3 Chairs

3 Chairs

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3 Chairs Review

by Andy Kellman

Three of Detroit's heavyweight house figures -- Theo Parrish, Kenny "Moodymann" Dixon Jr., Rick Wilhite -- have been linking arms the past several years to DJ and produce under the name 3 Chairs. During the late '90s, the trio was responsible for a pair of 12" releases, the first of which was a double pack. Despite being billed as 3 Chairs, each cut was credited to one specific producer. When Malik Pittman was added to the lineup for 2003's All Over 12", they began crediting the tracks to the whole crew, leading one to believe that 3 Chairs had become a full-fledged group without a strict division of labor. That notion remains for the first full-blown album, also presented as a true group release. Attempting to figure out who contributed what to each track can be a mind-bending process, even if you know the discography of each producer inside out -- so it's best to dispense with that kind of analysis and just soak it all up. What makes the album stand apart from the majority of what you've heard from these fellows is that it's liable to take several listens before making a definable impression -- seconds into the average solo track from these producers, you know whether you'll be wearing it out or dismissing it. Throughout this predominantly laid-back album, most everything wafts in with measured subtleties, even when the grooves are pitched up to the most feverish temperature. At no point does it begin to resemble a side project with too many egos in the room -- in fact, several members of the extended Detroit house music community -- saxophonist Norma Jean Bell, percussionist Andrés, keyboardist Amp Fiddler, bassist Bubz Fiddler, Urban Tribe's Sherard Ingram -- also make low-profile appearances. While the album doesn't quite have the orchestrated flow of Moodymann's cinematic full-lengths for Peacefrog, it was pieced together with care -- it's not a simple compilation of tracks stacked on top of one another. It doesn't top any of the producers' best individual moments, but it's a significant feather in the cap of each party involved. The CD version comes with a bonus disc, most of which consists of previously unreleased tracks. Parrish's powerful "Instant Insanity," previously bound to a limited, one-sided 12", is one of the inclusions; a 9/11 elegy built around samples of news reports and Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," it'll either repulse you or reduce your insides to a bundle of raw nerves.

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