In discussion with The Maghreban on “Spell Of Three by Jazz Hip Trio (1967)
How did you become aware of „Spell Of Three“? A chance encounter?
I went to a car boot sale in Bath early one Sunday morning with my Dad and my Brother. I was looking for records, there weren’t many private sellers but there was a man who had a record stall. Normally I wouldn’t buy from a record dealer at a car boot sale, but there weren’t many records around so I had a look. He had this LP out for £12 or something. It looked interesting, just looking at the sleeve. It was the English Pressing on Major Minor. I took a chance on it for £10, which is not normally something I would do on a record costing that much.
Why did you pick this song, and not the whole album „Jazz En Relief“? What makes „Spell Of Three“ so significant?
When we got back I listened to the LP and was transported by that track in particular. Other tracks were nice, but none really moved me like that one did. Just the depth of emotion it conveys, kind of hopeful and sombre at the same time, it gave me goose bumps.
Is the late 60s your favourite period of time for Jazz, and is this style a personal preference?
I guess it is, yes, although not just the late 60s. There is a particular type of Jazz tune that I like, and most of them are from that time. Or some were recorded later but are in the 60s style. Tubby Hayes “Sasa Hivi”, “Pedro’s Walk”, Cannonball Adderley Quintet Plus “New Delhi”, Alto Summit “Native Land”, Ray Bryant Trio “Cubano Chant”, those kind of tunes. Some are a little Eastern sounding.
Would you say that Jazz-hip Trio have a typically French take on playing Jazz or does origin not matter?
I think they do actually. There is something there that reminds me of some Claude Bolling, Jacques Louissier. Or maybe its because it is a small band and it was recorded at that time. Something in the sound of the ride cymbals.
Their music sure has a cinematic quality, as exemplified in a lot of Jazz-based scores for films of that era, and they even interpret the seminal French film composer Michel Legrand. Is this just a cliché or did this film and music in that aspect just work well together at that time?
There is definitely something cool there, something cinematic. I could see this tune in a French New Wave film. Anna Karina smoking a cigarette. If it’s a cliché it is one that I like. I think the combination did work very well.
I quite like the name „Jazz-Hip Trio“. Jazz sure has a traditional right to utilize the term „hip“ in its long history, but in this case do you think this is irony or conviction?
I don’t think they were being ironic. I don’t know. I would imagine it was more conviction in this case.
You worked with Jazz elements yourself, particularly with your work as Dr. Zygote, where you explored Hip Hop and beyond. What was your motivation in your approach to its Jazz sources?
Hip hop is the starting point for a lot of people’s interest in other musical forms. When my brother was recording Yo! MTV Raps in the early 90s it was tunes that were sampling Jazz as well as Funk that grabbed me. I remember Double X Possee “Headcracker” for example, a lot of Gang Starr tunes as well. And further on people like Madlib sampling more funky Jazz like Eddie Harris, David Axelrod. Hip Hop got me into that kind of Jazz directly, and turned me on to looking for records, where I started to stumble across this kind of Jazz. A couple of tunes I did myself “Alexandria”, “Raga” on my Grupo Zygote LP, I was perhaps, with my limited skills, attempting to approach the kind of moods that some of these tracks stir in me.
Does this extend to your work as The Maghreban as well, your more club based moniker, or is the 4/4 pattern too limiting to really indulge in it?
I’ve actually messed about a little bit in that direction with some House stuff but I wasn’t happy enough with it yet to do anything with it. I’d love to develop those ideas though.
I must say I do not have fond memories of the Acid Jazz/Nu Jazz era. To me it was a style over content phenomenon that betrayed what Jazz was about for superficial references. Is there a way to adapt Jazz for club culture without losing the musicianship and ideas? Can this be achieved by means of sampling only?
I would say definitely there is scope there, and more without sampling than with sampling. Take some Legowelt productions for example. Nacho Patrol – Lineas Angola, or there are others – that’s totally Jazz adapted for club culture. In that they have a repetitive riff over which there is some soloing of sorts and it goes off on a few tangents but will return to the main motif. I would say that is more Jazz than some 90s New York House tune that just loops up bars from a Jazz track. So it might not sound immediately like Jazz but it would be Jazz in its ethos, in its style. There’s a lot of Techno that does similar things.
Will you continue to work with Jazz in your own productions, maybe even different than before?
It’s always there somewhere for me, even if it’s very subtle. I would love to get back to something more explicit though, definitely. I am working on a follow up to the Grupo Zygote LP, which will be a little bit more electronic than the last, but will definitely have those elements there.