Moodymann: DJ-Kicks

About five minutes before Moodymann's DJ-Kicks mix ends, the joyous “Feel it, do it, move it” chorus from Lady Alma's “It's House Music” kicks in. It's a particularly interesting moment for the simple reason that, if anything, house is largely conspicuous by its absence on the Detroit DJ-producer's set, and even more could be said for techno. Not that that constitutes any kind of strike against it: the panoramic character of Kenny Dixon Jr.'s first-ever multi-artist mix CD goes down splendidly, and anyone with a jones for blue-eyed soul, R&B, hip-hop, acoustic jazz, Latin, and funk won't come away disappointed.

As any and every installment in the series should be, Moodymann's mix registers as an extremely personal one that's got his fingerprints all over it. Thirty tracks surface during an eighty-minute set that ranges between intimate, bedroom-styled moods and others of a more crowd-friendly nature. As delicate as it sometimes is, it's raw and grooving, too, and one comes away from the mix impressed by its eclectic character and mercurial flow.

Rather than bolting from the gate, Dixon Jr. arrestingly sets the scene with inspired choices: the alluring orchestral sensuality and gorgeous vocalizing of Yaw's “Where Will You Be” and Cody ChesnuTT's “Serve This Royalty”—not exactly the kind of thing one commonly hears as mix openers. Sultry funk jams and dusty hip-hop follow, with most of it vocal-based (vocodered, too, in one case). To Dixon Jr.'s credit, he doesn't hesitate to include Beady Belle's stirring vocal ballad “When My Anger Starts To Cry” and José González's breezy “Remain” in amongst emotive fare such as Shawn Lee's “Kiss The Sky” (featuring Nino Moschella) and Big Muff's soulful rendering of “My Funny Valentine.” The mix's groovier side emerges in Les Sins' “Grind,” Tirogo's “Disco Maniac,” Noir & Haze's “Around,” and Joeski's “How Do I Go On” (with a luscious vocal by Jesánte) though they're hardly the only such instances.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Moodymann's contribution to the DJ-Kicks series is more likely to hit the sweet spot of listeners whose taste runs to Curtis Mayfield and Sly and the Family Stone than modern-day electronic producers such as Scuba and Richie Hawtin. That said, Dixon Jr. also threads cuts by Flying Lotus (“Tea Leaf Dancers”) and Nightmares On Wax (“Les Nuits”) into the mix, thereby ensuring that it sidesteps one-dimensionality.

February 2016