Record Review - 2 July 24 2002

The Finnish Nuspirit Helsinki collective emphasizes a live approach to its Afrobeat/Latin- influenced rhythms — familiar to fans of mostly German acts in the bossa/broken_beat scene, including Jazzanova and Beanfield. Made up of a five-man core — four DJs (one the group’s keyboardist) plus a producer — Nuspirit Helsinki also features multicultural collaborations from at least 12 jazz musicians, both seasoned veterans and acclaimed upstarts. Also showcased are the vocal contributions of Naked Music’s Lisa Shaw, Brooklyn’s Nicole Willis, Chicago’s Chuck Perkins and several of Nuspirit’s own.

Living up to the promise of the group’s singles for the Guidance, Ubiquity and Compost labels — the leading lights of the global nu_jazz community — Nuspirit Helsinki plays out like updated ’70s funk/jazz fusion that looks both ways. It looks back to early-’90s acid jazz and forward to a soulful skitter that draws from neo-soul and two-step — before choosing not to cross the street, but rather float by on smoky wings. Corners are as round, soft and sultry as the finest European boutique interiors. The torch songs glow warm and low atop odd (to Western ears) time signatures. Percussion, with only a hint of programming/processing, lays the foundation, while cinematic strings, elastic bass and breezy brass slink along capriciously, occasionally with treated textures that benefit from drum ‘n’ bass, tech and dub.

For the most part, though, Nuspirit Helsinki are more gentle and muted than many of their contemporaries, though they play with no less conviction.Nuspirit Helsinki plays the MJQ Concourse Thurs., July 25.