By Fred Dintenfass   Published Oct 22, 2004 at 5:30 AM

{image1}The Shake and Bake, Monday nights at the River Horse, is a journey into sound led by DJs Avets (Steve Watkins) and Top Shelf (Elliott Oliver). From old funk to newer hip hop, and everything in between, the Shake and Bake is a rare opportunity to hear 35 years' worth of musical gems.

On Monday nights "there aren't any rules" says Oliver. They mix it up, spinning "early funk, rough and raw" and the '90s hip hop that builds on these jams.

Both DJs are heavily influenced by "classic New York-style hip hop and DJ culture," particularly the famous "Lessons" records. By Double Dee and Steinski, "Lessons" 1-3 collaged together breaks and samples from funk, rock and even children's records, laying the ground for artists like Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow and the Shake and Bake DJs.

Schooling began for Watkins and Oliver in different ways: Oliver got his start DJing gallery nights in Kansas City, Mo. while attending the Kansas City Art Institute; Watkins started DJing parties as a teenager in Milwaukee.

As a kid watching BET's "Rap City," Oliver started listening to hip hop. In college he got into funk through his friend and fellow student Dante Carfagna. A funk expert and historian, Carfagna ran the legendary funk night "Hustler's Convention."

At "Hustler's Convention" Oliver realized the records he was hearing were sampled for his favorite hip hop records. "I was amazed," Oliver says, "it gave me a brand new view of what this music is." The relation between the genres started to gel. "I wouldn't have known what the tracks were if I wouldn't have heard the stuff in college, and I wouldn't have been into the tracks if I hadn't heard the stuff from when I was a kid."

Watkins got into DJing in 1988 watching his cousin DJ parties, "I knew that was what I had to be."

Gigs at Quarters and Thai Joe's brought him into contact with other DJs, like Eric Blowtorch and the Twin Towers of Dub, who introduced him to '70s ragga and '80s DJ style reggae and artists like Dillinger and Augustus Pablo.

He's continued to spread the sounds; DJing at the Redroom, the Dragon Lounge and The Rave, to name just a few.

Monday nights at the River Horse Oliver plays songs from the classic early funk era, "'68-'74; before disco, after r&b." In addition to Bernard Purdie and Ray Frazier, Oliver also favors newer artists like Lyrics Born and the recent records by Poets of Rhythm and Sharon Jones that sound as if they were recorded in the heyday of funk and soul.

Watkins holds down "classic B-Boy hip hop" from Pharcyde and Brand Nubian and newer jams from J-Rocc, and the Def Jux and Rhymesayers labels.

Watkins and Oliver are not ironic DJs. "We mix together styles and genres to embrace all the different types of people that come here," and create a musical environment not bound by genre.

Working together, the Shake and Bake DJs are creating new lessons and re-emphasizing older ones, illustrating connections between records and artists generations apart musically but similar in spirit.

Monday nights they take it to another dimension "we have a chronological interface," says Oliver, with Flavor Dave's Soul Hole, a block away at the Foundation. "Dave does '50s-'70s, and we do '60s-today," explains Oliver.

Oliver and Watkins' lessons extend beyond their classroom. Take a field trip Monday night and get schooled.

The Shake and Bake DJs Monday night mainstays:

Elliot Oliver "Top Shelf":
Black Heat -- "No Time to Burn" LP
Poets of Rhythm -- "Discern/Define" EP
Lyrics Born -- "Do That There (Young Einstein mix)"

Steve Watkins "DJ Avets":
Jurassic 5 -- "Without a Doubt"
J-Rocc -- "Play This One (Junkie's Pick mix)"
Third Guitar -- "Baby Don't Cry"

The Shake and Bake is every Monday from 10 p.m.- 2 a.m. at the River Horse, 701 E. Center St. For more info call the River Horse at (414) 264-4788