “Brass, Bows and Beats” wasn't so much a groundbreaking event as it was a return to classic form. After all, the first rapper may have been bandleader Cab Calloway (the “Hi-De-Ho” man). Watching the Jazz Mafia (a loose amalgamation of musicians led by Theis comprising the Realistic Orchestra, the Shotgun Wedding Quintet, and several splinter groups) share the stage with a DJ and guest emcee Lyrics Born at a swanky venue, I couldn't help but think of Calloway, whose slang-laced hipsterisms preceded hip-hop as a genre by at least four decades.

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