Their name says it all – Masters At Work. For over a decade, "Little Louie" Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez have shepherded dance music down new paths with their inventive production style and imaginative feel for different musical forms. The two native New Yorkers have amassed an overwhelming body of work in that time, one that includes hundreds of original productions, remixes and side projects, redefining the way we think of music in clubs. Vega and Gonzalez defiantly mix everything they can find – house, hip-hop, funk, disco, Latin, African and jazz – into a universal groove. And in doing so, MAW has become a cultural mélange unto itself, emblematic of the multicultural society in which we live.
MAW alter-ego Nuyorican Soul was born in 1993, a play on their heritage (Puerto Rican), residence (New York City) and style of music (soul). They debuted the guise on "The Nervous Track" (Nervous Records), giving us a glimpse of the Nuyorican concept – a groove that wasn't just thumping beats but musically sophisticated and engaging as well. A subsequent track, the hot club hit "You Can Do It (Baby)!" featuring George Benson, helped the project gain critical mass with fans, and after being signed by influential music maestro Gilles Peterson, Vega and Gonzalez recorded the first Nuyorican Soul album.
Released in 1997, the self-titled album was a mix of exemplary salsa, jazz and soul musicians (Roy Ayers, Eddie Palmieri, Jocelyn Brown). There was a discernable Latin jazz influence on songs like "Runaway" (a Salsoul Orchestra cover), a classic soul feel on the Rotary Connection gem "I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun," and a nod to hip-hop with a cover of Bob James' oft-sampled classic "Nautilus (Mawtilus)". Yet while the album's cover songs gave a nod to their influences, nobody could have imagined the timelessness of the Nuyorican sound.
The duo will be treating us to a very special 25 year celebration of Nuyorican Soul, full of exclusive re-imaginings and renditions.