Jazzanova started by chance when the DJ’s of the group were working in Berlin’s Delicious Doughnuts nightclub. The club’s management wanted to create a compilation CD of the music that its customers heard nightly. Jürgen Von Knoblauch, Alexander Barck and Claas Brieler then had the needed stimulus to think about the kind of music they wanted to make available to the rest of the world. Their creative result mixes samples from other recordings, singing from various musical styles, an overlay of synthesized strings and keyboards and an often throbbing pulse to propel the music. The result is multi-cultural club music that has gained a following throughout the world. After several years of painstaking development, Jazzanova is releasing its latest CD, In Between,
in the United States as well and letting North American listeners in on the music that rapidly has been gaining a following.
Jazzanova defies easy description precisely because the members keep their ears open for a vast array of sounds that could be programmed in to the mixture that fills In Between.
And atypically for electronica, the group of programmers adopts difficult meters and wash in some combined elements that normally wouldn’t be considered complementary. "Hanazono" develops from an 11/8 beat in repeated groups of 6 and 5, while paying due respect to the scalar influences of Japanese culture. Yet, ironically, when Japanese pianist Hajime Yoshizawa enters, "Hanazono" assumes a jazzier sensibility, its trance-like beginning a stage-setter.
The result? Each of Jazzanova’s tracks avoids easy solutions to the musical challenges that the members create for themselves. An example? "Another New Day" proceeds from a rat-a-tatting drum machining, which carries through the tune, but programmer Leisering piles on layers of orchestral effects, wordless voicing and guitar riffs for a more complex overall effect than expected.
One of the interesting aspects of In Between
is the use of vocalists of disparate styles, not to mention the attention to varying lyrical styles. These are all over the map, so to speak, as Capital A and Hawkeye Phanatic bring in the forced rhyming of hip-hop or as Leisering samples segments from The Five Stairsteps on "L.O.V.E. And You & I." With broad harmonies like those of Gene Puerling, The Five Stairsteps open up from a narrow range into a rich fullness, even as they fade in a half-tone resolution or create interludes between "Sun, the moon, the sky" and "and you and I." Hawkeye Phanatic exhausts all possible rhymes before moving on another set: "So let it play. The day I meant the way I sway to the dee-jay. I knew I’d stay." And yet, Doug Hammond’s voice actually lacks the character, force or pitch to call up any cultural references or emotional understanding, the percolating percussion on "Dance The Dance" like kalimbas carrying the message.
With technical expertise and restless imagination, Jazzanova has satisfied the demand of its international listeners who have awaited a CD to follow up on its last recording, 1998’s Caravelle.
And the Jazzanova sound that has found enthuasiasm from Australia to Holland will be spreading even more widely throughout the U.S. club scene soon.