Jazz-Funk Carnival

•12/08/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Jazz-funk is a pretty broad genre, spanning everything from downtempo funky early 70’s cuts by jazz artists like Donald Byrd to uptempo early 80’s tracks that are pretty much disco. There’s less improvisation than jazz and typically more electronic keyboard/synth arrangements, making it softer than funk. There’s also a helluva lot of crap…but amongst the dross are some great tunes.

Snowboy draws a direct line from jazz-funk to acid jazz, and I guess some of the rediscovered ‘rare groove‘ tracks I first heard were jazz-funk. But it was hearing Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions on a Jamie Byng Chocolate City tape (thanks Stocks!) that really introduced me to the sound (as well as revealing where that Stetsasonic 12″ Justin and I played over and over got the hook from). We saw Lonnie live once (Town and Country Club I think – who else was there?). Then came Mizell-Brothers-produced Donald Byrd LPs, Roy Ayers gigs (once sat next to him in a pizza place), Columbia-period Herbie Hancock, etc. Paul introduced me to Atmosfear’s Dancing in Outerspace (source of a Stereo MCs sample), which is the jumping-off point for the mix below. I’ve put versions of it in several mixes before (MAW’s beefed-up mix, their amazing dub, and Francois K’s more subtle treatment) but this is the original I had long before getting those, as is Motivation (the Dimitri From Paris remix is here, and it was also looped by the Bucketheads).

Trip To Your Mind is a rare UK 12″ (sampled by Chubby Chunks here) and blends into a track everyone will know. The earlier Warner-period Earth, Wind & Fire is more my thing but it wouldn’t be a jazz-funk mix without Columbia-period EW&F. Next is Runnin’/Brazilian Rhyme, which I prefer to the slower Brazilian Rhyme on that LP (who was that girl I gave the Gazillion Rhyme 12″ to after Strawberry Fair one year?). The trumpet madness of Maynard Ferguson is one I got from the Turk, here edited especially for Gav 25 years after he complained about the ‘middle bit’ when I played it the first time we met.

The Charles Earland track is a departure from the earlier Prestige sound that inspired acid jazz and this was the soundtrack to my recent record room revamp. In The Middle is the flip to I Hear Music In The Streets (heard here), while Groovin’ You is the original for that “Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom, Bom” tune that was everywhere in the 90’s. The mix ends with a Bill Brewster favorite that’s surprisingly expensive on 12″.

  1. Dancing in Outerspace – Atmosfear
  2. Motivation – Atmosfear
  3. Trip To Your Mind – Hudson People
  4. Jazz Carnival – Azymuth
  5. Biyo – Earth, Wind and Fire
  6. Runnin’/Brazilian Rhyme – Earth, Wind and Fire
  7. The Fly – Maynard Ferguson
  8. Good Question – Charles Earland
  9. In The Middle – Unlimited Touch
  10. Groovin’ You – Harvey Mason
  11. Once I’ve Been There – Norman Connors

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1980’s: Soho Stories

•10/07/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Somewhere I have a Sound of New York record that’s called simply “Punk 1980’s”. The 1980’s conjures up a different picture for me for though: Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Matinique T-shirts, walking down Dean Street, eating at the original Pizza Express in Soho Square, Bacardi adverts, cocktails at Fred’s and Golf GTIs playing music you might hear on the way to The Wag rather than at it – poppier sounds like Grace Jones and Trevor Horn productions as opposed to Hip Hop and rare groove – and coffee shops full of pretentious music video producers like Keith Allen’s character in The Yob.

Much of the music in this imaginary soundtrack (reality of course was much drearier) is from 12″ singles. Although these first appeared in the 70’s, they came into their own in the 80’s with regular punters becoming interested in extended versions and remixes, not just DJs after louder pressings and dubs. As skint teenagers, Raj, Wayne and I had a system: buy a 12″ at Our Price, record it onto a TDK SA-90 cassette (‘high-position chrome’), take the record back to a different store claiming it was an unwanted gift, exchange for another 12″, then repeat (the Sledgehammer 12″ here was the culmination of one such chain). You tend not to hear these long versions much on iTunes/streaming playlists so I thought I’d base a mix around some of them.

The mix features a lot of Grace Jones. Her Sly & Robbie period really defined the best of the 80’s sound for me, and the Libertango rework featured in that great 80’s movie Frantic. Working Week, meanwhile, is classic 80’s jazz-pop. Guitarist Simon Booth would go on to be part of the Acid Jazz Alliance. He also did the soundtrack to another Comic Strip film, Supergrass, which coincidentally features a couple of tunes in this mix, most memorably Two Tribes accompanying Robbie Coltrane’s march down the pier.  The Sade track is one I used to infuriate Pearly with by putting on every time I walked into his room. After that Malcolm McLaren reinvents himself for the 80’s with a New Jersey DJ crew. But it was his producer, Trevor Horn, who was really “the man who invented the 80’s” and Horn’s behind the next three tracks.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 8.44.23 AMThe single release of Paranoimia featured another 80’s icon, Max Headroom, but I never liked it as much as the LP version, so that’s used here. 1984’s 1984 provides a track that reminds me more of Nicky Horne on Channel 4 than O’Brien for some reason. Then the mix ends with long versions of Bowie and Prince tracks. U Got The Look was on permanent rotation in that basement flat in Westbourne Park – I can’t be sure but it was probably playing that night Wyn, Chloe, Jiva and I finished off the ‘lizard drink’ and Kamal ate the lizard…

  1. Private Life (dub mix) – Grace Jones
  2. I’ve Seen That Face Before (long version) – Grace Jones
  3. Venceremos – Working Week
  4. Slave To The Rhythm (blooded mix) – Grace Jones
  5. Paradise (extended remix) – Sade
  6. Buffalo Gals (special stereo scratch mix) – Malcolm McLaren & The World’s Famous Supreme Team
  7. Paranoimia (LP version) – The Art of Noise
  8. Two Tribes (carnage mix) – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  9. Doubleplusgood – Eurythmics
  10. Let’s Dance (long version) – David Bowie
  11. U Got The Look (long look version) – Prince

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Sampling bias

•08/18/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Samples feature in most records I like that were made after the mid-80s – Brian Eno probably had it right when he said the arrival of tools like the sampler meant judgment replaced skill in music. But some tracks remain so close to the things they sample they almost feel like remixes, and trainspotters record collectors can be a bit snobbish about these, always claiming ‘the original’ is better (I’m very guilty of this, once doing a whole tape for Ian (H) to make the point). Often it’s just not true though; some of the tracks are great. As DJ Paul Darkin once said, “I don’t care, I prefer S’Express [to Rose Royce’s Is It Love You’re After – heard here]”.

The mix below is based around a bunch of records like this. It starts with a record I got from Dan (W): The Bucketheads, a Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez alias that samples Atmosfear’s Anticipation (another version of this can be heard here). Next Joey Negro beefs up Dexter Wanzel’s Devonshire Arms floor filler Life On Mars (heard and sampled here). Back to home base, the Idjut Boys’ Dan Tyler loops the Wiz, before van Morrison gets the remix treatment (little more than some extra congas and a kick drum), which sounded great at Le Colonial in San Francisco that time with Tony.

I’ve no idea what sample Bobby Hughes used for Sambortica (which first showed up on a McDisco tape) but would love to know. In the next track, Ashley Beedle sticks a trumpet on Cameo’s The Sound Table (the original’s in this mix). After a couple of fillers that include a brilliant Joey Negro track, Jestofunk loops what I think is Billy Preston tune alongside Colonel Abrams – another one played incessantly by Paul in Pantonville. Then there’s the other side of The Bucketheads, which was the one most people (including Dan) bought it for.

The mix ends with a white label Tim gave me. It makes the best of Voyage’s Scotch Machine. Thankfully removing the bagpipes, it’s the perfect example of a track that’s way better than the original it samples.

  1. I Wanna Know – The Bucketheads
  2. Get Down Tonight – The Men From Mars
  3. No Sleep ‘Til Green Street – Rev. Nathan D-Troit
  4. Workin’- Street Choir
  5. Sambortica – The Bobby Hughes Experience
  6. Ricano Sunspots – Ashley Beedle & Phil Asher
  7. Fly By Night – Joey Negro
  8. Wishing You Were Here (Joey Negro mix) – Blaze
  9. Say It Again – Jestofunk
  10. These Sounds Fall Into My Mind – The Bucketheads
  11. Unknown w/l – Waxploitation

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Disco Airlines

•05/28/2018 • Leave a Comment

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Listening to an old interview with Eric B on the Combat Jack (RIP) radio show prompted me to put together another disco mix. Apparently Frisco Disco was the first record he played when getting his break as a DJ in Queens; so that classic break kicks off the mix and gives it its title. From air travel to space travel, next up is a spacey Salsoul cut with great percussion and production. East Harlem Bus Stop is also heavy on percussion but more raw, earlier disco. Then it’s back to Salsoul and a couple more tracks that sit somewhere between jazz-funk, funk and disco (you can watch the Soul Train dancers show you how to “get yourself together” to Movin’). Next is the prelude to Relight My Fire, which I never liked so get out in time via the same riff in a Began Cekic production.

Three much more well known tracks follow: Spanish Hustle was a favorite at the Positively 4th Street parties; as I said in my earlier long post on disco, Can You Feel The Force was the soundtrack to trips down the A4 with the JAC; and Le Freak’s one everyone’s heard (probably too often but the bridge is still great). It was originally called “Fuck You!” by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who composed it after being turned away from Studio 54 – many of us have said the same thing when asked to play it [right El Grito?]. Staying with freaks, the mix ends with a more raw and rarer number on Sound Of New York.

        1. Frisco Disco – Eastside Connection
        2. Into The Milky Way – Jimmy Briscoe and The Beavers
        3. Let’s Get It On – East Harlem Bus Stop
        4. Getaway – The Salsoul Orchestra
        5. Express – BT Express
        6. Movin’ – Brass Construction Band
        7. Vertigo – Dan Hartman
        8. Let’s Get Horny – Hi Voltage
        9. The Spanish Hustle – The Fatback Band
        10. Can You Feel The Force – The Real Thing
        11. Le Freak – Chic
        12. Dance Freak – Chain Reaction

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Mega Disco

•01/08/2018 • 1 Comment

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Sadly Nicky Siano didn’t throw a party at the Coney Island bumper car rink this year, so no disco extravaganza to bring in the New Year. But the last one is still fresh in my mind, and missing out inspired me to put together another disco mix, incorporating some of the tunes he played then and back in the day. Nicky’s a great DJ – for anyone not familiar with his history as resident DJ at The Gallery (he started it in ’73) and Studio 54 (fired for excessive drug use), I recommend checking out Tim Lawrence’s Love Saves The Day – apparently there’s also a documentary.

The new mix is in the same vein as my earlier disco/hi-NRG mixes (here and here). It starts with a slow burner from France, then switches to the megatronics of Patrick Cowley (the tribute Tom dropped on July 4th). Between the sides is Harry Thuman’s monster Underwater. I remember buying this from Max Rees at Hot Numbers – if you’ve never heard it on full volume while fat Max, eyes closed, foot up on the store counter, plays air guitar, you’re missing out. Do You Wanna Funk appears in the megamix but I couldn’t resist adding the full version after. Most of us first came across it in that scene from Trading Places, but it always reminds me of Kamal (bottom left here): we played it over and over on his beatbox hanging out on the beach that time in Spetses years ago.

R-521013-1281995891.jpegThe Machine and Inner Life tracks are classics that made the crowd go wild at Coney Island: There But For The Grace of God probably has my favorite lyrics of any disco record. The Nuyorican rework of Roy Ayers is a bit anachronistic but packs more punch than the original. I’ll forever associate it with driving through San Francisco in a convertible Ford Thunderbird with Tony screaming “Sweet tears just keep falling from your ass!”. Next is an Al Hudson production sampled by various people (including Joey Negro as Doug Willis here). The mix ends with bunch of Prelude tracks that were on permanent rotation in Pantonville. I think In The Bush wins the prize for Saul’s favorite disco lyrics.

  1. Carry On, Turn Me On  – Space
  2. Homenaje a Patrick Cowley (Part 1) – Patrick Cowley
  3. Underwater – Harry Thuman
  4. Homenaje a Patrick Cowley (Part 2) – Patrick Cowley
  5. Do You Wanna Funk – Sylvester & Patrick Cowley
  6. There But For The Grace of God Go I – Machine
  7. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Inner Life
  8. Sweet Tears – Roy Ayers & Nu Yorican Soul
  9. Music – One Way
  10. Work That Body – Taana Gardner
  11. Feed The Flame – Lorraine Johnson
  12. In The Bush – Musique

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Warming up

•09/24/2017 • Leave a Comment

IMG_0001Nights don’t usually start at 100 mph. A DJ usually warms everyone up first by playing a few easier tunes. Sometimes there’s a dedicated warm-up act, and occasionally the night never really progresses beyond that, especially if it’s not somewhere anyone’s really gonna dance. In Ibiza of course, the laid-back early evening sets are legendary, and hipster hotels have cultivated the experience to the extent they even put out compilations themselves.

The mix below is a bit of a warm-up set, put together with a bunch of records you might have heard in a bar a few years ago in Soho or SoHo. It starts with two white labels Tim gave me when he signed Groove Armada to Tummy Touch. I remember playing them early evening over at El Grito’s. For some reason, Mr George and I’d shown up in raincoats looking like a couple of flashers, put the records on, and then immediately proceeded to trash the place by booting a football around (more Peter Kaye than Peter Crouch). I think we ended up at the Blue Note in Hoxton, set up by Eddie Piller – coincidentally the DJ I first heard play the Mr Gone tune. Eddie dropped it at Route 66, I liked it, and McDisco gave me his copy (“It’s rubbish, have it.”).

McDisco also turned me on to Bobby Hughes, who adds a flute to Deodato’s Skyscrapers in Piper Cherokee. Then Terry Farley samples Brother Jack McDuff, and Barry Adamson blends Dusty Springfield with Tom Scott in a track that’ll remind Pete of Lost Highway. Tim also sampled Sneaking In The Back (heard here) – funnily enough  it was my Tom Scott record he used to make the track in this mix. The 45 King loop is a Lost Breakbeat that Crawford put on a tape for me years ago. It’s followed by two riffs on Eddie Russ’s Lope Song. The Young Disciples track came on the Talkin’ Loud sampler that announced the arrival of Gilles Peterson’s new label in 1990 (we were all very eager to hear that when it came out). I get out of that one before the dodgy MC Mello rap begins (so common in tracks from that era) and into DJ Food (before that became a person). A People/Urban classic is the link to a Ubiquity ‘new funk’ track that, if memory serves, was also on one of those tapes sent down from Glasgow. The intro reminds me of Gonzalez’s Funky Frith St and it works as a bridge to the harder stuff we would have dropped later in the evening at Back On The Streets.

  1. Unknown w/l – Groove Armada
  2. Unknown w/l – Groove Armada
  3. D*Votion – D*Note
  4. Just Listen To The Record – Mr Gone
  5. The Piper Cherokee – The Bobby Hughes Experience
  6. America Eats Its Young (Terry Farley Downtempo mix) – Nick Holder
  7. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Barry Adamson
  8. Love’s Gonna Get You – Tim ‘Love’ Lee
  9. The Ave – 45 King
  10. Young Disciples Theme – Young Disciples
  11. The Food Song – DJ Food
  12. Given’ Up Food For Funk – The J.B.’s
  13. Monkey Wrench – Sweet Potato

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Disco Derivative

•07/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

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Celebrating July 4th with Bullock – Tom dropped Ned Doheny’s original of the Tata Vega classic (see below) at sunset over the East River, then a Patrick Cowley megamix for the fireworks – prompted me to post a new mix. It’s a follow up to earlier disco mixes that illustrates some of the directions disco took later: in some cases, disco became more electronic, progressing to Hi-NRG as drum machines replaced Earl Young’s four-to-the-floor kick drum; in others, the drum pattern changed and it became boogie – a sound I always associate with Prelude and West End.

The mix starts with Began Cekic’s rework of Jimmy Bo Horne’s Spank (heard here), which I first heard on Tel’s Warehouse Rave tape. That’s followed by a Jazzy Dee tune that was sampled by Cambridge’s own Undergraduates (not actually students if I recall) in Funk On Up (heard here). The third version of Hamilton Bohannon’s classic is next (I put the first version in this mix). Then there’s a Kliger classic that takes me back to boot fairs in South London, and the brilliantly titled Loose Joints tune both Paul and Jools played over and over in Pantonville.

R-7368536-1439977314-5567.jpegThe long version of Can You Handle It deserves a paragraph of its own. One of my favorite records – and definitely the best of the genre – it has everything: great drums, tight horns, cuica, jazzy keys, phasing, and superb vocals that start with Sharon Redd’s amazing scat alongside the guitar. I’m not sure if I was actually playing it then, but I like to remember this was the record I was playing when Hoppo (RIP) charged the decks, screamed “Scratchy guitar disco!” at me, then threw himself to the ground and thrashed around delightedly for a few minutes – one way to get people on the dance floor and far from the craziest thing the Good Times promoter did.

And The Beats Goes On I first heard as a kid on a Thames TV ad. More boogie follows, and then there’s Tata’s version of the track Tom played. A gift from the Turk that Mr George always said was written for Eddie D. (“Don’t hold back, if it feels good to Ed!”) is next, and the mix ends with an Instant Funk track that if you are of a certain age you first heard as De La Soul’s intro to Roller Skating Jam.

  1. Sixty-nine – Brooklyn Express
  2. Get On Up (Instrumental) – Jazzy Dee
  3. Let’s Start The Dance III – Bohannon
  4. Haven’t Been Funked Enough – Ex Tras
  5. Is It All Over My Face (Female Vocal) – Loose Joints
  6. Can You Handle It (Extended Version) – Sharon Redd
  7. And The Beat Goes On – The Whispers
  8. Extra Special – Atmosfear
  9. The Music Got Me (Instrumental) – Visual
  10. Get It Up For Love – Tata Vega
  11. Don’t Hold Back (If It Feels Good Do It) – Chanson
  12. I Got My Mind Made Up – Instant Funk

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