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In Between (Atlantic/Ropeadope)

Wednesday, Sep 18 2002
The spirit behind artistic collectives -- be they visual, theatrical, or musical -- is to bring together divergent perspectives to create something at once confluent and strongly independent. The six producers who make up the Berlin-based collective Jazzanova take that spirit of community to the furthest extent possible, melding their individual talents for the singular purpose of crafting innovative electronic jazz.

From 1997 to 2000, the group limited itself almost exclusively to reworking songs for dance music's elite -- from house producer King Britt and drum 'n' bass act 4 Hero to spoken word songstress Ursula Rucker and 2-step evangelist MJ Cole. Jazzanova's first full-length release, The Remixes 1997-2000, was a collection of those tunes, and it sold more than 200,000 copies worldwide. The collective's fans have been salivating ever since, making do with scraps like a four-song EP and a couple of import singles. Happily, Jazzanova's new record, In Between, more than makes up for the wait, mining a vein of danceable chill music with subtle ties to America's first city of soul, Philadelphia.

The disc starts out with "L.O.V.E. and You & I," a tune that floats along on bossa nova breakbeats, an otherworldly vocal sample from the Five Stairsteps, and the inspired vibraphone work of David Friedman, known in jazz circles for his work with Wayne Shorter. "L.O.V.E." sets a scene -- one of a smoky club with dark corners for committing unmentionable acts -- that never deviates, even while the producers explore a broad range of musical influences, including samba, house, funk, bebop, hip hop, Jamaican dub, and African polyrhythms.

The group utilizes a variety of vocalists, each adding to the sultry mood. Over the mellow breakbeats of "The One-Tet," Philly's Capital A delivers staccato raps that approach the meter of spoken word, as does fellow brotherly-lover Ursula Rucker on the tune "Keep Falling." Innovative DJ/producer Vikter Duplaix, another Philly artist, guests on two soulful tracks, while Desney Bailey offers sensual headphone vocals on "Takes You Back."

Throughout, the collective's members practice smooth precision without losing warmth or familiarity (although some of the instrumental interludes feel a tad underdeveloped). Considering that it took Jazzanova nearly six years to create In Between, the producers are obviously perfectionists. This album should give hope to high-minded tinkerers everywhere.

About The Author

Andrew Strickman


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