Slip and Slide’s Jazz in the House series was crucial for the development of a home listening market for what is now a sizeable sub-genre in the dance world, house music with a strong jazzy flavour. Without those nine volumes it is unlikely that labels like Hed Kandi or even Naked Music could have had the success they have recently enjoyed. What the collections managed to do was to reawaken interest in house music among an older, jazz/funk-raised audience, who had largely abandoned the newer danceforms, while introducing a post-1988 club contingent to a more melodic and soulful variant of the 4/4 form. As a result, there is now a surfeit of such compilations, all balanced half-way between coffee-table and club, and it will be interesting to see how the Klub Jazz imprint, which has replaced its illustrious forebear, fares in this crowded but very enjoyable corner of the market.
The first two volumes showed something of a tendency to play it safe. Volume Three also “suffers” from a certain over-familiarity in its choice of tunes. It will also do nothing to dispel the “Dadhouse” tag which is often levelled at efforts such as this, being, if anything, even more an updated jazz/funk set than previous offerings. It has a decidedly retro feel, given how obsessed with “now” dance culture is supposed to be. As with the recent mix CD from Joey Negro, to which this is worthy companion, nobody who came to club life through the likes of Roy Ayers or Lonnie Liston Smith will find anything here to upset them.
Hopefully, those less long in the tooth will also stick around, because this is probably the most coherent and consistent package that Slip and Slide have put together for some time. It is over-dependent on updates of classic anthems, but they all sound so sprightly and fresh that it shouldn’t worry any but the most disco-loathing listener. Many will of course know what to expect and will be grateful that Slip and Slide continue to champion quality, soulful house; their only problem might be already owning a lot of the tracks. On the other hand, as an introduction to the new (or newly refurbished) jazz/funk it could hardly be bettered.
Do not expect a jazz/house collaboration of the Bugge Wesseltoft/Rainer Truby variety—nothing here is in anyway that cerebral. The spirits that move this album are those that ruled the UK dancefloors from the late ‘70s to the mid-‘80s. Many anthems from that era actually make an appearance, often in barely modified form. George Duke’s “Brazilian Love Affair” becomes “Summer in Brazil” by Carlos Rodriguez, with hardly a note missing. East West Connection re-work Teddy Pendergrass’ “The More I Get” to good effect, although naturally the vocals are less impressive than on the original. The bravest venture is the Smurf and Perry take on Donald Byrd’s superb “Loving You” which is prettily done but really does make you start to wonder whether all this recycling is not a bit excessive. However,in the main these new versions are genuinely alive and not mere shadows of their illustrious forebears. The old school arrives in person in the shape of Brit-funk legends Atmosfear, whose hardy perennial “Dancing in Outer Space” is here given some subtle tweaking by the equally perennial Francois Kervorkian. Better than the original that one, as is Nick Holder’s “Da Sambafrique” which uses (I think) an old Pat Metheny riff. The Canadian’s unacknowledged borrowings have failed to prevent him becoming one of the most most admired of current producers and that tune just about the most loved (and most frequently anthologised) of the last couple of years.
If this all sounds pleasant but a trifle obvious and even old hat, do not worry as there is plenty of new material too. In fact the less tried and tested tunes deliver some of the disc’s highlights. The pick is probably Deep FM’s aptly, if unimaginatively, titled “Jazz”, which was just about 2001’s best instrumental club cut (ok—it has someone saying “jazz” repeatedly, but you know what I mean). Simple but perfectly executed, its fluid rhythms still have plenty of mileage in them and this first CD appearance will undoubtedly not be the last. Also essential to anyone into this genre are Hardsoul’s epic and electrifying “La Pasion de Gozar” and in-form Paolo Rocha’s elegant “Dreamwalker”—both very Latin in feel. Brazilian beats and song structures feature on many of the selections, with JASK’s “The Latin Vision” being the most obviously, and joyously, indebted to that region. Even the oldest cut, River Ocean’s “Love and Happiness”, has been given a Mr.Bongo mix to take it into carnival country. All the better for it too, even though India’s voice still grates a little.
The only truly 50 percent house, 50 percent jazz cut is Physic’s “7AM Sessions”, a sax led, deepish groove which succeeds at both levels—infectiously funky and dreamily hypnotic in equivalent measure. Generally, the soul, Latin and jazz elements dominate—which is fine by me. Admittedly, there is little here that is really groundbreaking but almost everything is done with panache, style and abundant musicality. Even the numbers you know off by heart still resonate, such is their inherent charm.
Maybe it is not inevitably music for a mature (old) club audience, but it is probably more likely, due to its reference points, to appeal to that contingent. There is evidence though that there are sufficient younger clubbers around, with a fondness for this mixture of fun and sophistication, to make this collection relevant to more than just geriatrics. Exuberance and good times surround each piece. Buoyant bass-lines, Samba percussion, lithe sax and silky guitar licks always have a place on all but the hardest dancefloors. Volume Three has all these treats in abundance and,when the whole thing is held together by meaty but never mindless house beats, the result is some very superior party music. The bonus is that everything has been put together precisely and affectionately.
Whether the tunes emanate from the States or the UK, from Portugal or Canada all of the performances are testimony to the continuing love affair that DJs and producers have with the inter-mingling of diasporic rhythms that came together during the disco era (we are not here speaking of The Bee Gees and John Travolta) and which seem to provide an endlessly renewable source of inspiration and, thankfully, perspiration. For this music is only “coffeetable” in the sense that the songs are strong enough to afford pleasure away from a dancefloor. It remains primarily music to make your body move. Give it the slightest chance and it will succeed in that. No matter how over-populated the CD compilation section of your record store, Klubb Jazz 3, is well worth hunting down.
// Notes from the Road
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