Archive for February 19, 2012
A steady down pour could be heard beating against the car’s windshield on the way to Tambor. The pitter patter claps of drip drop provided the trip’s soundtrack as black wiper blades lazily moaned, “Swish Swash” in a predictable game of back and forth. The night was off to a wet start as the day’s earlier sunny sky succumbed to evening clouds and precipitation. Sadly enough the thermostat reading fell too, giving way to cooler crisp temperatures. Normally such active conditions don’t befall a Tambor party but this night would yield so. Here’s to hoping the Tambor Tribe will mandate full attention and force given the outdoor obstacles. Translation: Oh I can’t go out in the rain cause I can’t get my hair wet. Sigh.
Already the warmth of the dance floor created a stunning visual improv by those assembled in motion, welcoming those entering the room. Someone installed a new programmable lighting feature. Right center, in the middle of the dance floor, dancers writhed in incandescent techno lasers of green and red mocked tattoos. The surrealism resembled a cyber rave straight from the late naught. The dance space was in the midst of a unique revival as the city’s dance crews were in full effect. From the likes of HDA to a b-boy/b-girl battle next door, faces of all colors exchanged names and phone numbers for future meet-ups. This party was for the spirit of the dancer and who can argue that dancers rule the night. Who better else to jumpstart a dance ritual other than Tambor’s daddy, DJ Stan Zeff by playing percussion driven afro-house under Wyoma’s vocals on At One’s, “African Healing Dance“. South African DJs, Goldfish featuring vocals by Monique Hellenberg on, “Call Me” (Culoe De Song Mix) spit out a gravitational pull that engulfed the heart a flame in dance right before song bird Jill Scott’s stunning prayer of “Hear My Call” (David Harness Harlum Mix) brought tears to the eyes as additional heart felt emotions cried, “Oh I (Miss You) (Atjazz Love Soul Mix) by the Muthafunkaz featuring Sheila Ford and Marc Evans singing a comforting tribute of one day seeing again the many recent souls that have transitioned from this life to the next. On that note the floor shook as Stan Zeff worked the mixer, looped the vocals, dropped the backing instruments and delivered a music drop that made the dancers rejoice with unbridled praise. The party was off to a serious celebration as the night’s headliner had yet to arrive at the event.
It’s no wonder the Tea Party Music moniker had changed to Global Soul Music. Could one really conjure the imagination of the soulful house community standing up to yell, “The Tea Party is coming to town?” Boy, you’d better run out of town faster than the speed of light. Global Soul Music’s mission is to showcase the world’s talented community of singers, songwriters, producers and DJs by moving out from the shadows of Brooklyn, NY and into the limelight of the world. Label founder Ian Friday was sure to test the theory at Tambor. It was his first embarking back to the never-cease-to-amaze event since his brand’s metamorphosis.
Soon enough from behind the black corner curtain walked out the Global Soul Music ambassador with Tambor’s assistants nearby carrying some serious hardware. After a brief sound check and set up by the sound engineer-that caused an ear squealing pitch that scared the room shitless- the real business was set to begin.
Ian Friday stepped up to the colorful control decks of shiny knobs and glossy crossfaders. The musical dashboard sprung to life in the twinkling of an eye. Its control panel announced, “ALL SYSTEMS A GO!” For what seemed as a few trivial seconds transformed into minutes of sound explosions. Speaker boosters exploded as subwoofers revved up the room’s RPMs (Revolutions per Minute) into combustible energy. By far this was the best musical opening statement from a DJ since who knows when……
Wait a minute. Was that Osunlade’s, “Idiosyncrasy?” With all the hype in the room surrounding the song, it was difficult to hear over the screams but yes, the deep-tech track worked its charm over a bed of sweaty dancers. Minutes later, Marlon D’s tribal banger, “Jesus Creates Sound” bounced into action as dancers dropped to the ground on knees and sprung forth on two feet and spun around in circles all in four count time. Saxophones screamed over eight-count thumps as a medley featuring Geroge Kranz’s, “Trommeltanz” bought additional heat. What was this Ian Friday up to? The New Yorker didn’t stop there but kept the dancers on their heels with vocals by Malehlokwa on “Falling” produced by South African DJ Kent and a fitting tribute to the late Whitney Houston with the Jellybean Benitez produced, “Love Will Save The Day” with both vocalists riding over deep beats to create exclusive edits. The stunning Miranda Nicole, standing on stage, shined with not one but two hits. The Ian Friday Libation Remix of, “Kissing You” and the soon to be released hit, “Looking For Love.” After a brief rest and fresh air the latter pulled the people back onto the dance floor with its sexy grip. Couples two-stepped, men’s and women’s hips swayed from left to right in provocative gestures as Miranda’s soft vocals chimed, “Looking For Love.”
After Grammy nominated Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s, “1960 What?” (Opolopo Kick and Bass Rerub) played the music lost a bit of its bite. Like a slow burn the party seemed to fall to stalled feet. Maybe, the cause was the sleepy afro-beat that provided not enough kick or the house music ballad that brought yawns and closed eyelids. Whatever the case, the dancers took note. Some took seats at tables or on the stage where a sizable group of six gathered to take rest. What a sore sight to see for a party that started off with an electric shock to the heart. Doctor, doctor, a defibrillator was needed and one was needed fast. A professional DJ knows how to rescue such dilemma and Ian answered the call. Former Blaze member Kevin Hedge with lead vocals by Rick Galactik provided the inspirational, “Follow Your Heart” that reignited sleeping feet and brought a wave of rubber soles back to dance. Tribe Records Zepherin Saint with vocalist Nathan Adams on vocals with, “Love Of My Life” kept up pace. Once again, Miranda Nicole’s encore presentation of “Looking For Love” filled the empty pockets on the dance floor with sexy gyrating bodies. The song capped the end of the house music session and marked the transition to two recent celebrities that transitioned from life’s journey.
Whitney Houston’s 1990 classic, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” produced by wonder duo L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds roared through the speakers as Ian dropped the music to allow the crowd to match the songstress’s God gifted vocal range. (Good luck) Despite all, the crowd went crazy and shouted with adoration as a few dancers took seats on the stage. Up next, Soul Train’s founder Don Cornelius sat in the hot seat with the MFSB Gamble and Huff 1973 produced cavalcade, “TSOP” (The Sound of Philadelphia). Right before the dancer’s eyes a Soul Train line formed as the Tambor tribe leaders marched down and dancers showcased vintage moves from yesteryear. A few songs later, Ian’s signature tune The Jackson’s, “This Place Hotel” tore up the room as people danced to mirror the song’s lyrics of what would become one of the night’s stand-outs. Then bang the sound went out. Oops. Who was to blame? Every head turned to find the culprit. Was it Tambor’s visual engineer bent over, clueless at the lack of sound, packing up equipment after an exhaustive night of providing acid washed Tambor visuals of looped African dancers? Oh well. Who cared? As the music restarted the dancers left standing picked up where they had left off and continued dancing without missing one beat.
After the final note played, the Tambor family gathered for group photos with the Libation curator. They were all smiles as voices yelled, “Tambor” and digital cameras flashed. Outdoors the rain had traveled to a new destination and the air felt cool with a hint of loneliness as footsteps walked in the path of the moonlight to say goodnight.
Photography by Carlos Bell
In the air there was a movement brewing called the Great Divide. The Great Divide could be seen in the distance on the horizon. An obvious choice would soon have to be made. However, the choice would not be made now but at a later time. Why make a decision today when the decision can be made tomorrow? No verbiage could offer a satisfactory explanation of how the Great Divide had plagued the mind like the media obsessed with an upcoming presidential election. Was it a matter of political parties? There was the left. There was the right. Was it a matter of colors? The blue left and the red right. Was the choice a matter of seating arrangements? Left side seats or right side seats? Obviously, no. The choice had more to do with the purview of club land and music tastes than any political party, their color or seating arrangement. The decision narrowed down to hear in the left room the more soul/hip-hop sounds from the first time appearance of a musician or to stay in the right room and listen to the more soulful/deep house sounds from a mainstay DJ. Over the course of weeks the final grain of sand dropped in the hour glass of time. Which door would be opened? Uhmmm.
My night with a Detroit electronic freestyler and a German DJ.
The night was about as varied as the music itself. However, the two music maestros from two different music worlds actually shared more in common with slight nuance. Both of the aficionado’s music influences can be traced back to that Motor City soul. From Motown to Detroit Techno both melody makers marked the night with registered selections. There was the piping hot soul/hip-hop exploding from techno wonder Jeremy Ellis in the right room named Space2 and from the room to the left in the restaurant, Lars Behrenroth belting out deep house served over a hot plate of tech beats. This was some serious ear culinary to serve in a place known for its tasty expressions as well as eclectic music palettes.
“This is why I need to wear a hat; so I can hide,” observed one female dancer wearing a multicolored head scarf studying the mayhem about to take place. Overall, the majority aged 30 and over crowd provided that much needed safety net on the dance floor but there was the usual mischief of activity. Three twenty something blondes baring semi-bare flesh gyrated up and down trying so hard to display some type of faux lesbo threesome that the group lost footing and stumbled halfway to the ground spilling libation onto the floor. One misguided female thought the event was, “Dancing With The Stars” as she paraded around the floor, dancing with every guy in the room as if she was the Queen of the Night.
Following the visual view of a low-rise denim wearer with a budging feature next door into the dance space of Space2 revealed some hint of guilty pleasure. In the room next to the restaurant, testosterone plaid long sleeves hid tee shirts as the curvaceous in cocktail dresses stood hypnotized by a stage of electronic gadgetry. Not only were the usual suspects of two turntables, two CDJs and one large mixer present but also a long black rectangular box with huge squares made to look for punching; the Akai MPC.
Self-titled, “Freestyle Electronica” Jermey “Aryo” Ellis had the entire room under a spell of tempting soul/hip-hop/broken beat that had all mouths dropping to the floor with drool. Something a brew was cooking as the red-haired bobbed maestro wrapped in a winter green scarf crooned, “Hey Baby” with that blue-eyed soul that made panties wet. What was this? A pin could have been heard dropping in the crowd. What an eerie silence. Not one body danced. Not one soul moved. Every eye budged out from the sockets with that vertigo visage stricken right before some terminal illness. You would have thought the president had walked into the room and offered every guest free healthcare. This dazzling display was surreal. How could anyone command such musical mind control?
The scene back in the restaurant was of the opposite kind. Bodies writhed in fluid rhythms spelled for a “Dance by Different Music.” Fancy footwork came out of the closet to warm up the concrete floor. As the night progressed from evening eatery to late night dance club, long wooden rectangular tables were shoved alongside an exposed brick wall to make way for the party people rushing to dance.
4Deep alumni warmed up the floor with an onslaught of hors d’oeuvres. The latest addition, Kevin Latham opened with Berlin born Georg Levin’s, “Late Discovery” and the hit maker Louie Vega’s Root Mix of “I Love The Night” by French producer Rocco and the legendary vocals of C. Robert Walker as original member Kevin Nowell drenched the party with soulful caviar from vocalist LT Brown to Zakes Bantwini’s, “Wasting My Time” (Dan Ghenacia Mix). Following in the funky but soulful footsteps, founding member DJ Carroll A.K.A DJC delivered a forgotten jam, “Don’t Give It Up” (Lawnchair General Mix) by DJ Hal featuring Jay Thomas on vocals and the much needed inspiring lyricism and power house vocals from Inaya Day with DJ Boris Duglosh presents BOOOM’s, “Keep Pushin” a 1990’s classic dub that had the audience reaching for the top.
After the far too short 4Deep reunion it was time to hear the night’s main course. The “Walk A Mile” label release owner Lars Behrenroth sporting a brown Deeper Shades of House tee, approached the DJ booth’s music hardware with that expertise reserved for top chefs. The volume decreased on the funky house to make way for afro-house. From the crisp sound system came an address of deep beats that engaged the environment. Fingers snapped, feet danced and screams penetrated the air. The set was off to a delicacy start. Over the course of three hours, Lars transitioned flawlessly between bold flavors of afro-beat, freshly prepared melodic vocals, bitter deep-tech and rich old-school tech house. Eddie Grant’s “Time Warp” sautéed perfectly with Musaria’s, “Moment” featuring Memphis vocalist/songwriter Saturna who by the way was in the house and pleasantly surprised to hear her voice simmering through the makeshift club. Just when Lars couldn’t experiment any further with deep eclectic flavors, out from the kitchen came a sexy chocolate dessert; a profound house instrumental of “Between The Sheets” by The Isley Brothers that steadily built into a climatic taste explosion that closed out the night around 3:30 am.
At last the Great Divide had been conquered with more time being spent in the Deeper Shades hospitality than on the stage of Mr. Freestyle Electronica. Despite clandestine efforts, the majority probably were more involved in experiencing the Detroit native’s rarity than feasting on the German producer’s treats. Overall, the night went down with success, besides the running back and forth between rooms to dance, stand in awe, dance and stand in awe. There was so much music to behold in so little time. Here’s to next time keeping all the festivities in one room, under one roof instead of having to face a two-headed dilemma. Unlike the current political landscape, let the music UNITE and not DIVIDE.
Cover and first photographs of Lars Behrenroth by Andre Lozano/All additional photography by Chris Marley