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"Desert Island Discs", that peculiarly conservative British institution is here applied as a question to two of England's coolest DJ's. "Okay boys you're going Crusoe, just what records will you take? Limited to, ooh, about a CD's worth of tracks".
Gilles is first to raise his hand, laying down a near-flawless mix of funk and soul which gives way (I can't tell just where) to cutting edge drum'n'bass. As mainman of the Talkin' Loud label and radio show host, Gilles has promoted and preached for some of the greatest past and future talents in the now outrageously broad church of "jazz". He's signed Terry Callier, Galliano, Urban Species and pushed the envelope of drum'n'bass, most noticably with Roni Size's Reprazent. This music retains it's choppy menace, though some would argue other parts lack grit. He layers film soundtrack sounds with ethereal voices, piano and breaks to hit the sublime spots. Some drum'n'bass records weld this level of experimentalism, of the abstract, to seriously threatening urban soundscapes and rap. Much of the first post acid-house dance music to enjoy mainstream success has traded its bite for coffee table accessibility. (Trip-hop being a serious casuality, Tricky being one of the only real survivors). But basically, this is a jazz thing, and that's never a bad thing. No-one does this stuff better than Gilles, unless you're prepared to seek out the Yardbird Suite or Dingwalls and find lesser known practitioners of the art who're equally sharp.
Our next man on the springboard has also been seen as an exponent of vintage acid jazz for some years. Here he corrects the slight misconception by displaying some rare 70's disco gems. The strings of 'Windy City Theme' by Carl Davis & Chi-Sound Orchestra kick off Norman Jay's disc and sweep us right back to Studio 54. Norm visited NY to go clubbing as a teenager in the 70's, and it's from here that he covers the territory which came after. Hip-hop (Red Cloud & Digital Hemp) to electro (Key-Matic) and back again. Norman still believes in the lifestyle he caters for, after decades covering London streets on a chopper, still hopeful for that chance find in the backstreet record haunts and thrift shops. This is the man who actually coined the phrase "rare groove" with his 'Original Rare Groove Show' of the 80's. The last issue of The Face in that decade contains a group snapshot of the magazine's then idea of hip young England, and there's Norm on the front row. Though having built him up, I did think his judgement was slipping into 80's hell on track 8: Hall & Oates' 'Maneater'. But the offending track is failing to fight its way out from under a tough (in the modern sense) r'n'b workout. And as he testifies in the liner notes, Norman's groove is still in the heart.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.