Jerome Sydenham, spinning as part of GARAGE 416 with Nick Holder, Blueprint and Moreno at Roxy Blu (12 Brant Street), Friday (October 19). $12 advance, $15 at the door. www.garage416.c om Rating: NNNNN
Five years ago, it was unusual for a house 12-inch to be described as live-sounding. Loops and filter sweeps were the norm, vocals the exception.
Much has changed since then, and one of the key labels in this shift has been Jerome Sydenham's Ibadan Recordings. He founded it in 1995 after resigning from an A&R position with Atlantic, and started by buying up the back catalogue of Ten City, the seminal vocal house group he'd helped cross over to limited mainstream success in the early 90s.
"It was an easier way to get people's attention, and it was a good way to introduce the sound of the label," Sydenham explains over the phone from New York. "We've done about 10 remixes of the Ten City stuff, and now we've started re-releasing the original versions. The first album, which was called Foundation, was such a big record. House was blossoming at the time, and they were one of the first house bands. They were actually a band, and they were really strong songwriters. They're a good classic reference point for house."
Ibadan has also released material by Joe Claussell, Kerri Chandler, Marc Cary and Dele Sosimi. Most of these have been jazzy, live, rootsy records that don't sound like classic house but don't sound modern either.
"Usually it's mainly improvisation, but when you're working with high-quality musicians and very specific instructions, things come together well. We get it tight live, no editing or loops. You need the right mikes and a lot of channels, so we go to real studios and record onto tape.
"We still call it house, or dance music. It's maybe not that traditional, but it still basically fits into the house way of playing. I love the term 'house.' I'm not into the other ones, like 'garage' or whatever. I think they've all been skewed. It's all just deep house to me -- gospel house can be deep house if it's good. To me, it just means soulful, non-commercial dance music."
This vision of dance music has spread out of New York, allowing Sydenham, who's been DJing since the mid-80s after moving to New York from Nigeria, to play in clubs all over the world.
"Now it's more international as opposed to before, when we were playing the same club twice a week all year round. The market is expanding for this kind of music, although the style I play in New York is a bit different.
"The other week I was playing in Scandinavia. There, I tend to go all over the place: I'll play deep house, I'll play reggae, I'll play old hiphop. In New York I can play more really soulful straight-up house stuff and it will be more appreciated -- there's more of an audience for deep vocal classics and disco.
"I think Toronto is a lot hipper than you would think if you've never been there. It's a very educated party audience. It doesn't come across as being as fashionable as New York, but it's very hip musically. I always stay a few extra days whenever I come."