Jaki’s Groove

It feels a little disingenuous of me to sit here and wax ecstatic about an artist I don’t really know that much about. In fact, my knowledge only covers three albums he played on. And those three albums have only been rummaging around in my head for the past 6 years or so. I admit it, I was a late bloomer when it comes to Can and Jaki Leibezeibt and during my formative years I had no idea who Can were. But I’m of the mindset that you never miss out on great art. You just come to it when it’s the right time for you. The right time for me was early 2011. That was when I first discovered Jaki’s amazing drumming on Tago Mago, which to my ears was pretty groundbreaking music for a rock band in the early 70s. His playing on that album personally influenced me to explore musically on my own and in my own art. His drum beats felt like loops, as they were perfectly formed throughout the song, no matter how long that song may have been. A truly free-spirited musician that pushed the boundaries of what a modern rock drummer could be. – J. Hubner

Jaki Liebezeit, drummer for the prolific Krautrock band Can passed away on January 22nd. He was 78.

I think it’s an understatement to say Liebezeit was one of the key parts to the genius of Can. I know his drumming is what first attracted me to them. I didn’t discover Can till I was nearly 40 years old. I’d always heard the name. They have been an inspiration and influence on a who’s who of rock bands, including The Fall, David Bowie, Talking Heads and Radiohead to name a few. But on a whim in 2011 I decided to jump into Tago Mago head first and see what would happen. What happened was a Krautrock christening that changed me for good. Damo Suzuki’s nonsense scream/sing style, Michael Karoli’s psychedelic blues guitar licks and Irmin Schmidt’s space-y keys sounded more space age than 1971 post-hippy comedown. But the rhythm section of drummer Jaki Liebezeibt and bassist Holger Czukay is what won me over. They locked into a seriously heady groove on every track of Tago Mago. They seemed to pull the album out of any sort of time stamp and made that whole record this timeless groove-heavy and heady freak out.

fullsizerender-6Liebezeibt especially felt like this constant force. His playing was a mix of tribal beats, slow-churning funk, and impressive foot work. There’s a treasure trove of break beats on that album that Jaki Liebezeit created, but not with the intention of giving future DJs such great funky fodder to work with. No, his intention was to lay down the groundwork for the rest of the band to explore. He basked in the trance-like funk while the rest of Can blew minds. You don’t succeed with a track like “Halleluwah” unless your confident in your skills. At over 18 minutes in length you gotta have both skills and confidence to keep an audience entranced. That song is like James Brown on quaaludes in space. The foundation is set by Liebezeit and Czukay to rocket minds into interstellar space and they succeed.

After falling hard for Tago Mago I ended up finding copies of Ege Bamyasi and Future Days. I feel that those, along with Tago Mago, are the quintessential Krautrock records, which Jaki Liebezeibt played a huge part of that. His style was powerful but sexy. Like John Bonham with scruples. A mixture of Tony Williams and Bernard Purdie with a heavy dose of rock and roll abandon.

A groove was found and it was tore up.

fullsizerender-7I wasn’t a lifelong fan, but I’ll be a fan till I no longer have life(that sounds morbid, I know.) We’ve yet lost another great, and one that should have been more well known. So I’ll spin Tago Mago in Jaki Liebezeibt’s honor. When it’s over, I’ll spin it again just for good measure.

16 thoughts on “Jaki’s Groove

  1. Can were just all kinds of wonderful, everyone in them was just so incredible. I was lucky because a hip friend of my dad’s did him some Can mix tapes, which I stole when I was about 18 because I liked Halleluwah so much – that rhythm.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow! Can mix tapes? Very cool. They put out a collection of rarities a few years ago that was set up like a mix tape. I wish I’d a grabbed it when I had the chance.

      Your parents and “hip” seem to go hand in hand.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My dad didn’t like it – to be fair I only liked a couple of tracks at that age, it was far too weird for me then.

        When I think of it now, that guy’s record collection must be worth gazillions – he was properly into Krautrock at the time and had loads and loads of it back in the day.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Very nice tribute, John.

    Now, down to German tacks. (smile)

    While I can allow you those albums are core CAN records (though I’d offer ‘Monster Movie’ and ‘Soon Over Babaluma’ as inclusions), I think I’ll have to politely offer that krautrock as a (silly) genre has a lot more to offer… Neu! Faust, Ash Ra Temple and several others would, I’d contend, be part of any ‘essential’ krautrock collection.

    None of which makes the news of Jaki’s passing less sad nor diminish his enormous contribution one whit. You’re right on the money naming the rhythm section of Liebezeit and Czukay being an absolutely killer and massively influential team.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Excellent! If I wasn’t watching the Australian Open Tennis semi-final, I’d probably do the same.
        (PS. Insufferable smarty-pants observes that Gong were Anglo-French-Aussie as far as I know. But I love ’em to bits too!)


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