Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #218

Welcome to The Run-Off Groove #218. I am John Book and how about those presidential debates? Yeah I know, less politics, more music, right?

For those of you who are new to this column, let me tell what it's about. The column started four years ago as a part of the Music For America website. The column's main emphasis was, and at times is, hip-hop music. However, I wanted to be able to share my other musical tastes, which is pretty much anything and everything. The column would evolve into what it is today, so you will see your share of jazz, Americana, country, funk, noise, ska, reggae, dancehall, whatever. Send it to me, and I'm an open ear. I always represent Hawai'i in what I do, so whenever possible, I have a "Hawaiian Music Corner" (named after the Hawaiian music website I ran in the early 00's). The column has since left the boundaries of Music For America and has remained independent. In time, it will become a part of my new website,, and you are currently able to access this blogspot page from there. Please bookmark it.

Until then... begin we shall.

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Image Hosted by People like to talk about credibility and what artists have done in the past, but in this case let's talk about the now. I speak of the now for DJ Revolution, whose brand new album shows why his participation in DJ'ing is nothing more than the continuation of the art. King Of The Decks (Duck Down) is a DJ album, a true DJ album where the DJ doesn't shout his name over verses, doesn't scream the title of his radio show airing on so and so radio station. There is a distinction between the radio DJ and the DJ that pumps the parties with his record collection, and DJ Revolution is the latter. The amount of guests on this album is staggering, everyone from Sway & King Tech to Bumpy Knuckles, Royce Da 5'9" to Joell Ortiz, Planet Asia to Defari, Evidence to Iriscience, DJ Premier to DJ Spinbad, KRS-One to the Boot Camp Clik, and there's more. One can easily assume that the amount of special guests must mean that this album is weak, but best to rewind that thought and start from the beginning. These guys come to DJ Revolution to drop some serious lyrics, and in turn Revolution comes up with some of the best production, cuts and scratches around.

It's natural for any DJ album to have the MC's praise the man behind the one and two's, and that is present throughout King Of The Decks, but what you also hear is honor and pride of all that hip-hop represents. They mock things in the hilarious "Scratch Nerds" when one favors DJ Whoo Kid over DJ Q-Bert, only for Q-Bert himself to surface on the following track and speak martian in the form of "Invaders From The Planet Sqratch". When the Boot Camp Clik unite for "Start The Revolution", it feels like 1996 all over again but with a renewed sense of what made all of them great. The rest of the album is a nice blend of full length tracks and brief interludes, with an emphasis on the music and you don't want to skip tracks or create a new playlist when it comes to this album. All of the skills and tricks he does in a live setting, he pours it gingerly from song to song so you're not overdosed with everything at once. By the end of track 24, you're wanting more but he has done his job, he's not coming back, at least not on the album. Albums with alleged DJ's are commonplace, and some are as bad as a mixtape from your next door neighbor. King Of The Decks is high quality, no B.S. allowed, and anyone who calls themselves a DJ will value this album. Any mixtape architects will need to take lessons from Revolution beginning yesterday.

(King Of The Decks is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by DJ B.Cause has been incredibly busy with doing an insane amount of underground remixes and mash-ups, many of which are up to par with some of what the pros are doing. By listening to his new mix CD Playcrater Too, one can tell he's already to be up there with the likes of Timbaland, Danger Mouse, and Fly Ni Noogs.

B.Cause isn't just about grabbing random acapellas and layering any instrumental over it, there is some thought into these mixes, moreso when he connects the dots from start to finish. Within this CD you have everyone from Alice Russell to DJ Mark The 45 King, Lewis Taylor to Chromeo, De La Soul to The Dazz Band, and while you can isolate a track and pick it as your favorite, it is great to listen to as a whole repeatedly, the anticipation during blends is great. He knows what he's doing, and what he does is done well.

You want quality mixes? DJ B.Cause is the guy to go to. Make him famous.

(Playcrater Too is available directly from DJ B.Cause.)

Image Hosted by Even with an EP that came out a few months ago, D-Sisive has returned with a new single featuring three mixes of "Like This" (URBNet) (featuring Guilty Simpson and DJ Grouch) along with two brand new tracks and a remix of a song from The Book EP.

"Like This" has D-Sisive getting a bit abstract over what sounds like something from the David Axelrod logs as he speaks about how even during post-mortem, he's still going to fuck up your style and ways. The Muneshine remix of "Up" is quite good, while "The Flintstones" is a flashback of days gone by. I like the idea of rappers releasing EP's and singles over a period of time, a lot of times artists release albums and mess up the potential of what could be with too many interludes and not enough content. D-Sisive offers content that isn't as light as instant coffee, and by limiting things to just four songs, you're out wondering why he held himself back for this one. The answer might be revealed when he drops Let The Children Die in February.

(Like This (Plus Three) is available through iTunes and can be purchased through URBNET Records.)

Image Hosted by Here is an interesting concept: a collection of national anthems celebrating the people of the world, many of whom have made an impact on what is the United States of America. The title Us An'Them initially made me think of Pink Floyd, but after reading the rest of the cover, it is a reference to anthems. While it might make people think of "us vs. them", as in the United States vs. the world as if this was a FOX ice skating reality show, that's not the point. The point Garry Dial & Terry Roche wanted to make is listen to these songs, listen to the pride that these songs are meant to represent, and you will hear something quite interesting.

Interesting? This is a jazz album, so what you're hearing is jazz interpretations mixed in with world traditions, along with English translations of each (when needed) that are either literal or interpretive. In a way, it sounds like what each culture immerses itself into when moving to the United States, and musically, things sound great. "France" sounds like something The Manhattan Transfer would turn out effortlessly, while "Tibet" sounds as distant and yet so near with its meditative chant and Tibetian bells. "India" was a personal favorite, beginning with the tambura before Sanghamitra Chatterjee sings beautifully of her homeland. "Jamaica", of course, has a nice reggae vibe to it, it may not have Monty Alexander playing along but vocalist Patrick Gordon handles his duty well.

The liner notes talk about why an album like this needs to be made, and aren't most anthems nothing more than battle songs? If so, should your family sing along to them in a car? If anything, Us An'Them is an audio peek at what we as people represent, or perhaps as how the songs are meant to represent us. Is it political, is it social, is it about the protection of defending what each country represents, or is it nothing more than spending a few minutes to sing when we spend most of our adult lives worrying about how to put food on the table? Considering the state of the world in 2008, it's long overdue for a worldwide sing-a-long, and perhaps the great music found on this CD/DVD combo will lead the way to some sense of harmony. The concept of the album may be about what makes an American a true "American", and who are the judges that make those final decisions, and why a lot of times that shouldn't matter but does in the eyes of "our" goverments, the ones that are meant to protect its people while killing others. By hearing these anthems in a different context, we are allowed to go past the walls and look into the eyes of the people these songs represent.

(Us An'Them will be released on November 25th, and will be available from CDBaby.)

Image Hosted by Jazz combinations, I love them, and I love the potential of what could be a great opportunity to make some fantastic music. Guitarist Gian Wiegner and organist Gary Brunotte have recorded an album together that is the perfect definition of cool jazz, where it sounds like Pat Martino and Jimmy Smith uniting in the studio or on stage for the first time. About Time (Sincopato is very much about the two musicians and their interaction together, along with the two bands that play along with them (the songs were recorded in two completely different sessions). Along with the standbys, Wiegner and Brunotte offer a number of songs from their own songbook, including "Wes Meets Les", "PM Blues", "Dont' Rush Me", "Samba This", and "Cool Waltzin'", and at times you'll have to look at the CD to remember that this was recorded in the last year, and not 40 or 50 years ago. It manages to capture the moment properly, and the recording itself (produced by Wiegner and Brunotte, no engineer listed) sounds like it came from someone who truly listens to jazz recordings. I enjoy it when both of them are deep into their solos, and if one feels a need to say "let me get in there a bit", the other player will step back (if only slightly) and allow the other to play. It's hard to say who is the better rhythm section, John Lockwood (bass) and Steve Langone (drums), or Dan Davis (drums) and Paul Engbretsen (bass). They each play in the pocket in their own way, each serving the leaders of these sessions quite well, but are different from one another. One might want to bother with the preferred rhythm section, but hearing some top notch jazz like this makes choosing less of an issue.

All of the musicians here are capable of playing anything and everything, as Wiegner explores quite a bit on his solo work while Brunotte does more than just traditional jazz. But with their roots at the Berklee College Of Music, they know how to approach a song and take it to the next level, and they do that on thirteen occasions on this disc. Fans of both musicians will enjoy knowing these two have finally joined together for a project (thus the title of the album), and while it may or may not lead to other joint projects, new fans will be able to start finding other songs in their respective catalogs by picking this up.

(About Time is available from CDBaby.)

Image Hosted by Good album covers can sometimes make or break an album, even though they shouldn't. They're merely eye candy, and this album is proof. I'm not a ballroom dancer, but I always admired the moves and the look of the ladies involved, lots of passion and sexual energy involved. If I could dance like that, and find an elegant dancer, I'd be wicked. Instead I see the cover painting of a couple dancing,with the lady arched and a slit going up to who knows where, and it also suggests sophistication. Guitarist Michael Higgins, along with Adam Nussbaum (drums), and Jay Anderson (bass), suggest this as well with the album The Moon And The Lady Dancing (self-released), and you may want to listen to this with a suit on.

In truth, this is jazz done not unlike The Modern Jazz Quartet, but in this case a trio setting. The songs are very stylized and sound right for the proper occasions, with titles like "When Colors Turn", "If I Only Knew", "Alone Together", and "In Love In Vain". Some of Higgins' guitar work sounds like what one would also hear on an Antonio Carlos Jobin recording, and if one needs a suggestion for a recording that will create a mood towards a seductive evening, I would recommend this. Some might see this type of album as a slow motion ride through molasses, but if so then you're probably not a fan of this style of jazz. It's not smooth jazz, it's something that demands your attention without resorting to the tried and true. The Moon And The Lady Dancing is a reliable album, and Higgins has the kind of playing style that will make a lot of other guitarists want to return to their basements and start from scratch.

(The Moon And The Lady Dancing is available from CDBaby.)

  • On a self-promotional note, you can access my Book's Music podcast, my MySpace page, and of course this column by going directly to my brand new home page, which will make its presence known very soon:
    This Is Book's Music

    There will be a lot more than just the links that are on there.

  • That's it for this week's Run-Off Groove. If you have any new music, DVD's, books, or hot sauce, please contact me through my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact address. Hard copy is preferred over digital files, and will get reviewed a lot faster than a digital files due to the amount of e-mails I receive.

  • Thank you, and come back next week for #219.

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