The Cinematic Orchestra
At Fuji Rock this summer, what was essentially a jazz band
at one point mounted the stage in the Red Marquee dance tent.
Why was The Cinematic Orchestra booked alongside electronica
The reason had to do with bandleader Jason Swinscoe's
working method. The producer and former Ninja Tune employee
comes from the world of loops and samples and applies the
technologies of dance production to his amorphous group of
jazz musicians known as The Cinematic Orchestra.
"It was quite an odd way of working in that I'd
do the pre-production before getting everyone together, running
the loops and recording the musicians jamming over the top,"
Swinscoe told Deconstructed about recording the band's
latest album, Everyday. "From there I'd take
what I'd got and go back into my own studio, strip
everything right back down and rebuild it using individual
parts that I'd recorded."
The result was one of the more memorable albums of the year,
a confederacy of jazz grooves and downtempo electronica that
British tastemaker and DJ Gilles Peterson described as treading
the "fine line between DJ culture and a week at the
The success of Everyday in fact followed a long process of
trial and error that had led up to The Cinematic Orchestra's
1999 debut, Motion. "The reaction to that album was
something of a surprise," recalled Swinscoe. "In
that it really came from a couple of years locked in the studio
and didn't really have much to do with dance music."
Swinscoe's masterstroke on Everyday was to place a
call to almost-forgotten soul singer Fontella Bass. The voice
behind the '60s hit "Rescue Me," Bass-who
has also played with experimental jazz unit the Art Ensemble
of Chicago-was brought in to lay down her gruff, richly
expressive vocals on two unforgettable tracks: "All
that you Give" and "Evolution."
"It felt wonderful that Jason took the time to get
in touch with me," Bass said. "We talked for
maybe two hours that first time about music and the industry-and
when I received his first album I loved it. I feel that music
is universal, and as long as it's spiritual and connects
with people's souls, I'm willing to explore
whatever possibilities come my way."
With everyone from British breakbeats specialists 4 Hero and
sampling wunderkind Matthew Herbert and his Big Band to Chicago
"soul electronica" DJ Roy Davis and Japanese
"intelligent jazz" creator Kay Nakayama exploring
the intersection of jazz and dance music, "nu"
(should that have an umlaut?) jazz is in a period of rapid
evolution. Amid it all, Swinscoe's The Cinematic Orchestra
has perhaps pushed the vision to its logical conclusion: a
live jazz band once again making music to dance to.
The upcoming concert will feature, in addition to a performance
by The Cinematic Orchestra, DJ sets from Ninja Tune stablemate
Vadim and the aforementioned Gilles Peterson.
The Cinematic Orchestra play Liquid
Room on September 20. See listings for details.
Photo courtesy of Beatink