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Organic Grooves - Black Cherry

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Artist: Organic Grooves

Album: Black Cherry

Label: AUM Fidelity

Review date: Apr. 2, 2002

Produced by Sasha Crnobrnja and led by a guitarist who goes simply by the name Zeb, Organic Grooves is a collective of DJ’s and instrumentalists who specialize in mellow, world-infused dance music that can be described aptly as “ultralight-trance.” Over the past seven years, the collective has made a name for itself by holding Friday night bashes in various locations throughout New York City and has become a significant underground clubbing attraction.

In its latest album, Black Cherry, the Organic Grooves collective draws from William Parker and Hamid Drake’s masterful 2001 AUM recording, "Piercing the Veil," as the starting point for their musical excursions. For those interested in the type of music produced by Organic Grooves, this album is likely to be a pleasant discovery. It is intelligent, well crafted and infectious. It would be a worthwhile buy for bar owners or party throwers looking for interesting yet unobtrusive music with a beat.

However, despite the album’s merits, Black Cherry will be disappointing to those anticipating the cutting edge sound experiments that have come to be associated with the AUM label. The nature of Organic Grooves’ music is only a few steps removed from smooth jazz. It is odd that AUM, a label that in many ways was established as an alternative to the popularity of smooth jazz, would select Zeb and his cohorts to re-mix "Piercing the Veil."

Moreover, for an album that is marketed as a re-mixing of "Piercing the Veil," it is awfully difficult to pinpoint the Parker/Drake influence. Similar to the funk endeavors of Herbie Hancock, the Organic Grooves Collective typically builds its songs from the bottom up by placing simple musical elements, such as a short bass riff or a drum loop, on top of one another until they grow into a vibrant and complex whole. On Black Cherry, the samples selected from "Piercing the Veil" are short and usually placed at the beginning of the track. They form only one of the many elements that eventually come together, and often the flavor of the source song is lost within the span of a minute. Black Cherry is predominantly an Organic Grooves jam session and pays surprisingly little tribute to the outstanding work done by Parker and Drake on "Piercing the Veil."

When I think of re-mixing Jazz albums, my thoughts turn to Panthalassa, which focused on Miles Davis’ music from the 70s. Featuring King Britt, DJ Cam and Bill Laswell, the album offers due respect to the source music, creatively manipulating it in subtle and, at times, almost imperceptible ways. In that album, Miles’ music is equivalent to the silk-screened image underlying a Rauschenberg composition. The artist allows the image independence. His placement of the image and the additions he makes are meant, in part, to be in dialogue with the original image. By contrast, in Black Cherry, Parker and Drake are buried beneath thick layers of synthesized sound. It is unfortunate that AUM did not select a subtler artist such as DJ Krush or DJ Spooky, or a more daring artist such as Talvin Singh to reconstruct Parker and Drake’s work.

In isolation, Black Cherry is a wonderful and highly enjoyable album. However, it departs too greatly from "Piercing the Veil" to be conceived as a remix album.

By Nick Sheets

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