Reviews

Jazzanova + Koop

Shan Fowler
Jazzanova + Koop

Jazzanova + Koop

City: New York
Venue: Irving Plaza
Date: 2002-09-03

Jazzanova
Koop
I can't dance. Bad dancers know that I can't dance and tell me so. If you entered me in a dance-off and ranked my moves on a one to 10 scale, I'd fail to score because the judges wouldn't stop laughing. The problem is in my hips. They don't move independently of my back, giving my gyrations a wide sway not unlike a cartoon character dodging bullets. Well-intentioned friends have tried to break me of my patented swingout by guiding my midsection with their hands, but all have given up in bewilderment of a traditionally conservative body that's incapable of change. My shoulders don't help, moving as they do in a scarecrow-esque frozen wave from one end to the other, which leaves my head no recourse other than to bob forward and back on my spindly neck. And my feet, well, we won't go there other than to say I'm at a loss as to how anyone manages to stay upright while dancing in rubber-soled shoes. I'm neither uncoordinated nor uncomfortable in motion; I'm simply not built for poetry in motion. This glimpse into one reviewer's personal hell is brought to you by Jazzanova and Koop, two sets of DJs/producers who, no matter how embarrassing it might turn out, will make you move to their rhythms. European dance DJs are subversive that way. Your typical American jockey will give you a beat that spells out what your body should do -- or better yet, they'll tell you outright to shake what your momma gave you, move that ass, or throw your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care. European DJs like to sneak up on you, hit you from behind and get you moving despite yourself. One minute you're bobbing your head, slapping your hand against your own thigh, the next minute you're flailing like a fish on land, bouncing off other bodies caught up in the same choreography. The kicker is that you don't mind it, you don't mind it at all. At the Irving Plaza the day after Labor Day, Jazzanova extended the end-of-summer festivities an extra two-and-a-half hours. That's two-and-a-half hours, nonstop, by themselves -- nearly twice as long as the average set by DJs who limit themselves to what'll fit on the mix CD. Magnus Zingmark of Koop went over (well) in his own way by extending his worldly set to nearly 90 minutes. So, to review, that's around four hours of dancing on a night when most in the audience might have otherwise been at home recovering from a three-day weekend. These Europeans love to thumb their noses at American traditions. Thank god. Jazzanova, as the name implies, create a fusion of jazz-inflected tones so seamless that they're nearly invisible. You can listen to an entire CD, in the case of their original-artists debut In Between, or several CDs, in the case of the double-length The Remixes 1997-2000, and hardly notice the flow from jazz to hip hop to African to Latin to European and back again. It makes for great ambient office listening, the type that gives you the energy to keep moving through an otherwise mundane day. The big surprise for the live incarnation is that, like classic jazz performers, Jazzanova know that the tempo has to pick up if you want to keep the rowdy masses happy in a dark nightclub. Most everyone at Irving Plaza was happy, at least judging by the swaying and the shouts. As Jürgen von Knoblauch and Claas Brieler, only two members of the Jazzanova collective bobbed to their own beat-matching, the shape-shifting vibe traveled through strings of Latin, hip hop, house, jazz, bossanova, African, funk, disco -- just about any rhythm-centered style of music to ever come out of the minds of humans made it into a set that was stitched together with laser precision. The amalgamation of styles on display is hardly The Next Big Thing anymore, but it's still something that the whole wide dance world wants to emulate. It may very well have started with these pale Germans, or it may have come about long before them. Either way, there are few who can do it with such subliminal effortlessness for so long. If the crowd seemed thinner near the end of the night, it wasn't for lack of interest, it was sheer exhaustion. Koop's Zingmark supplied early arrivers with a similar surprise. The Swedish duo's debut, Waltz for Koop, is a mellow mix of jazzy electronics that's been heralded along with Costa, St. Germain and others as ushering in a new era of European Jazz, and for good reason. But Koop's version is more for the martini lounge than the dance floor, so he sped it up considerably. He started with a succession of Afro-Cuban classics on vinyl and, when the crowd had reached a suitable capacity, he switched to a thumpy mix of jazzier selections that wasn't as seamless as Jazzanova's set to follow, but did get everyone hopping -- even those of us whose bodies long ago conspired against us to make us look like complete buffoons doing so.

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