Henrik Schwarz: Live

All praise to Henrik Schwarz for taking the road less traveled on his latest release Live, just as he did on his recent DJ Kicks outing. After all, can anyone name another mix that includes Sun Ra, Mari Boine, Mandrill, and James Brown on its track list? Schwarz really gets his hands dirty here, too, with most of the material either authored or remixed by him. The mix's seamless flow belies the fact that the material actually was recorded in clubs around the globe— Tokyo , Manchester , London , Madrid , Istanbul , Amsterdam , Darmstadt , Rome , Chicago , among others—and then stitched together in Schwarz's Berlin studio. The sixteen stops are just as varied, with classic soul, folk, acoustic jazz, R'n'B, house, and techno all blending together into one nonstop, headlong rush.

After a slinky, “Pink Panther”-styled sax riff in Sun Ra's “Lullaby for Realville” opens the album, Schwarz quickly shifts gears and twists its slinky groove into a pounding dance pulse that segues into Kuniyuki's funkily swinging “Earth Beats” and Mari Boine's incandescent “Vuoi Vuoi Mu.” Deep excursions into Berlin techno and acid-house ensue, with the Schwarz-Ame & Dixon collab “Where We At” and Schwarz's “Jimis” and “Imagination Limitation” particularly steaming cuts. Throughout the 74-minute set, Schwarz stirs things up by grounding traditional elements (vocals, piano, bass guitar) in hypnotic dance rhythms. “It's a Man's World” isn't just a stock classic dusted off and inserted into the mix, for example, but a radical re-invention with James Brown's wail newly underlaid by Schwarz's synth-heavy soul jazz. His greatest feat is that, though the mix wends stylistically far afield, it invites euphoric surrender by exuding a comparable degree of emotional pull to that of more conventional house mixes.

November 2007