Chin Chin
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Chin Chin

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"Fader Magazine"

There is a break in the Chin Chin song "Curtis", an intergalactic elctro-
Afrobeat concoction, that makes your head snap back over your shoulder looking fo it's source; it sounds like high school marching band floating up through eight or nine feet of chlorinated hotel pool water, right next to your desk. It's a sophisticated change in the middle of a silly song, a telling sign of it's creators, five guys who are Serious
About Music.
Chin Chin has no label deal, manager, show booker, no groomer or driver or body guard, but after breaking out the power tools and hanging out at the Home Depot, they now have their own studio where, presumably, they'll record
more albums like last years Take Off
Your Shoes And Dance Like A Monkey, which-along with Cody ChesnuTT's The Headphone Masterpiece and some live Mars Volta stuff-is "unclassifiable" according to my iPod. Tough to argue that one-Dance Like A Monkey has traces of ESG, Curtis Mayfield and Fela, anchored by a free-jazz back ground and ironically packaged as a boy band. (More often than not, Chin Chin dress in theme-based, coordinated outfits and accessories.) They've also got the work ethic and earnestness of a boy band.
While recounting a less-than-savory experience that involved being left high and dry "at the mercy of promoters" after a show in Atlanta, Chin Chin guitarist Jeremy Wilms shakes his head and says, "people are always talking about DIY this and that...This is some DIY shit!" founder
Torbitt Schwartz chimes in.
"What's DIY?" asks Wilder Schwartz,
keyboard player and little brother to
Torbitt. "Do it yourself," they jinx.
Boy bands don't generally feature
percussionists, however, Chin Chin, on the other hand, has Yoshihiro
Takemasa, who studied under master drummers in Kingston and Havanna and currently plays in nine other bands including the Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble, which he heads. Accordingly, his influences are international: "When I listen to 70's Miles [Davis], I feel Africa," says Takemasa. He explains that
playing with Chin Chin is both
challenging and comfortable: "If I give something to them, they give me something back," he says.
The group is based in Brooklyn (natch); its members honed their chops playiing jam sessions at house parties alongside loose-knit, shifting musical collective like the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra (which lends its horn section to Dance Like A Monkey). In 2001 Torbitt
Schwartz decided it was time to phase out Lil' Shalimar, his DJ incarnation, in favor of a live band. Wilder was the first to join ("Wilder always had the gumption to sing," says Torbitt); Wilms followed soon after. After a few changes, the Chin Chin lineup is pretty solid and now features Takemasa and Tada Hirano. There are no ego clashes between members because, thankfully, Wilms says they all realize that "it's bigger than Chin Chin." - Mariel Cruz


"Time Out NY"

Chin Chin isn't monkeying around (ouch, a million pardons) when it comes to dance music. The local trio is tighter than your boss with a raise, turning out happening funk jams that can poke into proggy terrain with its horns and organ. Dance you monkeys, dance!
- Time Out Ny


"Chicago Reader"

This New York group was formed in 2001 by Torbitt Schwartz and Wilder Zoby, who intended to improvise behind singers and MC's at a monthly party in brooklyn, but it soon snowballed into a party in its own right-a hairy, funky dance band, sometimes as small as a quartet and sometimes as big as a ten-piece, that sprawls like a Wookie passed out on your couch. Its 2002 debut, Take Off Your Shoes and Dance Like a Monkey, is a busy but laid back drunken jumble of disco, fusion, Afrobeat (the band regularly borrows horn players from Antibalas), and the most shameless overuse of vocoder since the early 80's.
- Chicago Reader


"Herald Times Bloomington, IN"

On a much different side of the coin is New York City's Chin Chin. The trio formed in 2001 intended to provide backup music for singers and MCs at a monthly Brooklyn happening. The group quickly expanded beyond that, fusing its sound into a powerhouse blend of electro-funk, soul, house, R&B and jazz. These elements came together in fine form on last year's exceptional debut, Take Off Your Shoes and Dance Like a Monkey.
The album si a high-energy affair. The sweat from a crowded, dark dance floor literally oozes out of the speakers. From the Prince-on-speed ecstacy of the opener "toot D'amore" to the trippy, hard-funk horn groove of "Curtis" to the disco-electronica of "Music," this is a fantastic dance record, and, even more impressively, a dance record that is interesting to just listen to. The group has a remarkable grasp of the power of the groove, and its percussive approach allows plenty of space for the guitar, bass lines and horns to create a sonically dense spectrum of sounds.
Chin Chin have played here before, and the live show is outstanding. The band will return Wednesday night for a show at Bear's Place.

- Herald Times


"MetroPulse Knoxville"

The eternal tug of war between artistic pretense and fun for fun's sake has never been more evident than it is in the form of Brooklyn-based dance band, Chin Chin. The trio which consists of college-educated jazz musicians well known in the NYC jazz/funk/studio scene, is the embodiement of the yin and yang balance.And who would've thought it, the guys in the band all agree that the artistic expression and entertainment can coexist within one unit-in this case in the form of their oddly named band.
"What we're trying to do do in the group is to make funky dance pop that comes from the tradition of both Tortoise and Bell Biv Devoe," says drummer/vocalist Torbitt Schwartz. "We call what we do 'electro-soul.' Everybody in the band is musically trained. We have an ear to the art and experimental scene; but what we really like is getting our audience-especially the girls-to dance and have fun."
This insistence on fun is blatant when hearing the band's latest release, Take Off Your Shoes and Dance Like a Monkey. Sure, It's clear that the band has its chops honed to perfection. And, despite the claimed allegiance to Bell Biv Devoe, Chin Chin in not exactly a bunch of organ-grinder disco hacks. Chin Chin's music has its odd moments and a wry sense of humor, but the focus is on propelling bodies onto the dance floor and keeping them there.
The band was all about fun from its inception. Chin Chin is actually a happy accident. Torbitt Schwartz enlisted his brother, Wilder to help put together music to be played at a series of Brooklyn house parties. soon the Schwartz brothers had signed on Jeremy Wilms as a third partner.
"Chin Chin originally started as just my brother and I," says Schwartz."At the time, Wilder was having kind of an adverse reaction to jazz school. I had just put together a series of weekly parties where we were backing up a bunch of singers and MCs. We were just really enjoying that project and we decided to take it to another level.
We've all been trained in jazz, and there's definitely an influence there," Schwartz continues. "but we're definitely not jazz. Our chord voicings might be a little bit more complex than your standard dance pop, but we're just trying to make music that's fun."
It's hard to imagine just how Chin Chin could pull off the complex arrangements of their recordis live. For the current tour, the group is abetted by additional percussionists. Schwartz says the addition of electronics and samples fills out the sound. Everything on the record is actually recorded live. Of course there are overdubs. But I use a hybrid drum kit that is both electronic and acoustic. For the record, I made a real effort to make it sound as live as possible," says Schwartz."But as a live band I think we're a bit edgier. I like the record and I'm proud of it, but it's vaguely innocuous/ It's a gentle record. Live there's more desperation. We just totally go for it live and the excitement level is really high. I just dig as deep as I can when I play. And there's this tremendous warmth of spirit that comes from our collective personalities - especially the interaction between my brother and I. We like to get right down there with the audience and have a good time."
One thing Schwartz seems dead set against is pretense, whether it be in the jazz world or in the indie rock community. A native of Louisville, KY, Schwartz frequented indie rock events as a teenager and was frustrated by the oppressive sense of "cool" that seemed to hang over the scene like a dark cloud. "I was around that scene when Slint was really popular, around 1993," says Schwartz. "And everybody was just too hip to move or react to music at all. I hated that."
Schwartz says he was a little worried the first time Chin Chin came to Knoxville because the regulars at the Pilot Light have a reputation for being slightly immobile. This just turned out to be a bad rumor, and the band was greeted with a warm response.
"The last time we were there (at the Pilot Light) the crowd was really there for us," says Schwartz. "We started our set with just electronic drums and kind of staggered in our entrance, adding a musician at a time. And the people in the audience were like, what's this? Next thing you know, everybody just started dancing. T think they were just really open to have a fun time. And that's exactly what we want."

- MetroPulse


"Billboard"

For their full-length debut following a series of singles and EPs, New York dance trio Chin Chin exceed all expectations, crafting a note-perfect fusion of funk, soul, hip-hop, electronica, and substantial pop hooks, overlaid with a quirky sense of humor and an all-inclusive sensibility that finds the group open to even the most unexpected influences. Comparisons to Gnarls Barkley are entirely valid -- keyboardist and lead singer Wilder Zoby even sounds a little like Cee-Lo Green at times, especially on the falsetto-led, horn-spiked funk groove "You Can't Hold Her," but in terms of musical imagination and artistic vision, Chin Chin are that better-known duo's equals, not imitators. (Admittedly, they lack Gnarls Barkley's amazing sense of graphic design and witty promo shots.) Even Danger Mouse would be impressed with the eclecticism of these 13 tracks, which sprawl effortlessly across genres and decades without ever stooping to the use of immediately identifiable samples: for example, opening track "Miami" fuses the sensibilities of Kid Creole & the Coconuts (tongue in cheek escapist lyrics and a salsa-fied dance groove) and Steely Dan (crystalline production, jazzy arrangement, and an extended tasty-licks guitar solo right out of the Jeff "Skunk" Baxter playbook), an improbable combination that shouldn't work at all, but does, wonderfully. "Donchusee" melds a Daft Punk-style electronically treated vocal and goofy lyrics about a monster "the size of a normal man with a head made of country ham" who will "turn you into an order of tripe" to a loping, bass-driven arrangement reminiscent of Sly & the Family Stone. The masterful "Ohio" starts with a mellow, soulful guitar and organ arrangement like a vintage Aretha Franklin ballad before exploding into something else entirely that matches Air's sense of dynamics and space to a tune like a mid-'70s power ballad by Paul McCartney & Wings. That old-school AM radio sensibility is also expressed in "Le Petit Mort," which matches a Peter Frampton-style talk-box guitar line to a quiet storm soul ballad that just happens to be about premature ejaculation, and "Toot d'Amore," an extended workout for Philly soul horns, wah wah guitar, and funky electric piano. Other highlights include the jazzy vibraphone solos and vintage synth squiggles that decorate the disco ballad "Appetite," and the shimmering, playful dance-pop of "Cotillon." In truth, nearly every track is a perfectly realized little marvel filled with more wit and invention than entire albums by some of Chin Chin's contemporaries on the contemporary dance scene. 2008 would have to be an unprecedented year for dance music for Chin Chin not to appear at or near the top of most critics' year-end lists. - Billboard


"Black Book"

Brooklyn has birthed yet another band that gives us reason to tip our hats in the way of eccentricity. Bringing to the table an erratic mix of funk, jazz—maybe even a little disco—Chin Chin’s influence can be dubbed the retro flair of dance-rock fusion. On their self-titled album, steady beats are consistent throughout, and even with slower tracks like “Appetite,” the record never drifts far from its Outkast meets Dap Kings focus. - Black Book


"Giant Step"

This week, I'm summoning my awesome power as an online columnist and declaring Chin Chin your new favorite band. You kids pouting over the loss of Jamiroquai's squirrelly baselines, buck up. And those who wish they could understand the cheeky lyrics that pepper the slinky disco of Los Amigos Invisibles, calm down. Chin Chin is here with a boatload of soul as their Tuesday night album release at Union Pool demonstrated. All warbling Rhodes disco featuring support from bubbling soul singer, Jesse Boykins. And the lead singer made it work in a satiny kimono. Genius. - Giant Step


"Pop Matters"

Southpaw has long been a venue of choice for Brooklyn’s homegrown music community: acts like Antibalas, the Budos Band, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings regularly test their shows in front of its crowd. But it’s still rare to see anything truly enlightening—let alone a futuristic, genre-bending dance party.

Before Chico Mann and Chin Chin steady-rocked the crowd for 180 non-stop minutes, Philadelphia’s DJ Rich Medina set things off, masterfully blending an assortment of funky, soulful nuggets. Medina kept the crowd warm while the stage waited for two of Brooklyn’s most original and innovative groups.

Once the crowd was hot and steamy, Chin Chin exploded onto the stage—horns blaring and drums rocking. The space suddenly seemed too small. Enigmatic vocalist/keyboardist Jeremy Wilms was decked in a ’70s jump suit—chest hair and all—simultaneously a disco diva and space pimp. Electrified, Wilms seemed to be channeling the band’s full energy as he pin-balled across the stage. Chin Chin’s collision of disco beats, Latin rhythms, soul-jazz grooves, and plain funkiness was never once overbearing; the result was a progressive and modern sound blended with the right amount of crazy.

With months of touring in Europe under their belt, Chin Chin weren’t so much warmed up as straight-up hot—hitting tight cues and smoothly transitioning between songs; confidently and flawlessly switching from the breakneck drum lines and fast-paced guitar riffs of “Toot D’Amore” to the groovy basslines, soulful congas, and soothing horns of “Appetite”. Riding high, Chin Chin wrapped up the three-hour dance party with the scalding-hot “Curtis”, but not before Wilms got down Peter Frampton-style with a display of his talk-box. When the smoke cleared, the audience members were still drunk off Chin Chin, unable to stop their gyrating hips, as Rich Medina rocked them into the small hours of the night.

All rocking aside, Chico Mann and Chin Chin have stumbled upon a music that is fresh and original. While their sounds are distinct from one another, the two bands’ music shares a common familiarity. Unlike other groups in the Brooklyn independent music scene, both Chico Mann and Chin Chin draw from their musical influences to create entirely new sounds. Their music cannot be placed; defying any attempts to box them into genres. The best part, of course, is that, while breaking down the sound barrier in their soulful sonic crusades, Chico Mann and Chin Chin have perfected the delicate art of moving bodies.

- Pop Matters


"Okay Player"

Hailing from Brooklyn, Chin Chin is a collective of musicians whose music might-as-well come with a towelie, some drink-tickets, and a complimentary pineapple icy, because it’s the epitome of party-time fun, while simultaneously being utterly chill. Their self-titled debut is a modern masterpiece of organic Dance-music that’ll make you wanna blow up some balloons, put out a table of snackys, and invite your friends over for a roof-top dance-party. I’m sure listeners will make comparisons to Jamiroquai and Plantlife. I wouldn’t be surprised myself if “Appetite” wound-up soundtracking the dance-number in a remake of Napolean Dynamite someday. But Jay Kay’s been too busy crashing Ferraris to make music, and I’m more inclined to liken Chin Chin to the Funk, Soul, and Jazz legends of the Disco-era than I would to Jack Splash. They’re so smooth that when I just visited their MySpace while playing “Appetite” and the same track played on their page, not only did it match up perfectly, the resultant blend actually sounded good!

- Okay Player


Discography

"Chin Chin" self titled LP April 29 2008 (Definitive Jux)
"Appetite" ep w/ Chicken Lips remixes
"Toot D'Amore" ep w/ remixes by Prins Thomas March 5, 2007 (Dialect Recordings)
"Chin Chin" self titled LP- March 19, 2007 (Dialect Recordings)
"Appetite" ep w/ remixes by Chicken Lips April, 2007 (Dialect Recordings)
"The Crack Don't Smoke Itself" ep March, 2005 (T.R.I.N.O. Records)
"Chinstrumentals" Cd single November, 2003 (T.R.I.N.O. Records)
"Take Off Your Shoes and Dance Like a Monkey" January 2002

Photos

Bio

Chin Chin formed in 2001 by Torbitt and Wilder Schwartz - joined soon after by Atlanta Georgia bred Jeremy Wilms- was originally intended to improvise back-up music for singers and MCs at a monthly party in Brooklyn. Realizing a greater potential the brothers started writing music. With songs in place they began recruiting musicians from the fertile Williamsburg scene.

Combining elements of jazz funk disco contemporary R&B rock and electro with smart lyrics powerful horn arrangements great showmanship and a taste for partying Chin Chin have synthesized the quintessential elements of such dance floor heroes as Brass Construction Ohio Players and Roger Troutman while presenting something decidedly new.

As a live unit Chin Chin can range from the streamlined quartet to a thunderous ten-piece ensemble. A typical Chin Chin show will quickly evolve into a contagious dance party the audience responding at once to their incendiary musicianship and charisma. Time OUT NY aptly summed this phenomenon up when they said that Chin Chin were tighter than your boss with a raise. No surprise they were featured in the august 2004 FADER magazine as a band to watch out for.

In New York as well as Europe they have shared the stage with Tv On The Radio Antibalas afro beat ensemble Gogol Bordello Sufjan Stevens Lily Allen ESG Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings Theo Parrish DJ Spinna Doctor Dog the Rogers Sistersthe Bravery and VHS or Beta.

Each member brings unique experience to the band.Wilder Zoby the youngest member of the band brings creative spark with his keyboard and synthesizer versatility and vocal eccentricity. A powerful performer he uses his experience as an actor to engage and excite audiences. He has been found doing session work for Hip Hop giants Beans and El-P. Wilder also scored The Maysle Brothers film on the making of Wes Andersons The Life Aquatic as well as the Strictly kings production People. He received a jazz performance degree from the New School of Jazz and studied with such faculty as Chico Hamilton Reggie Workman and Junior Mance.

Torbitt Schwartz has a reputation as a well-versed drummer who also shares vocal duties in Chin Chin. Raised between Brooklyn and Louisville Kentucky he studied jazz performance and composition at the New School of Jazz and contemporary. He’s a multi-instrumentalist/DJ/producer that has played or recorded with Bernard Purdie TV On the Radio Peanut Butter Wolf Matthew Shipp and Reverend Vince Anderson among others. Under his dj persona Lil Shalimar he has held down residencies at some of New York Citys most happening clubs (Good World Black Betty Pianos Union Pool) and parties (Rubulad). His production company formed with bassist Jeremy Wilms has produced music for documentaries independent films and comercial works (CNN Nike Sundance Channel etc.).

Jeremy Wilms started playing guitar at the age of 7. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1995 from Georgia State University in Atlanta. In 1997 Jeremy moved to New York City where he continued studies with jazz pianist Kenny Werner. He has since shared the stage and/or recorded with Tony Allen Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth Daniel Carter Sabir Mateen Chris Lee Christina Rosenvinge Reverend Vince Anderson Akoya Afro-beat Dub Nomads Butch Morris among others.

On records and/or on stage the band gets a lot of help from some of New York Citys top session musicians: Tada Hirano Jeff Pierce Jesse Boykins III Yusuke Yamamoto Antibalas Afro -Beat ensemble Felix Chen Yoshi Takemasa Marcus Farrar and many more......

Guitarist Tada Hirano played in cult bands Blonde Redhead and Cibbo Matto

Jeff Pierce has played with The Temptations the Delfonics and the Glenn Miller Orchestra

Although Jesse Boykins (featured on Hey Hey) is only 21 years old he has been singing writing and recording for more than half of his life. His voice spans a 5-octave range and his sound draws upon his eclectic taste creating a style that is not bound by generations or time. He honed his skills as with classical trainer Kamal Scott and Universal Music recording artist Bilal.

The groups self-titled third release was released April, 29 2008 by Definitive Jux. From the opening of Miami to the closing of Step by Step Chin Chin show us their talent to raise the excitement level in the room by several degrees mixing powerful grooves with catchy melodies and smart lyrics on such burners as Miami Toot d’Amore Hey Hey and Appetite. They also demonstrate a knack for arrangements and more sophisticated settings in such delicate tracks as Ohio Le Petit Mort Step by Step. Destined to become a classic this is definitely one of those albums you will listen to from beginning to end for years to come.