The Stages of Cobblestone Jazz

The Stages of <b>Cobblestone Jazz</b>
For a band that got together back in 1996, Victoria’s Cobblestone Jazz sure has taken their sweet time getting to their debut album, 23 Seconds. But recording music isn’t a priority so much as an afterthought for this improv-electronics trio. Cobblestone Jazz is a 21st century jam band, a "Plastikman-meets-the Grateful Dead” juggernaut of the live stage capable of winning over any audience and matching the energy and stamina of any act hour after hour.

According to keyboardist Danuel Tate, the band’s secret is in their eclecticism. "There’s different music that we all bring to the table,” he says. "It’s more the way we combine it. Mashing it all together is what Cobblestone ends up being.”

Mash it all together they do. This is one band whose individual members arrive with credentials intact. Tate comes with a honed background as an experienced sideman in countless Victoria bands, while Patrick Simpson, the group’s electronic rhythm section, cut his teeth as a regional promoter and DJ. But the core of the trio is minimal-techno lynchpin Mathew Jonson, one of this country’s leading techno exports. Apart from issuing massive singles — 2004’s "Decompression” still charts as one of the biggest sellers ever for Richie Hawtin’s m_nus imprint — Jonson runs Wagon Repair, the label releasing 23 Seconds (and licensing it to !K7 internationally).

When Cobblestone Jazz first got going in the ’90s, Jonson was still in his teens; he credits Simpson with getting him interested in techno in the first place. "I’m quite younger than these guys. One party that actually changed me over [to techno] was this rave that Patrick threw in this warehouse that used to be an old speedway. I didn’t know these guys at the time, so this was like this huge moment of learning for me, of discovering what the feeling and energy of techno was. We just talked about this a couple of months ago, where we realised that Patrick was throwing all these parties that I was going to as a total kid.”

In a relatively isolated city like Victoria, managing to get those parties off the ground at all was a turning point for a whole generation. "As a DJ, there weren’t that many opportunities to play back then, so you basically had organise your own events if you wanted to do something,” recalls Simpson, who is five years older than Jonson. "Otherwise there wasn’t much going on.”

Some of the earliest Mathew Jonson and Cobblestone Jazz recordings came out of that same do-it-yourself mentality, on the West coast label, Itiswhatitis Recordings. "Part of the reason Spencer [Drennan] went ahead and started Itiswhatitis is that he was inspired by music we were playing out at clubs,” says Simpson. "He was the one who said, ‘We’ve got to release this stuff.’ So he was the one who put the energy into starting an outlet to release that.”

The rest emerged from a combination of youth in isolation and a need to party. "We’d rehearse to go play out, and then that led to making records,” Tate says. "We didn’t put out a record and then go learn to play it for audiences. We played out for many years before we even bothered to have a release. It was more of a party attitude. We just wanted to have fun and play the music.”

At two discs and over two hours worth of music, their debut album 23 Seconds is an astute reflection of that jammer’s ethos. While the first disc contains new material, the second disc features two older singles and, aptly, a 2007 live set from a show in Madrid. For Cobblestone Jazz, nothing matches those hours on stage.