The Vinyl Say 025: St Germain

In every collection there are records that get played all the time, many of them for years, decades even. Then there are those that, while no less treasured, somehow fall by the wayside to lie in wait, ripe for rediscovery. This series chronicles some of those nuggets as they resurface from my own back pages. So, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record and it sounds like this…

St Germain – Tourist (Blue Note, 2000)

If memory serves this release was greeted with some minor controversy about not being tough enough for the house nation and too hard for smooth jazzers – a row that passed by most that heard Parisian DJ St Germain (aka Ludovic Navarre) reconstruct expectations of all manner of genres. 

Someone even gave it a name – French Touch – that opened doors for Air, Daft Punk, Cassius and their ilk.

He first put le chat among les pigeons with his 1995 debut Boulevard, establishing he had a way with a beat and a tune that was only enhanced by the sound of real musicians rubbing shoulders with sampling technology.

And so it was on Touristwhere Jamaican jazz and ska master Ernest Ranglin can be found adding trademark scratch licks to ‘Montego Bay Spleen’. Elsewhere, that’s Marlena Shaw sampled on the opening cut ‘Rose Rouge’ with its trance piano figure and crossfade brass solos; oh, and that’s John Lee Hooker’s guitar and voice on ’Sure Thing’.

Of course, while the White Isle luvvers were tripping on Café Del Mar mixes and various iterations of ‘Chill’, the Acid Jazz/nu jazz mob were digging this scene as were the cognoscenti in the swankarama fine de siècle chrome ‘n’ glass bottle bars – superficially very smooth, easy to chat along to, and ‘Land of…’ and ‘So Flute’ are beat belters, but listen deeper to find the dub plate underpinning ‘La Goutte d’Or’ before the slow burn of the final track, ‘What You Think About’ turns a stroll into a zip.

Ultimately it matters not one jot if you’re pacing recently washed cobbles of Paris or slinking home on the rainy streets of Soho, this sounds as good today as it did at the turn of the century – something on which I imagine most of the four million or so natural born hipsters that have bought the thing would wholeheartedly concur.

In the end Navarre turned his back on digging crates for rare jazz, soul, blues and funk samples, left the commercial end of the dancefloor to Daft Punk and found new beats in the music of West Africa.

Funny how time slips away, but this was a real pleasure to drag down off the shelf after so long.

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