Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Intersection: Mocean Worker

The Intersection is a new feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that blend jazz with electronica (a tradition pioneered by none other than Miles Davis on such classic recordings as On the Corner).

This week's focus is Mocean Worker.

Mocean Worker aka Adam Dorn is one of the jazzier electronica musicians out there, and with good reason – he has it in his blood. Dorn's dad Joel was one of Atlantic Records’ top producers during the 1960s and '70s, helming sessions by John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, as well as Roberta Flack, Bette Midler and the Allman Brothers. As for Adam, he studied at the renowned Berklee College of Music and has worked with artists as varied as David Sanborn to Hal Willner to Chaka Khan. Adam and his dad also have reissued jazz albums from the defunct Muse and Landmark labels on their own 32 Records.

Mocean Worker began promisingly with the cut ‘n’ paste drum ‘n’ bass album Home Movies from the Brainforest ('98), which was released by the punk label Conscience. His appreciation of Latin rhythms and crime jazz moods is evident on “The Mission” and “Overtime” which smolders with film noir intensity. His mash-up of “Summertime” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” is among the best of its late ‘90s retro kind.

Dorn moved to Island Records’ subsidiary Palm Pictures for his strong second effort, the more polished Mixed Emotional Features ('99). By turns jazzy and cinematic, this album further demonstrates Dorn’s love of tasty samples, but also shows some significant growth in his synth and production skills. An atmosphere of intrigue and drama pervades tracks such as “Rene M” and “Heaven @ 12:07.” And the cut ‘n’ paste retro jazz workout “Counts, Dukes and Satyrs” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on his first album.

Dorn’s third album Aural & Hearty ('00) is the clubbiest of his efforts and probably the most disposable, but does offer another trip down millennial sampledelic nu-jazz in “Velvet Black Sky.”

When Mocean Worker returned four years later with Enter the MoWo! ('04), Dorn’s taste for funky beats and jazz loops (“On and On”, “Right Now”) were back at the forefront. The album also features a number of special guests including Les McCann (“That’s What’s Happenin’ Tonight”), Bill Frissell (“Salted Fatback”), Steve Bernstein of Sex Mob (“Only the Shadow Knows”), and Hal Willner (“Move”) as well as David "Fathead" Newman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Nina Simone. Enter the MoWo! may be the best introduction to Mocean Worker.

For his fifth album, Dorn continued to ply the old school beat jazz vibe and Latin jazz grooves with Cinco de MoWo! ('07). Check out the infectious sample-jacking splendor of “Shake Ya Boogie”, and the cameo appearances of Herb “Tijuana Brass” Alpert (“Changes”) and Rahsaan Roland Kirk (“Siss Boom Bah” and “Reykjavik”). While the hooks aren’t quite as infectious as Enter the MoWo!, Cinco de MoWo! effectively builds on Dorn’s jazz-inspired electronica sound.

Next Week: Compost Records' Future Sounds of Jazz series

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