The stage is set with two full drum kits, an electric organ, a bass, some turntables and a mike next to a floor-to-ceiling rack of gear that must be command central. A gentleman dressed in a floor-length trench coat and wrap-around sunglasses is talking about jazz and space and voodoo with the intonations of Prince or the Electrifying Mojo. Everybody on the stage is feeling it, from the expressions on keyboardist Craig Taborn’s face to those coming from percussionist Francisco Mora’s fingertips, to the cuts of Matt Chicoine aka Recloose, to the bass slaps of Paul Randolph. This must be a dream. In reality this is Carl Craig’s fantasy, Innerzone Orchestra, and the man in trench coat and mysterioso is the conductor, taking electronic music in new directions. This time, the Innerzone is at Motor, where, on this night, Craig effortlessly puts together music only a machine could make with these living jazz greats doing things with their hands only true masters can do, maximizing the potential of both machine and man. The music doesn’t lean too heavy on the jazz side — it’s just a part of the pastiche that is equal parts hip hop, funk, blues and Detroit techno —instead the show comes off as tight entertainment with an air of joy mixed in with the impending science fiction doom. For the past few years, Carl Craig has been touring around the world with this act in different incarnations, playing everywhere from Montreux (Switzerland) to Central Park. Finally, he got to bring his vision home and debut the full orchestra to a very hyped-up crowd at Motor. And he pulled out all the stops.


Craig is perhaps the most prolific of Derrick May’s protégés, starting his career by releasing records on May’s Transmat label and doing live shows with May’s Rhythim is Rhythim. After forming a label with Damon Booker — called Retroactive — he was the first to release Underground Resistance, John Beltran and MK. In 1991 he began his current label project, Planet E, anonymously with 69’s "Four Jazz Funk Greats," a record that still gets played in Detroit today. With Planet E, Craig made the global connection, being the first to release Berlin’s Basic Channel and the first stateside outlet for Black Dog (now known as Plaid). Unlike most Detroit labels, Planet E was not just an outlet for Craig’s own creative output, but a label with a vision of fostering new and innovative artists interested in taking the genre of electronic music to a higher level, an attitude reflected in his eclectic roster that has made Planet E one of the most important independent labels Detroit has ever seen. Crystallizing this vision into compact disc form, the label’s latest compilation, Geology, A Subjective History of Planet E, studies the history of Planet E and reveals some of its brighter and more adventurous moments. From the groundbreaking proto jungle track "Bug in the Bass Bin" to Moodymann’s soulful house and Flexitone’s futuristic electro, this compilation helps explain just why Planet E is so funky. Geology also features the best of Planet E’s current roster: Common Factor, Recloose and Jason Hogans, making it the perfect introduction to a label so hard to label.


One the great quandaries of today is trying to figure out just what we’re gonna call "futuristic" after we are in and beyond the year 2000. Craig’s music is already living in that future, and it hints at the sonic shape of things to come as it leaves boundaries behind and crosses into many disciplines. The sounds that the Innerzone Orchestra has committed to wax on Programmed (Planet E-Astralwerks) are much more atmospheric than their live shows and, at points, the album sounds like Carl Craig remixing Bill Laswell’s remix of Miles Davis’ Panthalassa. The album is also the impetus behind Craig starting Community Projects, a jazz label continuing in the tradition of such great Detroit jazz labels as Tribe Records. The series will debut with a solo album by percussionist Francisco Mora.

Another Innerzone vet is breaking down boundaries with Spelunking, wherein Recloose shows his skills as an artist maturing and reaching further into the depths of his own imagination. This EP features a unique melding of jazz, dub, funk and hip-hop aesthetics and peaks with his own take on downtempo house "Soul Clap 2000," perhaps his finest dance track to date.

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