SLU Spins – Jazzanova

What’s in a name after all? For Jazzanova, the Berlin collective of six DJs and producers, they unassumingly find themselves ushering in a fresh amalgamation of jazz, hip-hop, dance music and other ingredients, aptly dubbed nu-skool jazz. Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Smith and Herbie Hancock are widely recognized as figures who brought jazz to a new level and opened the door to a world of new possibilities and expressions through their instruments. Would it be too abrupt to add the avant-garde Jazzanova collective to this elitist list, a group whose defining instrument is a sampler?

Culminating in their debut release of original material, Jazzanova has never been a group earmarked by any single sound. Jazzanova brings In Between, their debut of original material, to the table.

Lost somewhere between jazz, hip-hop and relaxed dance music, Jazzanova is inviting the world to take a few steps with them and explore a vast sonic palette. Offering 17 tracks over 70 minutes, In Between effortlessly weaves a dizzying number of influences and tastes, be-bop pianos and hip-hop bridges Brazilian rhythms and percussions. Jazz notable Doug Hammond and lyricist Capital A lead a handful of vocalists who appear in tasteful moderation on several cuts.

Musically, In Between is relaxed yet subtly complex and intricate. As previously mentioned, the instrumentation and production on the album is composed entirely of samples, cut up beats and borrowed vocals.

In Between’s sophisticated-yet-casual approach is both a blessing and a curse. Upon having six minds working on the creative process, the definition of the album is blurred. No particular musical direction or niche is settled upon. Hip-hop fans will gladly file Jazzanova alongside Guru, MC Solaar, and other jazz-influenced acts.

While Jazzanova takes the art of sampling to an amazingly organic and instrumentally convincing level, In Between is proof that regardless of how seamless any production team is in the studio, it isn’t enough to replace the intangible soul of musicians interacting with each other.

Give Jazzanova their fair share of credit, though. Their debut full length does an outstanding job at both defining and closing the first chapter in their groundbreaking attempts toward progression. In the end, however, it leaves the listener wanting more.

After listening to In Between, it becomes clear that the six-men collective from Germany is on to something prodigious. While they have yet to give nu-skool jazz a complete work anchored by a profound and direct statement, it is clear that Jazzanova has all the tools and colors to overcome genre classifications and paint a clear future in the converging jazz and electronic communities.

Furthermore, given adequate time to approach a concentrated musical statement, Jazzanova has the potential to drop a future album of transcending musical clarity. Before jumping into complete musical arrogance, In Between is an open-ended album heaving with future potential. For the patient listener, In Between offers several musical streams of consciousness-not bad for a debut. Don’t miss it.

– RJ Sak