International Jazz Day is a global event that sees countless gigs and parties held in celebration of the ground-breaking genre and cultural movement. In this article, we sift through ten of our favourite jazz samples in house and techno.
For over 100 years jazz has inspired and influenced innumerable other genres and art forms, house and techno being no exception. The frantic and often freeform meanderings of jazz may seem at odds with highly structured and rhythmically rigid electronic dance music, but there are more similarities between the two than one would initially suspect.
Both genres make extensive use of musical idiosyncrasies, bending and sometimes breaking conventional musical standards to create unique, often bizarre music and to push their respective genres forward into new territory. Dissonance, polyrhythmic meters, and often a total abandonment of traditional chord progressions and song structures are characteristics shared by both jazz and electronic dance music. They both lend themselves perfectly to exploration and experimentation.
The two also share a deeper cultural history, both originating in African-American communities and finding a home in underground, often illegal clubs and venues. Here they existed under the radar of mainstream culture, before eventually exploding in popularity and becoming the global forces they are today.
It’s impossible to overstate how important jazz has been in the development and evolution of contemporary electronic music. To celebrate the pioneering genre and, in celebration of International Jazz Day (April 30th), we have selected our ten of our favourite jazz samples found in house and techno records.
Moodymann – Shades of Jae
An enigmatic figure that emerged from Detroit in the late 90s, Moodymann quickly achieved a cult status, known for his maverick and varied catalogue that made prodigious use of samples from a vast range of sources. Shades of Jae is a track from his 2004 album, Black Mahogani, and features a sample of a keys sequence from the Bob James track Spunky.
Shades of Jae has the air of a juke joint jam; playful, funky, and slightly off-kilter. The ebb and flow of its several musical elements, with the main key’s riff being used to tease the listener throughout the track, is an expert example of how to create tension and suspense.
Theo Parrish – Early Byrd
Theo Parrish is another renowned Detroit name, famed for his dextrous sampling and his deep knowledge of jazz, soul, and disco, among other genres. Early Byrd, from the 2004 Baby Steps EP, features a tough kick drum that underpins a looped sample from the Donald Byrd track Lansana’s Priestess. The sample blends perfectly with progressive layers of percussion, creating a groove that is both tranquil and irresistibly danceable.
Kerri Chandler ft. Dennis Ferrer – Poverty
Kerri Chandler comes from a family of jazz musicians and their influence is clear to see. Poverty uses a sampled and sped-up bassline from the Ronnie Foster track Mystic Brew which, when combined with jazzy drums, the sultry vocals of Dennis Ferrer, and Kerri Chandler’s signature keys, makes for a heady mix that gives way to consecutive saxophone and guitar sections. The inclusion of these instruments is done with the utmost taste, they add perfectly to the atmosphere of the track and never outstay their welcome.
Radio Slave – Dedication
This 2007 track from Radio Slave draws inspiration from the vast discography of jazz icon Herbie Hancock, sampling several elements from his futuristic masterpiece Nobu. Electronic, staccato beeps are supported by a meaty kick, giving the track a distinct peak time feel. Further elements from Nobu are used to create a rising, ominous lead that further establishes this track as a serious dance floor weapon.
Anthony Naples – Mad Disrespect
This 2012 track, on the NYC imprint Mister Saturday Night, builds a collage of percussive and vocal loops around a keys sample from No Deposit No Return by the legendary Roy Ayers. Playful, stylish, and addictive, Mad Disrespect creates instant summer evening vibes.
Terrence Dixon – Innocence
Arguably the jazziest entry on this list, Innocence features swinging, malleable percussion paired with a muted Rhodes sample from the late great Chick Corea’s Sometime Ago/La Fiesta. Somehow simultaneously cheerful and melancholic, a juxtaposition that runs through much of Terrence Dixon’s music, the track uses overlapping loops and patterns to both befuddle and entrance. If Panorama Bar was a 1920s speakeasy, it would probably sound a lot like this.
YSE Saint Lau’rant – Warm Wind Brewing
This 2012 track makes fantastic use of a string section sampled from Henry Mancini’s iconic Lujon. With a solid drum pattern, tight lower end, and tasteful guitar licks, Warm Wind Brewing is dreamlike, slightly sleazy, and above all else, effortlessly cool.
Layo & Bushwacka! – Love Story
A Balearic classic, Love Story uses a vocal sample from Rags and Old Iron by Nina Simone. The sample is used sparingly and to great effect, appearing in the final breakdown and adding a touch of soul to a track that has been filling floors in Ibiza and beyond for two decades. Read our feature interview with Bushwacka here and listen to our podcast with him also.
St Germain – Rose Rouge
A timeless track from French producer St Germain, Rose Rouge is a finely balanced mix of house and jazz. An infectious groove simmers under mesmerising brass and a repeated vocal sample from Marlena Shaw’s Woman of the Ghetto serves as an anchor point, allowing the lead instruments to freely wander and explore tangents in this true classic.
Moodymann – I’d Rather Be Lonely
It felt fitting to end this list where it began, with Moodymann. I’d Rather Be Lonely is a 2007 track from the sampling guru, and features a breathy vocal excerpt from This Time by Betty Carter. An ascending and descending bassline sits under multiple instruments and vocal snippets, with acoustic drums giving the track an organic feel. This is done so that the whole piece sounds like it’s being performed by a live band, a true testament to Moodymann’s sampling prowess.
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