The phrase ‘future sounds of jazz’ might seem like a paradox to some. It’s easy to characterise jazz as a traditionalist’s genre, one whose heyday came with Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’ and whose future is an endless recapitulation of past standards.
Yet, the essence of jazz has always been its inventiveness and restless energy in pushing musical boundaries and tastes forward, making future innovations a latent presence within the core jazz sound itself. In the past year, the work of Yussef Kamaal, Shabaka Hutchings and Kamasi Washington, to name just a few of the most talked-about artists, has seen to a release of this latent potentiality in jazz with increasing force. Slowly but surely, the genre is once again making itself heard and new, younger listeners are being encouraged to put aside preconception.
There have always been selectors and champions of jazz though, long before major labels and music writers cottoned onto the artists involved. One such influencer is Michael Reinboth, founder of Compost Records and compiler of the ‘Future Sounds Of Jazz’ compilation series. Since founding the Munich-based label in 1994, Reinboth has used the compilation releases as a chance to showcase his hand-picked favourites that embody the Compost ethos of diversity in musical selection. Reinboth made his mark on the German music scene with his club nights that were focused on the intersections between electronic music and jazz, playing anything from disco to broken beat to nu-jazz and electro. Under Reinboth, therefore, the ‘jazz’ moniker applied in the compilation series is one that will make traditionalists of the Wynton Marsalis school shudder. On a first listen to Reniboth’s latest effort, ‘Future Sounds of Jazz Volume 13’, such sonic diversity is certainly still apparent, continuing to widen jazz’s sphere of influence away from just the standards and further into the club.
Split into two CDs, or four LPs (if you prefer wax), the first half of the compilation opens with a soothing, Balearic-tinged reworking of Van Hai’s ‘Dernier Amour’ by Swiss DJ and producer Ripperton. With its gentle percussive build and synth reverbs undulating beneath a sombre melody, ‘Dernier Amour’ sets the tone for much of the opening half of the record. Ninja Tune’s FaltyDL follows up with ‘Some Jazz Shit’, taking the minimalism of Van Hai’s song and extending it with a streaking string arrangement which nestles amongst a slow break-beat. Despite its irreverent name, the track takes influence from FaltyDL’s label-mate Bonobo and his jazz-inspired work on the ‘Black Sands’ LP, referencing the genre’s presence throughout their predominantly electronic productions.
Even from the first two tracks on the compilation, there emerges a sense of consistency in the overall grouping of the remixes and originals, notwithstanding their individual diversity. From the melodic and downbeat work of Ripperton and FaltyDL, prolific remixer Atjazz follows up with an Afrobeat-inflected reworking of Gabriele Poso’s ‘Roots of Soul’, whilst Karim Sahraoui ratchets up the tempo to a comfortable club-level on ‘Father’s Legacy’, reaching a euphoric techno crescendo over a sprawling eight-minute running time. Other highlights include Peter Kruder’s elegant and emotive ‘Memento’ which references back to Ripperton’s Balearic sounds with its gently pulsating hang drum melody, Butch and C. Vogt’s ‘The Infamous’, the most traditionally jazz-influenced track on the compilation with its acoustic drumming and solo piano, and audacious remixer Ricardo Villalobos’ forward-moving rework of Tony Allen’s ‘African Man’.
A good compilation clearly reflects the intentions and tastes of its compiler, and one of the outstanding features of all of Compost’s ‘Future Jazz’ series has been its consistency of diversity and representation of Reinboth’s inimitable ear for a choice remix as well as lesser-known originals. Despite its being an unlucky number, this ‘Volume 13’ is no different, presenting a mix of established names such as Ricardo Villalobos and Axel Boman along with more leftfield and newer producers such as Chaos in the CBD and Maunel Tur.
Detractors might bemoan the prevalence of the electronic in a jazz compilation, but through Compost and its affiliates the connections between the two genres have become inextricable over the past 20 years. If jazz is to keep moving forward, if its future is to be one that we will witness, it will be through the likes of the advocacy and collaboration fostered by Compost and this compilation.
Words: Ammar Kalia
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