Verve Remixed 2
Verve Records follows up its fashionable flirtations with electronica on Verve/Remixed 2, in which the legendary jazz label handed over the keys to its storied vaults to a handful of internationally renowned DJs. And like before, the results vary, from the magnificent to the mundane, while also boasting one killer track that makes the compilation a must-have.
Whereas volume one practically reintroduced Nina Simone to a whole new audience, thanks to the Masters at Work's superb remix of "See-Line Woman," Verve/Remixed 2 doesn't fare nearly as successful with its lead single-Felix Da Housecat's makeover of the singer's "Sinnerman." Granted, the original version (as heard on the companion disc Unmixed 2) has the hypnosis and pacing of a contemporary trance record, but Felix flosses up Simone's rambling piano with a dreadful canned rhythm track that sounds too much like a Mitsubishi jingle. Canadian producer Jaffa treats Simone's tender ballad "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" to a comparatively more loving recast as he insulates her lonesome voice with a cinematic sweep of haunting synth strings, noirish organ and a prowling bass line.
The star track on Verve/Remixed 2 is DJ Spinna's ultrafunky retooling of Betty Carter's "Naima's Love Song," which is as adventurous as Carter's singing. Spinna uses her sliding, descending vocal lines from the original as the blueprint, then constructs an infectious broken-beat groove that's propelled by a chunky Moog bass line that syncs with Carter's roaming harmonies and sidewinder melody. Some may quip at Spinna's total discard of John Hicks' piano accompaniment, especially considering that he cowrote the tune, but when listened back to back against the original version, Spinna's refurbishing ingenuity is undeniable.
For a more sleight-handed approach, Matthew Herbert shines on his velvet-gloved remix of Oscar Brown's "Brother Where Are You?" Supplying only handclaps and additional vocal harmonies, Herbert keeps the original's R&B feel intact, while also successfully making the original live version a nice studio invention. Oftentimes, though, the light-handed touch amounts to nothing more than an enhancement of the rhythm track, such as bringing up the tambourine more or underpinning some backbeats. It works on Mr. Scruff's "Soul Party Mix" of Ramsey Lewis' "Do What You Wanna" or the Funky Lowlives' dubbed-out remix of Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca." Other times it just comes off as lazy, as on Fila Brazillia's take on Cal Tjader's "Soul Sauce" and Metro Area's surprisingly underwhelming "Birthday Dub" version of Hugh Masekela's "Mama."
There are also remixes, such as Gotan Project's flamenco retooling of Sarah Vaughan's "Whatever Lola Wants" and Layo & Bushwacka's remix of Ella Fitzgerald's "Angel Eyes," that are so innocuous it's obvious that they're aimed at the most nondiscriminatory listener of both jazz and electronica music, who just wants something chic-sounding to go along with uppity cappuccino parties.