Friday 11 January 2013

[re:jazz]: [re:invented] and [re:juvenated] [Interview]

Written by Imran Mirza

 With each year that passes, [re:jazz] continue to solidify their status as masters within the nu-jazz, electronic and acoustic scene.  The [re:jazz] legacy extends far beyond the albeit incredible statistic of five albums over ten years – it also includes remixes and over 80 contributions to compilations worldwide, as well as a refined live performance that has seen them grace stages across the world including their Japan’s Blue Note Tokyo.

Far from being a group to rest on its laurels or past successes, their brand new album for 2012, ‘Kaleidoscope’, represents something of a reinvention for the group – and certainly one that pays off in bucket loads as ‘Kaleidoscope’ can only ever be seen as an album that represents some of the group’s best work.

Acclaimed Jazzanova producer, Axel Reinemer, helps the band in their subtle shift towards their own compositions while still suavely occupying that no man’s land between electronic and acoustic music that fans have come to expect from [re:jazz].  The rebirth that is spearheaded by this release extends further with the introduction of their new vocalist, Mediha Rustempasic, who follows on from the departure of Inga, and simply excels on her three vocal contributions on this album.  As much of a revelation as she is though, it’s certainly not implied as any disrespect when I say that ‘Kaleidoscope’ further benefits from the presence of burgeoning soul legend, N’Dea Davenport who appears on the album’s opening number, ‘Don’t Push Your Luck’, Natalie Schaffer from Germany’s electro-jazz outfit, Nekta, who appears on ‘It’s All Good’, and Andrew Herbertson (Joash/London) who guests on the closing ‘Out of Phase’.

‘Kaleidoscope’ couldn’t be more apt a title for this album as the music, sounds and styles mesh to each other perfectly creating a timeless, bold and magical release for [re:jazz].  There are risks and gambles galore on this release, [re:jazz] haven’t played it safe but when your name carries as much weight as theirs, and when you’re just that good, as fans, playing it safe isn’t what we’d want from them.

Matthias Vogt from [re:jazz] takes the time out to talk about the group’s new album, singer and direction.

‘Kaleidoscope’ represents ten years in the industry and it’s an incredible body of work built up in that time – you must be overjoyed to already have such a legacy of music?
Absolutely! If anybody would have told me that ten years ago it would have been unbelievable. It is a great opportunity and exactly what I love! And focusing on our own compositions on studio album number five is an extra pleasure.

How does ‘Kaleidoscope’ differ from past [re:jazz] album releases?
Besides the fact that we put more of our own originals on it, mainly two new aspects: the previous four albums where all-acoustic, now we bring in new electronic sounds and influences. For example, Oliver plays his clarinet via Ableton and many special fx, he also does that live on stage, sounds wicked. Plus, it is the first time an external producer worked with us on an album – we found Axel Reinemer (Jazzanova), who was the very best person for this collaboration. His vision, the work with vintage gear, old microphones, tube speakers, helped us to underline our band sound in a special way!

Can you talk about what went into making the album?
A significant fact of the album work was the co-writing with our guest musicians. That was all new for us. We wrote all the stuff, brought it to the studio and showed the music to our guests. This time we thought it would help our compositions to work with the guests on them, to make this material stronger. That meant we had to do a lot of communication before or during the rehearsals. The result was that we did rehearse a lot more than on the previous works. I think that is one of the main reasons that the whole band identifies themselves strongly with ‘Kaleidoscope’.

How would you say the creative process in writing, producing and recording new music usually works for you?
There is no blueprint for it at all, that may be the most important thing. A new album is a new challenge, and you cannot handle it exactly like the one before. So the best thing is not to try making it the same way. What helped us a lot this time were all the major differences, for example, a new recording studio. For the first time we worked with Gyso Hilger (Nekta) and our live mixer Jan Weimann who recorded us in Darmstadt. Axel Reinemer was there as well, with all his gear. Plus I recorded the grand piano in Berlin, via overdubs. Same with writing – no blueprint. So if you start with a white sheet of paper and see all your ideas grow, that is incomparable!

This album also marks the arrival of your brand new vocalist, Mediha Rustempasic – how did you come to work together?
Inga, our former singer, decided to leave the band right before the start of the new album. That was a shock. We didn't know what to do and brainstormed and looked for new ideas. Mediha was kind of too close to the band to see her – she is our guitarist's girlfriend! But she is such a great and talented singer, big fan of our band, knew all the songs... We found out that she is absolutely the right voice for this job, more than that: ‘Kaleidoscope’ wins a lot with her bluesy and soulful timbre. Good to have her in the band now!

Can you talk about some of the other vocalists you worked with for this album?
Three other vocalists are featured: The big name of course is N'Dea Davenport. I was such a big Brand New Heavies fan and listened to the first albums again before writing the songs for ‘Kaleidoscope’. I mentioned that talking to Jan Hagenkötter, head of Infracom, and he said, wait a moment, I might have an idea for contacting N'Dea. Surprisingly it worked out, and writing a song with her was phenomenal! Nathalie Schäfer, that was so logical, as we worked with her Nekta partner, Gyso, in the studio anyway. And Nekta is one of Infracom's main projects besides [re:jazz]. On ‘It's All Good’, we combine Nekta's and our sound, plus a lovely trumpet solo from Studnitzky! Last not least we got Andy Herbertson – I did a remix for a song from the project Joash for Munich based Compost records (‘The Simple Things’ [Matthias Vogt remix]). I immediately fell in love with the singer's voice, so natural. I had to ask Joash about Andy, and I am really happy we were able to work with him. Young guy from London – meanwhile I am working with him on a Matthias Vogt release which will be released on Lo:Rise/Defected next year!

Who would you love to have grace a stage, or appear on an album with [re:jazz]?
Luckily some of these dreams came true on the past albums, such a big fan of our guest artists, for example Erik Truffaz, Viktoria Tolstoy, Alice Russell, Linda Carriere, Nathan Haines, Nils Petter Molvaer... I got more on my secret list, but we will tell you when it does work out... :)

If you were introducing your music to a prospective new fan, which song from your catalogue would you recommend they listen to that best sums up the group?
I would probably suggest a song on which we tried to give a new perspective, but still being 100% typically [re:jazz]. So if I had only one try and wouldn't know the person to play it to I would chose our version of ‘Inner City Life’ featuring Jhelisa Anderson, from our second album ‘Point Of View’.

What’s been a notable career highlight for [re:jazz]?
Touring Japan and playing Blue Note Tokyo! If you fly to the other side of the globe and still people show you love for what you are doing, in a club where all the jazz super stars are playing, that was a dream come true for all of us!

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