Renegades of Jazz ‘Paradise Lost’ CD/2LP/Dig (Agogo) 2/5 & 4/5

renegades-of-jazzThe fusion of hip-hop beats and electronica with jazz has taken myriad forms and with mixed results, the latter most successfully blended by the likes of Nils-Petr Molvaer. This latest attempt sadly fails on several accounts and is stylistically a confused mélange of genres that simply do not compliment one another and merely confuses the listener. It has to be said that there is little or no improvisation going on save the repeated use of loops and beats and the odd bit of brass, but in truth the only real attempt at a jazz component is a repeated bass line that simply never takes off in any coherent direction. At best the combination of electronica with acoustic instrumentation conveys something of a cinematic soundtrack feel as evidenced on ‘Hellesens’ with strings, but then that atmosphere is transformed into a rock-tinged second half. Too much of the album is delivered at a frantic pace and too little thought has gone into how the listener might react in trying to fathom what is happening. Balkan brass emerges on ‘Neverday’ and then disappears altogether elsewhere. Only the opener, ‘Haunting the North’ evokes any emotional response and this features bass clarinet and choral background. There are cod-Chic guitar riffs on ‘Imperial Breed’ which may hint at the band aware of Daft Punk’s efforts to fuse electronic instrumentation and classic disco.
Renegades of Jazz is the brainchild of leader David Hanke who was inspired by African music while there as a child and then later in the 1990s discovered sample beats. The hip-hop meets jazz approach is now a little dated and the band would be better served mixing electronic beats with Latin flavours as they successfully achieve on ‘Flemish Cap’ with vocals by Karin Ploog. The major question remains: which direction does Renegades of Jazz wish to take? This writer is firmly of the opinion that they should ditch all pretence of a jazz background and instead they should stick to dancefloor material where funk, Latin and African rhythms can be incorporated in a more cohesive and compelling manner.

Tim Stenhouse – Rating 2/5

Fans of Renegades of Jazz will love “Paradise Lost”, but then again, new listeners will do that, too! RoJ’s album is out now. This is the group’s second album, an innovative return, and, as Ornette Coleman would put it, “something else…” Sounding dark, very dark indeed, eight of the twelve tracks feature collaborations with some intriguing artists, Greg Blackman and Karin Ploog, to mention but a couple. The rest are up to the listeners to discover and enjoy, but suffice to say that all combinations work well. They are at the core of this new album. “Paradise Lost” needs to be handled with care, as one proceeds to listen, track by track, whether upbeat or not, the music draws one in and one is lost, yes, lost, just like John Milton intended it with his beautiful work… To delve a little bit into the world of literature, as Milton put it, Paradise Lost was “to justify the ways of God to men”, in parallel RoJ’s “Paradise Lost” is not a justification, but rather an invitation to discover a world where dark and light mix but where one doesn’t know what to expect until one has entered that world. And it is just this delving into the unknown that makes the album such a great one. Enter at your peril? Yes, with such delights waiting in the penumbra.
Outstanding tracks are: “Ban-Shee” – a dark upbeat song pulling one into an irresistible crescendo and “Tamerlane” (feat. Greg Blackman) – like a rough-cut diamond. “Lucifer’s rising” is an incredibly mesmerizing track and, at times, scarily so. Then one listens to the track “Fire” featuring Aspects. What to do, but be in awe. This is a genius collaboration. The Bristol hip-hop band are just right and add even more value to an already precious album. A remembrance of the good old “Jazzmatazz” era! The voice of Chima Anya is suave realism on “Death Grip”. A reminder of how well rap and jazz can go together at times. And, to add to this already beautiful gem, the album cover is by the great 19th century artist, Gustave Dore’ (one of his engravings for Milton’s book), so all in all, music, literature and art all mix into one. Just perfect!

Erminia Yardley – Rating 4/5