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Jazzanova - Champagne Jazzanova

Author: Cyclone
Monday, March 2, 2009

3D’s Cyclone speaks with Jazzanova DJ Alexander Barck, touring Australia to promote the German ensemble’s latest album, Of All The Things.

Jazzanova’s Alexander Barck is returning to Australia on a mission. The DJ wants to demonstrate that the Germans are not merely capable of presenting sophisticated compilations but also credible ‘artist’ albums. Indeed, this time he’ll be promoting Jazzanova’s first album in six years, Of All The Things.

Berlin’s largely anonymous six-man collective – made up of three DJs and three producers – broke away from Teutonic machine music, spearheading the ‘nu jazz’ movement. Jazzanova founded a prestigious stable in Sonar Kollektiv, now over a decade old. Aside from remixing, they’ve issued innumerable comps. Ironically, Jazzanova’s most celebrated release remains the best-selling The Remixes 1997 – 2000 on Compost. In 2002 they delivered the cult studio LP, In Between.

At the start of 2007 Barck indicated that a sequel was due later that year. However, Jazzanova were distracted by other endeavours, including a commission for a musical, Belle et Fou, in addition to label and radio commitments. “It was so much work over the last five years that I’m happy that we did it in such a short time,” Barck laughs of their new album. “But, actually, it took us maybe a year to make it. Because everything is recorded live, that was a big challenge for us. We never did that before, so we had to get into it first and learn about microphones and sound and mixing and everything. But I’m really happy with the results. For us, it was a new step to do an album like this. It took us a year – I think that’s OK. Some people take longer.”

Jazzanova aspired to compose songs that stood as part of an album. They’ve even devised a live show, though, as a DJ, Barck isn’t directly involved. The most astonishing aspect of Of All the Things is its shift in direction as Jazzanova delve into neo-soul with guest vocalists like Joe Dukie (Fat Freddy’s Drop). The album isn’t clubby, yet Barck is dropping remixes in his DJ sets.

One highlight is a remake of Leon Ware’s Rockin’ You Eternally. Marvin Gaye’s old collaborator himself duets with Detroit upstart Dwele. “He actually contacted us to produce something for his new project,” Barck says of Ware. “He worked with Kenny Dope and King Britt and some other people from the States and he wanted to check us out. We did a few songs with him when he was here and we had a lot of fun. He’s great. The more famous the artist is, the easier they are in the studio. They know how to work in the studio and how to create a certain kind of atmosphere. It was really great to work with him. He’s very young in his heart – and in his mind – but, at the same time, he has a lot of stories to tell, because he’s nearly 70-years-old now.”

Unusually, the staunchly indie Jazzanova have disseminated Of All the Things through the Universal-affiliated Verve. “I was always a little bit afraid of major labels, because you know these stories that they can fuck up things easily – but we had a very good experience over here with the jazz division of Universal,” Barck says. “They came to our studio, they really liked the music, and they gave us good feedback. We were surprised how deep into music they are.”

WHO: Jazzanova
WHAT: Of All the Things through Verve / Universal / Play Tilbury Hotel
WHEN: Out now / Sunday 8 March