HENRY STREET GROOVES: CLASSIC DEEP, FUNKY AND JAZZY HOUSE FROM NEW YORK CITY.

HENRY STREET GROOVES: CLASSIC DEEP, FUNKY AND JAZZY HOUSE FROM NEW YORK CITY.

Recently, I reviewed one of my favorite albums of 2012, Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, which is due out today, 5 March 2012 on BBE Music. It was compiled by Johnny De Mairo, DJ, producer, record collector extraordinary and cofounder of Henry Street Records, who previously released Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City. This is a collection of some of the best music released on Henry Street and is a follow-up to Henry Street Music: The Music So Far-1993 To 1999, also released by BBE Music. Like its predecessor, Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City features some classic cuts from the vaults of one of the most influential and innovative record companies in dance music of the last twenty years. Before I tell you about the music on Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City, I’ll briefly tell you about the history of Henry Street Records.

Johnny De Mairo founded Henry Street back in 1993, with Tommy Musto. Both were producers, experienced in the ways of the music industry, and in Johnny, a successful businessman. To deal with distribution and street marketing, Johnny originally enlisted the help of Silvio Tancredi and Tommy Musto, owners of Northcote Productions. They were already responsible for legendary house labels Sub-Urban, 4th Floor and 25 West. A&R was left to Johnny, while Nicky Palermo became Johnny’s studio partner and right hand man. Quickly, Henry Street became known as one of the most innovative and influential dance labels in the US. The reason for this was the quality and cutting-edge music being released. What makes the story of Henry Street Records even more remarkable, is that Johnny was working full-time at firstly, S.I.N. a New York promotions company and later, for Atlantic Records. This meant Johnny ran Henry Street in the evenings and weekends. However, despite this hectic and grueling schedule, Johnny still managed to attract some of the biggest and most talented recording artists to Henry Street. Among them were Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, Lil Louie Vega, Robbie Rivera, Ralphie Rosario and Armand Van Helde. 

It wasn’t just new music Henry Street was releasing. Since the label was founded, old tracks and hidden gems were unearthed, some twenty years old. Johnny resurrected these tracks, helping breath new life into them, using his enthusiasm, knowledge of all things disco and house and of course, his A&R skills. This meant that many a track that slipped through the net first time around, was given a second chance. 

From Henry Street’s first release, Kenny Dope Presents the Bucketheads’ Whew, released in Spring 1994, the label was at the cutting-edge of contemporary dance music. Quickly, Henry Street became one of the leading US dance labels. When the label released its fourth single Kenny Dope Presents the Bucketheads’ Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind), the label became an international success. Now Henry Street wasn’t just a player in the US, but worldwide. With Johnny’s finger always on the pulse of the music scene, the success of Henry Street Records grew and grew, resulting in it becoming one of the major players in dance music. Meanwhile, Johnny became one of most influential people in the music business, while constantly DJ-ing, producing and continually building his legendary eighty-thousand record collection. Now, nineteen years after it was founded in 1993, Henry Street Records is still releasing quality music, like the music that can be found on Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City, which I’ll now tell you about.

DISC 1.

Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City is a two-disc set featuring eighteen tracks, eleven on Disc One and seven on Disc Two. Chronologically, the tracks range from 1995, up to 2004. Among the artists on Disc One are Dirty Harry, Mike Delgado, 95 North, Murder Inc. and Liquid Dope. The music is a combination of styles of house music, ranging from jazzy, to funky and deep house. One thing they all have in common, is the quality you’d expect on any release with the legendary Henry Street Records’ label. With eleven quality cuts to choose from, choosing just a few of the best isn’t easy, but here goes.

95 North’s Check It Out (Dub) is my first choice from Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City. Released in 1996, and written, composed and produced by Doug Smith and Richard Payton, this is a mesmeric, irresistible deep house track, with jazzy influence. Pounding drums, bursts of punchy horns, percussion and vocals that drift in and out of the track combine, while filter is added to the track. The beats are crunchy and quick, the tempo 123 beats per minute, while the sound is furiously catchy. Later, flourishes of keyboards are added, but it’s the combination of beats, horns percussion and vocal the draw you in, and seduce you with their irresistibly, catchy charms.

Dirty Harry makes my day by contributing two tracks the this compilation. One is Funk Daze, released in 1996, and written, composed and produced by Harry Stanley. This is a deep house track that gradually worms its way into your psyche, winning you over with its slightly dark sound. It’s just crispy beats, occasional, subtle, keyboards that dip in and out, while a distant vocal is a welcome addition. Mainly, it’s just the drums that provide a wonderfully hypnotic sound, while the vocal adds to the track’s darkness and mystery, over seven compelling and magical minutes.

Very different from the previous track is Markus’s Do What Cha Like. It’s a track that combines elements of deep and funky house. Released in 1996, the track features joyful, punchy vocals, driving, pounding beats, keyboards and synths that combine magically as the track heads to 128 beats per minute. There’s an almost old school sound to the track, with the squelchy synths, crunching beats and joyful, whooping vocal. That and the infectious sound of the track make this one of the highlights of Disc One Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City.

Ashley Beedle and Phil Asher collaborate as The Rising Sunz on Sunrize, a jazzy house track from 1996. This is very different to the other tracks I’ve chosen with blazing horns and jazz tinged keyboards Uschi Classen accompanying the crisp beats and breathy female vocal. The track uses a serious of dramatic pauses to heighten the tension and drama, with one after three minutes you’d think almost giving way to a new track. It’s then that percussion enters, as the drums drive the track along, while the keyboards sprinkle some jazz and the horns provide a joyous, uplifting sound. Filters are used sparingly, and effective, adding a sense of drama, as the track ends. Of the eleven tracks on Disc One, this is the best, and is certainly the one with biggest feel-good vibe.

My final choice from Disc One of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City is Liquid Dope’s That Sound (Kenny “Dope” Mix), released in 1998. This is a track from Kenny Dope that features the quality of music you’d expect from one half of Masters At Work. Originally, Kenny had started The Bucketheads project having heard so much poor quality music on the radio, during a drive from Manhattan to Brooklyn with Johnny De Mairo. Kenny decided to fuse a combination of old disco classics to make new tracks. The result was Dungeon Tapes EP. Here the track combines a sweet, soulful vocal that reminds me of an old disco track, with keyboards, percussion and crunchy drums. Occasionally, filters are used, but sparingly and with subtlety. For  four minutes, you hear Kenny merge disco and house seamlessly, resulting a blissful and beautiful slice of joyful house music.

Although I’ve only mentioned five of the eleven tracks on Disc One of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City, I could just as easily picked any track. That demonstrates just how consistently high the quality of music is throughout Disc One. It’s like a trip down memory lane, back to the golden age of quality house music. With jazz, deep and funky house all featuring on Disc One, the standard of music has been set high. Can the standard of music on Disc Two of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City match that on Disc One?

DISC TWO.

While there were eleven tracks on Disc One of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City, there are just seven tracks on Disc Two. However, there’s no let up in the standard of music on Disc Two, with tracks from DJ Duke, E-Smoove, Ray Roc, Maurizio Ruggiero and Robbie Rivera. These tracks range from 1995-2004, with each of the seven slices of house of the highest quality. However, will they be as good as those on Disc One of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City?

DJ Duke’s D2-D2 truly is a Magnus Opus of a track lasting all of twenty-one and a half minutes. Here, you hear the track in its full glory, unlike you would on inferior compilations. Released in 1996, it’s a combination of keyboards, crispy beats and sound effects. The track has an understated start, as if the track is just taking its time to get underway. It’s just the keyboards, synths and drums that combine, with the tempo reaching 120 beats per minute. For the first five minutes, it’s a relaxing, almost laid-back musical journey, but you sense things could change. Chiming guitars join the mix, while the beats and keyboards help the track meander along. As you listen to the track, it doesn’t sound as quick as it is, while the track draws you in. Gradually, you’re smitten by the track, its mesmerizing almost hypnotic sound, entrances you. By the end of the track, the beats are slightly crunchier, while the sound effects and keyboards combine beautifully, resulting in quite relaxing, almost laid back journey lasting twenty-one and a half magical minutes.

Ray Roc’s Shake It (Rock & Kato Original) was released in 2002, and is a funky house track. A soaring saxophone drifts above the arrangement of pounding beats, keyboards and percussion. The saxophone in ever-present, while keyboards drift in and out of the track, with the beats constantly crunchy. Written, composed and produced by Ray Roc Checo, the track has a really catchy sound, one that mixes elements of jazzy and funky house. One thing that makes the track is the way the saxophone constantly drifts above the flourishes of keyboards and pounding beats. Although ten years old, the track has a contemporary, timeless track, one with a memorable and melodious sound.

Maurizio Ruggiero’s Uncomfortably Numb, released in 2000, sees bells chime before  the crunchiest of beats enter. They’re quickly joined by crashing cymbals, before frantic percussion before the funkiest of bass line weaves its way across the arrangement. Quickly, the track takes on a compelling, funky, percussive sound. Then the track becomes almost dark, before out of the darkness comes a lighter, brighter sound. From there, the track undergoes a change. Flourishes of keyboards and percussion change the sound of the track. The tempo rises and falls, sometimes almost stopping, before rebuilding, with the tempo rising, reaching 128 beats per minute. Later, the track is transformed, the sound much lighter, with keyboards, bass and percussion combining with the beats. Overall, the track is an intriguing, compelling combination of darkness and light, with the lighter, brighter sound coming to the fore towards the end of the track, resulting in an uplifting, funky sound.

Robbie Rivera’s Saxmania #1 is my final choice from Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City. Released in 1999, the track sees crisp beats and hissing hi-hats combine before the tempo heads to 127 beats per minute. The arrangement sees a driving, yet uplifting combination of percussion and beats joined by the sultriest of rasping saxophone. This gives the track a jazz tinged sound. That saxophone becomes almost ever-present, as filters are used sparingly. Joining the saxophone are beats and percussion, and together, they give the arrangement a jazzy, joyous, feel-good sound, that makes this one of the highlights of Disc Two of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City.

Earlier, I wondered whether the music on Disc Two of Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City would match the standard of music on Disc One. I needn’t have worried, with the seven tracks just as good, the quality of music what you’d expect to find on a compilation baring the Henry Street Records’ label. This music was some of the finest house music of the nineties or noughties. Whether it’s deep, funk or jazzy, Henry Street Records released some of the most influential, innovative and finest music from the golden age of house music. With Johnny De Mairo at the helm of Henry Street Records, the label became one of the most successful and important labels in dance music. This lead to Johnny becoming one of the biggest players in the music industry. Listening to the music on Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City, is like a trip back to the golden age of house music, a time when the music was either deep, funky or jazzy. So, if like me, you love house music, and want to hear some of the finest house music of the twenty years, then Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City is very definitely, for you, as is  Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, released on 12 March 2012. Fittingly, both Henry Street Grooves: Classic, Deep, Funky and Jazzy House From New York City Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, were released on BBE Music, which like Henry Street has been releasing some stunning music since the nineties. Standout Tracks: Dirty Harry Funk Daze, The Rising Sunz Sunrize, DJ Duke’s D2-D2 and Robbie Rivera’s Saxmania #1.

HENRY STREET GROOVES: CLASSIC DEEP, FUNKY AND JAZZY HOUSE FROM NEW YORK CITY.

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