I’ve been a big jazz fan for a long time now. I first got into the jazz sound around the early 90’s when I picked up a 2nd hand copy of ‘Jazz-Funk Mastercuts 1’. At the time I’d been listening to Galliano, The Brand New Heavies, The Young Disciples and similar ‘Acid Jazz’ acts, but this was one of my first purchases of more original stuff.
The album was obviously reflecting more of the 70’s sound – funkier, more dancefloor type jazz rather than the more purist stuff. Hard bop, free jazz, spiritual jazz would follow as I explored the genre further, but the likes of Azymuth (Jazz Carnival), Donald Byrd (Change) & Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘Bottle’ got me hooked. I started adding these tracks to my mix tapes that would get played in the 6th form common room. I’d sit them alongside tracks by the aforementioned acid jazz acts, but also indie and dance stuff of that time.
Saint Etienne, Orbital, LFO, Morrissey, Ragga Twins and Dizzy Gillespie were possibly odd bed fellows on a TDK D90 but to me it was all good. I don’t think the Levellers fans appreciated the tapes, but did I care? Not really.
Jazz was having a great influence at the time, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Guru etc were bringing jazz into hip hop. Meanwhile jazz was still a massive influence in Japan, the Major Force crew amongst those giving their own take on hip hop that uniquely Japanese Jazz take. Music really seemed to cross-pollinate. ‘You gotta dig blue note to get def jam’ was an often repeated refrain. Which brings me to Mo Wax.
Alongside Ninja Tune, Mo Wax probably best came to define the sound of the mid 90’s. Trip Hop, abstract hip hop, beat science – whatever. Mo Wax captured that experimental attitude visually and aurally. Jazz, hip hop, techno, dub stirred into a head nodders delight.
The leap to mass attention for the label probably came with DJ Shadow’s debut album, but before that came the genre defining ‘In Flux’. That epic track kicks off with the sample from Frank Foster’s ‘Loud Minority’. And so we return to where I started this post – with jazz. Beginning with the Frank Foster track this mix – a selection of deep jazz tunes – is the kind of jazz I’m still digging over 20 years later.