Last Night: Abstract Workshop’s 10th Anniversary Party @ Detroit Bar, May 31, 2008

Darondo, Nino Moschella and the Park, Rhettmatic, Jud Nester, Cocoe, Scotty Coats, Schmuck and others @ Detroit Bar on 5/31

Better than: Sex and the City… or in the country. Almost.

Download: tracks from Darondo’s Let My People Go

PhotobucketJust about everybody brought his A game to Abstract Workshop’s 10-year anniversary shindig (for some reason, I brought my B+ game; sorry). People were in a festive mood and the strong lineup really kicked the crowd members’ emotions into a higher gear.

DJs Cocoe and Schmuck set the scene with some quality dub, funk, hip-hop and remixes of Motown chestnuts like “I Want You Back” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” as the Costa Mesa club gradually started to fill up.

Abstract Workshop linchpin Jud Nester came through with a short but tantalizing live set, accompanied by bassist ED. Playing keyboards and singing, Nester unspooled some slick, vintage soul and funk, with one song dedicated to “the lovers in the building” being a choice specimen of mellow, silk-sheets soul.

Ubiquity Records artist Nino Moschella is a chunky, thickly bearded, shaggy-haired Italian soul belter/multi-instrumentalist from the Bay Area. Playing Nord Lead synth, guitar and singing high and mighty, he led a quintet of white boys called the Park (percussion, bass, Rhodes, drums) who are tighter than my deadlines. They played suave, sensual funk and soul that springs on the same mattresses as the immortals (Sly, Stevie, Jamie). Moschella himself oozed soul the way most people emit b.o. He’s a goddamn natural and naturally a funk/soul legend like Darondo would want Nino and his ultra-competent comrades to back their fellow Ubiquity artist onstage.

This they do, along with a trumpeter Brian Switzer and saxophonist Roger Cox. At 62, Darondo is still whippet-thin and his slicked-back hair is devoid of gray. Yeah, dude’s missing some teeth, but his act sure isn’t. His movements were quick and his voice still purred with robust Al Green power.

Darondo’s catalog contains but nine songs, but they’re all keepers. He started with the stomping soul of “How I Got Over,” then shifted into the Sly N the Family Stone raucousness of “My Momma and My Poppa.” Sweat was soaking his shirt by the second song. D prefaced the luscious soul ballad “Didn’t I” with some sound advice for the fellas, involving whipped cream, cherries, lots of licking and “flip[ping] her over like a pancake.” “Treat your woman right,” Darondo concluded with authority. Another Green-like slowie, “Sure Know How to Love Me,” made Cloud 9 seem harsh.

PhotobucketAs I was hoping he would, Darondo climaxed his set with “Legs (Part 1).” It’s one of the funkiest tracks in musical history and if the world ever needs help in boosting its population, the UN should blast it into bedrooms everywhere. During this classic, Darondo actually did the splits and bounced upright with alarming quickness. He’ll probably need help getting out of bed for the next few days, but that’s the sort of entertainer Darondo is. If there’s a heaven, James Brown is likely smiling upon this wonderful freak of nature.

DJ Rhettmatic finished the night with a wicked Serato set full of hip-hop standards (“Jump Around,” “Can I Kick It?” that Dre song from The Chronic whose title I can never remember, etc.) that whipped a few hotshot B-boys into some frankly awesome breakdancing. In the back room, Scotty Coats dropped inspirational funk, disco, a Masters at Work re-edit of Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” and Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening,” which never sounded better. And, no, I wasn’t drunk or high…

Critic’s notebook

Personal bias: I have plenty of time for old soul men who still got some juice, even as they near retirement age.

Random detail: The threads Darondo wore tonight probably cost more than I make in four months.

By the way: Onstage, Darondo seems to be 6’6”; offstage, he stands about 5’6”. That’s what’s known as world-class stage presence, y’all.

View Nate Jackson's photos of the event here.

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