Returning from a hiatus of sorts, Jazzanova’s first full-length release in 10 years sees the Berlin-based collective doing what they do best: producing mellow, jazz-influenced instrumentals for an array of vocal guests. Former collaborators such as Ben Westbeech and Paul Randolph return to the fold along with fresh faces like rapper Oddisee, who delivers a verse over an updated version of In Between’s L.O.V.E. And You & I.
Then comes Rain Makes The River, a slow-paced track with somber piano chords and enigmatic lyrics from Rachel Sermanni (“if rain makes the river rain needs to fall / I’m with you, see it all”), before Follow Your Feet’s lively groove picks the pace up. A real strength of this album is the variety of vocal performances and the different moods that come with each track, as it shows off Jazzanova’s versatility too.
A highlight comes with the irresistibly funky Heatwave, as a syncopated guitar riff twists its way around Olivier St Louis’ falsetto vocals and the slowly building layers of instrumentation. Another is the 6/8 blues of Summer Keeps On Passing Me By, with a poppy structure and melancholy lyrics by Westbeech about feeling out of step with life. Unfortunately not all tracks on The Pool have the same quality of songwriting, which leaves the moody shuffle of Slow Rise more than a little forgettable.
Jazzanova’s production is subtle, with little details buried in the mix: see, for example, the glitchy tone that bubbles up inside Let’s Live Well’s otherwise traditional arrangement or the Beatles reference on the hook of No 9. Coupled with mostly low-key guest appearances, The Pool isn’t an album that jumps out at you. It’s an easygoing record that has a sophisticated yet soulful centre, and that’s where its appeal lies.