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Frank Hatchett - Body Shots (Monte Cristo, 2020)

Music made for the body on this wonderful reissue of Hatchett's classic dance music record.

Music has always incited people to move, get down, and express themselves physically through the emotive movements of dancing. Since time began, humans have always moved along to something, be it the simple thuds of wood to track, rhythmic vocal work, the sombre tones of a guitar, the power of a four piece, or simply a person behind the decks in a dark and sweaty basement. Music channels its way into the inner mind, a chemistry and relationship that is created between the way we perceive what we hear and how we move our body to it. That relationship has certainly developed through time, with every genre, scene and context having its own interpretation of the dance, responding to the rhythms that are being channelled through them. In many ways, music is usually created to fit a vibe, an environment, and then let the people respond to it likewise. The music fits the tone, humans respond to it either individually, or as part of a group, the context feeding from the response to the track and back into themselves. However, many records were crafted with the specific mindset of allowing people to express themselves through the medium of dance, the music a tool to incur a specific response. With these records, you often get the enormity of flavours, the intense focus on the rhythm, the melodic elements just a added sparkle to give it that real sense of progression. We listen, and whilst enticed by the keys and other melodic instruments, we just can't keep out of our minds the notion of just getting up and dancing. The short bursts of pure energy that exude from each cut give us a sense of living, letting go for a moment and connecting with something on a purely humanistic level, an experience of closing your eyes and letting your body take over, for just one moment.

Frank Hatchett really delved into this mindset, and it really shows from within his music. A professional dancer, teacher and choreographer by trade, Hatchett owned the famous Frank Hatchett Studio Of Dance, located in Buffalo, NY, where he schooled many dancers in the medium of expression through the body and soul. It was during this period that he nurtured the dance style of VOP, that was inspired by intense rhythmic dance moves taken from movements associated with jazz. Now considered an originator of the style, not only was Hatchett concerned with the manner in which people responded to dance, he wanted to craft the sounds that people moved to as well. Starting in 1973, he would release a series of single and albums that explored the manner of rhythmic release that spanned across a series of styles, swings, tempos and genres, that always fed right back into his vision for the art of dance. As mentioned by the man himself, his technique and style wanted to feed into the art of transitions, where dancers would need to move between one style and into the other, much like how jazz was known for its quick movements between spacious and busy, structured and unstructured. His first three records, 'Jazz Power' (1973), 'Jazz Technique' (1974), and 'Dance Explosion' (1975) were very much a representation of this, spanning through jazz, fusion, Afrobeat, funk and Disco, giving over the fullest of flavours, and allowing for students and fans alike to revel in the abundance of dance opportunities involved. There was a complexity involved, the fluidity however always bringing people into it, short and snappy explosions of self expressionism that delved into how we move and groove. The rest of his body of work continued on in this same vein, continually feeding into this collective view of dance and how it could be furthered. Its all very wonderful.

And now we arrive at this, the reissue of his record 'Body Shots', which had a previously unknown release date, out on Monte Cristo. The record begins and ends with many twists and turns, much like the dancer, but it has an undoubtable grace to it. The funk and groove are of the highest order, the snappiness of the tracks allowing for short bursts of pure joy and energy, spreading from the head down to the toes. The styles within each track respond from the previous, but always seem to borrow a little bit from the last, keeping a thread going that never gets lost within the infectious rhythms. So lets take a dip!

Up first is, quite appropriately, 'Dance Dance Dance Dance'. The vibe is set from the off, the drums setting this nice swing to proceedings, before the guitar provides the overlaying rhythm on top of it all. The synth line joins in, providing this wonderful sense of harmonic progression, before it switches out in favour of a droning bass line. This moment also passes, as soft chords join in the background, a real movement between the lines. Our attention is captured by these fleeting moments, but our focus always remains on the groove, that effortless groove. Next comes 'Freakman', that chimes off with a jazz fusion vibe at the intro. It then descends into a fucking groove, the guitar riff licking around the kicks, before the keys really hammer it home, little sequences filling up the spaces between the beats with ease. This one looks to channel into the rhythms of the emotions, creating a real sense of euphoria. It switches up with the hi hats changing tempo, before it swings right out of things and back into the groove of a lifetime. The break down sees the drums reduced to the kick, the guitar taking on a life of its own, riffing like theres no tomorrow, continuing its drive into the night sky. 'Sam's Tune' comes next, and begins very full bloodied. The tempo is all over that disco thing, a driving beat with full his and cymbals is interlaced with guitar riffs so precise you could cut through butter with them. The aquatic effects give the track an amazing sense of depth, and allow you to draw attention to the driving bass that moves within the deep drums. The one would certainly light up any dance floor, brilliantly groovy and moving in all kinds of directions, its one for the real movers. 'Drum Drops's comes next, and like what it says, its all in the name. The rhythm delivered here is off the chain, the kick and snare spaced out to really provide a foundation for the high energy percussion on top. The layering of cymbals and hats is overly impressive, really whipping up the dancers into a storm. Its so intense, but never too much, a real burst of fucking energy. Fantastic.

We move back into melodic territory with 'Mr and Mrs Sanchez', and we go all calypso for a minute or two. The beat is low slung and dense, allowing for the big room key lines to really create the mood. The transitions between the beat only phase and the full is pulled off masterfully, the image of movers going from responding to drums only to expression of significant magnitude when the keys come in is delightful. Next comes 'Shamballa', and the tempo switches significantly. The beat moves into the cruise mode, slowly drifting around a urban centre late at night, the bass line then approaches the track to suit. After all that frantic responses, its time to take the pace down a notch. The track moves between the funk and into fusion territory, the quick moves between chords allowing for the descend into the upped tempo, where the movements are let go to really move. The quick explosion over, the track reverts back to its original tempo, slowly creeping along. 'For the Lover in You' comes next, and we begin for the first time with the soft chords kicking us off. This sets the vibe, the groove then joins in the wonderful layering of modern soul tendencies. The track remains content in its current form, never breaking a sweat as it gracefully moves between the lines, beautiful in its channelling of soft dance music. It really gets into the heart and soul of it all, inviting us deeper into the music than perhaps ever before on the record. 'Spur of the Moment' then brings us back to the usual, the explosion occurring right from the off. The playful funk keys ride high, the guitar responding in turn underneath, the drums and bass operating in perfect harmony with one another. The track creates wonderful subtle deviations in structure and arrangement, with the guitar playing its part in moving in and around everything. 'Pop Along' comes next, and the guitar kicks us off. The pumping bass hits hard through the middle, before the funky keys join in once again. The keys really do their thing here, allowed to really go for it in terms of creating urgency and melodic interest. 'Love Now Hurt Later' comes right into view next, and the urgency levels hit the roof. The bass and drums power through, on top we have the sparse keys and guitar, that will probably move through the lines soon. The driving riddim is really on full show here, straight up, never once really moving away from its original intentions, and how wonderful is it, full on glory. To finish up this glorious explosion of energy, we have the track 'Loose', that is a cover of Otis Redding's track 'I Can't Turn You Loose'. The original is performed in Redding's beautiful slow and soulful style, but here we see it ramped up to 11, the tempo explored and performed with bombastic style. Perhaps the most explosive and bountiful moments on a record filled to the brim with expression, its a wonderful piece to end on, a record stuffed with these little bits where you just turn your body and move into something else. Truly unique and brilliant.

The one thing that can be taken away from this record is the brilliant transitions, the moments that Hatchett mentioned were the hardest things to pull off from within his style. Here, the music does a lot of that, but it reads independently as wonderful experiences that are short and sweet, but pulled off with a skill that only masters could achieve, and perhaps only with the guidance from a tutor who has a unique vision of dance and its relationship to music. This record is one filled with so many moments of flair, honesty and brilliance, a record made for the dance, a record to be remembered. Brilliant.

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