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DJs mix things up for a good, sweaty time

POP MUSIC REVIEW

October 18, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

Modern groovesters have long cross-pollinated hip styles with classic jazz, from US3's still distinctive, decade-old "Cantaloop" and other tracks sampling the catalog of the Blue Note label to the just-released "Verve Remixed 2." That album was feted on Thursday at Transistor Lounge at the Ivar in Hollywood.

When working with familiar material, both dance-music DJs and jazz artists strive to make a personal mark. On the album, such high-profile remixers as Felix da Housecat, Gotan Project and Miguel Migs do just that with such Verve Records icons as Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Thursday's show offered British turntablist Mr. Scruff (Ramsey Lewis' "Do What You Wanna") and Brooklyn's DJ Spinna (Betty Carter's "Naima's Love Song").

Individually and in tandem, they blended fragments of jazz vocals and instrumentation with house beats, funk and hip-hop flourishes for a young crowd that teemed with vivacious, erotic energy on the dance floor, in the bars and in the lounge area.

Not all of the album's tracks are successful, and the live sets had similar ups and downs. But then the emphasis wasn't solely on the jazz numbers, as the two DJs' complementary sounds fused into a nonstop mix of mid-tempo, body-rocking music. Latin grooves, bright horn notes and gently thumping rhythms churned up and burbled back down, sometimes vaguely familiar, at other times wholly new.

It was good, sweaty fun, and the two worked their turntables with the nimble dedication of any veteran sax player or pianist, but nothing grabbed one's attention like that old US3 number. The music was captivating, but if you moved to the fringes your mind definitely wandered.

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