Jazzanova

In Between (JCR/Atlantic)

If Kruder and Dorfmeister are a blunt before breakfast, then Jazzanova is cocktails after dinner. Stylish and sophisticated, Jazzanova's debut LP, In Between(discounting 2000's remix collection), is a journey through nu jazz that you're not likely to forget. The six-man team from Germany has dominated the jazz-dance and downtempo scenes for the past few years, both with its own label and with countless remixes. But it's In Between that best displays a mature and seasoned unit whose members feel as comfortable making dance floors smoke as they do playing smoky jazz for modern hipsters.

Finding fraternity with the City of Brotherly Love, Jazzanova embraces the influential Philadelphia scene on In Between. The album is rife with guest vocalists, a veritable who's who of Philly soul. Man of the moment Victer Duplaix (whose own "Sensuality" was an underground stormer earlier this year) shines as he drops the uptempo "Soon" and the smoothed-out "Wasted Time." Only poet Ursula Rucker and MC Capital K fail to deliver over Jazzanova's sublime orchestration. Whereas Capital K's contribution is a noble yet failed experiment, "Keep Falling" is a sad indication that Rucker has not grown or changed since she blew minds on the Roots' classic "The Unlocking" (off 1995's Do You Want More?).

As a modernist composition, In Between is steeped in the 1970s jazz and soul of artists like McCoy Tyner and Roy Ayers. Jazzanova's hip-hop production is exciting and innovative, particularly the beautifully broken album opener, "L.O.V.E. and You and I." The instrumental "Glow and Glare" takes the best elements of François Kevorkian's 1980s production and updates it to create a monster of a midtempo dance track. The rest of the album beautifully combines elements of broken beat, Afro tech, and acid jazz into music that helps make the case that the dance floor and its dancers have grown up.

 
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