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In Between (JCR)

When you think of jazz and hip-hop music, Germany probably isn't the first country to jump out. Yet the Deutsch production collective known as Jazzanova infuses both genres, along with a heaping spoonful of house, Latin and African rhythms, and Philly soul.

Best known for its slew of glistening remixes for diverse artists such as Ian Pooley, 4Hero, and King Britt, the six-member group comes into its own in a big way with this full-length production debut. In Between features a long list of impressive collaborators, including producer-vocalist Vikter Duplaix, Ursula Rucker, and MCs Hawkeye Phanatic (formerly MC900 Ft. Jesus) and Capital A -- all from Philadelphia. Then there are the old jazz hands, such as David Friedmann and Doug Hammond (who played with Charles Mingus). The result is an epic, elegantly produced album with a low-key, mellow vibe. Scads of percussive elements are piled atop one another amid a sea of crisp hi-hats, snappy snares, and gooey vocals. Dense yet simple, smooth yet wild and carefree, it's an album that's both confounding and oddly familiar.

The group's most overt stab at hip-hop, the oddly timed "The One-Tet," probably won't be getting airplay on MTV anytime soon, but it's an impressive experiment that serves to push the boundaries ever further. Jazzanova succeeds in creating an electronic jazz album that's not so electronic; even the most ardent jazz fiend will have difficulty discerning between what's real and what's sampled.

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