Deep House Essentials: Ron Trent
Chicago’s son Ron Trent was born for music. He became a DJ in his early teens and released his first track while he was still in high school. That premier of nearly fourteen minutes long was Altered States, a classic, rough-housing piece of brilliance that can still be played today and make a crowd go mad.
Shortly after school he set up his first label, Prescription Records, which he ran together with Chez Damier. Together with its sister label Balance, Prescription is widely regarded as one of the most influential deep house imprints, introducing legends like Moodymann, Luke Solomon Anthony Nicholson, Rob Mello and many others on it. Trent moved to New York in ’97, quickly gaining respect as an artist over there with gigs at house temples like Body and Soul and Shelter. Plus he started hosting his own events at the legendary club Vinyl in downtown Manhatten.
The pioneer is currently still booked around the world. Whether it’s Japan, Brazil, Croatia, Germany or his home country, people are still getting down on Trent’s sound. His style is most notably influenced by Soul, Jazz, some world music here and there (sometimes throwing in a bongo or two for the rhythm sections). His records all boil down to a sweet, deep house sensation that fixes the mind and soul, while inevitably moving your hips and feet to the beat.
While listening to his catalogue you know that this guy is up there with the greats like Frankie Knuckles, Ce Ce Rogers or Kerri Chandler. Here’s a selection of Ron’s personal favourites, featuring some well-known deep house records, others more obscure disco or funk-oriented. Listen for yourself and enjoy!
“Asking a real music lover to do a top 10 all time anything in any genre is almost impossible. But here a few jams old and new that are of importance in no particular order”
10. Dinosaur L – Go Bang! (Francois K mix)
Ron: “Genius! A piece of timeless work. The artistry and strokes of magic from the brush of Arthur Russell. This song takes hold of you from the beginning to the end. As the documentary of Arthur was entitled, this masterpiece is a “Wild Combination”. From earth to space and back again is the force you feel once you have experienced this song on a great sound system. Apparently first auditioned on David Mancruso’s system at the Loft straight from Francois K’s studio mix, Go Bang! has been lighting up dancefloors ever since. When I first heard this material I thought, “Deep”… after living in NYC for 10 years and soaking up the energy of the culture, I really began to understand the essence of this song. It carries a quality in its DNA that is unique to the mixture of flavors that only NY could conjure. If you listen and feel closely you can pick up the vibrations and pulse of the streets. The bustling busy energy that lurks behind every corner of the African, Latin, and Eurocentric attitude all wrapped into one big power punch. Records like this are ground breaking and should never be taking lightly. I did a tribute to Arthur Russell on my album Dance Floor Boogie Delites called CE100meaning Complex Equation 100… in reference to Arthurs ability to capsulate all those mixtures in one song.”
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9. M.F.S.B. – Love Is The Message
“Gamble & Huff are masterminds. Their productions have always been a centerpiece to the movement. The urban city experience would not have been the same without their many contributions. If you wanna talk about “deep house” this song is the Godfather to it all. Classics, disco and obscure music is what we called “deep house” in Chicago, which then gave birth to a later electronic experience. Love Is The Message speaks for itself. A well rounded musical journey as most of Gamble & Huff productions were. Dramatic, rhythmic, and avant-garde. This song is tasteful and timeless.”
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8. Tanna Gardner – When You Touch Me (Larry Levan mix)
“The sound of the “Garage”. Larry was masterful at crafting music that represented the pulse of his club the Paradise Garage. Though I first heard this record coming up in Chicago and loved it, it meant a lot more to me when I moved to New York and felt it again there. This song captures the sense of the people. This material gives credit to that power. For me this is the right usage of rhythm, mood and melody, all refined by Larry Levan’s special touch. Yes, once again, I reiterate this was in the category of what those now call “deep house”!”
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7. Fresh Band – Come Back Lover
“Frankie, Frankie, Frankie!!! The sound of the Power Plant, the movement, and the message. There are songs that are extensions of DJs that tell stories when they play. Songs that encompass the stream of consciousness being sent from the DJ to the dance floor, and to the people inside the club and out into the world. Frankie comes from a tradition of DJs who tell stories, and is one of the original craftsmen of being able to do it well.Come Back Lover musically is boogie down to the core without a doubt, and has an emotional sentiment that brings balance. A feel good “release”, a song that makes me think about hearing this record for the first time, and one that I never stopped playing. It’s a staple in my collection to this day and always shall be.”
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6. Wood, Brass, and Steel – Funkanova
“One of Ron Hardy’s favorites… This always reminds of a fresh time. Though this was released in the 70s, it was fresh to the ears of the Chicago urban youth that it was being introduced to. When classics like this were being reintroduced to us it was a mind opener. It was the introduction of what people like to now call “deep house”. This is where the term was derived. It was referencing obscure music with depth and not so much the electronic tracks being crafted by new, up-and-coming producers. Jazz funk at its greatest is what this song is. Soulful all the way through, but it is the bridge and vamp that rocks you to the core. There are so many jams like this for me that I could name all day that are pretty obscure and what I would consider period pieces, but this is truly one of my all time favorites!”
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5. Joe Lewis – Love of My Own
“This is one of those tracks that no one ever talks about. Maybe they don’t talk about it because they didn’t get it or just never heard it. This jam in particular hit my neighborhood by storm. Very underground and very true to the essence of Chicago street sound in the 80s. I remember hearing this record on tape a year or two before it found its way onto wax for the public. Previously it was just strictly a select few DJs’ item. People were making their versions of the style of music being played by Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy at the Power Plant and Musicbox. Drum machines and keyboards were becoming a big part of the desires of the urban underground community. Love Of My Own is of that league. Music that allowed imagination and took whoever listened on their own personal journey. Some may listen to this and think “oh how simple”, because of how music and technology has advanced since the early to mid 80s. Take away the radio mentality, the internet mentality, and imagine yourself having never heard anything like this before in 1984 and see where it takes you…”
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4. Mr. Fingers – Mystery of Love
“ The Great Larry Heard… Best way to describe how I felt about this record is to tell you that, when the first strain of these 12“s were released in the store, I almost spent my last bus fare and was willing to walk miles home just to buy this record. If it had not been for my friend that was with me at the time to cover me, I would have done just that. Hypnotic, religious, and once again a mood-setter. Larry is a master of this. To later become friends with Larry and find out he played the bass line all the way through was amazing. For me to try to articulate what this kind of record meant to the birth of the scene (having growing up in this music), could only be translated in a movie or some sort, too much, too elaborate, too little time to accomplish in writing. Masterful!”
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3. Jamie Principle – Your Love
“If there was a movie on growing up in Chicago in the 80s that was centered around the underground scene of dance culture, this jam would be the main song for the soundtrack. When Frankie Knuckles was playing this at his club the “Power Plant”, it was unreleased and could only be captured on cassette mixtapes that had somehow mysteriously wandered onto city streets amongst the cultish underground core, straight from Frankie’s DJ Booth. To me, this is the original “house music” sound. It has all the elements of what we in Chicago were all about and appreciated. We collectively were heavily into imported music with radical flare. At first glance, we all thought this song equally was from somewhere outside of the Chicago area, until we were informed that it was from local Chicago talent Jamie Principle. The most memorable element of this song is of course the bass line. The synth strings are what give it that avant-garde experience which was featured on a lot of the new wave and imported music we appreciated. There was a sense of sophistication, style, and romance captured in this material that somehow told the story of what the movement of Chicago house music was about. Golden great!”
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2. Kerri Chandler – Atmosphere
“ Kerri is by far one of the most prolific producers to come out of our time. His range of music production, which always remains deep and true to an emotional dance floor experience, never falters. Atmosphere, which was released on Shelter Records, is a track that establishes the meaning of the Shelter sound.. uptempo, soulful R&B. Though it has no vocals you cold feel the urban experience radiating through the drum track and mood-setting chords. Always a great DJ’s tool and mood-setter. If one ever wanted to know about the pulse of NYC and the original 6th and Hubert St. location of Shelter, this will enlighten you. Classic to the core.”
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1. Micheal Watford – Holdin On
“One of Roger S’s finest productions in my opinion. By far considered an early 90s anthemic classic. This song captures the true essence of the sound of Shelter NYC with Timmy Regisford and Merlin Bob in the early days. The mix of Micheal’s wailing message and the heavy bass-driven track conjures up magic on the dance floor. This song is the purest example of what soulful dance floor music is about. Upon my first visit to the Shelter back in 91’ this is one of the many songs that capsulated the night for me. Watching the dancer act out each vibration of the song and the sound system acting as an ethereal machine. A classic!”
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For the ones who can’t get enough: here’s an interview with the man himself.
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