by Don Crispy
Bridge the gap
London acid jazz unit Reel People head up a new party
Oli Lazarus (left) and Mike Patto
Half a year after its opening, Duo Music Exchange, a mid-size
venue that opened as part of the glitzy new O-East music complex
in Shibuya, seems to be finding its stride. Hip-hop supergroup
The Roots are in town this weekend, and next weekend the venue
is reborn as a club with a new party that Duo's Yumi
Miura says "hopes to change the face of the average
We've heard this before, and the mix of live bands
and performance art with DJs is hardly novel, but a look at
the lineup for the first Bridge the Gap reveals that Duo has
put a lot of work into creating a strong event.
The headliners come in the form of a London-based acid jazz
unit who will be making their Japan debut. Reel People launched
in 2000 as a project of DJ/producer Oli Lazarus, who began
to share his vision for a new take on acid jazz, updating
its trusty blend of jazz, soul and funk with a liberal dose
of contemporary breakbeats.
The first to come on board was sound engineer Tom Davidson,
and the pair immediately clicked, creating the 2001 club smash
"Spiritual" as the first release from Lazarus's
newly formed Papa Records. Next to join was keyboardist, vocalist
and songwriter Mike Patto, best known for his work with Restless
Soul Productions, and in 2002 the trio set about recording
For the album, they worked with a number of singers and musicians
who would ultimately join them in Reel People's live
incarnation. Standouts include singer Vanessa Freeman, who
has worked with UK breakbeats pioneer 4hero, Japan's
own DJ/production unit Kyoto Jazz Massive, and Incognito veteran
"Level" Neville Malcolm, among others.
The release of Reel People's debut, Second Guess, was
greeted rapturously, and, with its sensitive reworking of
acid jazz with elements of electronica, positioned Reel People
alongside the Cinematic Orchestra as one of the top contemporary
UK electronic soul bands.
In order to play club venues that cannot accommodate a full
live band, Reel People created a scaled-down version of itself,
Reel People Sessions, which toured Japan in 2003 as a DJ unit
with Kyoto Jazz Massive and UFO. This led to a relationship
with Japan's Columbia Records, and the release of Second
Guess in Japan. It also paved the way for the upcoming tour,
featuring the full live incarnation of Reel People.
Joining them at Duo, appropriately, will be Kyoto Jazz Massive.
A DJ/production unit consisting of brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro
Okino, Kyoto Jazz Massive began their career in (surprise)
Kyoto, before relocating to Tokyo and opening the influential
Shibuya club, The Room.
Despite its small scale, the club with its consistent focus
on quality funk, acid jazz, house, Brazilian and other more
soulful aspects of dance music, has had an outsized influence
on Tokyo nightlife. It has also provided a launch pad for
talents like DJ/producer/bandleader Shinichi Osawa.
The Okino brothers have also worked with countless like-minded
overseas talents, from house maestro Francois K to Brazilian
singer Bebel Gilberto, and in addition to producing a range
of acts for their own Compost imprint, have contributed tracks
to Blue Note compilations, and toured Europe.
Filling out the lineup is Brazilian-influenced, Japanese funk,
jazz and soul unit, Noa Noa. Formed as a bossa nova cover
band in 1995 by the leader, who goes by the name "Ben,"
Noa Noa are currently an instrumental five-piece that works
with some of Japan's better female vocalists.
To sum it up, Bridge the Gap kicks off with an admirably impressive
grouping of artists. But with many parties launched with equally
strong ambitions falling victim to the vagaries of Japanese
clubbers' changing tastes and the challenge of turning
a profit, one can only hope it establishes itself.
Sep 17, 8pm, ¥4,200. Duo Music
Exchange. Tel: 03-5459-8711.
credit: Duo Music Exchange