Kenny Dope Strange and Funky Things III

If it wasn't for "Little" Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, house music may well have gone down in the '90s as a dead genre. The brains behind Nuyorican Sol, Kenlou, the Bucketheads and, of course, Masters At Work, the duo single-handedly breathed new life into the 120 bpm format during the mid-'90s (and continue to) with an eclecticism spanning jazz, Latin, breaks and dub. BBE Records is celebrating their tenth anniversary of partnership with the release of three MAW-oriented compilations. The Tenth Anniversary Collection features re-mixes, collaborations, one-offs and original material from the years 1990-1995. It's a solid collection of classics and obscure tracks spread over four discs, making it one of the first proper box sets for house music. The anthems are well represented, with "Deep Inside," "Love & Happiness" (featuring the piercing wail of perennial MAW chanteuse India) and the trance-y progressions of "Reach." "The Bomb" and "Moonshine" showcase the duo's penchant for transforming the personality of a sample with precision and soul. The latter borrows riffs from the live version of Gil-Scott Heron's tragic tale of "Home Is Where The Heart Is," crowd applause intact, and turns it out into jumping groove with juke-joint appeal, while the former takes the vocals off Chicago's "Streetplayer" and makes Peter Cetera's voice sound like an ecstatic disco diva. 1993's"The Nervous Track" is still the finest cross-fade of futuristic soundscapes and Afro-Latin jazz rhythms, while "The Bounce" delivers a thumping bass that few can compete with. Track listings for Simply Red, Tito Puente and Urban Species may raise eyebrows, but MAW remix their voices into garage territory with the most natural ease. Vega and Gonzalez each get their own disc on Stop and Listen 5 to compile a mix of inspirations and current faves. The "Louie Disc" features classic disco tunes from the Paradise Garage era, like Candido's "Thousand Fingered Man" and Taana Gardner's "When You Touch Me," and slips them the brooding vibes of Pepe Bradock's "Deep Burnt" and the Latin improv of Joe Claussel's "Je Ka Jo." Given Gonzalez's rep as the hip-hop half of MAW, the "Kenny disc" is much more down-tempo, with rarities like the Sun Palace's electro-fusion jam, "Rude Movements," Jazz Samba Encore's "Saudabe Vem Correndo" (a bit of Brazillian cool jazz, which carries the break from Pharcyde's "Running") and Breakestra's feverish "Getcho Soul Togetha." His breakbeat affectations are more deeply indulged through a continuous mix of '70s rare groove, on Strange Games & Funky Things III. The session features the likes of Pleasure, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith and Gonzalez cutting their dusty grooves up with the occasional beat-juggle. The reverbed fade from "Free" to "Everybody Loves The Shine" is absolutely stunning. A rare example of sophisticated DJing with the original pre-electronic masters. (BBE)