Album Review: Jazzanova’s Funkhaus Studio Sessions with Band and Paul Randolph

Jazzanova

Funkhaus Studio Sessions with Band and Paul Randolph

Sonar Kollektiv Records

Release Date: May 15, 2012

 

Track Listing

1.     Let Me Show Ya

2.     Theme from Beile Et Fou

3.     I Human

4.     Look What You’re Doin’ To Me

5.     Lucky Girl

6.     No Use

7.     No Use (Part 2)

8.     Flashback

9.     Believer

10.  Little Bird

11.  I Can See

12.  Boom Clicky Click

13.  Fedimes Flight

14.  Let It Go

 

Personnel

Paul Randolph – vocals

Arne Jansen – guitar

Carl Michael Grabinger – drums

Sebastian Studinitzky – keyboards

Sebastian Borkowski – saxophone/flute

Stefan Ulrich – trombone

Paul Kleber – bass

Axel Reinemer – electronics/percussion

Stefan Leisering – congas/synths-ampli-celeste

 

Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinhemer, the producers and creative forces behind the Berlin, Germany-based outfit Jazzanova went to East Berlin’s legendary GDR Rundfunk Orchestra Studios (a.k.a Funkhaus Studios) with their touring band to record the (proper) band’s first live album based on the songs that the band loved to play live during the past three years of touring, several fan favorites, a couple of reinterpretations of remixes, and a new track “I Human,” which was co-written by regular band member, bassist and vocalist Paul Randolph, who is the primary voice of the Funkhaus Sessions. When Leisering and Reinhemer brought their touring band together, they wanted to capture the energy and feel of a live set on an album – with modern recording equipment, of course.

   There has been a bit of a movement within dance music towards artists writing compositions with live instrumentation in mind, and it brings to mind to halcyon days of disco, 70s soul and jazz fusion; in particular I can think of an acts such as Escort – and Jazzanova. Certainly, Jazzanova’s Funkhaus Studio Sessions reveals the live, touring band as being an adept and super talented group of musicians as their sound easily bridges 70s soul, R&B, modern techno, jazz and disco in a such a fashion that at times sounds warmly old-fashioned without aping the sounds of the past, and contemporary without feeling coldly assembled and pre-packaged. Much like the old days, the emphasis isn’t just on funk but on funk with memorable melody – a rare thing, that.

And much like those old soul records, Paul Randolph sings about love – the sort of sweet, seemingly old-fashioned love songs that modern listeners have sorely missed and desperately need. Granted, some of the lyrics of songs like “Look What You’re Doin’ to Me,” “Little Bird,” and others are kind of clichéd but they’re sung with an earnestness and sincerity that makes it not only forgivable but makes them the sort of tunes that make you want to fall in love. “Fedimes Flight,” one of the album’s more instrumental compositions draws heavily from late 60s and 70s jazz and soul and includes some funky Latin percussion. Oddly, “No Use (Part 1)” and “No Use (Part 2)” employ a melody that somehow always reminds me of a slightly slowed down version of Kenny Loggins’ and Michael McDonald’s “This Is It.” Frankly, that isn’t a bad thing since “This Is It,” is one of my favorite Kenny Loggins tunes, and a song that needs to be played more than the incredibly cheesy “Danger Zone.” Album closer, “Let It Go,” is among the albums funkiest, most playful tunes – and it allows ample room for guitarist Arne Jansen, and the horn section of Borkowsi and Ulrich great opportunities to show their chops.  

    There are a couple of things in mind that make this album particularly exceptional. First, Jazzanova manages to modernize a familiar and beloved sound but with a loving reverence and the amiable charm of a bunch of friends jamming in front of a small, downtown club. Unlike most modern dance music, it should remind the listener when melody was the most important, most memorable part of a song. But perhaps more importantly, after repeated plays it’s the sort of album that find some way to win you over and put you in a good mood.