I HAVE A FRIEND WHO loathes jazz with a passion. Anything in more than one key makes her stomach turn, and the mere mention of a saxophone triggers convulsions, hissing, and spittle. So, of course, any mention of jazz-based dance music doesn't go over well. The last 4 Hero album? "Too jazzy," she says, with a dismissive wave. The Innerzone Orchestra show last year? A thousand-yard stare. I've almost given up on preaching to her about the many parallels between jazz, techno, and drum and bass; for some, this music is a natural extension of the jazz aesthetic, for others it's a bastardization--and for my friend it's pretty much irrelevant. That's okay. I can deal with that. Really. But there's quite a bit of ambitious jazz/techno fusion out there, coming from seasoned pros and eager neophytes alike. My friend, this one's for you. A-one, two, three, four... .

Techno god Kirk Degiorgio's 1997 LP Planetary Folklore is an excursion into modal jazz; over rolling 7/8 breakbeats he waxes Phrygian, pulling pages from Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock but sticking to techno's DIY aesthetic by ear and heart: his modal creations are sequencer-assisted. Nevertheless, the album is inviting, dense, and emotional. Not only does Degiorgio appreciate the finer technical points of jazz, he also takes the traditions of soul music to heart, writing songs that express emotions, not theories. Degiorgio is also partially responsible for Photek's more abstract creations; the two are close friends, and his track "KJZ" is reportedly the inspired result of a night's rifling through Degiorgio's extensive record collection. Degiorgio also mixed Check One, a DJ excursion that seals the gap between ancient jazz and modern breakbeat science, slipping effortlessly among genres and changing some minds in the process.

Meanwhile in Detroit, "Mad" Mike Banks, former Parliament session player and accomplished jazz musician, is largely known for the sonic assaults of Underground Resistance. The label became popular in Europe thanks to records like X-101, Death Star and the Acid Rain series, which fed the Continental need for speed and unleashed a scourge of pale imitations. But the man known for etching "Come to Detroit and get your ass bit!" into the runout groove of "Piranha" also produced some beautiful jazz/techno fusion in the form of Nation 2 Nation, World 2 World, and Galaxy 2 Galaxy, a triptych of saxophones and 303s, the peach of which is Hi-Tech Jazz, a soaring manifesto that is--in my humble opinion--the best techno record ever made. Similarly, Juan Atkins teamed up with Europeans Thomas Fehlmann and Moritz von Oswald to produce Jazz is the Teacher, a subtler variation on the theme--and, coincidentally, the second-best techno record ever made.

England's Ian O'Brien takes his cues largely from Mad Mike's jazz meanderings, to the point of calling one EP Mad Mike Disease. "Monkey Jazz," from the same record, noodles its heart out for minutes on end; such nonstop noodling is O'Brien's signature. His Desert Scores LP and the more recent Gigantic Days recall many a 1970s jazz/funk project, with sleazy beats, odd quirks in timing and arrangement, and synthesized Rhodeses and clavinets shuffling away over everything. You could call it "sexy," but you'd need a few extra limbs to consummate the act. Of all the techno/jazz cats, O'Brien is probably the most inaccessible; steer clear if anything past 4/4 leaves you rhythmically challenged.

Jungle is particularly fond of jazz homage; although techstep and jump-up are more popular around these parts, many a producer ventures into jazz territory, pulling the genre's abstract beat science into heady, meandering compositions. For a while, jungle was hailed as "future jazz"; DJ Krust's Jazz Note was among the first shots fired, and soon after many of his Bristol counterparts expressed their love for American jazz and soul music in their work. The aforementioned Photek and the rigorously demented Squarepusher made some unabashedly jazzy tracks--the latter delighting many a headcase with his Jaco Pastorius antics. 4 Hero later went all the way with Two Pages, a double-disc short course in soul about which junglist opinion was evenly divided; some thought it was the future of their genre, while others found it pointless and meandering. That subset of jungle has since migrated into soul territory, with the likes of London Elektricity and a sheaf of "afro-funk" producers fusing drum and bass with a forward-thinking attitude and a '70s soul vibe. In this case jungle succeeds where techno falls short, going from homage to progression and never looking back.

And now for some caveats: If you're born and raised on real jazz, you may find some of these derivations disappointing. Part of what makes electronic music so interesting is its relatively shallow learning curve; the best innovations in the genre are made by people fucking around with their gear without a manual in sight, an approach that doesn't lend itself to the kind of clever, thoughtful complexity that makes jazz so appealing to grad students. So the best fusions of jazz and dance music tend to sound rather boring to the excessively trained ear. If you view jazz as a deliberately inaccessible, delightfully complex music, you may be annoyed by dance music's appropriation of the vibe without sweating the technique. But if you're the type that views jazz as more of an attitude than a mental puzzle, these records just might suit you.

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