Various Artists Future Sounds of Jazz, Vol. 6
In the early '70s, Miles Davis (with his On the Corner album) and Herbie Hancock (with his short-lived sextet) picked up and dropped "electric jazz" almost quickly enough to sneak it past the critics. The music-buying public hardly noticed, but the wrath directed at Davis and Hancock from the jazz press for the musicians' formless excursions into synthesizers and the rhythms of funk music could only be described as biblical. The sole bit of hope the most charitable critics could muster was that perhaps these were attempts at looking into the future, and that perhaps in a few years somebody would come along and do something with their ideas that made some kind of sense.
It's taken 25 years or so, but a smattering of dance music producers around the world are now taking the notion of electric jazz very seriously. Rainer Trüby, possibly the funkiest man in Freiberg, spends his free time tracking down these artists' releases for the consistently inspired Future Sounds of Jazz series of compilations on Munich-based Compost Records. It's highly doubtful, however, that the purists who originally dissed Miles and Herbie would find anything more reassuring in the studio-enabled jazz of these artists. "Jazz" for them doesn't mean using traditional instruments in improvisational ways, but an opportunity to re-evaluate the genres that pay their bills -- house, instrumental hip-hop, drum 'n' bass -- in a more free-form, less style-conscious mind-set.
Of course, these musicians have access to loads more sources for inspiration than their electric jazz forefathers did -- dub, disco, exotica, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban coexist so peacefully on these 11 tracks that searching for the lines between them is a waste of time. "Bateria -- Latin Impressions" by New York club dignitary Victor Simonelli is an extended South American drum circle enhanced electronically only by the simple 4/4 thud of a drum machine. Tokyo's United Future Organization layers filtered, echoing percussion over a stream of pleasant synth lines on "The Planet Plan," and Fauna Flash -- the first German drum 'n' bass outfit to get respect in the U.K. -- merges the living room and the dance floor by means of zealous drumming and half-time acoustic bass phrases. Not to be outdone on the multicultural front, Viennese duo Tosca uses the bleeping sound effects of Jamaican dub alongside samba rhythms, modern jazz guitar, and lounge organs. Whether anyone in the straight jazz world cares or not, Compost will no doubt continue to speculate on plugged-in jazz's legacy in the music of tomorrow.
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