The act of manipulating two turntables and a mixer has evolved, as everyone now knows, from its genesis as a device for reproducing other people's music into something altogether different. And while there have been bright spots along the way that have pointed to the rise of the DJ as something approaching an instrumentalist, most of those behind the wheels of steel are still content to segue from one track to the next, or are seemingly bent on proving their worth with lightning-fast scratching displays that end up being the groove music equivalent of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Lately DJing has also picked up what has to be one of the most cumbersome labels in music (can't anyone think of a better tag than "turntablism"?), but whatever you call it, the art form just got a major kick in the ass from DJ Logic. Logic, aka Jason Kibler, is a Bronx-born DJ who's best known so far for his work with Medeski, Martin & Wood, and for the sonic bombardment he layered all over Vernon Reid's Mistaken Identity album. Logic's first solo disc, Presents Project Logic, an astonishing mix of live instrumentation and turntable wizardry, confirms the supreme musicality at which his guest appearances have only hinted. An intricately threaded tapestry built on Logic's rhythmic scratching and cross-fading, Project Logic features a list of collaborators that reads like a catalog of the downtown New York new music scene: bassist Melvin Gibbs (who also co-produced), all three members of Medeski, Martin & Wood, guitarists Reid and Marc Ribot, cornetist Graham Haynes, and even Miles Davis' legendary producer, Teo Macero, who plays horn on "Abyss."
Logic uses his guests as foils for the barrage of effects he wrings out of his equipment, from bizarre snippets of spoken-word instructional LPs ("Shea's Groove") to cannon-shot hip-hop beats to the rhythmic scratching that anchors tunes like "Gig 1" and "Bag of Tricks." While an avant-jazz- flavored trip hop is the order of the day, "Project Logic" gets into some interesting and varied places. The tabla-fueled "Mnemonics" flirts with drum 'n' bass, "Eyes Open (But Dead)" features freestyling from Beans and Priest of the Anti-Pop Consortium, "Una Cosa Buena" shows what Logic can do with Afro-Cuban rhythms (a lot), and "Spider Dance," with Jennifer Charles' hushed vocals, sounds like an unreleased gem off a Garbage album.
Logic isn't, of course, the first to scratch records rhythmically or make new sounds out of existing vinyl grooves. But he is the first, with the help of his talented crew, to realize his vision so completely.
DJ Logic performs with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, and Saturday, Nov. 27, at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Tickets are $15; call 885-0750.