Berlin's Jazzanova collective have been actively building on their pioneering nu-jazz brand for nearly two decades. They've pursued it as a production team and with their Sonar Kollectiv label as well. In recent years, they've formed a live group for the purpose of touring. Funkhaus Studio Sessions showcases their road band -- a septet -- in a studio collaboration with Detroit vocalist Paul Randolph (aka Randolph of Lonely Eden fame). The program is a fine mix of redone classic tunes such as "The Fedime's Flight," and more recent fare such as 2008's "Look What You're Doin to Me," as well as new songs. The groove-consciousness in these 14 tracks is undeniable. Though this set doesn't pack the body punch that some of their live dates have, it's not meant to. With Randolph's wide range of vocal styles and expressions, the smoother approach is welcome. "I Human," with its old-school synth, popping funky bassline, and electric piano, touches on smooth, late-'70s-era, funky jazzy-soul (à la Norman Connors and Roy Ayers), all the while pushing the frame to include contemporary jazz tropes. "Believer" is a solid stepper with its rumbling samples and keyboards in the intro, while Randolph near scats in his phrasing as the groove builds to include breaking hi-hats, fat, warm, bubbling bass, and washes of ambient sound. The redone instrumental "La Belle et Fou," with its syncopated horn chart and hand percussion, touches on Latin as well as jazz funk. The mid-register trombone solo soars above the handclaps, silvery guitars, and keys. Randolph is the perfect foil for Jazzanova. He croons, growls, hovers, swoons, and gets gritty as the music dictates, becoming an instrument in the mix rather than just a frontman. Funkhaus Studio Sessions may not break much new ground, but who cares when the music is this well-played and presented?
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek