Da'Soul Recordings Group,LLC: The Mature Groove
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Da' Soul Recordings Group: Press

RICARDO
Hold Tight
(US Two Brothers, 2007)
1) Say What You Say 2) Just A Matter Of Time 3) If You Love Me 4) Down Time 5) Venetian Blinds 6) Whenever, Whatever 7) Farewell To Love 8) Hold Tight 9) I'm Lost 10) Livin' Without You 11) Since You've Been Gone 12) If You're Really Concerned 13) You've Always Been The Only One 14) I Don't Know 15) Venetian Blinds

This is actually the gentleman's second album, and in my mind the stronger of the two. Production comes from the mighty J, and they really have come up with the goods on a number of songs. If you, like me, loved the Detroit sounds of Kevin McCord and One Way then you will love some of the songs on here. “Down Time” is a gentle song which has One Way circa 1984 stamped all over it. The production is sensibly sympathetic to Ricardo's smoother, more laid back vocals and the acoustic guitar and bass reflect this perfectly. Running at almost 8 minutes this is one hell of a track. Usually I get bored with longer tracks of this nature, but J has enough savvy to craftily keep the gentle backing constantly changing and re-emphasising the theme of the song.

The funky guitar / organ opening along with Ricardo's sagely monologue take us back to an era gone by, forgotten by today's companies, and the rattly, percussive “Hold Tight” is a real joy to the ears. I particularly love the wavering synth in the background. This track is ambitious in that if handled by a less professional team would be disjointed and unmelodious. Far from it here! A more straightforward rhythm accompanies the excellent “I'm Lost”, and the acoustic guitar atop the synth adds extra appeal.

A track I cannot stop playing is the superbly 80s orientated “Livin' Without You”. The keyboards here are straight out of the Cliff Dawson / Chuck Cissel early 80s period and I LOVE IT! The backing rhythm is more genteel new jack swing if anything can be called so much and Ricardo almost whispers reverentially through the song. It is absolutely superb, and the wistful manner that is adopted is perfect for the man's voice. I am a person who likes to 'feel' music, and the synth they use so splendidly on here hits me right in the solar plexus. Excellent!

Fans of 80s indie material such as Randall Germaine etc will jump at the sheer retro flavoured “You've Always Been The Only One”. Again, the backing vocals have that Chance Records sort of appeal, and both of these appeal to me. OK, these independent releases don't have the financial muscle of the big boys, but give me a small company on a smaller budget who have love and sincerity any old day! “I Don't Know” is my final pick, and is more up to date with its jostling beats and -again- haunting understated synths.

This album comes recommended and can be found on CD Baby. Go along and take a listen, you will not be disappointed, especially by the above choices!
- Barry Towler
CHAZZ DIXON: – Crackin’
(US Da'Soul Recordings, 2006)
I Think I’m Losin’ It – More, More, More – Girl Are You Ready – Save Me – Shake Yo’ Butt – Dreamin’ Out Of Season – I Can Let Go – Somebody’s Somebody – Wish List – I’m Happy For You – I Kinda Miss Ya – Malinda - I Kinda Miss Ya (Club Mix)

I like this company’s new spin on their sound. "The Mature Groove". Pretty much sums it up really when compared to a lot of what we might call "cookie-cutter" R&B on the market today. I have enthused before about this little label and what it stands for. Same with a lot of labels, really. What touches me about this label is that it is founded on a strong working relationship between the artists which goes beyond the music and into realms of understanding and respect. These guys are what I would call symbiotic. This gel reminds me of the type of powerhouse necessary to seed the next Motown, Philadelphia International etcetera.

This is Chazz Dixon’s third album in almost as many years. His last Hitsville tribute album was FANTASTIC, and should be a staple part of your collection as its sure as hell one quality item. Again, Chazz’s Smokey Robinson styled vocals segue intimately with the production style of the mighty J – who you must familiarise yourself with if you have yet to do so, and the overseeing by R G Kelly better known as Ricardo who is a great recording artist in his own right.

The title of this 2006 effort is called "Crackin’". And crackin’ it is too. It’s a welcome return and builds on the strengths that already exists with his previous sets. There are more than a few songs on here that have had a repeat play here, and I am convinced that as time goes on these gentlemen become stronger, more focussed and target specific. Surely it cannot be long before the big time hails – although, sadly, the big time isn’t what it used to be, or should be. From the incessant tap of the opening track – one I can efinitely acknowledge – to the sunnier, warmer climes of "More, More, More" and the silkier balladry of "Girl Are You Ready" we already have three strong and essential compositions.

The gorgeously titled "Dreamin’ Out Of Season" is another winner, its slinky sashaying backbeat topped with Chazz’s drop-dead delivery is mouth-watering in the extreme. Not many independent artists can come up to scratch like this, but this label offers inspiration and light in a time that is dark for those with a basic desire to be individual and want to propagate quality on their terms. "I Can’t Let Go" deals with love’s ups and downs in a very adult and mature way – definitely a mature lyric here, let alone in the groove. I’m playing a lot of material from the 80s at the moment. Mid life crisis? LOL! Who knows, but I was struck by "Somebody’s Somebody" which has a nice clappable beat circa 1987. This works for me, and that’s all that matters. "Wish List" is a sexy winner, and the plodding Isley-ish "I’m Happy For You" also gains my approval.

As we would expect, there is a Smokey cover on here – and as I expect, it's not you’re run of the mill, well-known song either. This time it’s a quality rendition of "Malinda". Nicely done, Chazz. Nicely done. Please check this CD out the next time you’re surfing CD Baby. - Barry Towler
J – Conversations
(US J Entertainment, 2005)
Conversations 1(When We Talk) – Ready For Something New – The Look Your Love Is Everywhere – Conversations 2 (How Many Ways) – Outside – Tell My Why – November Rain – Speak No Evil – Conversations 3 (Betrayal) – Some Girls – Someone Else – Come Back – As Long As There Is L-O-V-E Love – Last Night Was Incredible – You’re My Everything – With All I Am – You’re Not For Me – Conversations 4 (Tired) – A Long Way From Home

I was sent this guy’s last CD and following a few listens I really did not feel it. However, I tried it again months later and it was Bang! What was there not to like about it?! The monster jam contained therein was called “Everything And Nothing” and was a good as any hard 80s slammer that you will her this side of 1986 and I still play it a lot now. So, when J released this CD I had more of an appreciation for the man and what he can do. J, of course, is one of the founding fathers as it were of Da Soul Records, and I have found that I dig what they are about, what drives them and what they deliver.

There is a lot of fire in their bellies, and when they dish up tasty morsels like this I hope those fires will be stoked for a long time yet. I have found that these gentleman, singularly and jointly seem to have developed a lot and although their early recordings were very good, I notice a definite greater sturdiness in the releases and robustness of delivery. Da Soul could well be a stirring giant. Be warned, folks!

I don’t think that there is any song on here that I don’t actually like. Some, though stick out more than others and these are mostly in the rump shaking deparment. My first bass-pin trembler was the great “The Look” which is vocally smooth and subtle yet backed with a seriously funky bass line, irresistibly catchy, that is not a million miles away from Zapp and their superb “Ja Ready To Rock” from Zapp IV in 1985. This sounds great pumped up in the car – luckily I live rurally so there’s no-one to disturb bar trees and deer! More fluid is the 808-drum sounding number “Tell Me Why” with its persistent hi hat, sumptuous keys and savoury slap-bass, and this also works nicely for me. I really love the ballad, “November Rain”, but I fear the storm effects at the start really do not do the song the justice it deserves. I have found this the case on many songs from both independent and major labels. J proves that he has a seriously soulful vein and isn’t afraid to show it on the track which is my current favourite, “Speak No Evil”. This is a glorious platter of soul and is possibly one of the best records that J and the label has put out, period. The light, tapping beat and the soulful vocals easily match anything that the majors can do and this is very welcome indeed.

I hear more excellence in the downtempo funk of “Some Girls” and the solid percussive “Come Back” also gets the bass-pins trembling. Smokey’s “As Long As There Is L-O-V-E Love” is given a tasteful reading and matches anything on Chazz Dixon’s recent “Hitsville” CD. “Conversations” is a CD that I would recommend, and this is yet another CD Baby purchase. One wonders what lovers of quality soul would do without outlets like that these days. Please do not overlook.
- Barry Towler
Soul Express CD Review


CHAZZ DIXON: Hitsville...The House That Berry Built
(US Da'Soul Recordings, 2004)
Smiling Faces - Choosy Begger - More Love - What Love Has Joined Together - You Sure Love To Ball - Here I Go Again - If You Let Me - The Only One Who Loves You / Dr. Feelgood - You Must Be Love - What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Does Your Mama Know About Me - Nitty Gritty - That Won't Stop Me (From Loving You)

It was only back in the summer that I was enthusing over his superb "Back To The Groove" set, and was very surprised to receive this CD so soon, hot on the heals. I must say that hot is a very appropriate word to describe this album. I have to say that I am sick to the back teeth with artists doing albums of cover versions - Jamie Cullum, Michael Bubble and the rest - and bemoan the whole pop idol thing. However, when an exceptional album arises then it is with gusto that I will trumpet it. I looked at the titles on this CD and this alone aroused my curiosity. We are not simply dealing with the obvious classic pop hits that we all know and love, but we have a selection of superb Motown tunes that are not so obvious, especially from a more commercial point of view.

Secondly what took my breath away was the sheer quality of the album. This has been conceived with love, deep respect, knowledge and a perfect attention to detail. Chazz Dixon and his producer, J, have not simply covered these songs in some dreary tribute format, but have ripped the guts of the songs apart and have recreated them with the same passion, ear and vogue of the original hitmakers themselves. Motown was a company borne out of frustration with the recording industry, and so too it seems has Da Soul Recordings. It is this raw frustration and overflowing talent, brimming optimism and dedication to their listeners, their craft and the heritage of quality black music that these gentlemen have entered the studio. I suppose that what we are looking at here is a seriously essential album. Imagine Smokey Robinson walking into a studio making a cover of Motown songs in a modern style, with traditional sensibilities, then that is the essence of what "Hitsville..." is all about. I love every song on display here. The enjoyment is hearing the new arrangements of old classics, the meticulous and the smooth, sensuous, delicate vocal skills that Chazz uses to caress the arrangements.

Some feel smooth as silk, others forceful with a real urgency of grabbing our attention. I for one was grabbed, big time from the word go with "Smilg Faces Sometimes". I have not heard a cover version of this classic by The Undisputed Truth covered so well. This could be Smokey singing this. Unbelievable. With Chazz' definate similarity to a Smokey Robinson it is not surprising that a fair few of the legend's hits are covered: "Choosy Begger"; "Here I Go Again", "The One Who Really Loves You", "You Must Be Love" and so on. However, my favourite moments are not these, great as they are.

I have heard various covers of Marvin Gaye over the years, some better than others, but I cannot enthuse more about the exquistite, beautiful, original take on Marvin's "You Sure Love To Ball". Wow! This is what the doctor ordered! His version, also, of Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers' "Does Your Mama Know About Me" is simply sublime. I can't thank you enough for this, guys. Great, great song and admirably executed. There is a slight Zapp feel with the synth/vocals in the backing. This is a true Motown classic and is often ignored or forgotten. We are treated to an original, new, song at the end, "That Won't Stop Me (From Loving You)" and that is excellent, too, closing this CD splendidly. I cannot recommend this enough and many I have exposed this to have been very impressed with it. This will soon be available for Christmas from CD Baby. And rightly so. Essential.
- Barry Towler
CHAZZ DIXON
Back To The Groove
(US Da' Soul DSR 2004004V2A)

We may have lost Smokey Robinson to
gospel recording at the moment but Chazz
Dixon is right there waiting in the wings
and, if you don't believe me, put this on,
shut your eyes and listen to Smokey's 'If
You Can Want'. The up-to-date support
might not match the Motown musicians or
the vocalizing of the Miracles but Dixon
has the main man off to a 'T'. It's the only
outside song among eleven, the rest being
composed by a mixture of Chazz, 'J' (who
performs all instruments except the trum-
pet on 'How Can This Be'), Rich Kelly and
one Mr. Brown, who assists on 'Have We
Lost It', a winsome ballad. Nothing here
gets much beyond second-gear - not an
adverse criticism - the fastest being the
jerky, mid-paced 'A Woman Needs Love',
which closes the set and which makes for
a rather messy exit. Otherwise, gentle
toe-tappers like 'Turned Around', When
I'm With You' and 'Him Or Me' abound,
alongside simple, more contemporary
items such as the Can't Turn Back' open-
er and Tears In My Eyes', which suffers
from the recent gimmicky craze of having
a 'scratched 45' sound in the background
just sufficiently there as to be irritating.
Slightly more upbeat is 'My Frame Of
Mind' but it is still only around midtempo
and, throughout, there's that uncanny
Smokey Robinson voice to add to the
enjoyment. Apologies to Chazz if all he
wants to be is original and his own man
but, if you can't help sounding like some-
one, you couldn't do much better than
sound like Smokey. Shut your eyes again
and listen to the ballad, 'How Can This Be'
and the near-perfect 'Make It Easy'. From
www.chazzdixon.com or cdbaby, this is a
worthwhile purchase.
CHAZZ DIXON

Facially, Chazz Dixon looks a little like Gavin Christopher vocally, Chazz sounds a LOT like my hero, Smokey Robinson. In fact, I would wager that the unaware would be fooled into thinking that this was a new Smokey Robinson CD. There is, in fact a cover of "If You Can Want" on here! Much mischief could be made on radio with this, and probably is. Here therefore I lay bare my bias. I LOVE Smokey's vocals - no, in fact I ADORE them, and the fact that these two men are so similar swayed me in the first instance. Even the soulful inflections are there, but without overtly trying to mimic the great Motown legend. Not unlike the Gary Brown CD, this is a very worthwhile effort and is another CD I can recommend.

The beats are sparse, the keyboards ethereal and this is just right for spotlighting the sublime nature of Chazz's floating, lilting vocal athletics. The chunky hip-hopish tapping beat and keyboards lead into a telephone monologue that allows Chazz to outpour his soul onto this more-ish groove. The soulful, early 90s independent sound of "Turned Around" seriously displays Chazz's vocal skills, and I think you'll agree that these really are quite fine. "Have We Lost It" could almost spring from the L.R. Superstars or Anthony & Danette albums and should please those who bought these sets. "Him Or Me" has a great, lazy guitar and warm, summery feel and Chazz sounds less like Smokey throughout this than the aforementioned tracks. I get the feeling of the tunes on Kevin "Love Man" Nash's album on this song. A fun midtempo stepper can be found in "My Frame Of Mind" and would not be far separated from the quality numbers that were around in 1987. This is an artist to keep an eye on. Da'Soul are building up a nice little stash of artists here and it will be interesting to see how this develops.
- Barry Towler
Featured Artist Review - Chazz Dixon
Dollars can't make up for raw determination and fundamental musical skills. You can look back in recent and past music history and find tons of material where hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted to produce garbage. Da Soul Records took thier determination and skills and produced a jazz bombshell.
The first thing that I noticed as I listened to the tracks was the consistent strong tenor of the singers voice. Chazz definately has the potential to be right up there with Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. There are no forced or contrived high notes or a reluctance to reach those notes and carry the highs out of fear that some lack of talent might be exposed. The confidence is there along with the talent to support it.
The first track, Can't Turn Back, is flush with a subtle r&b tempo that pleasantly compliments Chazz's vocals. The background vocals lay the groundwork in soulful arrangements that leave a pleasant aftertaste in the ears after the song fades out.
In a sudden flip flop the jazz comes to the forefront on the second track, Turned Around, and the r&b element slips quietly to the background. Its an interesting mix with one of the best improvisationals that I have ever heard.
"Have We Lost It", is a good effort at slow tempo serenade over dying love. An even better attemp at slow groove corooning comes out in track 8, Tears in My Eyes.
There should definately be a place in r&b for this singer who seems to possess fantasticlly soulful vocals in the Motown tradition. If you just like great r&b and you dont care if the album had a big name producer with a high dollar budget (which won't gauruntee its not trash) then this album deserves a place in your collection.
Renee
Flava of the Day



I'll be real honest. Whenever some independent outfit I never heard of contacts me and tells me they've got a CD they want me to hear I'm almost already prepared to hear a CD that completely sucks.

Surfing the internet on local independent/unsigned artist sites entails searching through tons of crap for the soul jewels. I know technology is a blessing but lets be honest,its has given a worldwide audience to people who couldn't convince thier mothers to listen to them audition for more than a minute.

I was pleasantly surprised when I threw this CD in. The musical fundamentals are good enough to actually lift this CD a grade above the standard low budget independent record company production. These aren't some guys sitting around a table who decided on a whim to create a record label. These are some serious musicians here.

The production talent and Renee's vocal talents really shine through on the sultry smooth jam "Give Me a Try". The background vocal arrangements were so smooth and the beats were so enticing that I almost forgot these were synthesizers generating the sounds.

"Step Into My Love" is a pretty good attempt to create that dance club jam that DJ's crave for thier turntables to get people on the dance floor. All the elements are there: infectious grooves & smooth hook lines. However, Renee's vocals seem to strain a bit against this uptempo beats in a few places.

"At The End of the Day" is another uptempo groove with some funky bass tunes that keep you listening till the end of the song. Again, the excellent background vocals do a very good job of reinforce the song's hook line.

If you are like the rest of us and you dont mind taking a risk shelling out your hard earned dollars once in a while on the crap the majors shove down our throats, then you need to give this underdog a chance and check out Dasoul Record's "Flavor of the Day" album featuring Renee.
GARY BROWN

Firstly, 2 things to mention. Firstly, just to say that this is NOT the same Gary Brown of "Somebody's Been Sleeping In My Bed" fame and, secondly, to say that Da'Soul Records is a new label to watch out for. This is a small label with big ideas and a wealth of talent signed up for release. This release is a real pleasure from start to finish, bar the odd track, and I really dig the ballads which allow Gary to entertain us with his soulful vocals which are more akin to classy 80s soul solo singers than today's hip-hop orientated world.

Whilst flicking through the new releases on CD Baby I came across this and hooked into "For You". Within 30 seconds I thought "yes, this is what I'm looking for!" An irresistible melody, a quirky bassline and fine, smooth and soulful vocals are the order of the day and paves the way for other superb efforts such as "Make Me Your Lover" with a great mid 80s indie feel and catchy keyboard hook. Again, great vocals from Gary. Following in this tradition is the downtempo "Love Hurts Sometimes" which is completely and utterly charming. I particularly like the arrangements within "Come Do Me" where the quirky beats neatly express the anticipation of some serious bedroom action with the object of his affection. You go for it, old chap! Fill your boots! You've got the right idea.

And there is the tasty interludes, three in all, called "How Do I Feel". These are very nice indeed. From the blatant hormonal thrusts of the aforementioned song the mood slips into a lower gear with the more sensitive "So Into You" and the jazzy groove of "Can't Turn Away". "One Time" is another favourite - this has a Kevin McCord kind of vibe. I can almost see the silver "Chance" label going around as I listen to this. Very nice indeed.

My personal tastes more favour the ballads on here, but do not overlook the dancers, the best for my particular taste being the unashamedly 80s "Be Alright". Keep an eye on this label. I will be highlighting the Chazz Dixon CD soon as that is another very fine recording.
- Barry Towler
Milwaukee Arts and Entertainment Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner
Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner

A soulful conversation with...Chazz Dixon

September 12, 12:08 AMMilwaukee R&B Music ExaminerKevin Goins
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Chazz's latest CD - "A Time For Crying"

Back in April, I launched this column by honoring one of Milwaukee’s legendary soul groups, the Esquires. This time, the spotlight is on one of the city’s modern legends, singer/songwriter/producer Chazz Dixon. We had met through the Soulful Detroit web site many years ago when Chazz sent me his album, “Hitsville – The House That Berry Built”, a disc honoring Motown Records & it’s famous catalog. I soon found out that Chazz was (and is) vice-president of Da Soul Recordings, a label devoted to the more mature sounds of R&B. Chazz’s vocal style is indeed smooth, seductive and is a reflection of several years of musical seasoning. This soulful conversation has been long overdue but right on time – a few months ago, Chazz was seriously injured in an automobile accident that resulted in a broken neck. Undeterred, Chazz went back into the studio & came up with his latest effort, "A Time For Crying”. The album finds Chazz in good voice yet with a darker edge – a tone reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s “concept albums” from the 1950s (“In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” comes to mind immediately). When I spoke with Chazz via telephone (he was resting at his home in Milwaukee), he was relaxed and ready to talk about his new album – and his career.

THE BEGINNINGS…

CHAZZ DIXON: I was born in Milwaukee & raised within the “tri-state” here in the Northwest - between Chicago, Detroit & Gary, Indiana. It’s important that I point this out because my family & I didn’t just live in one place – and I have so many great memories of each city. I remember as a child, growing up in Gary, shopping at the grocery store & seeing a young mother named Katherine Jackson working there as a cashier while raising her kids with her husband, Joseph. I started singing when I was four years old – nothing professional, just standing on top of boxes at a venue singing into a microphone. My father was going to be a singer but had a young family to take care of so he put his dreams aside for us – and for that I will always be forever grateful.

EARLY INFLUENCES – FROM DOO-WOP TO POP

CHAZZ: As a kid, I loved Little Anthony & the Imperials. His voice and the group’s vocals were right on time! I also listened to the pop singers of the day – Pat Boone, Patti Page, Doris Day. They were very big and I loved their style of singing. But I have to say the singer who really knocked me out when I was young was David Ruffin. When he was with the Temptations & later went solo, I loved his range from gruff to smooth to falsetto.

EARLY STUDENT OF THE MUSIC BIZ

CHAZZ: When I was in my teens, I sang with a group called the Evettes. We had gigs throughout the area but I knew even as a kid that the key to getting work was to make a record. I was already calling studios for available recording time and checking out vinyl pressing plants. In addition, I understood that making records wasn’t gonna be enough – songwriting, producing and ownership of copyrights were just as important. I learned this early on thanks to Johnny Mathis when he formed Jon Mat Records in the 1960s. Even though he released his music through Columbia Records (and has since the 1950s, except for a brief break at the Mercury label in the mid 1960s), Johnny knew that owning the masters was important – especially since he didn’t write many songs. So, I started songwriting and honing my skills in that area as well as performance & the business side of music.

MENTORS & GUIDEPOSTS

CHAZZ: By now, I was in my twenties. I had a songwriting contract with Gibbs Records, wrote a bunch of tunes such as “Slow Down”, which was popular in the Midwest. In addition, I was also a member of the Conquerers & Billy Baldwin was my vocal music coach. Even though I was finally making music, I felt that I needed to learn more about the business. So, through a music mentor named Barry Perkins, I got work on the touring crew for Smokey Robinson and man, did I receive an education! From staging to instrumentation from Robert “Boogie” Bowles, setting up & breaking down the set, conducting an orchestra from Sonny Burke. This was like graduate school to me. In addition, through my travels I met Harvey Fuqua, who taught me the rudiments of vocal arranging from his years as the founder/leader of the Moonglows. I also have to include Bobby Jay – the legendary radio disc jockey from New York City who also sings with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers. Bobby became my manager & helped me develop my skills on stage and in the studio. These folks served as my mentors and still do.

DA SOUL RECORDINGS

CHAZZ: Fast forward to 2003. Da Soul Recordings was formed with seven people – Jeffery Hedgewood (“J” – the CEO/President), Gary Brown, Sonny Garr, Jr., Myron Jewell, Richard Kelly, Jeffery Muhammad & myself. Our goal is simple – create mature soul music using real instruments with solid storytelling. I had originally joined the label as an artist but was named vice-president shortly after we formed. My responsibilities include overseeing graphic design of our CD artwork and collaborating with our artists on songwriting. Jeffery Hedgewood – “J’ – is a genius in the studio! He’s a multi-instrumentalist and comes up with all the tracks for our music. We’ve collaborated on all of my albums on Da Soul and our roster – Gary Brown, Renee, Mona J, Sonny Garr, the Mature Groove Orchestra, Anita Easterlng, Carmen Nickerson – is strong in talent.

A TIME FOR CRYING

CHAZZ: This is my latest album. It was a challenge recording it after the accident but I was up to it. My goal was to create an album that sends a message to our brothers out there (& our sisters) that it’s all right to be vulnerable, to show emotion and even shed some tears when you feel you’ve given all of your heart. There’s so much stuff in the music field that is all about banging this & that and we need to flip the script on that. There are real stories out there that need to be put to music. For example – the first track “She’s Just A Friend” is about falling in love with a woman who has been a supportive friend through thick & thin. The lyrics say it – “Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we fight.” But that’s how many relationships begin – as friends. I wanted to make an album that reflected the realities of relationships & I hope I have accomplished that.

A NOTE FROM KEVIN

There were many reasons why I wanted to do have this soulful conversation with Chazz – he’s a beautiful brother who is part of what is easily “the Motown of Milwaukee”. But most importantly, I understand greatly how challenging it is to recover from a serious injury as a result of an accident. I ask you as readers of this column to check out Chazz’s catalog of albums on the Da Soul web site (listed below) as well as CD Baby. If you like what you hear, support independent artists such as Chazz & buy their CDs or purchase a download. In addition, check out the roster on Da Soul – it is an impressive list of artists who have collectively created an excellent body of work.

Thank you, Chazz – for your time and our soulful conversation.

Chazz' s MySpace page - http://www.myspace.com/dasoulcrackin
Chazz on CD Baby - http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chazzdixon
Da Soul Recordings - http://www.dasoulrecordings.com/

Kevin Goins - Milwaukee Examiner (Sep 12, 2009)
Milwaukee Arts and Entertainment Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner
Milwaukee R&B Music Examiner

A soulful conversation with...Chazz Dixon

September 12, 12:08 AMMilwaukee R&B Music ExaminerKevin Goins
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Chazz's latest CD - "A Time For Crying"

Back in April, I launched this column by honoring one of Milwaukee’s legendary soul groups, the Esquires. This time, the spotlight is on one of the city’s modern legends, singer/songwriter/producer Chazz Dixon. We had met through the Soulful Detroit web site many years ago when Chazz sent me his album, “Hitsville – The House That Berry Built”, a disc honoring Motown Records & it’s famous catalog. I soon found out that Chazz was (and is) vice-president of Da Soul Recordings, a label devoted to the more mature sounds of R&B. Chazz’s vocal style is indeed smooth, seductive and is a reflection of several years of musical seasoning. This soulful conversation has been long overdue but right on time – a few months ago, Chazz was seriously injured in an automobile accident that resulted in a broken neck. Undeterred, Chazz went back into the studio & came up with his latest effort, "A Time For Crying”. The album finds Chazz in good voice yet with a darker edge – a tone reminiscent of Frank Sinatra’s “concept albums” from the 1950s (“In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” comes to mind immediately). When I spoke with Chazz via telephone (he was resting at his home in Milwaukee), he was relaxed and ready to talk about his new album – and his career.

THE BEGINNINGS…

CHAZZ DIXON: I was born in Milwaukee & raised within the “tri-state” here in the Northwest - between Chicago, Detroit & Gary, Indiana. It’s important that I point this out because my family & I didn’t just live in one place – and I have so many great memories of each city. I remember as a child, growing up in Gary, shopping at the grocery store & seeing a young mother named Katherine Jackson working there as a cashier while raising her kids with her husband, Joseph. I started singing when I was four years old – nothing professional, just standing on top of boxes at a venue singing into a microphone. My father was going to be a singer but had a young family to take care of so he put his dreams aside for us – and for that I will always be forever grateful.

EARLY INFLUENCES – FROM DOO-WOP TO POP

CHAZZ: As a kid, I loved Little Anthony & the Imperials. His voice and the group’s vocals were right on time! I also listened to the pop singers of the day – Pat Boone, Patti Page, Doris Day. They were very big and I loved their style of singing. But I have to say the singer who really knocked me out when I was young was David Ruffin. When he was with the Temptations & later went solo, I loved his range from gruff to smooth to falsetto.

EARLY STUDENT OF THE MUSIC BIZ

CHAZZ: When I was in my teens, I sang with a group called the Evettes. We had gigs throughout the area but I knew even as a kid that the key to getting work was to make a record. I was already calling studios for available recording time and checking out vinyl pressing plants. In addition, I understood that making records wasn’t gonna be enough – songwriting, producing and ownership of copyrights were just as important. I learned this early on thanks to Johnny Mathis when he formed Jon Mat Records in the 1960s. Even though he released his music through Columbia Records (and has since the 1950s, except for a brief break at the Mercury label in the mid 1960s), Johnny knew that owning the masters was important – especially since he didn’t write many songs. So, I started songwriting and honing my skills in that area as well as performance & the business side of music.

MENTORS & GUIDEPOSTS

CHAZZ: By now, I was in my twenties. I had a songwriting contract with Gibbs Records, wrote a bunch of tunes such as “Slow Down”, which was popular in the Midwest. In addition, I was also a member of the Conquerers & Billy Baldwin was my vocal music coach. Even though I was finally making music, I felt that I needed to learn more about the business. So, through a music mentor named Barry Perkins, I got work on the touring crew for Smokey Robinson and man, did I receive an education! From staging to instrumentation from Robert “Boogie” Bowles, setting up & breaking down the set, conducting an orchestra from Sonny Burke. This was like graduate school to me. In addition, through my travels I met Harvey Fuqua, who taught me the rudiments of vocal arranging from his years as the founder/leader of the Moonglows. I also have to include Bobby Jay – the legendary radio disc jockey from New York City who also sings with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers. Bobby became my manager & helped me develop my skills on stage and in the studio. These folks served as my mentors and still do.

DA SOUL RECORDINGS

CHAZZ: Fast forward to 2003. Da Soul Recordings was formed with seven people – Jeffery Hedgewood (“J” – the CEO/President), Gary Brown, Sonny Garr, Jr., Myron Jewell, Richard Kelly, Jeffery Muhammad & myself. Our goal is simple – create mature soul music using real instruments with solid storytelling. I had originally joined the label as an artist but was named vice-president shortly after we formed. My responsibilities include overseeing graphic design of our CD artwork and collaborating with our artists on songwriting. Jeffery Hedgewood – “J’ – is a genius in the studio! He’s a multi-instrumentalist and comes up with all the tracks for our music. We’ve collaborated on all of my albums on Da Soul and our roster – Gary Brown, Renee, Mona J, Sonny Garr, the Mature Groove Orchestra, Anita Easterlng, Carmen Nickerson – is strong in talent.

A TIME FOR CRYING

CHAZZ: This is my latest album. It was a challenge recording it after the accident but I was up to it. My goal was to create an album that sends a message to our brothers out there (& our sisters) that it’s all right to be vulnerable, to show emotion and even shed some tears when you feel you’ve given all of your heart. There’s so much stuff in the music field that is all about banging this & that and we need to flip the script on that. There are real stories out there that need to be put to music. For example – the first track “She’s Just A Friend” is about falling in love with a woman who has been a supportive friend through thick & thin. The lyrics say it – “Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we fight.” But that’s how many relationships begin – as friends. I wanted to make an album that reflected the realities of relationships & I hope I have accomplished that.

A NOTE FROM KEVIN

There were many reasons why I wanted to do have this soulful conversation with Chazz – he’s a beautiful brother who is part of what is easily “the Motown of Milwaukee”. But most importantly, I understand greatly how challenging it is to recover from a serious injury as a result of an accident. I ask you as readers of this column to check out Chazz’s catalog of albums on the Da Soul web site (listed below) as well as CD Baby. If you like what you hear, support independent artists such as Chazz & buy their CDs or purchase a download. In addition, check out the roster on Da Soul – it is an impressive list of artists who have collectively created an excellent body of work.

Thank you, Chazz – for your time and our soulful conversation.

Chazz' s MySpace page - http://www.myspace.com/dasoulcrackin
Chazz on CD Baby - http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chazzdixon
Da Soul Recordings - http://www.dasoulrecordings.com/