There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
He’s been a panelist at places as high-toned as the Duke University School of Law, he’s deconstructed and re-scored D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, and his art has appeared at a Whitney Biennial. The academic world loves DJ Spooky because he can speak the smarty-pants language of cultural theoreticians, but the D.C.-born musician/writer/artist also has the fluttering heart of an enthusiastic record-loving kid: Sure, his artistic endeavors qualify the Bowdoin College grad (aka Paul D. Miller) as a polymath, but his music is where the brainpower really matters. At its core, Spooky’s Optometry disc, with pianist Matthew Shipp (among others), is a series of jazz performances, where Shipp, Spooky, William Parker, Joe McPhee, and Guillermo E. Brown improvise along with one another. The results sound more natural than the beatbox-driven experiments of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. It makes sense that Spooky would get it right: He grew up on D.C. sounds (go-go, punk) and immersed himself in the vinyl collection of his late father, a Howard University professor. He also trained on stand-up bass and embraced the gizmo-speak of electronic production. That all adds up to a guy who trusts his gut as much as his head. Lately, Spooky’s show has been improvisational—his tour with drummer Mike Clark is meant to reflect the spirit of Optometry without revisiting it completely. And Clark—who has worked with a litany of jazz and fusion greats since the ’70s (and also drummed on Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack) is the right rhythm machine for the job. The pair will get both funky and hypertextual at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 667-7960. (Joe Warminsky)