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Jazzanova arrived in 1997 with "Fedime's Flight," an exquisitely layered production that had more in common with dancefloor jazz-funk truffles by Azymuth and Lonnie Liston Smith than with anything contemporary. Minus a couple specific sampled components, the track could have easily been mistaken for the work of an obscure late-'70s act, but the group's name -- also the descriptive title of a coveted Ira Kris album released on pioneering German jazz label MPS in 1971 -- signaled to seasoned crate diggers that it was a European product of modern synthesis. Since "Fedime's Flight," Jazzanova have continued to recombine an encyclopedic multitude of inspirations, consequently impacting underground club scenes across the globe. Among the collective's major releases are In Between (2002), Of All the Things (2008), and The Pool (2018), complex albums blending programming and live instrumentation with contributions from an array of singers and rappers. They've remixed dozens of tracks, toured extensively as performers and DJs, and operated the JCR and Sonar Kollektiv labels -- outlets for extracurricular releases and works from like-minded peers. In 2022, they issued Strata Records: The Sound of Detroit -- Reimagined by Jazzanova, wherein they reworked and reinterpreted standout moments from the label's heralded catalog. Alex Barck, Claas Brieler, Stefan Leisering, Axel Reinemer, and Jürgen von Knoblauch formed Jazzanova with the intent of making music to play in their DJ sets of jazz, soul, funk, disco, MPB, and similarly vintage-leaning hybrids thereof. They started in 1995, the same year Leisering and Reinemer released an EP as part of a Real Dope Thing. That English-language rap group took cues from the likes of Gang Starr, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and the Native Tongues collective. Like the producers of those acts, Jazzanova sourced material from the recesses of the dustiest record stores, but rather than make hip-hop, they created their own groove-oriented hybrids with samples, programming, and live instrumentation. Jazzanova's recorded debut was made on JCR in 1997 with a self-titled three-track EP led by "Fedime's Flight," which cast a wide net with support from BBC DJ Gilles Peterson. This set off a series of remix projects for the likes of 4hero, Koop, Men from the Nile, and Ian Pooley, most of which were later compiled for the two-disc The Remixes 1997-2000. The group continued to field remix commissions as they released Jazzanova EP 2 (1998) and the atmospheric broken-beat soul single "That Night" (2001), the latter of which, fronted by Vikter Duplaix, was the group's first of many collaborations with a featured artist. In Between, Jazzanova's ambitious debut full-length, was released in 2002. The culmination of five years' worth of work, the album sustained the group's reputation with tracks full of meticulous beatcraft and appearances from Duplaix, Ursula Rucker, Clara Hill, and Doug Hammond. Remixed, released just a year later, featured remixes of 12" and album tracks from peers Kyoto Jazz Massive, Ayro, King Britt, and Bugz in the Attic. For a few years, new releases from Jazzanova were mostly in the form of DJ mixes, highlighted by ...Mixing (2004), Blue Note Trip (2005), and ...Broad Casting (2006). The Remixes 2002-2005 was also released during this period. Amid scads of other compilations and additional Sonar Kollektiv product, Jazzanova's second production album, Of All the Things, appeared in 2008. The album's throwback-soul orientation was enhanced with lead turns from Leon Ware, José James, Paul Randolph, and Phonte. The remixes kept coming with a series of Upside Down releases across 2011 and 2012. During the latter year, Leisering and Reinemer, joined by the touring lineup of Jazzanova, recorded Funkhaus Studio Sessions, a "live in the studio" representation of their shows with Randolph as the frontperson. Continued touring, DJ gigs, compilation curation, and family were their focuses during the next several years. The Pool, Jazzanova album three, materialized in 2018 with a retro-contemporary mix of sounds from nostalgic disco-funk to modern trip-hop. Guest vocalists such as Randolph, Jamie Cullum, and Charlotte OC contributed to the recording. Back in 2012, DJ Amir and his 180 Records label acquired the rights to remix, remaster, and re-release titles from Detroit's iconic homegrown jazz label, Strata Records' catalog. In 2020, he signed a distribution deal with BBE Records and commissioned Jazzanova to rework and remix a dozen selections of their choosing. In 2022, BBE issued Strata Records: The Sound of Detroit -- Reimagined by Jazzanova.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo


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