Barely out of Cooley High School in 1989, Carl Craig began mixing and remixing tracks for Derrick May's Transmat and Kevin Saunderson's KMS labels. He was turned on to Prince and the Smiths, to space jazz and raw funk because Craig's head was tuned into the best music of the day. But it was also open to the limitless possibilities of the future music called techno and remains open almost a full generation later.
For the second time in Detroit, Craig is invoking Demon Days, his series of apocalyptic live/DJ events that has crossed North America during the past two years. A new EP, "Paris Live" recorded live last year in France with Mike Banks of Underground Resistance and others is out now with a full-length due in the fall. The session players on Craig's new recording are magical. They include Marcus Belgrave and Wendell Harrison, two avant-jazz legends who helped found Detroit's Tribe label, which in the 1970s released music that remains as confounding and beautiful now as it was more than 30 years ago. Belgrave, Harrison and Craig recently laid tracks for the LP in Craig's Midtown studio and recorded a session for Gilles Peterson for his show on the BBC's Radio 1.
Both jazz legends will perform live July 4, with keyboardist Kelvin Sholar and Craig when Demon Days and Craig's Planet E imprint take over the Pure Detroit Stage at this year's Comerica CityFest (formerly TasteFest).
DJing on the same stage will be Gamall, Craig's Demon Days cohort, followed by DJ S2 (we know him as Santiago Salazar, and his contributions to Los Hermanos, Galaxy 2 Galaxy and Underground Resistance). Former Russell St. Deli line cook Matthew Chicoine, (uh, you know him as Recloose) is back from his home in New Zealand and will also DJ. Planet E also promises a "very special surprise guest DJ," so stay close to the speakers. Music begins at noon and rolls all day until close at 10 p.m. The Pure Detroit Stage is on Second Avenue at Lothrop Street.
Soul jazz bounce
But one day of future jazz in the urban outdoors might not be enough. The next night (July 5) on the same stage, Rensoul.com presents a Detroit hip-hop soul jam called Luck Be a Lady. It shapes up as a rappers delight featuring Angelique Brown, DJ Sicari, DJ KFresh, Invincible, L'Renee, MC Finale, Miz Korona, Monica Blaire, Neco Redd, Patrice William and Tanya Morgan. Beats by the handful begin at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, Pure Detroit and former WDET radio host Liz Copeland will host Anthony "Shake" Shakir (4:30 p.m.) and Heartthrob, better known to his family in the Upper Peninsula as Jesse Siminski. Now living in Paris, Heartthrob burst through the strobe lights with "Baby Kate," a bouncy 2006 track released on Minus and remixed by Magda, Plastikman (his mum and dad call him Rich Hawtin) and others. See him live at 9 p.m.
Copeland sets the stage with a DJ set of her own at 3 p.m.
Just in case anyone needs reminding, Detroit, stale or not, remains on the tip of the international electronic music nexus, with local artists coming and going to gigs in Europe and Japan from the 1980s to the present. Detroit is still hot in Holland, says DJ 3000 (Franki Juncaj to all his former neighbors on Oliver Street in Hamtramck), who is now based in Maastricht, a Dutch city near the borders of Belgium and Germany where Romans built bridges and roads that date back to ancient times. Oh my, what a place to spread the future sound of Detroit. "Every store, every gas station I go to, you hear the music, man," said Juncaj, who was in Ferndale recently, checking out DJ sets by Shortround at Sakana and Brian Gillespie at the Bosco. "You hear minimal and you hear Detroit."
But DJ 3000 is always carving out new musical directions that take him beyond Detroit. His new LP, Blood and Honey (Underground Gallery Productions/ Motech), continues the exploration of his Balkan roots that began with the track "Passage To Malësia" and the full-length, Migration, both on his own Motech label. Juncaj is on a production schedule to release a new dance 12 every two months, he's remixing other artists most notably collaboration with UR on Depeche Mode's "People are People" and he's DJing across the continent and the UK. "I roll my records up to the bus, go to the train station and I can get just about anywhere from here," he said. Some recent highlights include gigs in Rome and Turin. "I love the Italians," DJ 3000 said, name-dropping the Final Frontier label's Marco Passarani. "They combine Ital disco shit with Chicago and Detroit shit to come up with something new." Hey, creating some fresh shit to listen and dance to. What a concept.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to [email protected].