Hot on the heels of their overly familiar but still worthy summer compilation (Slip'n'Slide Ibiza), London's premier purveyors of soulful, jazzy house music crank the quality up a notch or six to deliver a real feast of fresh tunes, any one of which would wake up the sleepiest of dance-floors. More significantly, this collection gives the lie to the rumour that this genre has recently exhausted itself and was doomed to a too refined retirement in retro-chic, coffee-tabledom. Above all, any set containing new(ish) tracks from Tenth & Parker, Blaze, Tom & Joyce, and DJ Disciple should be snapped up by all who like their dance music tuneful, jazz-inflected, and with lashings of soul.
If you know your labels, then the list of contributing outfits is all you'll need to confirm definite Need to Purchase status on this latest in Jazz-House's most reliable series. Disorient, Yellow, Ubiquity, Dadhouse, and Catch 22 are just some of the leading lights represented. Moreover, among the producers and remixers on show are MAW, Ian Pooley, DJ Disciple, Terry Farley, and Bassment Jaxx. Still not convinced? Well, there's the amazing experience of the deep and serious John Beltran getting all Latin and lively, plus a re-make of the Detroit classic "Good Life" that actually works. Oh, and the legendary Linda Clifford chips in with a credible Afro-house version of Lamont Dozier's "Goin' Back to My Roots".
If you are not already on your way down to your nearest disc emporium, then bear with me while I dwell on one or two of the album's many highlights. You can safely ignore tracks one and two. Fantastic Plastic Machine's disco-tastic "Love Is Psychedelic" and the Residents "Don't Take Away My Summer" are both pleasant but essentially pop-novelty pieces. However, from Fertile Ground's "Let the Wind Blow" onward the music is of a distinctive and decidedly superior quality.
Fertile Ground are an important act in their own right, with three neo-Bartz, soul-jazz sets to their name. The ever-improving Ian Pooley has taken the ethereal folk-funk of "Let the Wind Blow" and given it a Latin twist (there is strong Latin feel to the whole mix) while not sacrificing the song's original strengths. Beautiful female vocals and some very classy keyboard work are enhanced rather than pulverized by the upping of the tempo. Pooley's touch is beaty but light and assured.
Disorient's Tenth & Parker follow with "Rollin' Like Thunder", which has a relaxed but insistent rhythm and a hook that stays with you for days. Sung in an earnest yet effective fashion, it is one of the better "songs" doing the club rounds currently. Some elegant horn work gives the arrangement added poise. Up next, Tom & Joyce, whose "Vai Minha Tristeza" remains my favourite Latin club track of all time. "Queixume" isn't quite as subtle as that classic (very little is), but with Masters at Work providing an almost Incognito flavour, the Brazilian by way of Paris duo have another samba-esque anthem on their hands. Satisfyingly lengthy, this is a tune to really get lost in.
Then comes the surprise of the set, perhaps the year. DJ Disciple, in the guise of Brooklyn Soulboys, drops "Fort Greene Jazzmatazz". If this proves to be a massive club hit then my faith in the future of dance will be completely restored. Now we know DJ Disciple makes good, hard-edged soulful house but this is a revelation. Think McCoy Tyner Orchestra in one of their Latin forays over shuffling, house-ish beats and with the Fifth Dimension ooh-ing away in the background. Immense, genuinely Jazz piano and eccentric Dolphy-like sax over a big band sound Dizzy Gillespie would have been proud of complete the picture. I'm sure it's a sample of something very famous but that is less important than the fact that it is vibrant and totally successful. Jazz-funk for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Then we're into the covers, Beltran's delightful "Bota Foga" and various Jaxx (Atlantic and Junior). For me, the pick of a strong remainder has to be Chris Bangs (as original soulboy) with a sizzling-hot, futuristic samba-house number, "High on Sunshine". The album closes with Blaze's "Sweeter than the Day Before" which is warm and wonderful -- but you will be buying their new set anyway so I won't press their brilliance on you here.
Klubbjazz 4 is as good a mix of Latin, jazz-funk, soul, and house as the crowded compilation market is likely to see for a while. Along with Body and Soul 4 it is the strongest recent advocate for my type of dance music, as it sounds in 2002. That is to say, it is contemporary but always mindful of earlier forms. South America is the overwhelming influence, but everything from Afrobeat to NY disco gets a look-in. Compilers and mixers Steve Jones and Lewis Dene have come up with a package that is great fun and one that is musically more intricate than its obvious exuberance might suggest. More of this, please.