JIHAD MUHAMMAD with JOHN KUMAHARA and ADAM KHAN at Studio 99 (99 Sudbury), Friday (April 23). $15. email@example.com Rating: NNNNN
When people think of deep house, garage, soulful house (or whatever you want to call it), New York is usually the first city to come to mind. It's easy to forget how important a role that suburban state across the water, New Jersey, has played. Many of the more gospel-influenced records that we tend to call garage were more representative of the sound championed by people like Tony Humphries at Jersey clubs like Zanzibar and pioneered by producers like Blaze.
Jihad Muhammad grew up in that musical environment and is one of the next generation of DJ/producers keeping the Jersey sound alive. As a young music fan, he was seduced by the sounds coming out of the late-night radio shows and wanted to learn how to mix records into one endless song.
"Tony Humphries used to do radio shows Friday and Saturday night, and he and Timmy Regisford were big influences on me. Sometimes when he rode those mixes, it just sounded so beautiful, so right. I would try to emulate those long mixes and learned a lot from listening to them.
"It's easy to do a quick mix, but I like to find the harmonies between the records."
Unlike many producers, Muhammad freely admits that he's a DJ first, known for being solid technically and having some deep record crates. Having said that, he's actually in town celebrating the release of his new single, NJ Groove, on the new Toronto-based label run by John Kumahara, Iwanai Music. A mellow and jazzy guitar instrumental, NJ Groove is simple but effective, not bad for someone who admits he's still learning.
"I did the track about a year ago, and originally I wanted to add a lot more to it - some vocals and some percussion maybe. Then I started playing the CDR out and people seemed to like it, so I decided to release it as is.
"First and foremost, I'm a DJ. Making records is kind of secondary right now. My first work as a producer was with Kevin Hedge (from Blaze) and Black Masses, a record called Heavenly Stars. It was to test the waters, find my ear and learn how to do it. Kevin actually wanted me to do the mix because I'm a DJ first - he wanted to have a remix that was done from that perspective to make it more DJ-friendly."
Now that he's started to make a name for himself as a producer, he's playing more out-of-town gigs. Japan has turned out to be a big market for him, and he appreciates their fondness for ultra-obscure classics as well as their healthy appetite for brand new records.
Funnily enough, after a long run playing regularly in Jersey, he no longer has a hometown residency, instead focusing on his new Friday night in Manhattan.
"My Jersey residency ended last year, and I was going to try and set up another. But then this New York thing came up, and it's every DJ's dream to have a New York City residency.
"The scene in Jersey was at a standstill for a while, but things are starting to happen again. A lot of the crowd there just wanted you to play classics, and you really had to push new music on them."