Noted by house music fans for being a Chicago club kid whom Danny Tenaglia, no less, encouraged to become a DJ, HONEY DIJON -- real name Honey Redmond -- has more than lived up to whatever it was in her that Tenaglia saw. It was not always so; her early work, though fierce enough, lacked breadth of vision and mastery of colors. But that was then.
On Saturday night, returning to RISE Club, where this writer first saw her in 2006 -- and reviewed the gig for the Phoenix -- Dijon proved what a master of authentic house music she has become. Onto a packed dance floor, she dropped four-hours of cool-toned strut beat, expanded upon and shape-shifted, but always maintained, with very few breaks. Her strut step spoke joy and pride as purposeful to the soul as it was irresistible to the body.
The pump of her beat and its knife-edged texture reminded this writer of Chicago's Derrick Carter. It's his signature and has influenced an entire generation of Chicago DJs. Dijon used it for her own purposes, however. Unlike Carter, she did not incorporate several generations of black music's past into her sound. Recitative voice there was, and soulful divas -- best of these were Dajae, whose "Until the Day" Dijon produced, and the voice of DJ Ali's "You Don't Know," which Dijon remixed. There was some "ooh baby," and a lusty "you movin steady when you move to the left," and even an "I’ll beat your meat" brag rap; but these drop-ins speak today's vernacular, not yesterday's. Also unlike Carter, who these days creates on vinyl with a Traktor PC program, Dijon delivered her set simple and basic, on two CD players hooked to one mix-board.
Despite its instrumental simplicity, there was nothing unilateral about her sound. Her strut strut beat blended with -- or accommodated to -- a polyphony of upper-register noises, voices, harmonies, percussions, rhythms. Brazilian rhythm took over at least an hour of her set. There was techno stomp, some reverb and percussion duet in the manner of Victor Calderone; glitch voices and "tribal" rhythms linked, most unusually; and, after 5 a.m., a shift to girly hooch, drum dreams, and a stretch of falsetto beguilement by none other than Prince.
Any resemblance to the tradition-conscious Derrick Carter had long since been left behind when -- 6 a.m. was fast approaching -- Dijon put soulful niceties aside, quick-cutting to an extended play of jazz repartee between drums snaring and voice scatting, each back at the other, rapid-fire and joyous. Scat is, of coursed, jazz's way of speaking in tongues. It's a gospel voice on a holy dance transported to the bawdy world where house music's party people do their preening and bare chest sweating and thus entirely fit to the pride that house music's audience has always taken in being who they are, and where, and when, and for as long as it takes to give it up to the message in the music. Honey Dijon's set at RISE did all that. Chicago house music lives.