[31 August 2006]
Despite Ken Burns’s earnestly filmed argument to the contrary, jazz is not America’s art form. Although jazz has roots in American traditions it has often been most interesting when it has mixed with global music ranging from European classical composition to Brazilian popular styles. In the 21st century, one group that represents the global face of jazz is the Kyoto Jazz Massive, and thanks to the new two-disc compilation, 10th Anniversary, that group stands poised to reach a wider audience than ever before.
The Kyoto Jazz Massive is composed of Japanese producer/DJ brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino. For over a decade they have blurred the lines between electronic, jazz and Latin music with their brand of broken beat music. Besides pioneering acid jazz in Japan and revolutionizing the music scene in its home country, the duo has gained a worldwide audience and influenced many of the most successful electronic artists around the globe. The latest Kyoto Jazz Massive compilation, 10th Anniversary offers an overview of the duo’s sound and demonstrates the expansiveness of their influence.
10th Anniversary contains only one straight track from the Kyoto Jazz Massive. The other tracks are remixes, covers and tributes inspired by the work of the Okino brothers. Some of the groups on the collection, including Jazztronik and DJ Mitsu, are Japanese, but 10th Anniversary truly spans the globe. One of the best tracks, a remix of the KJM track “Brightness of These Days”, comes from a British DJ, the rising star Will Holland, a.k.a. Quantic. The track opens with a subdued jazz guitar, a sultry vocal and a simple beat, but after a few minutes it changes into a funky, upbeat dance masterpiece.
The Quantic remix is just one of many highlights on this disc. Latin grooves and vocal harmonies distinguish the 11-minute “Rondo Da Cuica” by Brazilian fusion artist Da Lata. The memorable track “Tomorrow Never Comes” by Reel People features Vanessa Freeman on vocals and incorporates a downtempo dance beat, jazz instruments, and tribal flutes. Another standout is the Sleepwalker cover of the Kyoto Jazz Massive classic, “Eclipse”, which contains elaborate piano and saxophone parts that give the music a more dominant jazz sound.
Although all the tracks on 10th Anniversary fall under the same broad category of 21st century nu-jazz, each artist on the set presents a unique spin on the genre which Kyoto Jazz Massive pioneered and helped popularize. The versatile collection is equally well suited to be played in a dance club or at a hip cocktail party, and its breadth and depth will make it a treasure for all kinds of music listeners. Seasoned electronic listeners will enjoy hearing the exclusive mixes by some of the most respected artists on the international scene, while traditional jazz fans should be interested to hear how their beloved music has intermingled with international dance styles. Those new to broken beat or Kyoto Jazz Massive will find in 10th Anniversary a fine introduction to a rich world of innovative yet satisfying music. The collection is an ideal tribute album—one which acknowledges a giant of the past, explores the styles of the present, and offers a glimpse of sounds to come—and as such would be a fine addition to any serious music fan’s collection.