A perfectly balanced narrative
Lara Bellini 2009
The art of compiling an album is a hard one to master; even harder by a collective renowned the world over for their mixing rather than studio skills with first class guests onboard, travelling across genres. Not so for Berlin-based Jazzanova, who deliver 12 wonderful co-arranged / co-written tracks on this latest offering.
They artfully place different styles in a perfectly balanced narrative, never falling into predictable patterns, with the architecture of the album playing as important as the tunes themselves. Legendary Brazilians Azymuth, via kindred spirits Bembe Segue to soulful-jazz master Jose James (to name a few): they all effortlessly converse with each other in perfect alchemy.
The use of sampling is reduced to a bare minimum, apart from a 'domestic' cross-referencing which subliminally augments the album's consistency. Hence, slotted between Dwele's rendition of Marcos Valle's Rockin' You Eternally and Joe Dukie's What Do You Want?, there sits Phonte's So Far From Home: choppy hip-hop waters off safe soulful shores. Based on a sample from the previous Paul Randolph track Let Me Show Ya, it completely subverts the mood. And the urgency and intensity of the original it thus acquires makes it one of the highlights.
On a less laudatory note, this is an album that will probably date quickly, in contrast to the seminal masterpieces which inspired Jazzanova. But Nu jazz never aspired to surpass its jazz and soul muses. It is all about the enjoyment of making music in your chosen field, intelligently reworking all things musical without detracting from value, message and groove; especially in a world where, too often, all is reduced to some bland Orwellian pop pulp.
There are some superbly catchy tunes here – had Let Me Show Ya been the opener, it would've taken a couple of weeks to even think of hitting track two. Overall, this is a truly classy outfit.
Of all the things Jazzanova love and chose to include here, not one of them feels out of place.