DJ Amir Q&A

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.

https://180-proof.com

https://www.facebook.com/DJ-Amir-161195730583168

https://twitter.com/djamir70

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Charles Mingus – Jazz In Detroit/ Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden – BBE Music / 180 Proof Records

Recorded live in Detroit at Strata Concert Gallery in February 1973 you could gain entrance for the princely sum of $5 dollars in advance, or $6 on the door. To witness a Jazz legend of Mingus’s stature at any price would have been quite something. But of course you can do it all over again, courtesy of this most welcome release of Amir Abdullah’s discovery of the existence of 5 two-track master tapes of the live concert. It’s fair to say that Mingus was no day at the beach and according to his own memoir: Beneath The Underdog you find a character which, at times, you may not exactly warm to. But this is music played from the very soul by drummer Roy Brooks, trumpeter Joe Gardner, pianist Don Pullen, plus on tenor saxophone John Stubblefield and is a sheer powerhouse of exhilarating exuberance. Charles Mingus composed and played wonderful, original, passionate music. You can hear that all here. Priceless.

Release: November 2

Buy: https://bbemusic.lnk.to/CharlesMingus

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The Men In The Glass Booth – BBE Music

Let’s face it you’re going to hear the word Disco at least once as you course the veins of this glorious experience, which places the music somewhere around the mid to late nineteen seventies. But even before we even get to the music you first encounter this wonderful story, in this instance, illuminated by Al Kent whose supremely informed sleeve notes are almost as exciting as the music itself. The album’s title comes from the revered Vince Aletti who epically charted the genre’s progress through his columns for After Dark and Village Voice. Starting with the story behind Leon Collins’s 1974 release ‘I Just Wanna Say I Love You’ and the inspired role DJ John Luongo played in Disco’s ever evolving timeline the feature details the driving force that DJ’s played in the literal shaping of the sounds heard on the dancefloor. Filling in some overdue gaps in the chain of events he moves into more chartered territory with Double Exposure’s now infamous ‘Ten Percent’ an extended edit which formed the very first publically available twelve inch single. But of course that isn’t even half of the story as this compilation of DJ mixes from the era proudly lays testament to America’s instigators without whom we would be at a definite loss today. The prime difference with what you will hear here and what has been happening with Disco re-edits currently is that these tracks are what actually occurred there and then, not some re-imagination of the past, which makes this collection all the more significant, real even. Featuring the likes of Walter Gibbons, Tom Savarese, Bobby Guttadoro and Jim Burgess this proves to be indispensable listening both for those that like to remember plus for those who don’t want to forget.

http://alkent.co.uk

https://www.bbemusic.com/downloads/the-men-in-the-glass-booth

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sunSunPalace
Rude Movements
bbe Music

Following the announcement of one of the founding fathers passing, David Mancuso it feels like one of those cosmic coincidences that this particular album gets a re-release days latter. Its 1981 title track became a keynote number for the legendary Loft DJ and one which still very much resonates today with its tastefully jazzy electronics. Always such a beautifully crafted, exceptional piece of music by Mike Collins and Keith O’Connell the album now reappears remastered along with a selection of additional versions to augment the experience. Reaching beyond that are some equally glorious tracks and I’d suggest that you buy and support the music – not least of all as this also forms part of the ‘essential’ labels 20th anniversary year. As their saying goes: Real Music For real People.

Vinyl released: November 18
https://www.bbemusic.com/artist/sunpalace

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BBE Music interview

BBE Music’s Peter Adarkwah and Lee Bright:

What is the origin of the name BBE and what is the idea behind the label?

(Lee) BBE started out as a club promotions operation (check the bbe15 facebook  page for some mad early flyers… with Ben and Pete the founders … it was as much a statement of the finances as a favourite track at the time … Barely Breaking Even by The Universal Robot Band with the earth trembling vocals of Leroy Burgess – which you can find on Dimitri from Paris’ ‘Disco Forever’..  after growing a following in the clubs it was suggested that why didn’t we put some of the music that people loved so much in the clubs … onto record and the label was born… it grew from there with a D.IY/can do attitude. There was never a business plan …. if there had a been … we most likely would not be here today

You are currently celebrating with a 15th Anniversary album. Tell us more about how album was conceived and how the music was chosen?

(Lee) Seemed a shame not to book mark 15 years,  previously we’d worked with Mixcloud to engage the true fans of the label – asking them to put together a mix of their favorite BBE tunes – the quality was high but Chris Read’s won the day… it seemed the best sense to have a fan compile and mix the album … and once we put the idea to him – he ran with the baton … put some licensing constraints aside and came up with a retro- spective of the last 15 years – way past impossible to cover all the artists and releases … he has done a fantastic job

BBE has worked with many different artists and DJ’s over the past decade. Any particular favourites and standout releases from that time?

(Peter)1. Roy Ayers – Virgin Ubiquity.

Roy has also been a massive favourite of mine. During the recording of Marley Marleys Beat Generation Album – We were looking to do a cover version and I suggested a Roy Ayers track. I knew I could get hold of him either via the Jazz Cafe in London where he has a yearly residency or quicker still through Masters at Work who featured him on their Nuyorican Soul Project. I got his number called him and he came and recorded vibes over his track Hummin’ (originally from his first Polydor album). During the session I asked him if he had any unreleased material and he said yes so we got talking and agreed an advance. As it turned out Roy’s deal with Polydor was a producer deal so whatever didn’t make his albums was his own material. Roy had all the 2 inch tapes in his house and in storage in Harlem. We found a studio to do the transfers and 4 months later Virgin Ubiquity was released. I suggested the title to Roy and got my designer at the time Tom MacCallion to do the cover from a picture of a young Roy and tried to create an iconic image for the art.

2. Foreign Exchange – Connected.

In the late ‘90s a lot was happening so we set up a US office. Eddie Bezalel was our man on the ground and he brought the project to BBE. As an exercise of a classic story of PR the record ticked the boxes of the day. A record made over the internet between a producer in Holland and an MC is North Carolina. The press lapped it up.

3. J Dilla – Shining/Welcome To Detroit.

In or around 1999, Kenny Dope introduced me to Jay Dee as he was then known. I went to meet him at a Slum Village gig in London, talked to him and his manager. The conversation carried on after the gig at the hotel and a deal was thrashed out. 4 months later the record was delivered. In the interim I visited Dilla in Detroit – I suggested the Think Twice cover with the hope of getting Erykah Badu on vocals but couldn’t afford her in the end. I saw a Detroit sign and suggested the album title and that stuck – We shot the cover picture on the second trip at Chocolate City – Dilla’s fave strip joint at the time. The Shining – We were going to call the record Welcome to LA as Dilla had Re-located at the time. Long Overdue follow up which unfortunately came as Dilla’s health situation worsened. My dad was diagnosed with lupus in 1989 so I was all too familiar to the agony Dilla was in. When I saw him a few months before the end I was so distraught and it brought up stuff I had suppressed about my dad’s situation for years. ‘Til now I still haven’t been able to listen to the record in its entirety.

4. Pete Rock – PeteStrumentals.

I met Pete in London when he was promoting Soul Survivor via my old mate Jamie Topham who was running BMG’s club promotions at the time. I introduced myself to Pete and suggested the idea of an album to him. Subsequently when I started hanging out with Marley Marl I would meet Pete at his house during the recordings of their Future Flava’s radio show at Marleys house. Eventually Pete’s deal ended and he delivered the album which was a collage of unreleased material and some newly recorded beats.

5. Will.I.Am <http://will.i.am/> – Lost Change

Will and his manager at the time had seen adverts in Source Magazine for the Beat Gen series and Will had just finished working on an album for a Levi’s ad campaign. Lost Change was the soundtrack. Black Eyed Peas were in Holland and they flew over to London for a day to discuss the album. At the time my apartment was being treated for subsidence and the place was a complete building site. We sat on the couch listening to music in the middle of builders shoveling tons of concrete through the living room to support the building from the rear. Great album and so different from where he is now musically but unfortunately its release date was 9/11 and it got lost in the mayhem of that unfortunate date.

How do you feel about the Vinyl vs. Digital debate – how would you say the styles of music that BBE represents have evolved over time?

(Lee) Too easy to become misty eyed over vinyl… it holds a special place in my heart and there will always be a special place for what is left off my 7” & 12”. Digital is just another format which has allowed the technology gurus to help us sell more music… I hope vinyl remains , but I think these days for the most part it’s the collectors who are buying it, though are I have to say I live with 2 latter teenagers who are mad on vinyl … and that gives me piece of mind.

What can we look forward to from the label in 2012?

(Peter) My thinking is that Africa is the future. With that I don’t want to focus purely on music, for people to understand the music they need to understand the past – culturally and then the vast diversity. Its not a country and the products of the various tribes differ significantly.I’m more interested in doing photographic exhibitions and the amazing lifestyles of the indigenous people. I have a lot to learn about the whole continent, the effects of colonialism old and new.

(Lee) There is some incredible music due out in 2012 and I can only mention a fraction of it here , Julien Dyne’s new album Glimpse , Al Kent’s Disco Demand’s , Johnny D’s Disco Demands, Sandy Barbers deluxe ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’, Boddhi Satva’s ‘Invocation’. I’m deeply passionate about what I do, and hope I can continue to do it for as long as there are enough people around who share some of that passion.

Best of Disco Demands compiled by Al Kent from BBE Music on Vimeo.

http://www.bbemusic.com/ 

http://www.juno.co.uk/search/?quick_search_records=m_physical&q=BBE+15+years&qs=1&s_search_precision=any&s_search_type=all&s_genre_id=0000

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