• Do The Astral Plane: Five Songs Where Jazz Meets Electronic Music

    November 15, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Jazzanova. (Image Credit: Ben Wolf)

    Remember when jazz was a so-called "dance" music? When swing drove masses to ballrooms and inspired popular dances like the Lindy Hop, Charleston and Jitterbug?

    Probably not; most of us will never know what the '30s and '40s were like, when jazz was more than a spectator sport. But in this age of electronic music, with sampling and loops, getting down to jazz sounds isn't so uncommon — sampled saxophones and ride cymbals have re-emerged in dance halls in innovative forms of house music. Here are few successful fusions of jazz and electronica.

    Five Electronic Artists Who Make Jazz To Dance To

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      Saint Germain
      Album: Tourist
      Song: Rose Rouge

      Frenchman Ludovic Navaree (a.k.a. St. Germain) was one of the first to dabble in jazz with techno music in the mid-1990s, first with his hit Boulevard. Then the legendary jazz label Blue Note released his most popular album, Tourist, which sold more than four million copies worldwide. In "Rose Rouge," Navarre brilliantly sampled Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" for his catchy drum and bass loop.

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      The Matthew Herbert Big Band
      Album: The Process, The Parts, The Many and The Few
      Song: Café de Flore

      This pioneering electronic composer takes the mundane and makes it extraordinary. As a "found sound" specialist, Herbert samples ordinary noise — coffee beans, for instance — and makes it the focal point of his dance music. Quincy Jones, R.E.M. and Bjork have all benefited from his services. Herbert later teamed up with some of Britain's best jazz musicians to form a mostly acoustic swing big band. However, his big-band arrangements reveal beats more likely to turn up at a rave.

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      Nicola Conte
      Album: Jet Sounds
      Song: Cerchio Rosso

      This Italian from Bari fell in love with the sounds of Brazil, and came up with his own blend of acid jazz. His obsession with obscure bossa nova and jazz samba recordings from the 1960s fuels Jet Sounds. Nicola Conte's highly danceable music retains a wholesomely rustic and analog feel. When he's not behind the turntable decks, he's on tour as a guitarist with his six-piece jazz ensemble.

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      Flying Lotus
      Album: Cosmogramma
      Song: Do The Astral Plane

      Flying Lotus (a.k.a. Steve Ellison) may sound the furthest from jazz of this bunch, but his roots are undeniably the closest. As the nephew of Alice Coltrane and cousin to Ravi Coltrane (John Coltrane's saxophone-playing son), he carries his musical family's torch on turntables and laptops. He often collaborates with jazz musicians, including Ravi Coltrane, in his live performances. His so-called "astral jazz" is aesthetically loose, open to improvisation and unforeseen musical moments.

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      Album: In Between
      Song: L.O.V.E. and You & I

      The Berlin-based DJ/producer squad of Jazzanova — Alexander Barck, Class Brieler, Roskow Kretschmann, Stefan Leisering, Axel Reinemer and Jürgen von Knoblach — labored for five years before releasing In Between, now considered a classic in electronic music. In this song, they meticulously blend sample after sample into complex, breathtaking beatmaking; it's easy to get lost in this bender. This collective is often praised for its use of live instruments, and frequently proclaims its affection for American jazz and soul.

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