[26 October 2006]
Throughout the history of recorded music, the term “disc jockey”, or, more commonly, “DJ” has carried a multitude of meanings. At first the discs in the title referred to records, and the jockeys were those who managed the musical activities at radio stations. As technology improved and music became more portable, the term DJ also could be used to refer to those who spun the records at parties and clubs. Today, when music is carried on compact discs or in compressed electronic files, the term DJ has an even broader range of significance. Today, it can refer to musicians who bypass the live music scene altogether and produce albums with their own original material. Of course, none of these musical activities are mutually exclusive. As Jazzanova proves, modern DJs can be equally successful on the radio, in the club, and in the studio.
Jazzanova is the name assumed by six German DJs who have been working together for the past 10 years. The group members made a name for themselves with their live sets, a series of remix projects, and a radio show. In 2002, Jazzanova finally released its first album of original music, In Between. The group’s name might be somewhat misleading to listeners who have never heard the DJs’ music. Although they incorporate jazz instruments and melodies into their music, the members of Jazzanova are definitely grounded in the electronic scene, creating music that could be classified as broken beat or nujazz. The title of the group’s latest release, however, is anything but misleading. Broad Casting pays tribute to the fifth anniversary of the Jazzanova radio show by including the work of many important electronic artists, and it is as eclectic as one would expect from an album with “broad” in the title.
Broad Casting opens with “Candlelight” by Wahoo, a seductive chillout track with a vocal that recalls Donald Fagen, and then moves into “Or at Least”, a samba by the Slapped Eyeballers. The music soon moves from these smooth jazz waters into more unsteady electronic territory. After the brief “Intermission” come several downtempo beat-driven tracks, including “Flashback (Jazzanova’s Mashed Bag)”, which simmers with 1970s soul, and “In the (Re)Mix (Starship Interpretation)” by Capitol A, which merges old-school hip-hop and a sparse, jazzy, electronic groove.
As Broad Casting develops, it becomes increasingly complex. Around halfway through its duration, it moves into broken beat territory, incorporating grooves which are more complex amalgamations of polyrhythmic percussion. Jazzanova contributes a remix of its own music to the collection, “Boom Clicky Boom Klack (Mr. Scruff’s Vocal Mix)”. This track features vocals by British musician Shaun Escoffery, and it is one of the highlights of this album. After it, the music gets trickier, moving from the low-key acid jazz of Ciara Hill and Atjazz on “Nowhere (I Can Go) (AtJazz’ Astro Black Mix)” to the jazzy, hip-hop-heavy “Serve It Up (Starship Mix)” by Clyde and Capitol A. Another highlight from this section is “Sun of a Beach (London Mix)” by Pharoah Roche. Mixing Latin rhythms and guitars with fuzzy beats, Roche creates a tropical party track.
Two of the least accessible tracks on Broad Casting come near the end of the album. As “Beatzep” by Jaslopski unfolds, spacy electronics emerge while the rhythm shifts against a pulsing volume swell that runs throughout the entire track. “Step Off” by Arken is even more difficult, featuring tweaks and twirps over a loping beat. These tracks are interesting in their own right, but they almost seem out-of-place next to the more accessible and more obviously jazz-influenced tracks on the rest of the album. Apparently not wishing to end their album on an uncomfortable note, Jazzanova concludes Broad Casting with the mellow “So Long” by Nicola Kramer and the reserved “Just a Lil’ Lovin’ (Just a Lil’ Outro)” by Jazzanova/ Outlines.
Collections of music by various artists are always somewhat hit-and-miss endeavors. Their eclectic content has both benefits and drawbacks. Almost everyone will find something to like on this wide-ranging album. On the flip side, few people will find every track to their liking. Broad Casting is about as good as a collection of obscure music can be. It stands out from lesser compilations because every selection here is a high-quality example of its genre. Chillout, downtempo, hip-hop, broken beat, and acid jazz are all well represented here, and they are only a few of the many styles present. Fans of any of these genres should be satisfied with the album, and anyone looking to explore these styles or simply hear some new grooves should definitely tune into Jazzanova’s Broad Casting.