Kenny Dixon Jr. | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kenny Dixon Jr. 

House-music producers have long put nostalgia up front--sampling songs from their parents' childhoods, often tweaking them with low-pass filters, the audio equivalent of sepia tint. But Detroit's Kenny Dixon Jr., who usually records under the name Moodymann, makes it the whole point of his work. Take the 1996 Moodymann 12-inch "The Day We Lost the Soul"/"Tribute (to the Soul We Lost)." The first track cuts up news reports of Marvin Gaye's 1984 murder, while the second is an instrumental track that starts nonchalant--as in most of Dixon's music, the drums and bass lines are clear but a little frayed, and he prefers glossy, lolling keyboard sounds--but gains heat when he folds barely recognizable samples of Gaye ("What's Going On" scats here, a "whoo!" there) into the mix. Dixon frequently cuts together old disco and funk tracks, but even when the source material is familiar--the 1997 single "I Can't Kick This Feeling When It Hits" heavily utilizes Chic's "I Want Your Love," while "U Can Dance if U Want" is basically a slowed-down reedit of Prince's "All the Critics Love U in New York"--Dixon tends to highlight peculiarities that make it sound new. "Don't You Want My Love" from Moodymann's 2000 album, Forevernevermore (Peacefrog), evokes late disco, but avoids that genre's hooks in favor of jazzy, squelching electric keyboard and bobbing rhythm guitar that sound like they were rounding the corner to the main riff when Dixon put them on endless repeat. Dixon's loop-centric style, limited-edition 12-inch-only releases, insistence that house is first and foremost black music (even though most of its creators outside Detroit are white), and refusal to talk to the press have cast a mythical shroud over him, but his music is blessedly straightforward. $10. DJs Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, and Marcellus Pittman open. Saturday, August 7, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140.

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