Monthly Archives: September 2014

Anatomy of THE Groove 9/26/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Do It Again” by Paul Hardcastle

First time I heard Paul Hardcastle was on an 80’s CD compilation-as usual playing on the car stereo while running errands. The song was called “19”. It featured the British songwriter/producer/multi instrumentalist integrating sound samples about from the Vietnam War with female vocals and strong electro funk.  The music,lyrics and innovative use of samples were very pointed and topical. It really helped me bring to mind how,despite how music press propaganda at the time was being delivered to both the public and eventually other musicians,that contemporary protest music was of course very much alive and well in the mid 1980’s. Interestingly enough? He was actually still operating. But had since taken a new musical course.

With the realization that smooth jazz mainly had to do with a production approach more than an instrumental one,Paul Hardcastle championed an instrumental style from the 1990’s onward that emphasized sleek production values,pan ethnic polyrhythms and his inventive use of sound samples. This music was referred to not as jazz,fusion or new age but rather as “chill”. It arose from the variety of funk that came from bands such as Sade as well. So it made sense that,after almost two decades of furthering this “chill” subgenre that Hardcastle would notice the Nu Funk movement,which sought among other things to clear the air about a perceived gap between 70’s funk and disco,by releasing his contribution to this with his second album of 2014 called Moovin’ And Grooin’. And in particular with the song “Do It Again”.

The song starts off with a sound sample saying “This should be heard at high volume,preferably in a residential area”. Then the very percussive drumming comes in (of a type where I can’t really tell if it’s a live drum or synthesized) over which a woman’s voice is breathing sensually in time to the rhythm. Then an accompanying counter hi hat cymbal rhythm kicks in before this round,ring modulated layers of keyboards come in playing a very jazzy melody. What sounds like a quartet of vocalists sing “let’s do it/do it again”-seeming,as Hardcastle himself put it to reflect disco’s “meaningless” lyrics’. Only almost each time these vocals show up,the instrumentation grows in intensity. By the time the swirling,orchestral Barry White type strings show up? Everything from the rhythm to melodic instrumental elements are behaving in funky,danceable unison until the song itself fades out.

On this song,there is an interesting mixture of the disco era’s dancability with the somewhat stiffer rhythmic accents of house-creating a digitized yet rhythmically loose hybridized groove. Peel back the production layers a bit? And I immediately heard another groove that I have a degree of familiarity with. And that would be Brass Construction’s 1975 funk/disco process classic “Movin'”. It was a mixture of quick tempo’d,percussive funk with a strong and persistent Afro-Latin rhythm that’s difficult to avoid in the genre,but showcasing funk and disco’s roots in African dance music that goes back for centuries. I was very impressed to see that Hardcastle is acknowledging not only the important of heavy rhythmic funk in the music of the disco era,but also it’s link to Africa. A link where any vocal element is advancing and conducting the instrumentation like a totally rhythmic orchestra.  Understanding this from a somewhat culturally outsiders perspective is,from my point of view,what makes this song move.

 

 

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Filed under Chill jazz, Disco, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Nu Funk, Paul Hardcastle

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 9/20/2014: ‘Apocalypse’ by Thundercat

Apocalypse

It has never ceased to delight me that since 2010 there has been a consistently high level of innovation happening within music. For one thing,indie developments of the past fifteen years aren’t so indie anymore. And musicians who have been waiting in the wings to emerge are again beginning to do so with new and exciting musical hybrids. This is especially true of the jazz/funk/soul spectrum. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner-with a father and brother who’ve alternately played with the likes of Diana Ross,The Temptations,Stanley Clarke and so on is one of these people. Having been the bass player for thrash/funk/metal band Suicidal Tendencies with his brother Ron Thundercat re-upped as a solo artist in 2011. Rather makes sense if you think about it since metal and funk are more easily blended than one might think due to both music’s emphasis on a strong groove and being rooted in the blues. The difference is the approach-playing dirty (metal) or playing cleanly (funk). So this is Thundercat’s sophomore release. The question I have to ask myself in this situation is one asked before: why am I only hearing about Thundercat just now?

Produced with the help of Flying Lotus this album begins with “Ten Fold”,”Heartbreaks + Setbacks”,”The Life Aquatic”,”Special Stage” and the ambient styled “Tron Song”. These songs are build around harmonically rich swirls of electronic synthesizers-pulsing Moog type bass blending with Thundercat’s electric bass riffing. His high,ethereal voice keeps up with these melodically and rhythmically challenging grooves. The bass groove “Seven” is one of the speediest and most nimble I’ve heard on such a spare “nu jazz” number,apparently a funk hybrid I didn’t know the name to. “Oh Sheit It’s X” is brilliant,my favorite on here with it’s 70’s TONTO style Isley Brothers meets P-Funk mixture of retro synthesizers into a think funk groove with wonderfully elaborate melodies again. “Without You” is a much more spare mid western Minneapolis/Ben Sidran approach to funk-jazz-with it’s juxtaposed stop/start and steady rhythmic sound. “Lotus And The Jondy” is another deep groove with a heavy bump to it-another favorite. “Evangelion”,the intro “We’ll All Die” and the orchestrated closing epic of “A Message For Austin/Praise The Lord/Enter The Void”-tribute to the passing of Austin Topper Peralta are all ornately psychedelic style fusion numbers.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album recently that actually innovates it’s unique sound from an accumulation of the many musical innovations of the 60’s,70’s,80’s and even 90’s quite the way this album does. And it does so while sounding not contemporary but instantly somehow ahead of its time. This is a factor that has produced the pasts most enduring music. One of the best part is how he manages to blend nearly complete non-commercialism musically while writing,singing and playing songs that are melodic and highly memorable to the human ear and the human soul. The instrumentation here is very elaborate and expansive. Lyrically he takes on a rather pantheist level of spirituality and human self improvement completely in keeping with the funk era his music celebrates with elements of Eastern and Christian ideas. By blending together all the best elements of jazz,funk and psychedelia of the past Thundercat has made a masterpiece…that will likely be found in the electronica section of your record store. Today this is an excellent place to find unique and very funky and jazzy musical hybrids like this. A strong candidate for the most innovative funk/jazz album of 2013 thus far.

Original review posted on July 10th,2013

*For original review,click here!

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Filed under Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz-Funk, Thundercat

Anatomy of THE Groove 9/19/14 Rique’s Pick: “Work it Out” by Beyonce

The Queen Bee’s solo debut, “Work it Out”, was a song for the soundtrack of the Austin Powers franchise’s ’70s film, “Austin Powers Goldmember.” On this funky delight, B performs somewhat in character, the movies heroine Foxxy Cleopatra, a Foxxy Brown/Cleopatra Jones mash up that represents the “bad ass soul sister” image of 1970s blaxploitation. But, I also suspect B’s alter ego “Sasha” was in the house as well with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo on the recording session for this one. “Work it Out” is brimming with soulful sexual confidence, with B telling her man, “we can’t wait for the bedroom, we just hit the floor.” I must admit, as a fledgling musican dying to drop the funk bomb, this joint had me kinda jelly in ’02. Skateboard P and Chad made some real true ’70s funk in 2002, and at the same time it was old school, it had the instrumental tone of the Neptunes space age funk as well.

“Work it Out” is an example of the Neptunes mastery at the song writing skill called “interpolation.” Of course, they’re being sued right now for doing the same thing on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” When I heard this song, I knew it was an arch funky riff but I couldn’t figure out where I’d heard similar. It was something about the combination of the heavy bassline that leaves space enough for God to walk through it and the rhythmically active Clavinet part. It just hit me recently: “Work it Out” is an interpolation of Herbie Hancock’s 1973 version of his song “Watermelon Man” from the “Headhunters” LP. Just dig on “Watermelon Man’s” intro. Heavy bass hitting on the one, and then jumping into the upper registers after that opening statement, with the clavinet dancing over and through the holes the bass leaves. For this song though, Pharrell and Chad make the clavinet line a little bit more repetitive and simpler, cutting it down to a one bar pattern. Of course, the interpolation is interesting because “Watermelon Man” in it’s Headhunters version was also a cut MC’s loved to rhyme over in the ’90s.

The Neptunes borrow that basic funky motif, just as a funk band would, and lay a unique track for B to show her ass performance wise over. The drum track is very heavy on snare drum, like a New Orleans beat, with very little kick drum, the kicks only thump on the upbeat leading into beat one and on beat one. On the chourus of “Work it Out”, a sax riffs behind B, which I thought was a corny synth sax sound at first but I can stomach more now. When B says, “Chad blow your horn now”, we get a taste of baritone sax, which gives the piece a James Brown vibe, reminiscent of the James Brown Orchestra (not the J.B’s), when the Baritone sax added to the bottom of the music.

B takes this funky track and goes off, singing super soulful melismas, and adding all kinds of soul ad libs, like “looka here.” At one point she says, “Now that you’ve given me a taste of your honey/I want the whole beehive.” Which might be interesting to her similarly named fans. B’s vocal performance though, is magic, confident, sexy, powerful, soulful and funky. The video is also an orgy of groovy ’70s funk band aesthetics, rivaled in that time period maybe only by Cee Lo’s unheralded classic, “Closet Freak.” Beyonce began her solo career with a bang, deep in Neptunes assisted, Herbie Hancock and James Brown derived funk, channeling strong women like Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin and strong men like James Brown. And therein lies my admiration for B, her ability to dominate on funky groove tunes while the whole world thinks R&B is simply about slow love songs. Of course, this is an avenue I’d love to see her pursue more, let Sasha out girl! Now that some 12 years have passed I have to go back on my earlier resistence to this as light funk and put it up there on the one where it belongs. And also, with the time period of Virgo drawing near its end, I have to send a big shot out to the one thing I always dug about the video, namely, the word “Virgo” written across the back of B’s low ride Jeans and her hula hooping. Whew…. we gonna work it out indeed!

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Filed under 1970's, Beyonce', Blogging, Destiny's Child, Funk, Funk Bass, Herbie Hancock, Hip-Hop, Pharrell Willaims

Anatomy of THE Groove 9/19/2014: “Love On Top” by Beyonce’

Beyonce’ is figure who,interestingly enough has spawned a surprising amount of controversy and downright hostility in a specific circle around me. Having had little luck relating musically to my peers in the past? It has continued to be my mother and father who remain my main guides in terms of music. Beyonce’ represents a point where that began to change.  For their part? My parents are not Beyonce’ fans. She has provoked far more dislike from them than Prince ever did during his prime. My father seems to see her as unimaginative and uninteresting. Whereas my mother views her as nothing more than a performing prostitute-someone sacrificing their very real talent merely to make a quick buck and get attention. At first I was completely with them on that. And truthfully? I still feel those are valid points. Yet Beyonce’ is a character with more to her than her flamboyant onstage persona would suggest.

The most obvious element for an instrumentally inclined music lover about Beyonce’s sound would be the fact that so much of her music is rather non Western based rhythmically. From her years in Destiny’s Child on through her solo career,songs such as “Jumpin’,Jumpin”,”Survivor” and “Naughty Girl” were based in an Arabic sound while “Get Me Bodied” and “Single Ladies” admittedly were inspired by the Nigerian Highlife sound of Fela Kuti. In short,Beyonce’s sound is very ethnically Afrocentric. That’s of course taken outside the contemporary production settings of the given songs.  By embracing many elements of her African (not merely African American) roots,yet embracing some of the nastier elements of modern American performance ethic? She has got many people talking-some in a positive way and some not. The song I am discussing today found Beyonce’ in another sort of groove. It is her song “Love On Top” from her 2011 album 4.

She begins with a finger snapping vocalese of “ba,ba,ba,da,ba,ba ba”,accompanied by both a high pitched keyboard melody and,just as the song is joined by an sizzling bass synthesizer Beyonce frankly asks to “bring the beat in!” The beat in question is very much a slow,slogging type of funk drumming with a similar attitude to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. At the same time,a chunky and solid guitar line shows up playing a lowly mixed yet sonically powerful and funky lead line. Beyonce meanwhile is singing of a relationship that’s matured to the point where the love grows stronger after conflict and may inspire others-so long as she has her “love on top”. The high pitched synthesizer melody,its accompanying keyboard accents and the bass keyboard line all support the main guitar riff. And that maintains itself throughout the song. Its Beyonce’s vocals that provide the majority of chordal changes. That is,until the final refrain when the instrumentation all climbs up a whole chord until the song comes to a stop.

The uptown,funky urban bump of the song was said to have been inspired by Michael Jackson’s late 70’s/early 80’s sound when working with Quincy Jones and his Westlake studio crew. While I can hear that to a degree? Somehow I feel that may have been just a little bit of a patronizing gesture to certain contemporary music listeners who are perceived to have not developed an ear for listening to music of that era. From the first time I ever heard this song?  First thing I thought of was George Benson’s “Turn Your Love Around”-with that R&B  rhythm shuffle. That Quincy/Westlake production style of the post disco years was widely influential on many people. And when I hear this? The post disco/boogie oriented sound with that production sheen about it instantly bought to mind just how spacious that studiocentric soul/funk-pop sound became during the early 80’s. This level of funk sophistication was something I’d never really heard out of Beyonce’-who usually went (and often still goes) for rhythmic excitement over instrumental cleanliness. This is a sound the Crusaders first perfected,Quincy’s Westlake crew managed to cross over and has become part of the American pop/R&B lexicon of music. And it’s a tribute to Beyonce’s talents that she’s come to understand it’s importance and vitality.

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Filed under Beyonce', Boogie Funk, Crusaders, Destiny's Child, Fela Kuti, George Benson, Late 70's Funk, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 9/13/2014: “Sample This” by Joe Sample

Sample This

I could spend a good deal of time focusing in on the double meanings behind this album title. Of course Joe Sample,on his own and with the Crusaders was being sampled right and left by this time by one jazz/funk obsessed DJ after another at this time when there was a huge sense of 70’s funk revivalism occurring in the hip-hop/electronic/scratch scene. Kind of good news for Joe Sample,whose career was still going incredibly strong at this time with successful releases with the Soul Committee on Did You Feel That? and reunions with the Crusaders. Ever the jazz improviser however funky and soulful he was,Sample bought in George Duke to help with production as well as his classic team of session aces from Steve Gadd,Lenny Castro,Dean Parks and the multi talented Marcus Miller to re-imagine his own material.

Much of what’s here I have to admit to not hearing in it’s original form. But for those I haven’t I’ll comment on what the sound says on it’s own terms. “Rainbow Seeker II” begins the album in that soulful,piano oriented vein that he maintains throughout “Caramel”,”In All My Wildest Dreams”,”Snowflake”,”It Happens Everyday”,”Fly With The Wings Of Love” and “Melodies Of Love”. These are classic Joe Sample jazz grooves,modernized enough to keep them fresh but punchy enough to keep them out of smooth jazz cliche’s:something of a Sample trade mark. Dianne Reeves throws her pipes well into the samba flavored “I’m Coming Back Again” where Dennis Rowland takes over for Bill Withers on “Soul Shadows”.

As the album gets more into the uptempo music “Night Flight” and “Chain Reaction” slide into the grooves very smoothly and easily. On “Street Life” the rhythm is changed to a more instrumentally inclined jazz/reggae style with no lead vocal. Probably the most radically different to me. “Free As The Wind” and the classic “Put It Where You Want It” probably dig deeper into the groove,even slowing down the tempo to an even funkier level than the originals and he ends the album with his solo piano rendition of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Shreveport Stomps”. While I’m not usually very keen on an artist re-doing their old material,even in the jazz world defined by improvisation of all sorts,this really works wonderfully for me. For one,it’s one of a series of wonderfully made Joe Sample albums…full of soul,the blues and groove as he always is. Also it makes it more than clear that jazz-funk can,indeed,be very successfully improvised on as much as acoustic music.

Originally posted on November 4th,2012

*For original Amazon.com review,click here!

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Filed under Amazon.com, Crusaders, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Joe Sample, Music Reviewing

Anatomy of THE Groove for 9/12/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Dondi” by Ed Motta

One thing that seems to be a constant in funk,both during its process on up through present day,is its strong connections to Latin America. In particular Brazil,whose polyrhythmic Afro-Latin percussion rhythms were part of the foundation of the genre. So it makes sense that the massive cross pollination of funk,jazz and Afro-Latin percussion coming out of and through Brazil would continue to spawn artists creating from within that expansive musical spectrum. One musician who emerged from that talent pool during the new millennium is Rio’s Ed Motta. This singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist has connections into music far deeper than recording. And today I am going to talk about a song from his newest album,2013’s AOR called “Dondi”. And I wound like to thank my Facebook friend (and funkateer) Andrew Osterov of Kiev,Ukraine for introducing this song to me.

The song starts off with the traditional neo soul device of the sound of scratchy vinyl before going into a concise,highly melodic jazz/funk groove. Musically the song is built around a drum line and chordal changes that lay somewhere between the approach of George Duke and Stevie Wonder-a full on appropriation of funky soul and jazz that seems to be feeding into both styles. The instrumentation is hard hitting,yet gentle and coaxing as the big voiced Motta talks things out with his lady love about how they might want to consider more romance and less merely talking of it. Accended by flute accents and big popping slap bass between the choruses,the song has a strong major/minor chord bridge with David T. Walker’s fluid,virtuoso guitar taking a strong solo on the songs outro.

As with a lot of “nu funk” that I’ve come to be acquainted with,Ed Motta was an artist who came to me via Wax Poetics magazine-the only funk musician oriented periodical that I know of to be in existence. This particular song not only embodies all of the qualities that drew me to the funk/soul spectrum of music,but the qualities of it that I try to extol to others to get an introduction to this music. As with Eumir Deodato before him,Ed Motta brings Brazilian melodic and rhythm flavors to a highly singable pop-funk-jazz sound on this song. And very much in the attitude of the post Prince years? Motta is a DIY multi instrumentalist who also maintains a band with a stripped down yet expansive instrumental sound. However,simply the fact that this instrumentally crackerjack type of funky music will have most people humming along says a great deal for the songs virtues. And outside all of that,Motta is an avid vinyl record collector-understanding his music from both a listener’s and instrumentalists perspective. That makes him potentially one of the most well rounded DIY artists in the funk/soul/jazz spectrum today.

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Filed under Brazil, Brazilian Jazz, Ed Motta, Funk, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Neo Soul

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 9/6/2014: ‘Chameleon’ by Harvey Mason

Chameleon

Only in recent years have I come to realize just how significant Harvey Mason is to the progression of jazz-funk on through “chill” and into the modern expansive era of the jazz idiom. As a drummer,being a band leader was an inevitability because of that age old tradition of the drummer leading the marching band during the ragtime era-or even as a communicative instrument in Africa. Having been a founding member of Bob James’ 90’s era super group Fourplay,Harvey has continued the occasional solo and ongoing session work as he had always done. Realizing the nature of his talent as a musician of many musical colors,Harvey put together a new group called Chameleon which consisted of himself,sax player Kamasi Washington, keyboardist Corey King,Jimmy Haslip on bass and classic Headhunters era percussion Bill Summers in the mix. This album serves both as a Harvey Mason release and an introduction to the new band as well.

“Black Frost” takes Bob James’ composition into a place where all of the instrumentation revolves around Mason’s spiraling drum sound. Bobby Hutcherson’s “Mantara” gives a similarly involved workout to a very complex yet compelling melody. “If I Ever Lose This Heaven”,long associated with Quincy Jones funkiest years has a single vocalist for this occasion in the somewhat more contemporary Chris Turner. “Looking Back” and especially “Mase’s Theme” are both just over one minute interludes that showcase a full on return to the driving,clavinet driven Headhunters style of jazz funk while Patrice Rushen’s “Before The Dawn” allows for the band and Harvey to groove in a softer manner belying the intensity of the dynamic composition. Donald Byrd’s “Places And Spaces”,featuring vocals from Corey King again focuses on the spiritual,avante garde end of the jazz-funk genre. The album concludes with a re-arranged version of Herbie Hancock’s title song-one which emphasized the hindewhu effect more than the synth bass of the original. The bonus number (several tracks later “Looking Forward (Breaking Bad)” is a lively full band arrangement with an uptempo rhythm.

Overall this music is not as easy to pin down as the virtues of Mason and his intention would make it out to be. Of course the same thing could apply to the Headhunters as well. Though they were rather clearly based in funk at the core. This album is quite different at the base. The sound doesn’t have the phat bass lines and breaks that are essential to hard funk. Nor does it have that breezy,glossy studio overcoat that would commonly be found on a “chill” (once pejoratively referred to as smooth jazz) type of album either. What this does is provide a full musical picture that integrates elements of what Mason did in the Headhunters and his totally separate style forged in Fourplay. So this is sort of a hybrid sound to a degree. At the same time,a live band and very jazzy (on the fusion end) sound is emphasized. That being said,the music here successfully bridges one generation of jazz fusion with another that has the feeling of a pair of paternal mentors leading their musical children and cousins. The musical unity creates a strong and uniquely grooving sound on this album and it is more than a welcomed addition to Mason’s vast and diverse musical catalog.

*For original review,click here:

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Filed under Funk, Harvey Mason, Herbie Hancock, Jazz, Jazz-Funk

Anatomy of THE Groove 9/5/2014 Andre’s Pick: “Bread Sandwiches” by Bernard Wright

Bernard Wright is probably one of the more significant instrumentalists in terms of my own musical progression. He is not only the first I discovered completely online,but also one of the first that I discovered without any word of mouth recommendation from family,friends,books or magazines. He still doesn’t have the hugest recorded catalog. But he was an important part of the early 80’s Jamaica,Queens jazz/funk scene alongside luminaries such as Lenny White,Tom Browne and the late Weldon Irvine. In addition to that he was also a youth prodigy-still high school age when he released his debut ‘Nard  for Dave Grusin’s then fairly new GRP label. This album was my first introduction to Bernard Wright-having been a recommendation on Amazon.com when it was available on CD as a Japanese import. Of the many exciting and lovable grooves on the album was an instrumental called “Bread Sandwiches”.

Starting off with a dramatic piano scale from ‘Nard himself,the song goes into some of the most pleasurable combination of highly melodic and percussive piano playing I’ve ever heard. Wright’s fingers can be clearly heard dancing and bouncing on the keys. During the song he plays a beautifully chorded,phat synthesizer harmony. On the bridge he plays what I’d call a jazz/funk version of stride piano,with a more spacey synthesizer accent. After this,before a break going back to the main theme Mike Flythe,one of two drummers on this album,plays an attention getting marching band type drum solo send off. After another complete round of this,there’s another bridge where in front of a buzzing bass synth bed,Wright plays a more bop style piano solo before the song fades out the same repeated melodic phrase right before Flythe’s drum solo before the second refrain of the song.

Musically speaking? This song brims over with a potent blend of learned instrumental ability and completely youthful enthusiasm of style. Bernard Wright himself is very much the embodiment of,as my blogging partner Henrique and I might describe it,of a super hip young black middle class man who might be driving to a gig where he’d be rehearsing Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk compositions while listening to the funk band Slave on his car stereo. This song is very much in the Crusaders /Stuff/ Steely Dan type studiocentric jazz-funk bands of the mid/late 70’s. And coming out in 1981,it was a very important time because a huge musical transition was occurring in NYC during this period. Hip-hop was beginning to emerge-partly of out the fact that aspiring musicians in Wright’s age group found themselves perhaps unable to have access to musical instruments and good instruction as the music scene was dividing up.

In one sense,”Bread Sandwiches” represents the end of an era. But also would eventually open the door to a new beginning. I have my issues with what some commercial hip-hop has ended up doing conceptually. But during the sample heavy era,it did serve as an important archive for music just like this. The ‘Nard album came out during what Henrique and myself refer to as the post disco radio freeze out. Basically any uptempo,danceable music made by black artists (funk in particular) went unheard and heatedly debated in literature due to the anti disco backlash of 1979. However a decade later? This album,which might’ve been rather unnoticed in its time emerged as being among the many albums whose grooves and breaks become the bedrock for the sampedelic end of the jazz hip-hop sub-genre of the mid 90’s into the early aughts. Today many musicians and funkateers likely celebrate Bernard Wright for his own merits either through hip-hop or the online music world-which is how I discovered him. So especially in the sense of songs such as thing? Progressions in in both music and technology have surely been a good friend to Bernard Wright!

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Bernard Wright, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Late 70's Funk, Sampling

Anatomy of THE Groove 09/05/14 Rique’s Pick : “Give We the Pride” by Chuck D & Mavis Staples

For todays Friday Funk song, we again turn to Chuck D, aka Mista Chuck, this time alongside one of the great funky soul activist matriarch singers of the Civil Rights and Black Power era’s, Ms. Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers. “Give We the Pride” is both an evolution of the self respect messages of Public Enemy as well as a milenial take on classic Staple Singers songs such as “We the People”, “This World”, and “Respect Yourself”, uber funky cuts all that encouraged self love and respect as black people moved into the new vistas at the end of the era of Jim Crow. It represents a continuation of the growth and evolution of Chuck D and Public Enemy’s sound, as Chuck raps over a band playing a new, milenial version of the type of funky soul they grew to fame and acclaim by sampling. The circle is complete, as Chuck and co have gone from keeping the funk alive by sampling it to actually laying it down with a matriarch of the music like Ms. Mavis Staples.

The track is a funky soul, late 60s, early 70s groove. Full band sound, with rhythm section augmented by organ pads, and a horn section including the heavy horns like Baritone sax. The drum beat is very kinetic and hyperactive, and the groove is based on a syncopated riff played by the bass and guitar, the instruments hit that riff for two bars and then rest, with the organ chords then taking up the space they vacated. This creates a nice stop and start feeling to the groove. The drum fills in at various points, and they very interestingly drop the drums out of the track at certain intervals to highlight the vocals, both for Chuck’s rhymes and Mavis Staples singing.

Ms. Staples vocals are fine soul grit, and her message is one that encourages black people today, young people in particular, telling them, “we need pride to survive.” She has a line I really dig where she questions black people’s current materialistic consumption, saying we don’t need all of the expensive labels, because, “Instead of worrying bout the clothes and jewlery/that don’t do nothing for me/because we got the/best, most beautiful/brown or chocolate/cocoa butter skin/in the world.” Ms. Staples lyrics are phrased like a prayer for Pride for black people in this current time, and its much appreciated from a great artist such as her who’s led many times through her art, along with her family.

While Mama Mavis prays for the children and admonishes them, Uncle Chuck takes the adults to task for being corrupters of the young, saying “I’m seeing old folks applaud/nonsense we cannot afford.” One of Chuck’s pet peeves has been what he feels is a lack of leadership and admonishment coming from our current crop of black middle aged folks and elders.

The video itself is special as well. As Chuck D takes a trip to Chicago and records with Ms. Mavis in the Chess records studio. Chuck also shoots scenes near black cultural landmarks such as the Ebony/Jet publishing building. The use of Chicago in particular is signifigant, with the rampant kiling that has been going on in that great city recently. Chuck does his part in this song and video to address and better that situation as well by pointing out the positive aspects of black peoples history and struggle in a city like Chi-Town.

“Give We the Pride” finds Chuck D in a new format for his music and message, rhyming in front of a band as hes done for the last decade, alongside one of his inspirations. Mavis Staples and The Staple Singers are one of the main influences on Public Enemy’s music, one of the reasons those brothers couldn’t see things going in a bad direction and be silent. Chucks voice is even thicker, and he rhymes in longer, more complete thoughts and sentences as opposed to the old choppy approach. Its as if the longer phrases of the new music also inspire a longer sentence structure. Chuck ain’t trying to be cute here! And the song itself is a cool merger of two different generations of artistic activists, coming together and using their great voices to motivate the people in the new Milenium. “Let me walk with my head up high/let me know that I’m fly.”

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Filed under 1970's, 1980's, 1990s, Blogging, Chuck D, Funk, Funk Bass, Hip-Hop