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" MUSIC REVIEW- 'John Henry' Rose: Battling percussion ends in draw"

MUSIC REVIEW- 'John Henry' Rose: Battling percussion ends in draw

Published February 2, 2006 in issue 0505 of the HooK.


Remember John Henry? He was said to be the biggest, strongest "hammer man" working on the C&O railroad. One day a dude came along with a steam-powered drill, claiming it could work faster than any man. John Henry out-drilled the machine-- and then dropped dead.

I hadn't thought much about John Henry since elementary school until his name came up in reference to the impromptu percussion jam session put on by Rex Riddem, Fort Knox Five, and John-Henry Dale (whose name I didn't know at the time) at Satellite Ballroom.

The session included local percussion master Darrell Rose, who led another drummer and guy on electronic drums through some mind-boggling polyrhythms and grooves. Fort Knox Five's subtle incorporation of samples into the groove and a quite capable flautist's improvisation added spice.

The people and instruments formed an interesting dynamic on stage. Darrell Rose was John Henry, an artist with unbelievable speed, strength, and stamina. He sat in the middle, battling the sound of the electronic drums, out to prove with each stroke that no matter what, a machine can't do what a human can. Rose was living proof.

In the end, the story of John Henry just didn't apply. It had been replaced with another epic tale of man versus machine, The Matrix trilogy. At the conclusion of The Matrix, neither man nor machine emerges victorious. Instead, they find a balance, much like the merging of organic and computer-generated sounds on the Satellite stage.

The impromptu jam ended almost too soon, but was replaced by a 45-minute Fort Knox Five DJ set that featured music from all over the danceable music spectrum. He didn't hesitate to play rock, hip-hop, and drum 'n bass in succession. Most impressive were his obscure break-beat remixes and his ability to drop and blend tracks seamlessly. Although he did drop a couple of songs that were a bit hard for the dancing locals to digest, he ultimately won the crowd over.

After a short break, Thunderball took the stage. In recordings, Thunderball is a production duo known for down-tempo, drum 'n bass, dub, and tribal-infused grooves. They burst on the scene in early 2000 on the strength of label mates Thievery Corporation. On stage, Thunderball consists of two DJs and a percussionist, flautist/saxophonist, and front-man/vocalist. This night, Darrell Rose also sat in on the set.

The crowd quickly became engulfed in this wall of beats. It was a dance party in the best way. I could easily see an event like this becoming a regular must-do weekend experience in Charlottesville. Not to mention, Thunderball sounded great through the newly adjusted sound system in the Ballroom. Whereas in the past I've been critical of Satellite's shoddy sound, I have to say they finally got it right.

Thunderball performed tracks from their previous album, Scorpio Rising, as well as music to be featured on their next label release. Personally, I find their music to be more appropriate for cocktail parties and lounging around on a weekend than for a club affair.

But then again, that's their appeal. They straddle the cool and mellow and the high-energy perfectly, the same way they balance the organic and the synthetic. That's got to be a tough tightrope act. But somehow they pull it off. - The Hook (Charlottesville, VA)

"Aubergine 3 Mixes It Up With the Crowd"

Aubergine 3 Mixes It Up With the Crowd

Richard Harrington Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington Post Weekend Section April 11, 2003; Page T5

WHAT'S IN a name? What's in a genre? For Aubergine 3, the name game is simple enough: Aubergine is an elegantly mysterious French word for eggplant, and there are three members in the group.
What Aubergine 3 does is a little trickier, particularly since the field is electronica, which has more micro-genres than literary fiction. As Aubergine 3 celebrates the release of its debut album, "In All Things Modulation," with performances Tuesday at the Blue Room (2321 18th St. NW; 202-332-0800) and April 24 at Red Maple in Baltimore (930 N. Charles St.; 410-547-0149), what has been a running joke within the band about how to describe itself is no longer a laughing matter.
"Nuscience-breakbeat-funkarama-psychedelia-something," suggests bassist-keyboardist Dajando Smith. "Organically based or human-interfaced electronica."
"Jazztronica, nujazz, brokenbeat -- we're just about everything at any given time, which is sort of the problem," adds keyboardist Chauncey Canfield. "Speaking personally, I have severe attention deficit disorder, so I like many things. I like to throw myself into all these various musical contexts and it's a wildly diverse thing, hard to pin down. But if we don't choose something, we'll find ourselves on marquees as 'smooth jazz' or 'acid jazz,' so we thought we'd preemptively toss some of those out there ourselves."
"The short, easy term that I like is live electronic dance music, which is kind of genre-less," chips in drummer John-Henry Dale. "It's the era of fusions where everything is getting put into the pot and all these names are getting less and less descriptive. Jazztronica -- that could go because we have very heavy elements of both. When I formed the band back in 2000, I was basically looking for people who were accomplished jazz musicians but were more interested in the electronic side of things, especially downtempo and dance tempo stuff, and were interested in playing live the kind of music bedroom producers were making. It's turning out nicely."
That middle ground where programming meets improvisation is not untilled, but live electronica jam bands are still few. For now, no one else is doing it in Washington, which has a well-respected electronica scene thanks to such internationally renowned acts as Thievery Corporation, Deep Dish, Scott Henry and BT.
For the most part, electronica is a product of the studio, and transitions to live performance have not always been smooth. Aubergine 3 is hoping to change that, and a recent show at Felix in Adams Morgan showcased the endgame of their three-stage creative process -- jamming live in the studio, studiously remixing disparate elements into cohesive tracks and then reinterpreting the whole thing live.
"The biggest challenge is trying to cover all the parts," says Canfield. "We have the ability to have all these nice complicated layers, and the more you get into that in the studio, the harder it is to translate it to the stage. At times, I find myself doing a bass line in one hand and a lead line in another hand and it's kind of pushing the envelope of what you can actually pull off with two hands. I find myself running out of appendages."
Though it mixes analog and digital instruments and equipment, Aubergine 3 doesn't simply work off backing DAT tracks, despite Canfield's constant poking at the laptop sitting next to his keyboard and Midi setup. The computer, Canfield notes, "is not actually playing anything. Essentially, it's a control device to let me access the sounds that I need at the right point. That means on a particular track, if I need to have a bass sound available on one keyboard and a string sound on another keyboard, or a lead Rhodes keyboard sound, I can have all those in a few seconds as opposed to having to take a minute or two before every song to get all the right voices in front of me.
"Also, it actually does act as a synthesizer unto itself," he adds. "I can have a lot more variety of sounds than even on my keyboard, which has proably 2,000 sounds on it. With SoftSynthesizers, I can actually add to that arsenal pretty dramatically and not have to carry around five or six more pieces of equipment."
Canfield, who started in straight-ahead jazz while in high school, calls himself "a passable jazz pianist" who got more excited about the hybrids and fusions of lots of other music. Dale's Washington City Paper ad looking for partners to explore a jazz/electronic hybrid in the manner of Fila Brazillia and Kruder & Dorfmeister brought in Canfield and original bassist John Yeh, who was succeeded by Smith a year ago. Smith, who most recently played in the '70s-style fusion jazz group Huggy Bear, is well known on the local scene.
"I'm a freelance musician for a living, which basically means poverty," Smith says with a laugh. "I play in a lot of bands." - Washington Post


Band: Aubergine 3 (on hiatus)
LP: In All Things Modulation (2003)
Label: Transistor Recordings (LA)

Various tracks from "In All Things Modulation" are on NPR station KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" with Nic Harcourt, on both web and FM rotation. Aubergine 3's music is in rotation in numerous college and public radio stations nationwide, both FM and streaming. Track # 5 (Jinn) on the Aubergine 3 album was used in the 2005 Warner Brothers romantic comedy "Must Love Dogs" with John Cusack and Diane Lane. Aubergine 3's track's "Vapour" will be used in the upcoming ABC Series "Six Degrees" (from the producers of "Lost").


Feeling a bit camera shy


Demdranger is a DJ, drummer, and producer of music that both rocks your body and matters to your mindsoul. A fan of many global dance music styles, be it sun-soaked San Francisco house music, Brazilian BaileFunk, Appalachian fiddle music, GypsyFunk HipHop (Ojos De Brujo y'all) or Arabesque percussive breakbeats, Demdranger's hybrid DJ/percussion sets search for a kind of perpetual twilight, mixing the futuristic sounds of the city with the rhythmic beauty of nature.

His own compositions tend towards a blending of his influences: West Virginia and Washington DC, Mexico, Brazil and most of West Africa.

In September of 2006 he relocated to Edinbugh, Scotland to complete his Master's in Digital Composition and Performance at University of Edinburgh. He is currently completing his Master's Thesis using Ableton Live and Common Lisp Music (CLM) to create an 8 speaker, 3-D (sonically spatialized spiral-based) composition based around the African xylophone (the Balafon) and other percussion.