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JAZZANOVA

Most artists might find releasing their first album in a decade a bit daunting. But Jazzanova aren't most artists. Rather, they're an entity in a constant state of becoming. Right from the very first moment they came together as a group of DJs in 1995, there was no template for what Jazzanova would be, and at every stage they have had to make up the rules as they went along. Never adhering to one particular scene or sound, never pursuing one particular technique or format, they've acted as a DJ collective, a production house, a prolific remix team, radio programmers and presenters, label owners and curators. Constantly, this has been with one foot in club culture and the other in the live arena: the place where they've been most active in the last decade. And all of these streams of creativity have flowed constantly over the past two decades plus, quite naturally towards the gorgeous depths of The Pool, their most mature and absorbing record yet.

When the team of Alex Barck, Claas Brieler, Axel Reinemer, Jürgen von Knoblauch and Stefan Leisering first met, they were all deep into a club scene that revolved around - as Stefan puts it - "funk, jazz, disco, Latin... all kinds of things - but mostly old records." Their initial impetus for getting into the studio together was simply "to have something new to play in DJ sets along with the old stuff!" It took a little while to find their feet, but when their self-released lighter-than-air concoction of Brazilian shuffle and cosmic soul chords "Fedime's Flight" started circulating among DJs in 1997, things suddenly accelerated massively. Hooking up with Michael Reinboth's Compost label from Munich - already well established, with its Future Sound of Jazz compilations big sellers internationally - they formed JCR (Jazzanova Compost Records), and beginning with two Jazzanova EPs in 1998, a torrent of musical activity was underway.

"The first four or five years [after our first record] were super intense" says Stefan, and that's no exaggeration. Jazzanova were quickly in demand the world over, connecting with scenes and other musicians from Kyoto to Philadelphia and all stops in between. In and out of the studio constantly, remixing and producing, they built links to other musicians, touching on neo-soul, broken beat, nu jazz, deep house and all kinds of other wonderful sounds, without every completely succumbing to any one thing. Thus they could work with Philly rapper Capitol A just as easily as with European house heroes Dixon and Âme. This all led towards their debut album In Between in 2002: a glorious mixture of radical experimentation and classicist sounds, with a rich cast of vocalists and instrumentalists. But where for many the album would be the be-all-and-end-all, here it was just another strand along with their remixing, curation, DJing and gradual moves towards rendering their compositions in the live arena.

And here is where the brilliance of the Jazzanova model becomes apparent. All the while, they were very much feeling their way, assessing projects as they came about, trying to fit them into their sprawling web of individual commitments. But rather than produce something completely chaotic and unmanageable, this led to an unusually sustainable way of working. Where classic bands have to rely on the album-tour-album-tour cycle to keep them visible in the media, Jazzanova's multi-limbed, multi-tasking nature meant there was always something there for fans: composing for modern dance shows, compiling from the legendary Blue Note jazz archive, keeping the JCR and Sonar Kollektiv labels running. Indeed, as Stefan says, half-joking, of the distribution problems that complicated their 2008 Of All the Things, "Sometimes I wonder if people even know we made a second album!" - but in many senses this was the least of their worries. Again, the album was only one string to their bow.

And so, the ten years between Of All the Things and The Pool passed fast. Jazzanova never slowed
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