3'S A CROWD

UNMASKING THE TWO BRITISH MASTERMINDS BEHIND THE JAZZ-RAP SENSATION US3.

"Us3 was conceived really as a project--it is basically Geoff and myself," he notes. "We're really Us2. The third element at any one time would be a rapper or a musician or a group of people to make up a completion of the triangle, if you like. The idea is one of a revolving stage where we could feature people who were appropriate to a particular track. We could be selective and have the advantage of being able to work with a diverse, eclectic bunch. So the next album will certainly feature musicians that we have worked with and are working with--the guys in the band. We've got a whole new band, a live band, to feature on the next album, which is something we didn't have and has only been the result of going out and promoting the album."

What that means is that there is no Us3, but a group of musicians, many of whom contributed to Hand on the Torch, is touring as Us3--and they're performing all the songs on Us3's album. In addition, these artists are playing the songs live; rather than using samples or prerecorded material, they produce every sound themselves. As for Simpson and Wilkinson, they're not traveling with the troupe. They plan to remain in London and work on the next Us3 project--a live collection of jazz from the London underground scene.

For listeners who might have wanted to hear Tukka Yoot rap to a sampled "Song for My Father" or hear 22-year-old trumpeter Presencer play alongside a favorite sample, Simpson has this explanation: "We really did agonize over this, to be honest--whether we should use the samples or not. But [the musicians] can play it so very well, and when we did use the samples it seemed like everyone always had one ear to the monitors, checking to see if we were in time with the sample. I felt that it kind of took the fun and the spirit out of the playing. That is the important thing, you know, to get fun and excitement and the spirit out of playing to people. It works so well without the samples that we wouldn't dream of putting them back in it. This is jazz. It's meant to be played and improvised. That's what it's for."

Given that sentiment, you've got to wonder why Simpson got involved in sampling in the first place.

Us3, with Fugees and Reg E. Gaines. 8 p.m. Tuesday, August 16, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, 830-2525.

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