The Music Biz: Jump-starting dance music here gets some Devine intervention

Monday, May 19, 2008 at 2:20am

Long before he arrived in Nashville, Devine Taylor had made his mark in the music business on many levels. These ranged from being a bassist to producer, remixer, consultant, manager, talent scout and promoter.

But now he’s relocated to Music City with the intention of helping accelerate developments in one genre that many people don’t associate with Nashville — dance music.

Taylor’s currently presenting “The R.E.D. Sessions: House Music From Around The World” every Thursday at The Place, 217 Ave. S, from 9 p.m. until “whatever time we feel like things are winding down,” Taylor said.

“I had heard so much about Nashville and made some connections here through past ventures, so I decided to see what things are like here in terms of the dance music scene. What I’ve discovered so far is that there are pockets of interest,” he said. “There are certainly some talented DJ’s here and energetic fans, but they tend to be spread out. You’ll hear about something happening in East Nashville one night or in Murfreesboro another. So I decided to try having these evenings here as a way to unite all these divergent elements.”

Taylor has been spotlighting these house music events at many other places not only in America, but also around the world.

Before coming here a few months ago, he was holding them in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Each event features three DJs presiding over sets where they choose the music, establish the mood and set the pace for the night.

“It’s up to the individual DJ’s what songs they pick, how they sequence them, whether they use classic or current material, and the number of fast vs. slow tunes, remixes, and everything else in their show,” Taylor said. “I don’t try to tell anyone what to play or how to do things. The only judgment that I make about things regards how they get the crowd going, and whether they can keep people on the floor. Everything else is up to them.”

The R.E.D. Sessions spotlight the array of sounds that fit into the current dance music universe. These can be everything from the R&B, funk, and Latin-tinged hits that were the foundation for the disco boom in the 1970s to electronica and electronic-based sounds, and the layered, soul-oriented fare from the Midwest that most folk deem “house music.”

“The whole thing about house music that you have to explain to some people is that we’re really talking about a lot of different things that make you move,” Taylor explained. “It really came out of after parties, where people would leave the club, go back home and play music in their houses.”

“Then you began having a lot of music that featured extended breaks in songs, remixed tracks, lengthy sequences weaving together vocals and arrangements, and a lot of other things that were produced to replicate the club environment,” he said. “But all of it is designed for dance, and over the last few years, these styles have been blending more, and you’ll hear all of it in any good DJ’s music presentation.”

Past shows have lured DJ Dutch Sparx from Holland, Mickey Calvin from Chicago and Lance G from New York City and Jellybean Recording, as well as Nashvillians JT Groove, Jane Dupree, MissKai, Summer Evening, The King Funk Sound System, Groovezero and Real Time Hand Motion.

This week’s participants include Mindub and Oliver Dodd.

Taylor’s background is not only in dance and disco music, but R&B, soul and funk.

As a young man growing up around the Detroit area, he actually met and hung out with George Clinton during his early days as a songwriter at Motown. That friendship eventually led to a relationship that saw Taylor meet the members of Parliament and Funkadelic, and observe them making records and in concert.

His skills as a bassist later resulted in him becoming part of the road company for the band A Taste of Honey, and developing musical and personal relationships with vocalist Janice Marie Johnson and Donald Ray Johnson.

He’s subsequently worked with rap and rock acts, but Taylor developed a strong interest in disco during the ‘70s, and has monitored and followed it since then. He’s not only a passionate historian and fan, but also someone who’s worked with top DJ’s, been in many of the most popular clubs around the world, and been a part of the international dance music industry for decades.

That background led him to establish both the R.E.D. Sessions and his own entertainment company when he lived in Canada.

Taylor’s now serving as a combination talent scout and promoter for various dance labels, and says he’d like to find some gifted acts in Nashville that he could eventually get signed to recording deals.

Still, his prime goal is to develop and expand the Thursday night house music events at The Place.

“If you’re interested in getting on the floor and dancing and want to hear great music, this is the place to go,” Taylor said. “I think once more people become aware that this vehicle is available, they’ll hopefully want to support it. I’ve taken a chance on Nashville in terms of my own operation… but I’m optimistic and confident that there’s interest in dance music here and there are some good people who want a chance to show their skills and also popularize house and dance music here in Nashville.”

There’s a $5 cover charge for The R.E.D. Sessions. Any DJ interested in participating can contact Taylor at 578-2178.

The Music Biz appears Mondays in The City Paper. Comments may be sent to rwynn@nashvillecitypaper.com

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