Carl Craig - Innerzone Orchestra



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      Published in Klublife magazine

      Jazz as a metaphor for a heart-felt melodic freedom has been used to describe the sophisticated spin some Detroit techno pioneers have put on Kraftwerk's man/machine quotient. Where the Germans looked to the classical melodies of Schubert to add feeling to their musical circuitry, their American proteges took from the jazz tradition when elaborating soulful keyboard lines over programmed beats. Look to the work of Carl Craig, say to the dreamy title track of his early compilation "Elements" and you'll find the potential for a future jazz amongst early techno's dance floor codes.

      Now after ten years of solo productions of techno (as Psyche, BFC and 69) and house (as Paperclip People) Craig has formed a live group to pursue the possibilities of his acclaimed break beat track "Bug In The Bassbin." Released in 1992 on his Planet E label under the name Innerzone Orchestra, Craig sampled organ chords from the legendary Sun Ra over live, jazzy snare breaks that became a big influence to insiders in the English jungle scene when a friend of the Reinforced crew pitched the record up to 45 rpm.

      ""Bug In The Bassbin" originally came out on a compilation called Intergalactic Beats, the vinyl version of that," Craig told me over the phone from Planet E's Detroit office. "It got more hype through the drum & bass outlets in the UK to where it actually got picked up by Mo Wax (in 1996). It was funny because I didn't realise what was going on in that scene. I had met Goldie years ago when he used to do a lot of tagging. Goldie decided he was getting into making music and wanted to do a mix of it. And at the time when he had called I wasn't so interested in doing any remixes of any of my material. When I agreed to do the remixes for the Mo Wax reissue Goldie was onto some other project, so his version didn't happen."

      Rather than applying his breaks to the drum & bass style (Craig chose 4 Hero and Peshay to do that) he used the chance to record a livelier "Jazz Mix" for the Mo Wax release of "Bug In The Bassbin" to expand the Innerzone Orchestra into a performing group.
      Now on the Innerzone Orchestra's debut album, Programmed (that includes a new version combining the original and the "Jazz Mix"), is heard Craig's band featuring former Sun Ra Arkestra drummer Francisco Mora and keyboardist Craig Taborn (who has worked with jazzers Dave Holland, Lester Bowie and the Art Ensemble of Chicago).
      With Craig on bass and Planet E producer Recloose on turntables, the Innerzone Orchestra toured last summer's prestigious jazz festivals including those at Montreux and Montreal (where they were joined by four Cuban percussionists).

      From "Eruption"'s threatening fusion to a contemporary jazz remake of Craig's "At Les" (from 1997's More Songs About Food And Revolutionary Art) the Innerzone Orchestra's mix of improvised and electronic elements aims high towards the free expression of the great jazz-fusion groups of the '60's and '70's.

    "My whole outlook isn't to make a pop record. My outlook is to make a classic, timeless piece of music that I could pick up thirty years from now and be proud of. Everyone has tried this integration of jazz with electronics thing on this crazy pop level. Guru's Jazzmataz mixed hip hop and jazz musicians. And Herbie Hancock used a DJ doing his scratch thing in "Rockit." What I'm trying to do is similar to something that Herbie did back in the day in the '70's. And to what Miles Davis had done back in the day in the late '60's/early '70's, where it had the feel that was amazing, and was able to integrate the modern technology at the time. I'm not saying we've gotten there. But with the musicians I'm working with, it's a large possibility of that happening because I think they are some of the greatest musicians that are around. The groove may not be like James Brown, but it is still going to the root of things."

    Carl Craig interview transcript

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