Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Intersection: Future Sounds of Jazz

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 Compost Records' Future Sounds of Jazz series.

Compost Records is a German label closely associated with the electronica genre called "nu jazz" or more generically "downtempo." Most people familiar with this sophisticated 21st century style will tell you that the Future Sounds of Jazz series is the nu jazz benchmark. They'll get no argument here.

The Michael Reinboth-produced 11-part series (so far) boasts a list of label and non-label talent including Jimi Tenor, Wagon Christ, Gentle People, Nightmares on Wax, Fauna Flash, Turntable Terranova, FunkStorung, Beanfield, Rainer Truby Trio, Tosca, Alex Gopher, Jazzanova, A Forest Mighty Black, United Future Organization, Peter Kruder and many many more.

Stylistically, the sounds encompass chilled downtempo, trippy exotica, jazzy drum 'n bass, Latin-tinged house, abstract hip hop, cut 'n paste and hard-edged techno. Over the course of the series, however, the emphasis is on uptempo highly polished dancefloor nu jazz.

While most of the music in the FSOJ series demonstrates a love of jazz feeling even when jazz chops or overt improvisation are apparent.

For example, Future Sounds of Jazz Vol. 8 offers up a dozen tracks, most exclusive to Compost and available for the first time on CD. Big beats mesh with murky synth loops and Latin rhythm beds, punctuated occasionally by soulful vocals and jazzy piano fills. It's a slick mix. Kaos' "Around in Circles" is cinematic big beat jazz par excellance. Jon Kennedy's "Smith vs. Smith" is simultaneously funky and intriguing. Moonstarr's "Dust" sounds like Latin lounge sucked through a hip-hop time warp. And Butti 49's "Spiritual Rotations" is jazzy as hell without meandering into self-indulgence. All in all, very nice and not in the least bit challenging -- perfect for the cocktail hour.

Next week: Amon Tobin

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