There was a time not that long ago that JT Donaldson was a staple on the “circuit” – an informal group of about two dozen or so DJs that seemed to play every city in North America & Europe every few months in a more or less constant rotation. The circuit is dead now, as music styles do change but most of all the number of traveling DJs proliferates. One could conceivably book a new DJ every Friday and Saturday night for a year and not run out of possibilities.
JT has since veered off into his own orbit, clearing his own path, and emerges with this record, 88 Days on Nu Jax, DJ Mes’ new label.
Let me cut to the chase: this is a phenomenal record. I don’t know where he’s been, I don’t know where he’s going, but 88 Days blew me away. If you have to put a label on this, I’d say that JT Donaldson made an Italo record. Or mostly Italo. If you took Klein + MBO and put them in a room with Gregory Porter, this might be the strange product of that meeting, wafting out from the windows and beneath the doors.
“In Our Love” is a gorgeous synthetic love song, mostly (or at least effectively) instrumental, with a bassline that quakes like it’s building up the strength to break out of an old squeezebox. This and “Depression” feel like pieces cut of out a whole. They go together. They’re going to strike some people as odd, there’s no question about that. I sat down for awhile and… I get this. I get where this is coming from. And I’m guessing that most of JT’s fanbase probably will as well.
“Don’t Let It Go” is the most “traditional” track on here, and as such it’s something of an odd fit. And I’m sure it’ll be the most popular among the other part of the fanbase – that “great track” on a strange EP, to flip the tables.
There are artists in this business and there’s everyone else. Party boys. Engineers. Technicians. People who wake up in the morning and immediately wonder what other people are thinking about them. And you know, this is dance music, you can move to it, but this is a record that demands you take it seriously.