Thursday, April 21st, 2011
With Special Guest
& Lonnie Ce
@ Pyramid Cabaret – 176 Fort St. – Winnipeg, MN Canada
Thursday, April 21st, 2011
One year ago one of my favorite rappers of all time passed away. That morning a year ago when I woke up I reflected on how the dude’s career and artisanship had impacted me as an artist, as a kid, as a fan of not just his but of all music. I’m truly thankful for his contribution to my life, straight up.
During the Redbull 3 Style event at Southpaw last year I was joined on stage by my homeboy the legendary Greg Nice. We did a completely impromptu tribute set to the late great Guru for the crowd, which I all had forgotten until someone posted this video up on the Twitterverse last night. Hope you enjoy it
This week’s special guest for Breakbeat Tuesday is none other than my partner in crime, Brooklyn by way of Natchez, Mississippi’s own DJ Ayres. Now Yung Urrs grew up down south on a farm, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this guy doesn’t know his shit, cause he’ll kind of son you. There are many chambers to his style. You can catch Ayres alongside DJ Eleven and myself the first Saturday of the month at The Rub, our monthly party at Southpaw in Brooklyn. When he’s not administering cock-punches or watching fine films starring John Cena, you can find him traveling the globe as a world-class DJ, and helming his dance music imprint T&A Records. Other than that, he’s kind of the bane of my existence, but I would never ever let that information get out to the world…
One of the big movements when I first got into DJing was acid jazz. Fifteen years later, this shit has not aged well at all. Mark Farina’s “Mushroom Jazz” CDs (and unmixed vinyl compilations) were a staple back then, and aside from the odd Jigmastas (DJ Spinna) instrumental, it was all a little tepid for my tastes. An exception was Blue Boy “Remember Me,” which had this incredibly addictive female vocal loop over the Skull Snaps drums. “Remember meee, the one who had your baby! Gean geh geh gean geh geh gean gean gean, geh geh gean geh geh gean geh geh gean geh geh gean gean gean.”
Blue Boy – Remember Me (Mascotte, 1997)
There were also pieces of the same voice on the incredible, classic lounge-house record from around the same time, St Germain Rose Rouge. I had to know what that voice was, and luckily for me it was an easy record to source: Marlena Shaw Cookin’ with Blue Note at Montreaux. I say easy because even though this was before digging hit the internet, everyone was crazy about Blue Note in the mid-nineties; remember that there was a whole “Blue Break Beats” series, hugely popular for hip-hop and house DJs branching out into jazzy territories. Remember Digable Planets? ATCQ? It was a big sound. And your college radio station definitely had all the OG Blue Note stuff ripe for the picking, assuming an older head hadn’t gotten there already. What up Ben Velez!
So back to Marlena Shaw, she grew up in New York State and started singing really young, went on the Apollo as a kid with her uncle’s band, played clubs in New York and Chicago and by her twenties ended up on Cadet / Chess Records. Blue Note picked her up in 1972 when she was thirty, and a year later she was recorded in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Tons of albums were recorded live over the years at Montreux, from Ray Charles to Alice Cooper, Sun Ra to Tori Amos. Marlena Shaw played two years after the old Montreux Casino burned down while Frank Zappa was playing. The headliners in 1973 were Canned Heat and Miles Davis.
Epic! “Woman of the Ghetto” first appeared on Shaw’s album The Spice of Life in 1969. She wrote it with Richard Evans (Soulful Strings, Dorothy Ashby, Sun Ra, etc) and Bobby Lee Miller. You can hear the original (calimba!) and read a little more about it here. Great tune, and a great document from the civil rights era.
Now I could stop here but it would be irresponsible not to leave you with a bonus beat. Another great record off of The Spice of Life is “California Soul.” Breakbeat Tuesday fans should be no stranger to Ashford & Simpson; well they wrote “California Soul” for The Fifth Dimension. I don’t fuck with the original but it is noteworthy. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (or was it actually Valerie Simpson? controversy!) recorded a terrific version, but IMO nothing else touches Marlena Shaw’s.
All the DJs sought out this one in the 90s after DJ Premier sampled it for “Check the Technique.” Then Cut Chemist and Shadow rocked the 45 on Brainfreeze (1999) and the song moved way up the breakbeat canon; it’s a staple at The Rub. Diplo even remixed it for Verve, an impossible task as it is basically unimprovable. The drum break, the strings, the vocals, the lyrics, what a perfect song!
Thanks a million for that, my dude. Now Ayres is no stranger to sharing music with the masses, and you can always check out his Vinyl Mondays on Flashing Lights and his Heavy Warmup mix series for more music from the young gawd.
The power of Twitter. I’ve met some amazing people though it, and had some pretty great experiences and opportunities because of my shit talking. Case in point, a few months ago me and my homeboy – the legendary DJ Rob Swift – were popping off on it when my man Andre from The Drake in Toronto simply replied to our conversation “When are you guys going to do a show together?” Within 30 minutes a plan and a date was set, and we ended up collaborating on a show for Canadian Music Week. Great stuff, and ayo technology.
Rob is a legend and one of the greatest DJs of all time. So you can probably understand how honored and humbled I was when he asked me be a guest on his radio show. Of course I said yes. Tune in to hear my set, as well as the rest of the funky shit on Rob’s Dope On Plastic, brought to you streaming by the good folks at Scion A/V. Click here to check it out.