Jazzanova | The Funkhaus Studio Sessions
album review by John Powell
Jazzanova’s name isn’t so beffiting, as they aren’t that jazzy. They are, however, incredibly funky. A big band, rich with keys, horns, and hand percussion, the septet- organized by Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinemer- is loose, here on Funkhaus Studio Sessions, basing the album on strong arrangements and R&B-tinged lyrics. Singer Paul Randolph has an alto-to-soprano voice dripping with soul, and brings a level of soul into the funk of the band.
“Let Me Show Ya” is all about “having a kindred soul”. “That’s the kind of love that stays around,” Paul Randolph offer in the bridge. “Listen girl/ dry your eyes don’t fret,” he adds. “You don’t know how special you are.” It’s not the most original lyrics, and in fact that’s Jazzanova’s biggest downfall: There’s nothing too original and there are almost no memorable melodies.
Still, don’t let that deter you from “Theme From Belle Et Fou”, an instrumental that is, actually, jazzy. The horns take the cake, although the handclaps help. Through this groove the band builds and simmers, led by strings that are wonderfully arranged. They take a 70s disco feel onto a modern palate. It manages to be light hearted without falling into the elevator music category.
Certain songs, like “Look What You’re Doin’ To Me”, are good, but not outstanding. Many of the songs are about lovers. On this one, Paul bellows in near-falsetto, “Goin’ to tell the world I love you, baby girl.” If we weren’t it utter funk mode, these lyrics wouldn’t fly.
Feel is more important to Jazzanova, though. “I Can See” has flute chirping over graceful piano, an uptempo beat, and Paul in good form. “I can see/ all in your eyes,” he cries with heart. “Tryin’ to find the strength to carry on.”
The six minute closer “Let It Go” is Jazzanova’s best work. It works its way into a soulful point of no return. “Troubled minds/ troubled hearts,” Paul beckons as the minor key allows for the bass to take the wheel.
None of the music stumbles on Funkhaus Studio Sessions, neither does Paul. Jazzanova as a whole is making funk music like no one else on their level is. Like Jamiroquai, Jazzanova feeds off a cool voice and love of drum n’ bass, but the real kicker is always Sebastian Studnitzky, whose keyboard playing is the cornerstone to the album’s lightness.
Funkhaus Studio Sessions is terribly fun to listen to. Its grooves are booty shakin’, head bobbin’, and heart thumpin’ works of passion. Again, they never hit a riff or chorus that is super catchy, it’s in one ear and out the other, but then again, it never sounds like they’re shooting for that kind of song. Instead, they play with groove, and do so with a sophistication worth shaking a stick at.
Bottom line: Jazzanova is trés smooth, electrifying funk steeping in cool. 14 tracks of a seven-piece outfit makes for plenty of room to shake and shimmy.