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  Joe Claussell








In the last five years, there has been the emergence of a new sound in dance music, one that places more emphasis on Latin, African and jazz elements than straight 4/4 beats.   This global dance movement can in many ways be traced to Joe Claussell, perhaps the most significant figure to arrive on the scene since the Masters at Work.  As a DJ, record store owner, label executive and artist he's been intricately involved with all aspects of music, giving him a unique perspective that's allowed him to avoid the pitfalls of so many pioneers.

Joaquin Claussell was born and raised in a music loving household in New York City.  As a child he was exposed to a wide variety of sounds, establishing a diverse frame of reference that would forever shape his tastes.

He landed a production credit for a track in the 80s but refrained from making himself a full time musician, choosing instead to focus on outside (and more financially consistent) ventures.

An opportunity to assume ownership of the well-loved Dance Tracks record shop provided him with an avenue to get a bird's eye view of the music industry.   From this vantage point, Claussell was able to obtain information from the consumer (which tracks sold, dealing with requests, etc.) and the business (distribution, promotions, contacting label reps) spectrums.  The knowledge he gained encouraged him to set up the Spiritual Life Music label in 1995.

As atmospheric and organic releases from Blaze ("Stubborn Problems"), Mateo and Matos ("Mixed Moods") and Lucho ("Symbols of Life") met with success, Claussell got back into the studio for the first time in years.  To date, the most fondly remembered Spiritual Life record is probably "The Prayer," recorded by the Haitian musician Jepthe Guillaume and produced by Joe.  Its beauty is stunning.

Unsurprisingly, Spiritual Life was quickly proclaimed as an alternative to the soulless and abrasive house sound that was dominating the scene.  To keep from overloading the label with music, he aligned himself with the similarly-intentioned Ibadan, for whom he produced some remixes of Ten City's back catalog. 

Around this time, he began to plan a weekly club series entitled Body and Soul.  The objective was clear: to play quality music in a supportive atmosphere.   In a brilliant move, B & S was to be held on Sunday afternoon, virtually ensuring a crowd with expectations other than scoring the next bump, pill, or sexual partner.

With fellow music historians Danny Krivit and the legendary Francois K also working the decks, the night was soon THE buzz around New York. Patrons were likely to hear Michael Watford, Fela Kuti, Pharoah Sanders and Carl Bean during the evening, meaning Body and Soul was educational as well as inspirational.  As its popularity grew, so did Claussell's profile.  Today, Body and Soul is widely considered the spiritual successor to the Paradise Garage, with Claussell as its Larry Levan.

Overall, his impact is obvious.  The sudden increase in live and African-oriented house is hard to imagine without Spiritual Life proving there was an audience for meaningful, enriching music.  Jazzanova, Masters at Work and entire sections of the German and French scenes have picked up on Claussell's groove.   Magazines and the record industry try to increase sales of a tune by hyping it as a "Body and Soul record."  It all adds up to a staggering number of achievements for someone whose career is still in its prime.

Joe Claussell's Deepest Grooves

Body & Soul, Volume 1 (Wave, 1998)

Body and Soul volume 2 (Wave, 1999)
First two volumes of the popular mix series of Body and Soul favorites.

Voyage of Dreams - Jephte Guillaume (Spiritual Life, 1999)
If there is a headline artist on Spiritual Life besides Joe, it's probably Guillaume.  This is the album he recorded with Joe and features "The Prayer" and "Ibe Le Le."

Mix the Vibe (Nite Grooves, 1999)
Double cd set of Claussell working the Nite Grooves catalog to perfection.

Spiritual Life Music (Nuphonic, 1999)
Covers the early stages of the label.  A quick and effective way to get caught up to speed if you don't buy vinyl.

Language (Ibadan, 1999)
Proper debut album released to a surprisingly low key response.

Body and Soul volume 3 (Wave, 2000)
More B & S classics for your car.

Spiritual Life Music (+ Bonus Tracks) (Cutting Edge, 2001)
Japanese 2CD set that includes unreleased material alongside established classics.

"Closer" - Joi (Common Ground, 2002)
First new remix from Claussell in a while.  Still providing the lush and deep vibes we've come to know and love.

Music Is A Reason To Celebrate (Urban Theory, 2002)
Typically wide-reaching blend with an emphasis on Latin and African rhythms. Highlights include Pam Todd's great "Let's Get Together," "Pagliacci," and "The Creator Has A Master Plan."

Spiritual Life Music (Spiritual Life, 2002)
Could be the American edition of the collection issued last year in Japan.  22 of some of the earthiest, most innovative music you'll ever hear.  It may change your conception of what "dance" music is.

Copyright 2001, 2002 All rights reserved.

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