Jazzanova—They've Got The Live Thing Down

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Jurgen von Knoblauch’s nose is twitching. One of the core members of Jazzanova, von Knoblauch can smell vinyl anywhere. Roaming around The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, the German DJ subconsciously moves towards the used vinyl section of the shop. He pulls back, however, before going in too deep, promising himself a return visit the following day, all day. Von Knoblauch is in the neighborhood for a DJ gig that evening, in support of Jazzanova’s latest release, Funkhaus Studio Sessions.

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After we recorded, we spent so much time manipulating vocals and instruments to make it tight. We had to do a lot of work to make it groovy.

A cross between a live album and a compilation, Funkhaus gathers together the band Jazzanova’s Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinemer have worked with for their live shows. These musicians, along with soul crooner Paul Randolph were recorded live performing a myriad of songs Jazzanova has released over the last few years.

Live elements have been a staple in Jazzanova’s way of working. But from recording one instrument or one vocal and integrating it into their production, which is computer—and studio-based, the collective have shifted to working with a full live band. Their involvement with the musical Belle Et Fou, where they created music for every scene is what von Knoblauch credits for Jazzanova’s progress.

“We got a good budget so we decided to compose on the computer, but then go to a big studio to record everything,” says von Knoblauch of Belle Et Fou, hidden in a back corner of The Last Bookstore—far away from the tempting vinyl. “It was a big challenge, especially with the string sections. You always think of rhythm-based strings and it’s difficult for a string ensemble to really do that. After we recorded, we spent so much time manipulating vocals and instruments to make it tight. We had to do a lot of work to make it groovy.”

Jazzanova have improved their studio-to-musician speak greatly since then. In the first place, if they know they are going to employ musicians on a track, they write it differently. This cuts way down on the post-production time and activity. The recording of Funkhaus benefited from having musicians who have been playing these tracks for the last three years and from having a music director as the go-between when the studio guys couldn’t quite make their ideas understood to the musician guys.

“In the studio, every musician has their own space, segregated through windows so everyone can see each other,” says von Knoblauch. “We recorded everyone at the same time. We had three days. On the last day we placed the band in the middle of the room, and filmed everything. We’re going to produce a DVD from that.”

This is exactly the type of thing one has come to expect from Jazzanova. They got the live thing down, so now they have to turn things around. Pulling away from one voice and all live musicians, for their next artist album they are opening up the doors to use any number of vocalists and switching between live and studio, and even straight instrumentals. In between that, they’ll be releasing the aforementioned DVD and a compilation of remixes they’ve done for other artists. And all the while, the DJ parts of Jazzanova are constantly touring. Interestingly, this touring has involved the DJs more in the production than they would otherwise be.

“The live music guys are in the studio, so we [DJs] have to be really loud to get heard,” says von Knoblauch. “Before there were the DJs traveling and being told what was happening and what happened and how the tracks are back in the studio. Now the studio guys are traveling as well and they have their own ideas so it’s changing. The common ground is through music and is the same for the last 15 years. We all still want to see what’s going on and we want to absorb that. As long as any of us wants to do that, the common ground is working.”

For more info on Jazzanova Like A Band and to be apart of it, go here.