The six members of Berlin’s Jazzanova have made quite a name for themselves as remixers and producers over the past few years. They released their debut full-length, In Between, in 2002 to worldwide critical acclaim. The album blended composition skills, programming talent and a wide-ranging musical background and put it on display for mass consumption. Listening to the LP, you’d swear some of the crisp drums were played live, but many times the breaks were painstakingly assembled in a studio with an astounding human element. The release of In Between injected a new vitality into a genre that, while extremely strong in pockets, was sometimes reduced to background music for cocktail consumption in trendy bars and outdoor cafes.
On In Between, Jazzanova employed several guest vocalists and session musicians, including Vikter Duplaix, poet Ursula Rucker, and jazz legend Doug Hammond — names sure to resonate with fans of the nu-jazz, broken-beat and soul genres. A high level of musicianship is on display: an example of this seen on the track, “Hanazono,” where the tempo changes from 11/12 to 3/4 to 5/6 in less than five minutes. The members of Jazzanova aren’t just crate-digging cut-and-pasters — they have the theory and musical knowledge to back it up.
After extensive deejaying and world tours before and after In Between, Jazzanova saw it fit to put together a proper mix of records they play out: Mixing is the result. This release also marks Jazzanova’s move from their longtime home at Compost Records (under their sub-label JCR: Jazzanova Compost Records) to their own Sonar Kollektiv imprint.
In some ways, Mixing is your average parabola-shaped deejay set. In their words, it’s “warm up, prime time, thanks — it was nice with you.” But what makes this mix different is the stunning level of eclecticism. You can practically hear the collective shriek of delight emanating from the throats of Gilles Peterson Worldwide devotees; so many genres get equal play in the mix, all with the same jazz and soul undertones tying things together.
Like Mr. Peterson himself, Jazzanova skillfully goes from soulful R&B, hip-hop and house to broken-beat, jazzy breaks and synth-heavy funk before taking the tempo back down again to finish things off. They don’t get bogged down in long proggy mixes, rather focusing on songs, sometimes using tools and samples to segue between tempos when beats can’t be squared up.
And their taste is predictably stellar. Cuts from Philadelphia’s Jill Scott, an a capella from King Britt’s Oba Funke psydonym and a few exclusives are on display, including Jazzanova’s cover of a Patrice Rushen boogie track from the ’70s. Former Mo’Wax artist Attica Blues appears with an excellent unreleased remix by Dixon.
Mixing has something for everyone, from the most hardened train-spotter to the casual listener. The exclusive tracks and mixes will whet the appetite of those faithful to the scene and will equally engage the casual listener with the sheer quality, rhythm and dance-ability of the tracks. It goes to show that a deejay mix doesn’t have to be one tempo that gradually builds into a throbbing crescendo; it can be a celebration of eclectic music culled from several genres.