In Between – Jazzanova
Ropeadope Records 7567 93121-2
Jazzanova is the work of a six-headed DJ collective, which renders it uneven
by its very nature. Stylistically, the disc is rife with jazz sensibilities
but draws influence from all corners of the musical map. The disc features
vocal performances from no fewer than nine artists across its 17
tracks — five of which are mere filler, transitions from track to track
hover above or below the one-minute mark. While there are no egregious
failures, nearly half of the disc is entirely forgettable. The other half
weaves a dense and riveting aural pastiche that curves and curls
unpredictably, blanketing acres of ground in mere minutes.
The opener, "L.O.V.E. and You & I," stitches its vocal track together from a
ridiculous number of sources, leaving each voice to deliver no more than a
few words. Add to the mix piano, horns, keyboards, the beloved rhythmic
fish scraper, a string of surprising beats, a live bass, and a live
vibraphone. The musical patchwork is as dense as the vocal tracks. The
dream-like sway of the first few minutes lives up to the "jazz" of the
moniker, giving way to a throaty bass line that roots a tasty passage hinted
at throughout the opening jumble. As the guitar track enters, you begin to
realize how much musical space resides within the song.
"The One-Tet" splices an offsetting, syncopated beat with Latin percussion
and keys. Capital A, rhyming atop the beats, flows with ease across the
more traditional and bass driven sections of the track, but his staggered
delivery atop the choruses is unnecessary. "Hanozono", with its faux flute
and semi-island percussion, creeps under your skin like it or not. The meld
is infectious, despite what would often be distasteful tones in isolation.
Ursula Rucker does a phat beat justice of "Keep Falling". Her distinctive
flow, riddled with pauses, stands even taller beside her sparingly utilized
singing voice. She applies jazz ideas and poetic interpretations expertly,
making Hawkeye Phanatic's heavy-handed and redundant delivery seem amateur
in her wake.
"Another Day" survives sick drumbeats alone, beats sick enough to excuse the
over-wrought vocal "ooh"s and "aah"s before the solo. "Soon" does brilliant
things with skwonking and quanking video game noises, but it is not enough
to balance the vocal stylings of Vikter Duplaix. The vocalists in general
bring a jazz slant to the tracks, but the touch is often too light, leaving
too little impression.
There are so many ideas crammed into each track that the balance is
increasingly important with each added facet, and several of these tracks
stand on tipped scales. In the end, Jazzanova is the best you can expect
from a DJ collective — an uneven effort with enough envelope-pushing tracks
to make it worth the listen.