New album with jazz and hip hop from Cologne: Embrace freedom
The Cologne rapper Retrogott meets the jazz band Perfectomat. The album “Zeit Hat Uns” is complex and has its own groove.
“Charity can be loveless / And the shopping center or the / grounds of the access center / can just as well be cemeteries …” – Following Kurt Tallert’s rhyme means climbing a lyrical high mountain. While one climbs the peaks of references and philosophical mind games, there is always a risk of the discourse breaking off. Tallert, who is better known under his rap pseudonym Retrogott, has been the leading word acrobat in the local hip-hop circus since the mid-nineties.
Instead of thick pants and social hotspot fanfiction, he has been sending top-class poetic-philosophical rhyme mescapades from the south of Cologne since the early days. The artist, born in 1986, has long since established himself in German-speaking hip-hop, mostly accompanied by his sparring partner Hulk Hodn, who makes instrumentals. It didn’t require alpha males, physical violence, or unnecessary insults at schoolboy level. The opposite is the case: the lyrics of Retrogott habitually stroll around the university campus.
Change of location and era: In 1968, a group of African Americans stand on the street corners in Harlem and text the neighborhood as a civil rights movement community board in the form of music. The eight young people called themselves The Last Poets, who have since shrunk to the size of a trio. Her proto-rap, the flowing proclamation of injustice and black power, got her on the record shelf – but also on the watch lists of the FBI and CIA. In addition, the Last Poets inspired several generations of hip-hop heads, and then indirectly the local ones as well.
That becomes more than obvious on “Zeit hat uns”, the album that Retrogott has now realized with the group Perfektomat. In the case of the poets, the drum of beat literature once set the pace; at Perfectomat this is done by frontman Joscha Oetz.
Oetz is part of Cologne’s jazz and improvisation scene, which has distinguished itself over the past 30 years primarily through its proximity to avant-garde and free jazz forms. The double bass player, born in 1971, not only plays in various constellations, but also teaches jazz: as artistic director of the Open Jazz House School, role model in Cologne in terms of music education.
Unusually swinging meter
The musical role models for the project are numerous. Tallert and Oetz can hardly keep up with their list: “Miles Davis, Steve Coleman, Gil Scott HeronOrnette Coleman …” Always jazz and hip-hop at the same time – but the best of both worlds?
In any case, highly complex, associatively created philosophical experiments with references to the late beat scene can be heard. The same applies to political poetry, to the origins of rap anyway. On tracks like the critical anti-centre-right song “Nationalkulturalismus” you don’t just hear hip-hop lyrics, but rather chants from the rapper Retrogott.
Meanwhile, the musical framework is not only provided by Oetz on bass, but also by the rest of the band Perfektomat. Especially great: Laura Robles. The Peruvian performs with her cajon and congas percussion a sometimes unusually swinging meter; an occurrence that Tallert had to get used to: instead of four-four time there is Afro-Peruvian syncopation.
In addition, there is always a swarming of afro beats and high life, mostly brought into play by guitars or saxophone. Africa, South America, Harlem, Cologne: Oetz brings a long-forgotten term from jazz history into play for this complex and multidimensional construct. The word “harmolodic”, once introduced by free jazz mastermind Ornette Coleman, describes a way of playing that no longer works on genre boundaries, but embraces freedom.
Many facets, sometimes a little too cerebral, never under-complex and still groovy. So it doesn’t matter to us whether it’s more for hip hoppers or jazz musicians.