J-Dub: Chicago’s mad scientist of soul 

Who: J-Dub

What: Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Saturday, June 14

Oh Chicago. Not the musical mind you, or the band for that matter, but the windy city. The city that opened the world’s eyes to jazz and blues, Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and more recently, house music.

It was ’80s Chicago where elements of the dead and buried disco era got funked up a few notches. It was a legendary Chicago club called The Warehouse where the music got its name. DJs would take blues, jazz and gospel-tinged tracks and turn them into dance floor fillers where people had to move a little faster and a little livelier in order to feel the rhythm. This new sensation that touched the soul quickly became a welcome alternative to beer swilling bars playing regular rock ’n’ roll.

J-Dub, a.k.a Jerry Walters, is a Chicago original. He grew up listening to this new uplifting type of music and was fascinated with how it made people move.

"I grew up with house music the way kids today grow up with hip hop. It was everywhere. On the radio, at parties, and it seemed to just make everyone feel good," J-Dub recalled.

At 15 years of age he decided to try the decks himself and picked up where the forefathers of house left off.

"This genre of music touches on so many different styles from ’80s new wave to R&B, soul, reggae, funk and jazz. It’s great to be able to connect the dots between all these styles and see where they can blend and meet to become house."

With so many innovators in one city, J-Dub likes to stay ahead of the pack.

"Because Chicago is such a competitive place in terms of music, you have to really stretch yourself and work hard to develop your own unique style," he said.

J-Dub first earned a reputation as a mad scientist of soul, mixing versatile and irresistible sounds that eventually had him in demand around the world. Especially in Canada. He has been a dance floor filler from coast to coast and has had residencies in Toronto for years.

"I love coming to Canada. The people are a lot more open to experimentation and a lot more willing to relax and have a good time," said J-Dub. "Black music in general has so many roots in jazz, especially in hip hop and house. Yet most black people in the States don’t really listen to house music any more. It’s all hip hop. Canada still appreciates both."

J-Dub considers house a very abstract form of music that doesn’t really address the concerns of the vast majority of black people the way hip hop does.

"Unfortunately there’s a very strong materialistic sheen to hip hop music right now and people are really attracted to that. House music is the exact opposite. So is jazz, so you put the two styles together and it’s magical to listen to. It touches the soul."

J-Dub’s style is known as The Heavy Soul Technique.

"I definitely think of my music as being good for the soul and I try to play in a manner that illustrates that. My sound is very grounded in American black soul music even though the tempo of music I play is not traditional R&B," he said.

"People want to feel an emotional connection between the music and themselves. I think that’s what distinguishes house music from all other genres. It’s real. It’s not based on drugs or violence. It’s not based on isolation and yet it’s still an extremely political form of art. The basic message of house music is tolerance, where as I think other forms of modern music don’t really preach that. The foundation of house is a tolerance for all people and all ways of life. It’s for good people."

Don’t you feel like dancing right now? Don’t miss J-Dub this Saturday night at Garfinkel’s. DJ Abasi who hosts the popular Cheeky Nights in Vancouver, opens. Tickets are $13. Doors at 8:30 p.m.

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