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All That Jazz 

Deyampert Giles and Jazzanova's Sonar Kollektiv make beautiful music together.

Deyampert: one of Cleveland's most promising - electronic-music artists.
  • Deyampert: one of Cleveland's most promising electronic-music artists.
Deyampert Giles dreams in German. After leaving America at the age of 19, the Cleveland-born musician and producer spent the next decade abroad. He toured Italy, played bass and guitar in an Australian funk band for three years, and eventually landed in Berlin, where he picked up a new language and a promising new career.

"I was out one night, and I met a drum & bass producer at a party," Giles recalls over a cup of joe at a Tremont coffeehouse one Friday afternoon. He's a handsome, baby-faced thirtysomething, with bright eyes and a bashful smile that suggests he's privy to some unspoken inside joke. "We were talking music, and he invited me to come to his studio. I had always been in analog studios before, and this was the first time I had been in an electronic one. I'd play a bass line or keys, he would program beats, and I really became interested in electronic music."

Shortly thereafter, Giles paid a visit to the offices of Sonar Kollektiv, the boutique label run by the renowned nu-jazz troupe Jazzanova. Deyampert wowed them with his blend of acoustic soul and digital funk.

"He sat down in the office, took out his guitar, and said, 'OK, I have this song, I have this song,' and it was amazing to us, because it was so natural, in a way," recalls Jazzanova DJ Jurgon Knoblauch.

Knoblauch and his associates inked Deyampert to a deal, and over the course of the next two years, Deyampert would slowly craft his debut, the stirring, seductive Shapes and Colors, which was released in the States this Tuesday. A blend of plush jazz, beautifully sung vocals, and subdued trip-hop, the album has quickly made Deyampert one of Cleveland's brightest hopes in the international electronic-music community.

Shapes and Colors was recently nominated for Album of the Year by British music mag Echoes Magazine and has charted in Japan as well as the U.K. Deyampert has won acclaim from such big names as Peter Dorfmeister, the DJ of Kruder and Dorfmeister and Tosca fame, as well as Ashley Beedle, one of the U.K.'s most celebrated house producers.

Such good news couldn't come at a better time for Deyampert, as 2003 has been a bittersweet year for the multitalented musician. He came back to Cleveland this spring for reconstructive surgery on a torn Achilles' tendon -- these days, he relies on a cane to get around. Then, the day before the operation, his father died. Deyampert's parents were instrumental in cultivating his love of music at an early age, and the loss hit him hard.

"Years ago, my mom played clarinet, and my dad sang," Deyampert recalls. "He collected records, so there was always some sort of music going on. My mom listened to gospel, he listened to soul music, my sister was into R&B, and I grew up with MTV."

Deyampert began singing in the church choir at the age of nine, before switching to saxophone. Then he taught himself to play bass, guitar, mandolin, drums, and percussion.

Deyampert's broad musical background is palpable on Shapes and Colors. Employing a variety of striking female voices -- including fellow Clevelanders Channeng Payton and Heather Clayton (aka Amraah 8) -- Shapes is capable of warming both hearts and dance floors. The album is elegant and inviting, with steely torch songs juxtaposed against deft, smooth-jazz instrumentals. There are galvanized spoken-word passages with gritty percussion by Pureplex ("216"), as well as breathy, beatific be-bop with soaring strings ("Held Him First"), and even the stray beat-heavy rave-up ("This is the Dance Track on This Album"). Most noteworthy is how organic-sounding Shapes and Colors is for an electronic-oriented album.

"I don't approach things as a DJ; I approach things as a musician first, and I think that's the big difference," Deyampert says. "There should be more elements to it than just taking sounds and putting a beat to them."

Deyampert will debut a trio of cuts from Shapes and Colors this Saturday at the Touch Supper Club and hopes to be able to tour the album throughout 2004. Until then, he's content to play uncle to his two-year-old niece, and hole up in the studio for remix and session work.

"I could spend every day in the studio," he chuckles. "If I could watch the Browns there, I'd be in on Sundays."

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