Home > 1971, detroit, hip hop, House, jazz, LA > Picks 12/16/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pt. 1

Picks 12/16/2012 – Beat Swap Meet Pt. 1

Great trip to Beat Swap Meet last week, I’m doing the pulls in two updates – one today, one Wednesday. Elsewhere in my week I played what is definitely the worst set I have ever played, but thankfully it was for a group of senior citizens who would have probably been happier if there was no music playing at all. And Friday was Julio Bashmore’s debut LA appearance with a gig at the typically nutty Rhonda. Despite massive crowds, I had a good ass time: Delroy Edwards played an all vinyl set of powerful ghetto house, Samo Soundboy and Total Freedom were doing a B2B thing and Bashmore was predictably populist and fun. I got to fist-bump Delroy and utter a few awkward fanboy words, and spotted the beautiful Jessie Ware up in the booth with Bashmore. Good week.

Pulled from a trip to the Beat Swap Meet.

Moodymann – I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits (After Midnight, 1997)

 This rare Dutch pressing of Kenny Dixon Jr’s Detroit classic was the crown jewel of my Beat Swap Meet trip. I didn’t spend more than $10 on a single record the whole day – that is, until I found this bad boy. I had one of those moments where I’m digging and I see the record, flip past it and immediately double-back, wound up by disbelief. Wrapped in plastic, I had the guy open it up for me and he acknowledged it came from his personal collection and it just sat unplayed on his shelf for the last fifteen years. Maaaaaaan, you’ve gotta be a digger to know what I mean when I say that this shit sparkled in the waning sunlight.

After Midnight managed to issue a few KDJ tracks in the late ’90s, and Moodymann offered up both an extended mix of “I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits” (above) and two mixes for “Music People.” Now, the extended mix of “I Cant” stretches the track for four more minutes, and really who would complain about that? Moody’s brand of funk is absolutely perfect, he masterfully balances the r&b and soul of his city’s history with the machine funk of his contemporaries. His tracks are elegant, loaded with atmosphere, and laced with a dark sense of romance. Not ever giving consolations to the dancefloor, “I Can’t” starts and stops a handful of times, which really just makes it a total pleasure for home listening. The groove is upbeat and funky, but is subtle enough to lure in the uninitiated. A true masterpiece in the vast discography of classics from Moodymann,

“Music People” is sooooo dope. It doesn’t take long to get started and once that disco shuffle drops and that funky bassline brought in, the dancefloor will be on fire. This is uplifting, soulful music that grew from the hypnotic romance brought by the godfathers of the disco edit, and then balanced by the hard kick of drum machines and a sample bank only a ’90s record nerd could bust. The (Unreleased Mix) of Music People drops the disco affiliation and is pure hard machine funk. Led by the dreamy synth-bell sample at the front of the original, Moody drops the listener into a hard jacking rhythm whose only release is that euphoric sample that refuses to stick around long enough. It’s a dark warehouse track, simply music made to unite the body’s rhythm. Pure loveliness by one of my favorite producers.

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DJ Quik – Murda 1 Case b/w Trouble (Remix Pt. 3) (Bungalo, 2002)

 Dj Quik is probably one of the most underrated rappers/producers in the game, often overshadowed by his more outlandish or commercial peers. Quik worked as both ghostwriter and producer for Deathrow, lending his hand to projects by Snoop Dogg and 2Pac, seemingly satisfied to get paid just for the sake of making beats. Whether crafting beats for himself or for Jay Z, the man has been going strong for over two decades now and his sound in ’91, ’01, or ’11 is consistently fresh, and forward thinking, yet reliably focused on classic Southern California backyard party funk.

Murda 1 Case” is great, but for me it’s all about this remix of “Trouble” (above) on the b-side. This remix is a totally different take than the track on Under Tha Influence – the guitar sample is still the centerpoint of the instrumental, but Quik has given a new voicing and enlisted Chuky Makabee for a hook and both Suga Free and Beanie Sigel for verses. Quik takes the first verse and you can pretty much call it a day after that – his flow is dexterous and fluid, smooth enunciation helps you grab each and every word, but he also bends lines, verbally pitching a flow into half time –  a stunning trick that today sees Kendrick Lamar both biting and perfecting. After Beanie’s mediocre verse, Suga Free comes in and absolutely murders – whipping about raunchy ladies and serving up a fat R Kelly diss. On the instrumental, Quik toned down the vibe a tad bit, giving the track more of a swing than a stomp. This a beautiful, classic Southern California party track. Word up to the 562, 310, 213, 626, 714, 818. “What’s life without a dream?”

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Duke Ellington and John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse, 1963)

It doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out that I’m a huge Coltrane nut and I’m as surprised as you are that this one wasn’t in my collection already. When Creed Taylor left Impulse records shortly after signing John Coltrane in 1961, Bob Thiele took over the imprint and eventually led it to be one of the most enduring jazz labels of all time. Thiele was a big band man and so he A&R’d a handful of records that pulled out veteran jazzmen and showcased them for a modern audience. Some of the records landed, some didn’t. Thinking about the legacies of both Ellington and Coltrane, this record could have been a lot stronger, should have been a lot stronger, but instead we receive just a small taste of what this project could have been.

As with a lot of jazz record dates of the time, this was predominately a blowing session, Coltrane and Ellington each brought their rhythm sections and they had a go at a handful of (Ellington) standards. Had Ellington written charts, or Coltrane allowed more time to immerse himself in the vibe of the group, we could have had a masterpiece on the scale of Coltrane’s work with Monk, or Dolphy’s work with Mingus, but alas this is simply stunning Coltrane in front of a solid quartet. The A-side is pretty weak, but the ubiquitous “In A Sentimental Mood” is very welcome with the wonderful twinkling piano from Ellington and Coltrane’s cool blowing. The side-winning track is definitely “Stevie” (above) as it fully demonstrates the confidence of the work with Coltrane’s classic quartet, but is weighed down slightly by Ellington’s continued sentimental playing.

The flip is more focused on ballad work, and in this mode the pairing is much more fruitful. Ellington has a way of remaining dynamically interesting and vibrant when acting as accompaniment, adding little touches of color to Coltrane’s horn-spoken love story – as heard on “My Little Brown Book.” On “Angelica” the true star is Elvin Jones, who outplays both leaders by a mile, offering up a twisted bossa beat with a funky bounce on the toms that keeps switching up and never skipping a beat. Overall, a great buy and a welcome addition to the ever-expanding Coltrane section on my shelf.

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One on One – You’re My Type (Make Your Body Move) (Virgin, 1989)

I frequently pick up old school house records for $1-2 without having heard it first, just totally hoping it wont be fucking awful cheeseball bullshit. One on One was a short-lived project by Juan Atkins with vocalist Rona Johnson, possibly put together as an answer to Kevin Saunderson’s successful Inner City project. The record features four different mixes by Atkins and one from Master Reese himself, and its this inclusion from Saunderson that sold me on the record. Although I’ve got a lot of love for Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (as this update shows), I typically find Juan Atikins to be too cornball or dated for my taste. While Atkin’s freestyle-techno hyrbrid isn’t bad (and really, the frigid Detroit R&B of the “Urban Mix” is especially powerful), Saunderson’s mix is the real heat on here.

When I think of Kevin Saunderson the first things that come to mind are ravey ivories and a  knack for crafting really great, big memorable tracks. His mix does not disappoint at all as he turns the track into an electro infused house banger, compelte with huge 808s, stadium claps, a mischievous dose of Kraftwerk, effective use of vocals and an ill synth bassline that will not stop looping in my head. Despite the bass weight, this track is summery and feel-good, captivating and euphoric. Even though its over 20 years old it still sounds fresh and it will undoubtedly make your body move. Tip!

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 Rhythim is Rhythim – Nude Photo (Transmat, 1987)

This is classic Detroit techno from one of the pioneers, and I was stoked to see this (repress) very conveniently priced. Derrick May doesn’t have his name to a whole lot of records, but each one is a classic. This three-track record from ’87 is a prime example of the Detroit sound as it bangs with lots of blocky metallic tones, and washed in epic, pensive grays. It’s a picture of post-industrialism, a black and white photo of a city coping with and moving on from deep depression. This is dark, moody sci-fi dance music that is at once funky and soulful, yet completely alien.

Move It,” over on the B-side, is an industrial jacking track with heavy emphasis on precise percussion and curiously entertaining vocal samples. “The Dance” is the winner on the B-side though, as it manages to balance a fully functional stomp with a sense of loneliness fit for space. This is eyes-down, dark warehouse music that is powerful, but approachable. Despite the moody nature, it feels very inclusive – this is not angry or harsh, it is nurturing body music.

Where the B-side is downcast and tired, “Nude Photo” (above) has life, energy, and a sense of hope. Using the same blocky synths, May crafts a real banger that has a light-in the dark sense to it. It’s not a particularly sunny track, but the synths have color to them, and the vocal snippet of a girl giggling is incredibly welcome. The tension between the darkness and light is constant and May masterfully keeps a sense of gleeful anxiety. What I love most about the track is how involved it is, in that there was a real process of artistic expression involved in its construction, especially in that both Juan Atkins and Thomas Barnett are credited as contributors. With so many elements going into the mix, May deftly toys with the track, giving it a real sense of human spirit behind the kit. A classic cut from one of the originators, much love for the 313!

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Joe Zawinul – Zawinul (Atlantic, 1971)

This is one of those records that has been on my wantlist for years without me having ever heard a note. Diggers hold this record in high esteem, and looking at the lineup it’s hard to disagree: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vituous, Woody Shaw, Hubert Laws, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Hart, Joe Chambers, etc. I suppose it’s because of the reputation of this record that it took a few listens for me to actually hear it. I expected something funky, something wild, somewhere between the experimentation of the Weather Report and the gut-bucket funk of Cannonball Adderly. But noticing the year, I should have been well aware that this period in jazz (’69-’72) was heavily influenced by Miles’ In A Silent Way (on which Hanock, Zawinul, and Shorter appear) and the music became very spacey and atmospheric, more focused on vibe than showing off chops.

It’s immediately apparent that Zawinul is a fantastic composer with a strong vision of what he is trying to achieve. The tracks take their time, the mood is defined by softly bubbling rhythms, soft electronics, gentle piano, and sedate, breathy horns. The group’s rendition of “In A Silent Way” is really excellent, although George Davis gets dangerously close to smooth-jazz territory. Stronger still is “His Last Journey” which comes together with a pastoral image due to the bowed bass and twinkling piano, but what really gets me is when the mood darkens, as the synth bells covet further weight, and the spacey electric piano sidles up front to turn a sunny track into something much more serious, as it invokes a sense of deep anxiety.This evolution from twilight to dark is also heard on lead track, “Doctor Honoris Causa” (which is dedicated to my man Herbie Hancock), as it builds up a light rhythm and eerie horn lines then descends into some dark jazz territory. Woody Shaw is exceptional on the track as he lets his voice be heard, a voice not entirely departed from the school of Miles, but on its way.

By far my favorite track on the album is the strange “Arrival In New York” (above) which lumbers slowly, leaden with blunted percussion, atmospheric synths and processed bowed bass. For its time, it’s a deeply experimental track that is astoundingly beautiful despite such a short run time. One can say the same for the album as a whole, as it does have it’s truly perfect moments that not only sound sonically dark but feel dark. Yet, this isn’t a painful free-jazz exploration nor is it a self-absorbed introversion, this is Zawinul expressing his deepest sense of self to you.

Categories: 1971, detroit, hip hop, House, jazz, LA
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