Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Amir. Let’s start at the beginning and ask you why Jazz is such a special music for you? And who are its most important artists past and present?
Jazz music is really special to me because of my upbringing. My father was heavy into jazz and always had jazz playing in our household. He also grew up with and was friends with Jaki Byard, who coincidentally played in the Mingus band for a few years before going solo. Every weekend my father would sit and listen to jazz on his hi fi stereo system. And sometimes he would invite me to join him. Basically, father instilled in me my love for jazz.
Some of the most important artists from the past for me would be Clark Terry, Eric Dolphy, Horace Silver, Mile Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and, of course, Charles Mingus. For new future jazz artists, I would say Kamasi Washington, Yussef Kammal, Shabaka Hutchings, Nuyba Garcia, and Robert Glasper are some of my favorites.
Tell the story behind the Strata Concert Gallery recordings by Mingus and how you came to have them released on bbe?
The story behind the Strata Concert Gallery recordings by Mingus is a relatively simple one. The Strata Concert Gallery was an artists collective space where the owner, Kenny Cox had many shows with local and national artists. I believe it was a non-alcoholic space so that all ages could come. This particular Mingus recording was probably the second or third performance from a well-known artist. Mingus was right behind Keith Jarrett with Herbie Hancock to follow Mingus.
How I came to release this recording with BBE is through my collaborative label deal with them. I have the exclusive license rights to the Strata Records catalog and the Mingus recordings were a part of the catalog. Actually, I received an email from Barbara Cox, the owner of Strata stating that her friend Hermine Brooks (widow of Roy Brooks) had the masters to the Charles Mingus recordings and she wanted me to connect with Hermine. Hermine and I talked and I decided to take a chance on transferring the tapes. I then spoke with BBE about the possibility of releasing a never heard before Mingus live recording and needless to say, we were all excited to do so.
What words spring to mind when you think of Mingus as a Bass player and as a composer? If you met him what question would you have liked to ask of him?
The words that come to mind when I think of Mingus as a Bass player and as a composer are genius and complex. I say genius because playing the double Bass is not easy at all to play. Especially, playing some of the most complex arrangements that Mingus composed. And I say complex because when I think of the fact that Mingus was not only a great composer and Bass player but he was also an outstanding bandleader. These unique qualities make him one of the greatest American musicians/composer ever.
If were ever to meet Mingus, I would ask him how did growing up with the extensive amount of racism and the lack of proper musical education contribute to his music? And what makes your compositions different from those with similar experiences?
Where can people hear you DJ? How did the launch of Tomorrow People go and what plans do you have for the night?
Where people can hear me DJ in Berlin, are a few places like Sisyphos, Bar Tausend, and sometimes the Michel Berger Hotel in Berlin. By the way, I moved from Brooklyn to Berlin earlier this year. Right now, I started a party Tomorrow People with a few friends and it’s at a venue Arkaoda in Berlin. I approached the owner of Arkaoda during the summer and explained my idea for the party. He definitely agreed that Berlin needs some new music life!
This party is dedicated more towards more soulful music like disco, boogie, jazz, funk, Latin and African music. Berlin is well-known for its techno and tech house scene but I wanted to offer something more soulful. My plans for the night are to build a ‘brand’ here for Tomorrow People as a place for good ‘organic’ music that takes people on a journey.
Been enjoying your Just a little bit of disco jazz. How would you describe the process of putting live music together in a mix? And how would you compare playing the original versions to what other people try to achieve via re-edits?
For me the process of putting together a mix of live music really depends on my mood which is different than dj’ing live in a club. The difference for me is that when I dj in a club I am very aware of the energy and mood of the crowd and I try to also educate the crowd with music too. Whereas with a recorded mix, I try to imagine the mood I want to project this mood without there being a ‘live’ crowd.
I did a disco jazz music mix because I love both styles of music and there are so many disco jazz records that I enjoy. There are many disco mixes but I wanted to showcase my love for both disco and jazz. Playing the original versions of some live music is great because you get to let the music breathe the way the original artist intended.
How did you get introduced to House Music? And what common threads do you see with the other types of music you love?
I got introduced to House music while in college in the late 80s and early 90s. Pretty much every dj back then had to have not only a Hip Hop, R&B, and Dancehall set but also a House music set. So I would hear it all the time.
The common threads that House music has with other music genres are its history. Meaning that without disco, jazz, funk, soul, Gospel etc there would be NO House music. The lineage of House stems from heavy disco and jazz roots. And like those genres of music, the infectious nature of it is contagious.
How do you feel about club culture currently, how do you see music and dancing moving forward? And how would you describe nostalgia and its place in Dance Music today?
Currently, in the states I think club culture today has become a parody of itself. Meaning that too many club venues are quick to sacrifice quality for quantity. It’s all about how many people drink at the bar and what the bar does in terms of numbers. It used to be you had to prove how many people you could fill the club with that follow you. Furthermore, it has become increasingly so that social media has made many djs stars without really earning their ‘stripes.’ You can have 20,000 Instagram followers and a million selfies of yourself and call yourself a successful dj. Promoters tend to ask how many Spotify or Instagram followers you have over hearing a mix or past/present work.
In Europe, it tends to be about the Spotify followers as well but a lot of it depends on what you’re releasing. Many producers have become djs and many djs have become producers in order to stay ‘relative’ to continue to work. If you release an edit or remix that has other djs or promoters excited then you tend to work more than other djs. The other djs tend to get what they call ‘legacy’ gigs. Meaning they get work off their past accomplishments and not much else.
I see dancing and music moving in the direction of hopefully more of a soulful vibe. It’s disheartening to see some people at clubs all dancing like drones to melodic noise. We need to bring the funk and soul back to music. Producers need to create music with more swing and soul. Furthermore, we need to have more music with engaging lyrics. Not poorly written lyrics that add nothing to the music.
I think with the younger generation they are exploring the earlier forms of House music, especially from the early 90s. Also there are many djs exploring disco and boogie as well. Basically, they are going back to the roots. This nostalgia is growing and I’m happy to see more and more djs and crowds embrace it.
And finally. Can you tell us about any other forthcoming projects or plans?
My upcoming releases on my label (180-proof.com) that are slated for next year are Sphere ‘Inside Ourselves’, CJQ ‘Black Hole” and hopefully another Strata Concert Gallery live recording.