With all the damn drama this column reports week after week -- the gossip, the rumors, the closings, the construction, the indictments, the drunken acts of public debauchery -- the Nightfly needed to take some time out to talk about something positive that's going on in Houston nightlife. Let's give love to the men and women in Houston who spin acid jazz music.
And don't act like you never heard of acid jazz before. If you've been to a club or a bar anywhere in this city, you've heard a DJ spin acid jazz at least once -- or acid house or down-tempo or funky lounge or electronic soul or chill-out music or whatever the hell it's called this hour. It's that form of dance music that's both energetic and lackadaisical, music for people who don't wanna dance but wanna listen to some good dance music anyway. Its superstars come from all over the globe: UK's popular funk doctors Jamiroquai, New York riff kings Groove Collective, German DJ supergroup Jazzanova, D.C. sharp-dressed men the Thievery Corporation and Philly mixmasters King Britt and Vikter Duplaix, to name just a few. Unlike most nightlife dance genres, say, trance or house or drum-'n-bass, acid jazz appeals to a wide swath of people, from 18-year-olds decked out in baggy jeans and Krispy Kreme T-shirts to 35-year-olds dressed in the best of what DKNY has to offer.
Now, the question of the day is, where can you find that kind of music on a recurring basis? Luckily, there are a few spots around town that satisfy the need:
Azteca's, 2207 Richmond, Fridays, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Although the folks who put together this night at the bar and grill (which happens to serve bomb-ass margaritas) play mostly reggae and hip-hop, their secret weapon is the acid jazz they use to bookend the show. The guy who plays the jazz is Rebel Crew member Joe B., who some of you may remember as the guy who used to bring his monthly Starlight V.I.P. beatfests to the gone-and-truly-missed Club Waxx. At Azteca's, Joe B. alternates, with local reggae DJ SupaNeil, between the outside patio and the inside dining area, playing laid-back jazzy grooves and current rap favorites. He may play down the fact that he includes acid jazz in his repertoire, but a lot of people show up to the spot for that very reason. Hell, the music even attracted the attention one evening of the bosomy, blond waitress who was serving up cranberry vodka shots. "You don't hear this kinda stuff in Houston," the black-clad Krista said to Joe, as he showed her the music he was playing, the Groove Corporation's Remixes from the Elephant House. "You have to go to somewhere like Chicago." Thanks to Joe, you don't have to go that far anymore.
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The Social Lounge and Patio Bar, 3730 Washington Avenue, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Unlike the crowd over at Azteca's, most of the people who frequent the Social on this night don't go for the music. On one occasion, a group of guys dressed in full cowboy gear -- ten-gallon hats, pointy boots, nut-clamping jeans -- were more interested in guzzling Bud Lights and chatting up the 30-year-old gals in Daisy Dukes. But none of that matters to Elaina "Lushus" Brown, the honey of a spin mistress who works the decks with a spirited brand of funk. Like the best DJs, Brown, who has played at Ricebar (909 Texas) and that defunct happening, Beauty Bar Houston, truly finds peace playing rhythmically enticing music for the masses. "Music is a very important thing to me," she says. "This is the kind of music you can play in your car while you're driving, and you can say to yourself, 'Everything's great in my life.'" Wow, a local DJ who doesn't seem cynical, jaded or beaten down -- we haven't seen one of those in a while.
Cafe Brasil, 2604 Dunlavy, Mondays, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. You can't write about local acid jazz without mentioning the dean of the whole damn local scene, DJ Sun, and "Soular Sessions," his long-running residency at Brasil on Monday nights. Since the mid-'90s, Sun has spun alongside acid jazz DJs who have gone on to have nights of their own, including Chicken George, DJ Melodic, Seth Jones, Josh Zulu and the retired DJ MG. (Message from a friend: Please, please come out of retirement so you can show these young bucks a thing or two.) But no matter which club Sun found himself performing in during the week -- his latest is a Thursday-night residency over at Seven Lounge (1006 Bagby, suite 106) -- he has always stayed true to his Brasil roots. In addition to having the best turkey sandwich in the entire city, Sun's night of "Soular Grooves" (also the name of his popular Saturday-night radio show on KPFT) is attracting national attention: As the Press reported last summer when Sun accepted his umpteenth HP Music Award for Best DJ/Dance, his Brasil event was named one of America's hottest nights in the pages of URB Magazine.
Good news for all those drum-'n-bass fans out there: Fearless jungle warrior SDF.3 is throwing a big ol' drum-'n-bass bash right here this weekend. With "TXDNB," the local spinster is finally bringing Houston some of that much-needed action he treated Austin to earlier this year (see "Jungle Safari," April 18). "We need to do this because Houston is really hurting, drum-'n-bass wise," says SDF.3, who's throwing the event Saturday, October 12, at The Axiom (2524 McKinney), or, for you nostalgic types, the venue formerly known as the Orbit Room. And for those who crave a weekly jungle fix, Helios (411 Westheimer) has got you covered with "Simple D&B," featuring Alloy, Jeremy Houston and the occasional special guest DJ, on Tuesday nights. You see? Everything's gonna work out fine.