Azure Hiptronics
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Azure Hiptronics

The Hague, Netherlands | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

The Hague, Netherlands | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Jazz Funk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Azure | Hiptronics – Foreign Music Review"

This project started out as a few guys jamming together.Then a few jam sessions later, they decided it was a good idea to put together an album. They recorded their debut album, When She Smiles. The group has since evolved, leaving a few members behind, and the new and improved group has put together their second album, Hiptronics.

Groovier than ever, the group put together 13 tracks for the new album, and it’s a lot of funk and jazz smashed together into one huge funking cluster. Oh, and did I mention that the group is based out of the Netherlands? This Dutch group really brought the funk. Their music requires a certain musical taste, but that’s what makes the group unique. There are a few other similar musicians, like The Roots and Dassit, but it’s still a unique style of music. The group does what they do very well, and that’s make music.

Right off the bat, the CD intros with a flurry of jazzy melodies, then tops it off with an amazing trumpet solo by Rik Mol, who just happens to be based out of New York City. The song continues to dazzle with solos and great melody, but the best is yet to come.

The next song, Mosquito Massacre, is another highlight track, regardless of the bizarre name. Once again, the song is a string of groovy melodies topped off with amazing solos, but includes a much faster tempo and a rush of polyrhythm, which actually lends to the dizzying array of style that unfolds on the rest of the track. It’s about six minutes full of powerhouse playing and unbelievable talent.

Now, will this album be widely accepted? Yes, but only outside of the states, for now. The group is on tour for the rest of the year, and is planning on making a few stops in the U.S. So they can start getting pretty popular if they follow in the tracks of Snarky Puppy, in light of SP’s recent boost in popularity.

I suggest you listen to a track or two and decide for yourself, but it’s an impressive outing by the foreign group. It’s definitely something that American jazz musicians will love to hear. So, the group gets an A for their newest album and it’s a definite “Yes’”on the must-listens list for this summer. Peep it now! - Felix Cordova

"Azure: Hiptronics (2014)"

Such is the musical shift between Azure's When She Smiles (Azuremusic, 2009) and Hiptronics that they sound like different bands; effectively, they are. The main songwriter, classically influenced pianist Pierre-Francois Blanchard has been replaced by keyboardist Federico Solazzo and only co-founder, guitarist Rogier Schneemann remains from the original group, which has grown to a quintet with the addition of trumpeter Rik Mol. In interior design terms it would be akin to gutting a property and going for a futuristic styling with a little 1970s retro thrown in—think Woody Allen's Sleeper with a funk-cum-hip hop soundtrack.

The old Azure certainly displayed diverse influences, from Keith Jarrett and the Modern Jazz Quartet to Esbjorn Svensson, with Schneemann veering between lyrical and slightly distorted excursions. The subtle harmonics and discursive drumming then have been replaced on Hiptronics by David Barker's fat back beats, synthesizer-led jazz funk and an altogether more urbane group sound, typified by guests Benjamin Rhodes' R&B vocal and DNA's—satisfyingly intelligible and poetic—rap on "Ocean's Edge." That said, Azure's music remains inherently melodic, interestingly eclectic and superbly executed.

The instrumental version of "Ocean's Edge" opens with Barker's snappy beat and a blue-toned synthesizer motif, which Solazzo develops into a singing solo. It sounds like a 1980s John McLaughlin record at 78rpm, a notion not dispelled until the clap-along groove that accompanies Mol's bop-funk trumpet solo. There's more funk in the infectious "Waving Tables." Once the highly melodic groove has been established Schneemann launches into a ripping six-stringed attack, followed by Solazzo's Herbie Hancock-esque squishy synthesizer solo. Luciano Poli's spare bass lines contrast with the greater freedom around him—another pleasing feature of the recording in general.

The funk-lite, smooth jazz of Solazzo's "It's Like Nothing Ever Changed" evokes Level 42, with Schneemann's solo enlivening the palette. There is, however, more on offer than just funk grooves. Slower numbers like Mol's caressing "Miss Incognita," the gentle, piano-dominated "Within Reach" and the dreamy blues-pop of "Puddle of Sand"—both penned by Schneemann—champion mood over rhythmic dynamics. "Planets I" and "Planets II" are slices of ambient minimalism; the former revolves around a two-note Rhodes mantra and softly bobbing bass, with Mol's lyrical trumpet solo punctuated by a sample of Gustav Holts' The Planets; the latter is more abstract, with drone noise and walkie-talkie chatter underpinning the briefest of trumpet interventions.

Elsewhere, the triumphant "Dawinul" conjures a summit meeting between Santana and Pat Metheny, with Latin percussion, well defined trumpet/guitar hooks, flowing solos and soaring backing vocals together forging a potent cocktail. The urgent rocker "Burn Everything" showcases Schneemann's visceral, no-holds-barred playing, somewhat evocative of Focus-era Jan Akkerman. Barker contributes two tunes: his punchy "Mosquito Massacre II" stems from overlapping ostinatos but eventually plots a more reflective course led by Solazzo's piano, while "DB" is a curiously catchy vignette—melodically fluid and rhythmically evolving.

Azure sounds at home in its new skin, one that embraces smooth and raw textures, funk, rock and Latin-jazz elements, ambient and R&B grooves. With this hip release it should succeed in converting a few people across the musical divides, in all manner of directions.

Track Listing: Ocean’s Edge; Mosquito Massacre Part II; Within Reach; It’s Like Nothing Ever Changed; Waving Tables; Miss Incognita; Dawinul; Planets I; Puddle of Sand; DB: Burn Everything; Planets II; Ocean’s Edge.

Personnel: Rik Mol: trumpet (1-2, 6-8, 12), flugelhorn (9); Rogier Schneemann: guitars; Federico Solazzo: keyboards; Luciano Poli: bass; David Barker: drums; Cecilia Baesso, Federico Solazzo, David Barker, Luciano Poli: backing vocals (7); Benjamin Rhodes: vocals (13); DNA: rap (13).

Record Label: Azuremusic

Style: Modern Jazz - Ian Patterson

"AZURE Hiptronics"

It has been five years since Azure’s last outing When She Smiles, and while it would seem very little of the original band has remained these changes stand witness to a progressive evolution in which founder Rogier Schneemann has maintained a kind of ‘Azure ethos’; improving a little here and adapting where required, but keeping an elegant sense of melody, tight harmonies and an elusive sense of poetry. Original pianist Pierre-François Blanchard has returned to Paris, but co-producer Federico Solazzo’s contribution to Hiptronics is central, both as a composer and performer on piano and a range of keyboard sounds of which Joe Zawinul would have been proud. The artistry of bassist Luciano Poli should also not be underestimated, as much a key to the rock-steady feel of these tracks as drummer David Barker.

The press release for Hiptronics is keen to emphasise Azure’s move towards electronic and funky grooves as opposed to what might be considered more ‘straight’ jazz. Guest artists such as Rik Mol, who has appeared with Chaka Khan, Basement Jaxx and Candy Dulfer, sees the band further raise their game into a product which can stand alongside the best in this genre. The concept behind the track listing is one of a “circular story of estrangement and homecoming”, though this is only really apparent with the opening and closing Ocean’s Edge, the instrumental first version with pacey and frenetic rhythms over a basically calm set of chord progressions and mildly symphonic development. This is given a nice vocal treatment from Benjamin Rhodes in the closing track, with some well produced vocal counterpoint and extra details which go that extra mile. DNA’s rap is also pretty convincing, working surprisingly well with the number’s middle section.

There are some great highlights and no weak tracks on this album, though tastes will inevitably differ. I like the fun bounce of Waving Tables and the muted Miles Davis style trumpet of Miss Incognita. Weather Report has to be cited as an influence in general, though 1970s action movie soundtracks also contribute to the retro feel of something like Dawinul. Slow numbers deliver necessary contrast, but I prefer the enigmatic Groove Armada atmosphere of Planets I with its cunningly dropped-in samples to the more homely sentiment of Puddle of Sand. On the subject of samples, there is indeed one weak element in the Brand X tinged DB, the exchange between filtered strings and grunge moments too angular to lie comfortably on the same side of the blanket. More rock orientated is Burn Everything, which also allows for some understated double bass from Luciano Poli in the lyrical middle section – a nice contrast with the more frequently taken electric bass.

Each of the tracks is given its own little programme note in the booklet which is a helpful touch, and the production and design/presentation standards of this release are very high. If you like creatively composed and superbly performed jazz funk with a steely edge then this is a top venue to get some genuine kicks. - Dominy Clements


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


show is centered around the adventures of the funny-looking character
seen on the album cover of Hiptronics. Only accompanied by his trusted pet dog, he
suddenly finds himself standing outside of - merely being able to
observe - the life he previously had. From this bewildered state, he
starts a quest to find and regain his old life; travelling far beyond
the reaches of his known inner and outer worlds. During this transition
he soon realises that his goal must be to go full-circle: from
estrangement, through chaos, to resolution and finally homecoming.

Band Members