Six-man German outfit Jazzanova put themselves at the forefront of the nu-jazz scene when they released their debut album In Between in 2002. However, last year’s Of All The Things was a much more song-based affair. Future Music magazine was invited into the collective’s Berlin facility, where Jazzanova’s production whiz Axel Reinemer showed them the gear that was used to create it.
The centrepiece of the ’nova’s studio is this imposing Neumann console. “My friend got given the desk actually but I had to buy it from him, so we’re not really great friends any more,” laughs Axel. “The Neumann desk is pretty clean actually – it has its own sound, but is very similar in the signal path to what you might expect from an older desk.”
As well as the main console, there’s also this sub-mixer – “a fully discrete modular mixer by RFZ (an East German company),” reveals Axel. “What I really like is the graphic EQ which is an inductor-based circuit with lots of bottom end and nice sound overall – it sort of reminds me of a Pultec EQP-1A. We used it to run drums through and used the high frequency boost for some backing vocals, too.”
Jazzanova’s mic needs are covered by (from left to right) a Siemens U47 condenser (used for vocals and acoustic bass); a Royer 122 ribbon mic (for recording brass, electric guitar and percussion); and a Neumann U67 tube condenser (for drums, horns, vocals, electric guitar, percussion and violins).
The studio is housed in an old building and, as Axel explains, the large concrete stairwell makes the perfect reverb chamber. “We would use this space to send certain tracks out of a speaker and record them back with the [Siemens] U47 on to a separate channel. Then we could blend the large echo and reverb sound from the stairwell with the original dry recording.”
Despite having a Pro Tools-based recording setup, Jazzanova still find a use for three tape machines, including the Studer A820 24-track 2-inch. “We use this machine a lot for varispeed recording,” reveals Axel. “For example, what we do a lot of times is to record tambourine and percussion stuff at a faster tape speed - transferring it back to Pro Tools slows it down to the original tempo. This makes it much bigger sounding - a thin shaker or tambourine turns into a real big thing.”
No nu-jazzer’s setup is complete without a Fender Rhodes piano, and the Jazzanova studio also contains a few synths (including the Korg Trident mkII you can see tucked away in the corner). That said, electronic sounds don’t feature heavily on Of All The Things: “There’s a small synth line on one track, but we made a decision to make most of the album using mics to record real instruments,” says Axel.
You’ll hear the STA Level Compressor all over Of All The Things – “mainly because I’d just bought it,” admits Axel. However, Jazzanova weren’t always outboard junkies: “The In Between album was done all in the box, with just one mic and a preamp. We mixed it all inside the computer and worked with lots of samples which gave us the gritty sound,” Axel recalls.