We have a soft spot in our hearts for bouncy, happy, intelligent releases, and Jazzamped is one of them. While jazz is indeed one of the flavors, Iszlai‘s music is better categorized as sample-based, head-nodding instrumental hip-hop. A wide variety of instruments and timelines is on display here, but the overall tone is encouraging and upbeat, epitomized by the winking one-two punch of “It’s Okay” and “Yeah, It’s Not Okay.” The former begins with military drums and horns before breaking into a stomping rhythm; the stereo effects are fantastic, the bass sublime. A thoughtful breakdown leads back to the drums. The latter is a throwback to trip-hop, the samples reminiscent of Hed Kandi’s Winter Chill series. Are we okay? Either way, these warm tracks make us feel a little bit better.
There are not many artists making this kind of music, which requires a great deal of intricacy. Even in 2001, Since I Left You was a rarity. One would think that new DJ tools would simplify the process, but in order to succeed, one needs to be able to interpret chords as well as moods. The laid-back “Thin Air” may be brief, but it’s never content to stay in one place for long. The tempo remains constant, but the primary timbre swivels from electric guitar to woodblock to keyboard; laser effects permeate the background. The addition of organic instrumentation muddies any attempt at recognition, as one is never sure what is sampled and what is live. The cover artwork is a fitting visual representation.
As the world simultaneously sinks into nostalgia and searches for something new, Jazzamped splits the difference. Parts of the album may have been beamed from 2001 or even earlier, but others were born this year. The elements mingle to procure a feeling of comfort. By “Gumboo,” a little more of that jazz spice sparkles in the spoon, as befits the title. This sonic stew is as tasty as a Southern soup. By the time we “Exit Through The Thrift Store,” we’ve been nourished. A “bogus track” plays as we leave, seemingly beamed in from a more radio-minded project, serving as a go-away present. With these rhythms in our ears, we’re sure to return. (Richard Allen)