Most Wanted! Alison Crockett – Crossroads (DJ Spinna Remix) (Wah Wah 45s)
“I still feel like a pianist who sings”, says WDC-based songstress Alison Crockett on her website. Damn it, I wonder how she would have sounded. This if ever claiming she was a singer who plays piano! What an emotional voice she just happens to be gifted with. A fact which people like King Britt, Us3> and The Ananda Project have obviously noticed too. Referring to the collaborations they had with her at the time…
I remember stumbling upon the delicate ‘Crosroads’ back in 2004. This when my long time friend DJ Spinna, who remixed it, gave me an advance copy of it. I just can’t figure though if this was during the Winter Music Conference in Miami or elsewhere.
Nevertheless, time has gone since without altering the beauty of this smooth groove. A track which made its way on her 2006 ‘The Return Of Diva Blue (On Becoming A Woman Redux)’ album…
‘Crossroads’, that’s just where Alison Crockett stands at…
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– Alison Crockett has paid her musical “dues” in full… She is perhaps the quintessential Nu jazz/progressive Soul singer of her generation. You may not have heard of her but you’ve no doubt heard her voice… On seminal recordings by King Britt, Blue Six and Us3. If not Landslide to name a few.
Alison’s voice has provided the velvety, sensual sound of tomorrow’s yesterday’s… A captivating tone which evokes both the music of the past and that yet to come. A voice dripping Soul with generous helpings of Jazz, Gospel and Blues, Alison has taken the baton from divas of the present and past. From Sarah Vaughn and Diana Ross to Jill Scott, Rachelle Farrelle and Erykah Badu. Not to mention Lizz Wright.
Crockett decided early in her life to pursue a music career. Piano was her first love. “It just called to me. I still feel like a pianist who sings.” However, after winning several local vocal talent showcases during her high school years, it quickly became apparent that her voice was a rare gift. Alison honed her vocal skills at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. And then a masters degree at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in New York City. As she says, “I set out to be a craftsman; someone who could mold and shape music like sculpture.”
Upon graduating, she settled in Philadelphia, where she met DJ/producer King Britt (formerly of Digable Planets). Britt summarily gave Alison the nickname “Diva Blue”. And together they recorded the classic ‘Season’s Change’ for his groundbreaking Sylk 130“s ‘When the Funk Hits the Fan’ album.
After touring the US as a member of Sylk 130, Alison Crockett relocated to Brooklyn, NY. There, she introduced herself to the vibrant New York music scene by fronting Hip-Hop/Jazz pioneer Greg Osby’s band. Geoff Wilkinson, the founder of UK-based Acid Jazz outfit Us3 approached her a few months later. Havin’ heard ‘Season’s Change’ he got convinced he was in front of a young legend… In the footsteps of his heroes like Shirley Bassey, Dianna Washington and Dianne Reeves.
From then he offered her to became Us3’s first lead singer. Upon her acceptance, Alison travelled to London to write and sang on the album ‘An Ordinary Day In An Unusual Place’. The first single, ‘Get Out’, immediately shot to the top 10 within a few weeks of its release in Japan. In support of the album, Alison experienced her first world tour, as Us3 headlined stadiums and festivals throughout Europe, the US and Japan.
Throughout her tenure with Us3, Alison continued to write, perform and record on a number of interesting musical projects. Beginning with Ch’i along with DJ Cosmo. This resulting in ‘Loneliness’ back in 1998 on Sub-Urban with remixes courtesy of the latter and Sandy (K.O.T.) Rivera.
Always looking to grow and remain fresh, she often recorded under her Sylk 130 pseudonym, Diva Blue. This, to distinguish these side projects
Her debut solo album, ‘On Becoming A Woman’, saw the light to wide acclaim in Japan in June 2003. Then in the US and Europe in April 2004. The epic ballad from the album ‘Like Rain’ reached number 3 on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Winner’s 2003 chart on his BBC Radio 1 programme. Alison knew she’d tapped into something special with the album. “I really thought long and hard about this music… Agonized over it… It was truly a birth-like experience and that’s why I named the album ‘On Becoming A Woman’… I feel like I grew in leaps in bounds as both an artist and a person making it…”
Alison Crockett released a collection of remixes of tracks from ‘On Becoming A Woman’ two years after. This givin’ birth to ‘The Return Of Diva Blue: On Becoming A Woman Redux’ album. Featuring mixes by a who’s who of top flight DJ producers. From DJ Spinna (‘Crossroads’) to Yam Who? (‘UR’) and Mark De Clive-Lowe (‘When I Think Of You’) among others.
The album became a stapple for the lovers of Deep House music. With DJ Spinna’s rework of ‘Crossroads’ becoming a signature classic for Alison. In the Spring of 2007, Alison released her “love letter to my fans”. In other words, the stripped down, acoustic based ‘Bare’. Much of the album comprised of Alison simply sitting at the piano and singing songs from a backlog of compositions from a particularly prolific period of writing. “There are songs on ‘Bare’ that could be placed on no other album”, she said. “Some had been in my catalog, unheard by anyone but me, for many years. I wanted ‘Bare’ to be a record that you could just sit back, listen and enjoy, while you let all your cares melt away for a short while…”
After taking an extended break from recording in order to focus on mothering her two children, Alison returned to the recording studio in 2007. Working on what would become, ‘Mommy, What’s A Depression?’, her third album. “When I began working on this project in earnest, it was during the heart of the financial crisis in the US. And it seemed as if the world was going to hell in a hand basket”, says Alison. “George W. Bush was still the president and most people felt as if he’d run the country into the ground. From starting unnecessary wars to being negligent during the crisis in New Orleans. Not to mention to enacting policies which almost caused the collapse of the global economy. So I thought about creating a work of art to reflect the chaos and disorientation I, and many people around me, where feeling at the time.”
It would take Alison more than three years to bring her vision to reality. She and her brother fine-tuned the production to ensure the sonic tapestry was just right. “A mixture of Jazz, Soul and Electronic music seemed to me the best way to give these messages the weight of the moment.
Each of these music forms is all about creative destruction and re-invention. A process it seems we are going through right now. So I call the sonic style we’ve come up with, “Mixtape Jazz”. It’s the sound of taking the familiar and shaping layers and layers of seemingly disparate and sometimes even dissonant components onto it in order to fashion new creative textures. I arranged standard songs from the Jazz and Soul cannons that seemed to speak to our national and societal condition. And, to compliment these, I wrote music and lyrics that reflected my own feelings of anger, frustration, bitterness and hope about what’s been going on around me…”
– A quick look at Spinna‘s biography on Wikipedia unfortunately shows a blatant lack of knowledge by the likes of its writer. The latter rating him as a Hip-Hop producer from Brooklyn. Obviously neglecting by that our brother’s impressive contribution to other genres such as R&B and/or House Music…
Just like Kenny Dope, Spinna has an impressive Hip-Hop background. But he’s first and foremost a New Yorker. Meaning by that that he kept an ear open to everything. And I would tend to think everything as long as it was groovy. This explaining why and how he came to embrace different genres, as a producer but also a remixer. With his impressive legacy pretty much speakin’ for itself as a matter of fact.
The Hip-Hop crowd will most likely remember him for his contribution as a member of The Jigmastas. If not for his remix of ‘Stakes Is High’ for De La Soulby the seond half of the 90’s. Meanwhile those who happen to have both their feet into House Music should have Shaun Escoffery‘s 2001 ‘Days Like This’ first comin’ to their mind while thinkin’ of him.
To be honest, I’ve always found kinda difficult to put a name on Spinna‘s works, unless speakin’ of a classy and updated version of R&B or Soul Music with a groove if not Dance Music edge. Unsurprisingly, he gave an infectious Hip-Hop feel to Cooly’s Hot Box‘s ‘Make Me Happy’ that same year. Then he came to share the bill with Tortured Soul on the classic ‘Fall In Love’ back in 2002.
2003 seeing him givin’ a smooth swingin’ feel to Donnie‘s ‘memorable ‘Cloud 9’, but also reworking ‘You’ for Soulstation on West End Records. With Goapele‘s ‘Closer’, Tamia‘s ‘Still’ and Elements Of Life‘s ‘Better Day’ standing as his 2004’s highlights in addition to Alison Crockett‘s ‘Crossroads’.
Another year on and Spinna would cross the path of Roy Ayers while retouching ‘Holiday’. This before doin’ the same two years later on ‘Electric Vibes’. A masterpiece courtesy of Down To The Bone featuring Roy Ayers. Meanwhile, he would get back with Tortured Soul while remixing ‘Always In Heaven When I’m With You’ back in 2006. Then ‘Why’ in 2007 and ‘Dirty’ in 2013.
Launching his Wonderwax label back in 2003, he shared the bill with Rich Medina on the spoken words led ‘Reality’. Eventually producing the stellar ‘Unconditional Love” for Selan the year after. Then welcoming Gordon Chambers with ‘Never Fall In Love’ in 2007. And he also happened to craft the soothing ‘You Should Be Loving Me’ with Ovasoul7 in 2008. This before producing ‘In My Fantasy’ for Tortured Soul a few months later.
More recently, he infectiously boosted Neal Conway and Dana Weaver‘s ‘Fading Away’. But also ‘You Got This’ for Real Deep with the sultry Jaidene Veda and MdCL. Then we welcomed his rework of Hallex M featuring Darien‘s ‘Feeling’ as our Single Of The Week at the time. This in addition to LeMel Humes‘ ‘Ain’t Nobody Like You’ which received the same treatment from us a few weeks later. Not to mention The Foreign Exchange‘s ‘Body’ which got into our Top 10 back then.