Stéphane Grappelli – Uptown Dance
This was the first song on Stéphane Grappelli’s Uptown Dance, an amazing 1978 lounge jazz album that to this day has only come out on vinyl. I remember this from my childhood, as it was usually the album playing when my parents had guests over. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this made an impression on me at an early age of how music could set a tone for a social gathering.
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Kind of Blue is one of the most loved jazz albums of all time, and for good reason. The moody muted notes of Davis are complimented with buzzing flourishes from saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderly, nimble wanderings of pianists Wynton Kelley and Bill Evans, and anchored in the rhythm from bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb. I have listened to this album more times than I can remember, in good times and bad. It always has something new to say to me, and will be with me forever.
Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
I got into Jimi Hendrix by listening to Electric Ladyland in my dad’s record collection, and went on to buy that and most of his other albums for myself. Voodoo Child is a quick burst showcasing the other universes he was capable of summoning with his guitar, and it’s a powerful song that fires me up. A nice counterpoint to the explosive power of this song that is not posted on YouTube would have to be another favorite — the drifting, breezy cascades of “Pali Gap”, of which several versions were released posthumously.
Imagine listening to this on a slightly worn and warped cassette tape in a Walkman at maximum volume, running through blistering heat, pouring sweat on a hot summer’s day in 1994. That’s how I remember it. I bought albums coming out at that time on cassettes, because they wouldn’t skip in a Discman, better for running. Plus I thought Mini-Discs were going to be the next widely-used format (they came out in 1992), and I would just skip this whole CD thing. While I might have been wrong about the music formatting trends at the time, I was right about this track being the ultimate inspiration for sprinting over steaming hot pavement until my veins pumped battery acid.
Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – It Takes Two
When I was a freshman in high school, the dances were unreal. There were DJs playing vinyl on sound systems with bass bins taller than I was. The music was a mix of disco, funk, party-rocking hip-hop, RnB, and some house music, with scratching on top as well. The music was funky and hit hard — not limited to what was popular on the radio at the time. It was an experience — an awakening to the power of speaker stacks, a discovery of all kinds of music, my introduction to dances like footwork, jacking, uprocking, and breakdancing, and an immersion in the social ritual of the dance. It was in this environment that I heard “It Takes Two” for the first time. That beat and that bassline on a wooden dance floor blew my mind. Those dances were the beginnings of me seeking out nightlife and going out by the time I was 16.
Cajmere – Coffee Pot (Percolator Mix)
I threw a big party in my backyard my senior year in high school, complete with a sound system that I rented, and club lights on the roof. The police were called multiple times for noise complaints, and eventually they came and broke it up. Cajmere’s “Coffee Pot (Percolator Mix)” [which went on to be known as The Percolator] was playing when they arrived. There are few records that make people in Chicago go off more than this one — the night was in full swing. When the police shut us down, the DJ was so mad that he ripped the record off the decks and threw it into the crowd. Days later I was cutting the grass and found the record lodged in some bushes. I was already into trying out DJing, and this was the first vinyl dance record in my collection.
24 Hour Experience – Together
I was in London over New Year’s Eve 1996-1997 to play saxophone in the New Year’s Day parade with my school’s marching band. Being in the UK was pretty amazing for dance music, hearing the Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1, hearing dance music in shops, etc. I remember Daft Punk was playing everywhere at the time. It also opened up a whole new world of music genres like Drum n Bass, and (what was then called) Speed Garage. I wandered into a record shop and this was the first track playing on the headphones I picked up. After hearing mostly Chicago house on the radio at home, it was cool to hear something jazzy, dubby, and different. On that trip I also met a girl from Michigan, who introduced me to techno, which leads us to my next selection.
Aril Brikha – Groove la Chord
All-time stone cold classic!! I first heard heard this at Chicago’s Gramaphone records on a magic summer afternoon, and have never been the same since. Such an effortless track that flows with relentless energy. What else can I say? Let the music speak for itself – press play and turn it up.
Santone Experience – Be Right There
This record is one of my favorite techno records — I first heard it in the recording of a set from Derrick May at FUSE club, and had it on repeat. Something about the raw house groove, the techno energy, and vocals used as a futuristic instrument through the delay is out of this world. I searched for it for years and paid the most I’d ever paid for a single record ($120!!!) to buy it on GEMM (the Global Electronic Music Marketplace), and the guy never sent it! Thanks to GEMM though, they guaranteed the transaction and I got my money back. Thankfully it later was repressed and issued digitally. Incidentally Santone is an alias of Brothers’ Vibe, who makes amazing house records too. We met each other in Berlin years ago, small world!
The KLF – Chill Out
Part of this composition formed the opening moments of a mixtape by DJ ESP Woody McBride, given out to promote one of the biggest raves in the Midwest, Turned On 2. I had never heard anything like it before, and had to track down this strange experiential ambient soundscape that plays like a David Lynch movie on a drive weaving through the American southwest and Gulf Coast. Out of nowhere, once we got a vinyl copy at Vital Vinyl, the record shop where I was working in Minneapolis. I snapped it up!
Jon Hester – Dimensional EP (Transmat Records)
Minneapolis’s Jon Hester spent years as a dancer before he even touched the decks. This proper musical education was a vital one that has served him well once he stepped to the other side and found his own voice as both a DJ and producer. That voice shines through on his new EP for Transmat, which comes after other highly regarded outings on taste-making techno labels Dystopian, Deeply Rooted and Rekids. Hester has held various residences, worked in a record shop and even hosted his own parties, all of which have helped further his understanding of rhythm and emotion. He puts all that into his music, never forgetting the dancers and his own love of physical drums and adventurous programming. His latest musical story kicks off with ‘Dimension Seven’, a forceful journey to the cosmos, with a lead synth that twists and turns to bring untold cosmic drama. Sleek claps peel off the frictionless groove and deepen the effect as you’re disconnected from reality. ‘Return’ keeps up the pace as you come up through the clouds, with serene pads coming
Jon Hester – Dimensional EP (Transmat Records) Release: 16th September 2019 Cat No: MS085 Format: Vinyl, Digital