Man Jumping recorded some of the most captivating contemporary music of the 1980s, combining elements of various genres and styles that were commercially popular at the time, and yet the group's eclectic combination of influences ultimately failed to capture the era's Zeitgeist, whatever that was. But imagine a large instrumental ensemble with a decidedly global perspective, enamored of worldbeat and ethnic fusion rhythms but with the minimalistic precision of Steve Reich along with the pop sensibilities of Brian Eno, David Byrne, and even the jazz-pop side of Steely Dan -- not to mention some of Eno and Byrne's avant-garde tendencies. Most of Man Jumping's members emerged from the ashes of a group called Lost Jockey, a British minimalist outfit perhaps somewhat akin to today's Icebreaker, an avant-garde/modern composition ensemble (loosely affiliated with New York City's Bang on a Can All-Stars) also from Great Britain. But back in the '80s when various members of Lost Jockey formed Man Jumping, they seemed to have commercial aspirations beyond those of the more serious-minded Icebreaker circa the 1990s and 2000s.
Man Jumping released its first album, Jump Cut, on Bill Nelson's Cocteau Records label in 1984, and began making live appearances the following year, performing at festivals and with dance companies, including the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. In 1987 the group released World Service on Editions EG, the label best known for issuing avant yet pop-oriented efforts by the likes of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp (both separately and as a duo). Both Jump Cut and World Service featured extended groove-based instrumental pieces that combined worldbeat, ethnic fusion, funk, and jazz-pop with sometimes hypnotic minimalist polyrhythms and counterpoint -- imagine merging elements of Byrne and Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (including the sampled vocals) or Talking Heads' Remain in Light with Reich's Music for a Large Ensemble and some of Steely Dan's instrumental breaks, supplemented by instrumentation like bazouki and koto and given a dance club-friendly production sheen. If any element of this mix has dated Man Jumping poorly, it's the slick production values and occasional pounding disco-flavored electronic drums, which in retrospect arguably rob the music of the authenticity of its sources (although the same might be said of '80s Byrne, Eno, and/or Talking Heads). World Service was released by Editions EG on vinyl and CD; the previously vinyl-only Jump Cut was reissued on CD by the Shaping the Invisible label in 1999, and is also available (with bonus tracks) on Carbon 7. ~ Dave Lynch, Rovi