Single Of The Week: Chris Rob – Touch The Sky (Darryl James Extended Altra Mix) (Altra Music Inc)
Those of you familiar with these shores should be surprised hearin’ us sayin’ as to how Darryl James stands among our favorite remixers. With reworks such as Patti Labelle & Carlos Santana‘s ‘When U Smile’. Or Muziq‘s ‘Half Crazy’ to name a few. Bringin’ to the surface his influences inherited from the Disco production days. With ‘Touch The Sky’ makin’ no exception.
Is this (soulful) House? We’ll say it is, but probably more as a matter of convenience. Although, here again, we’ll go way further than that. Using the same expression – R&B/Dance – that prevailed back in the early 80’s when the tempos started to move forward. And the fact is this is pretty much what ‘Touch The Sky’ is about. With singer Chris Rob‘s tones somehow bringin’ us back to the souvenir of Marvin Gaye at times. If not most likely reminding of Noel Gourdin in terms of vocal arrangements. Meanwhile delivering a deliberately positive message over a stellar production courtesy of Darryl James.
Touch the sky… That’s without a single doubt what the twosome have managed to do here…
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– True music lovers always search for the connections between the new and the old, the fresh and the classic. Sometimes they’re fortunate enough to find both in one artist. For Chris Rob, the classically trained pianist featured on Kanye West’s ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothin’, crossing genres is natural… “All music is connected in some way, so if it’s from the heart, the audience can feel it. There really isn’t that much discrimination”, says Chris.
This might explain why the singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer can’t be boxed in anywhere. His twist of Hip-Hop, House and cool Funk speakin’ for itself. As one could pretty much realize when havin’ a listen to Miles Davis & Robert Glasper‘s 2015 ‘Everything Is Beautiful’ album. An opus to which he happened to contribute to. Co-writting its final track – ‘Right On Brotha’ (featuring Stevie Wonder) – along with DJ Spinna.
“Working with Stevie has been a tremendous blessing for me”, says Chris. He also has served as an opening act for the legendary singer. And as well as his musical director for President Obama’s inauguration.
The native Chicagoan has come a long way since relocating to the Big Apple. A location where he found the inspiration to produce his soulful debut project ‘The Official Bootleg of Chris Rob, Volume I’. From then, he quickly began headlining at the city’s hottest spots. From SOB’s to The Blue Note, and most recently, Brooklyn Bowl and the legendary Apollo Theatre. That funky, soulful and jazzy nine song EP featuring his singing and musical talents, opened the eyes and ears of many. Beginning with Grammy award winning artist Meshell N’degeocello. “She called me up and said it was all she listened to for a month. That was so amazing because I had listened to her albums with that intensity before I ever met her.”
Chris brilliantly delivered another facet of versatility while hookin’ up with vet producer Darryl James. The twosome recording the infectious ‘Touch The Sky’ on James‘ Altra Music Inc label.
Still, Chris’ first love is playing live and connecting with the audience. You’ve probably seen him hyping up the audience in the video for ‘So High’ from John Legend’s ‘Live at The House of Blues’ DVD. Legend’s Grammy award winning ‘Get Lifted’ tour featured Chris as primary keyboardist and backup vocalist, as well as serving as part of the musical direction team. “The ‘Get Lifted’ Tour was that first next level experience for me… Just to help create something that was moving people so much all across the world, it tuned my own music deeper into the universe that much more.”
Like music itself, this artist likes to stay in the moment. “I don’t really think about the different genres I’m crossing. I try to stay open, and not get in the way of how great the music can feel.”
– Bronx, NY native Darryl James got his start DJing at his uncle’s night club at the age of 16. That is where he gained valuable experience and honed his craft. He then moved on to spin in two of the hottest clubs of the 80’s in New York City… The Red Parrot and The Silver Shadow! His skills helpin’ him snag the much coveted position as the main house DJ at the World Famous Bentley’s Night Club for several years.
Deejaying at Bentley’s brought to the attention of radio stations and record companies what the general public had been enjoying for years… Darryl’s artistry of mixing records!
In 1991, he began doing Mix Shows for 98.7 KISS-FM. The following year in addition to KISS-FM, he was performing a live broadcast for WBLS. From 1994 through the Winter of 1998, Darryl blessed the airwaves with his Mix Show on WBLS. He then would display his mastery of the airwaves on the Lunch Mix on KISS-FM until the station ceased its activities.
While working, Darryl met and formed a productive work relationship with Todd Terry. This union delivered several hit records on Todd’s dance label, Freeze Records. Beginning with ‘You Make Me Happy’ and ‘Where Do We Go’. Continuing on the creative path, Darryl went on to remix various artists including Jody Watley, D-Mob, Janet Jackson and Incognito to name a few.
In 1994, James started producing along with the late Fred McFarlane. A man who came to fame as the producer of gems such as ‘Somebody’ Else’s Guy’, ‘Bad Habits’ and ‘Show Me Love’. Respectively for Jocelyn Brown, Jenny Burton and Robin S(tone).
By the early 2000’s, the twosome got to another level under the DFA guise, releasing a lot of remixes for R&B artists. With many of them seeing the light on the (unofficial) Fall Out Records label. From Patti LaBelle & Carlos Santana‘s ‘When U Smile’ to Floetry‘s ‘Say Yes’. Not to mention Muziq‘s ‘Half Crazy’ and Alicia Key‘s ‘Diary’ among others. As many reworks sending their audience into a friendly atmosphere. Whether they are grooving on the dance floor, jamming in the car, or relaxing at home…
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