As part of the globally respected Jazzy Sport stable, acid-jazz trio Cro-Magnon have been actively innovating for the better part of two decades now, since their first jam together in Boston in 1996. Alongside other members, the band’s current iteration – Takumi Kaneko on keyboards; Tsuyoshi Kosuga on guitar and bass; and Shigeazu Otake taking drums and percussion – first performed together under the name Loop Junktion, releasing two full-lengths on Sony Music Records in the early 2000s, before forming the streamlined three-piece Cro-Magnon in 2004.
Not to say that the band are happy keeping their numbers to a minimum, mind. Since their formation, Cro-Magnon have managed to accumulate an impressive and ever-expanding list of collaborators. Over the years, they’ve drawn from a pool of both contemporaries and legendary names, both domestic and international: including the likes of Roy Ayers, with whom they toured in Europe; Steve Spacek; plus rap crew Gagle, featuring none other than Mitsu the Beats, who Boiler Room viewers might remember from our inaugural Tokyo run (with Kosuga’s spirited dancing in the back!)
The band composed the track “Bowl Man”, featuring Enka singer Ikuzo Yoshi, as the opening theme song for Sengoku-period anime Hyouge Mono, delivering them firmly into mainstream public consciousness. 2011 then saw Cro-Magnon temporarily disband under somewhat contentious circumstances, when Kosuga was arrested for possession of cannabis. This resulted in the cancellation of several planned performances, and TV broadcaster NHK even pulling the band’s theme from the above-mentioned anime series.
Their break thankfully didn’t last long, and in 2012 Cro-Magnon had a triumphant return with greatest hits compilation The Best, followed by a successful third European tour in 2013 and last year’s release of their latest album, V.
At a time when descriptions like “genre-blurring” get thrown around with reckless abandon, it’s easy to understate the cross-pollination of styles characteristic of Cro-Magnon. Fans of the Jazzy Sport ‘sound’ will first and foremost recognise their hip-hop sensibilities and eclecticism, but the trio’s music also spans everything from soul and jazz to dub and techno – just as its appeal has spanned across all types of audiences across the world. Binding together these disparate styles is a fearless performative aspect that comes to the fore in their Boiler Room performance.
Also on the broadcast is HEX, another act that takes pleasure in stylistic and artistic collisions. At the head of HEX is scene veteran Toshio Matsuura – formerly one-third of DJ unit United Future Organization – who has gathered a number of forward-thinking collaborators together on this new project, including keyboarding/programmer Kan Sano and Midorin, percussionist for renowned sextet Soil. Unsurprising given the career histories of the members involved, HEX’s fusion of jazz and electronics results in a polished and successful end-product. 2013’s eponymous debut full-length, released on the Japanese wing of the legendary Blue Note imprint, featured guest vocals from the likes of Ed Motta (Brazil) and Grey Reverend (USA); its lead single topped the iTunes Japan Jazz Chart.
Both Cro-Magnon and HEX are acts pushing the broad envelope of jazz forward to new audiences to great success, without ever compromising on their chimeric styles. For most, Japanese ‘jazz clubs’ are genteel joints with panelled wood and aged whiskey, straight out of a Murakami novel. For the personalities behind Cro-Magnon and HEX, we get the feeling that ‘jazz club’ means something else entirely, with plenty of emphasis on the latter.
Boiler Room will broadcast Cro-Magnon, HEX and an impromptu collaboration under their Session moniker on Monday March 2nd – more info HERE.
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