Techno + jazz + funk = groove. Techno + jazz + smarmed-down-toupée = Danuel Tate. Being a member of Cobblestone Jazz (and The Modern Deep Left Quartet) gives you a special superpower, as if you had been bitten by a radioactive spider and you could climb the walls like a monkey, as if a blast of gamma rays had turned you into a bigorexic pea that can chew up trucks and blow bubbles with them. Danuel Tate’s gift is an extraterrestrial intuition for finding the groove. The radioactive emanations of Cobblestoneland have transformed his nose into a biological radar with Russian precision when it comes to sniffing out the piano, bass, and guitar, with the grooviest beat. Like a pig training to seek out truffles. Sniff, sniff, there it is! “Mexican Hotbox” doesn’t lie: this dude is way into coolness.
With a couple of EPs on Wagon Repair in his back pocket, the skilful keyboard player, born in British Columbia and settled in Berlin, has decided to pound his fist on the table and proclaim to the world that he knows how to make music as well as anybody else, that he’s more than just an extra in the Cobblestone hierarchy. Here we can study Tate’s musical machinery without half-stepping, from the inside, in all of its splendour, without anything preventing us from deciphering his codes. These codes are quickly detectable (and enjoyable): he adjusts his flesh to the smooth lycra of the most elegant techno-house–that bass is there in almost all of his cuts– and like a black glittery rain, he sprinkles the fabric with Latin echoes, percussions like the Marismeños, attacks of funk, minimalist farts, robot voices like “I Just Call to Say I Love You”, and especially jazz fantasies of the first magnitude.
The opening cut, “Mexican Hotbox”, is a five-minute treatise on techno-funk cosmology in which we can catch a glimpse of the keys of his master plan: synthesisers doing their thing, a voice filtered with a vocoder, dance-floor nerve, jazz appliqué, Latin woodwinds, and all executed with elegance to the point of paroxysm. This is the mark of the entire song list, the elements that Tate plays with to follow a fairly eclectic course contributing a new vision to the postulates that we had read so far in the New Testament of the church of Cobblestone Jazz. His fingers move faster than a teenager texting her friends on her Blackberry. And you can tell: the pianos, futurist keyboards and ambiental synthesisers are indispensable requirements in the majority of the songbook. The Rhodes becomes a weapon of mass destruction in his hands. The clearest example of his digital virtuosity is the piano runs of “O.K. Then”, a jumping song that we could classify as Martian Latin jazz. He does the same in “Californa Can Can”, but this time over an undeniably minimal bass, criss-crossed with improvisation on the keyboards and enriched with bongos.
The more lounge moments are when he perhaps gives himself over more to his jazz impulses—the relaxed breakbeat of “Shoothingblanks” is perfect for the keyboards to play the starring role. But where you have to watch out is in the passages where he never loses sight of the dance floor, as this is where he experiments with the greatest pleasure and contention: “I’ll Be Your Whatever” gives us a session of psychedelic funk that starts off in the key of trippy house and ends up in a party of Latin drum’n’bass for lovers of groove. In “Careful Mind” he manages to hit a perfectly balanced blend of jazz (you can hear a sax in there somewhere), black-tie house (with drum, cymbals, and brilliantine), and the 80’s (there’s that vocoder again). In “Populatio” he revels in an overdose of synthesisers like Lemmings and adapts his experiments to a techno-funk salsa skeleton that would get Celia Cruz’s zombie dancing. There is elegance, there’s variety, there’s class and, contrary to what one might guess from the title (thank God), there are no mariachis. Mother-fucker.
Danuel Tate- Mexican Hotbox