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The Return of Project 23

Project 23 LIAF promo | Track: “Day Of Sunshine” from “23” | Run time: 1m52s

Over the course of the 1990s Drum ‘n Bass shook conceptions of what could be achieved artistically with electronic dance music. Drawing on the dub techniques of Jamaican mixologists and on Detroit techno, stirred in a cauldron of a Hip Hop sensibility, Drum n’ Bass transcended the limitations of four-on-the-floor dance grooves and introduced sub-bass to the musical sonic spectrum. But it was music destined to be chained to the studio and the DJ’s platter – or was it?

In 1996 when the world was just getting its collective head around the genre, something happened to take everything to another level. Cleveland Watkiss, three times winner of The Wire/Guardian best jazz vocalist award, was already established as the voice of Metalheadz – Goldie’s epochal Sunday sessions at the legendary Blue Note club in Hoxton. Drawing on his immersion in jazz, soul, reggae and dub, Watkiss brought the sophisticated musicality to MC’ing that Drum ‘n Bass deserved and redefined the art of the MC. Assuming the moniker “Origin”, he teamed up with American drum innovator Marque “the inna•most” Gilmore – sideman of Joe Zawinul and Roy Ayers among many jazz and world giants – to compose and record the album “23“. Joined by cut master DJ La Rouge they took to the road as Project 23, the first ever live Drum ‘n Bass band.

Project 23 members

23 is considered to be a “landmark album” [Straight No Chaser] of 90s electronic music. Until its release if you asked anyone if it was possible to play Drum ‘n Bass with live musicians, the answer would have been a firm NO. But it was Gilmore’s almost superhuman fusion of lightning fast acoustic kit drumming and sample triggering from electronic drum pads that proved the naysayers wrong. “Seeking to reproduce the results [of 23] live would be impossible without the awesome talents of jazz drummer Marque Gilmore” – Neil Spencer, The Observer.

However, with musicians of such lineage and with such creativity, 23 is more than a Drum n Bass album. It translates to areas outside the dance floor …resulting in a refreshingly multi-hued jungle trip. – Tony Green, Jazz Times.

“This is Drum n’ Bass that will progress, that will access new audiences. This is the future.” – Mixmag

This year is the 20th anniversary of the release of 23, an event that was followed by a year long tour featuring interactive visuals from yours truly (Derek Richards aka rizomorph). Just as technology has evolved, none of these artists have stood still. A very special show on November 3 in Hackney, London brings the collective back together for the first time in almost 20 years. Drawing on the original material from the “23” shows, it will once again take the audience on an audio-visual, consciousness raising journey from the past to the future.


STOP PRESS [25 October 2016]:
Following the huge success of his history making BBC documentary, Hip Hop World News, UK Hip Hop icon Rodney P will be joining Project 23 as guest artist on the night. Check out the video for Rodney’s brand new new single Untitled

Also guesting will be UK Jazz saxophone supremo Steve Williamson. Check Steve out on this classic collaboration with The Roots’ Black Thought from his album Journey To The Truth

Tickets are on sale now here.

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