Category Archives: Jazz

Anatomy of THE Groove For The Brothers & Sisters Who Aren’t Here: “Moonwalk” by Larry Young’s Fuel

Larry Young is a jazz organist who I didn’t know anything about until meeting Henrique a decade ago. He introduced me to his 1975 album Fuel when discussing the many acoustic jazz artists doing different tributaries of funk.  Young came to prominence during the early 1960’s. In terms of innovation,he did with the Hammond B-3 organ for modal jazz what Jimmy Smith did for the hard pop and soul jazz sub genres. He worked with many jazz greats from that era including Lou Donaldson,Elvin Jones and Hank Mobley. He also became one of the architects of fusion as a member of Tony William’s Lifetime.

In the final few years of his life,Larry Young formed his own fusion group called Fuel-titled after his 1975 album. These group leaned heavily towards the funky end of the genre. Because Young died mysteriously in 1978 at the age of 37,this project was sadly cut short with only two albums released. One of them was an album entitled Spaceball,released in 1976. I just learned about this album writing this. And wound up exploring many of its songs on YouTube.  It was the opener of this album that made the strongest impact on me in terms of funkiness. Its entitled “Moonwalk”.

Jim Allington’s fast paced Brazilian drum swing opens the album. Shortly thereafter,Dave Eubanks three on four note bass line kicks in. This represents the entire rhythm body of the song. As for the melodies of the song,there are many provided from Larry Young himself. There’s a high and low pitched sustained organ roll playing call and response with itself. He also adds in some spacey electronic synthesizers almost as percussion accents-in particular towards the last minute or so of the song. On the bridge,Larry Coryell plays a rolling guitar solo before a final refrain closes the entire song out.

“Moonwalk” is a really amazing jam. Its basis is thoroughly Brazilian funk. On the other hand,the harmonic complication of the soloing is almost beyond belief. The female backup singings “doo doo wopp”-ing throughout the early parts of the song adds a certain verbal encouragement to the entire musical movement. With the sometimes atonal electronics, this has some of the spacey,ethereal free jazz elements of people such as Sun Ra’s Arkestra mixed into the otherwise funky grooves. It really shows just what an innovative jazz musician could do in terms of soloing with a strong funk rhythm accompanying them.

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Filed under 1976, Brazilian Jazz, Dave Eubanks, drums, Funk Bass, Hammond B-3, Jazz, jazz funk, jazz guitar, Jim Allington, Larry Coryell, Larry Young, organ, synthesizers

Kandace Springs Emerges As A Star On The Jazz Scene: An Article By Ron Wynn

Kandace Springs’ emerges as a star on jazz scene
By Ron Wynn

There’s so much fresh and exciting talent in Nashville these days across the idiomatic board folks sometimes miss performers operating outside the pop/rock universe. But exciting, versatile vocalist Kandace Springs is generating so much buzz courtesy of her new (June release) Blue Note LP “Soul Eyes” that she’s garnering widespread praise and considerable attention outside the usual arenas of specialty radio, jazz clubs and festivals.

Springs, who’ll be appearing this week at the City Winery, has always been surrounded and immersed in music. She’s the daughter of veteran Music City R&B/soul stylist Scat Springs, a popular fixture both locally and across the region, and the family’s musical involvement also includes her aunts, uncles, a grandfather, even two great-grandfathers. Her 2014 self-titled four-song EP was produced by Pop & Oak, whose past clients include Rihanna and Nicki Minaji. Springs appeared on such shows as “David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel,” while burning up the stage at both Bonnaroo and the AfroPunk festivals.

But despite her alluring, enticing delivery and impressive range ideal for the rhythmic tapestries urban and contemporary R&B producers prefer, Springs’ natural affinity for jazz, especially her flair with melodic interpretation and storytelling, were what resonated when Prince heard her version of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” on the Okayplayer website. He not only invited her to perform with him at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of “Purple Rain,” but urged her to follow her stylistic heart, rather than take the safe, more commercially viable, route.

The results can be heard throughout “Soul Eyes,” produced by Larry Klein. His forte is striking a balance for artists with a jazz foundation between adhering to the tradition’s mandates, yet finding ways of reaching wider audiences as previously demonstrated on sessions featuring Lizz Wright, Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell among others. This approach is evident most notably on the title track, which was written by pianist Mal Waldron. Waldron was formerly Billie Holiday’s pianist, and the tune was among her signature songs.

Springs’ version inserts a few more soulful flourishes while expertly navigating the originals’s prominent lengthy note turns and crisp phrases. With Terence Blanchard’s crackling trumpet soaring around and behind her inflections and expressive presentation, it’s a showcase for how an ace contemporary performer can update a classic tune without losing its flavor or altering its lyrical intent.

The evocative ballad “Rain Falling,” one of her compositions, displays both her writing style and ease at guiding a song through differing emotional stages, while her cover of War’s “The World Is A Ghetto” reaffirms her ability to excel in a non-jazz framework. Another of Springs’ pieces “Too Good To Last,” has more of a blues edge in its story line,  reinforced by Blanchard’s brilliant trumpet accompaniment.

With guitarists Dean Parks and Jesse Harris, organist Pete Kuzma and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta joining Blanchard in the strong musical corps behind her, Kandace Springs’ demonstrates on “Soul Eyes” she’s a most worthy addition to the ranks of topflight contemporary jazz vocalists, singers who adore and treasure the burden of mastering the Great American Songbook, but also have plenty to say to and for 21st century audiences.

 

(Kandace Springs appears this week at the City Winery).

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Filed under Dean Parks, Jazz, Kandace Springs, Larry Klein, Mal Waldron, Prince, Ron Wynn, soul jazz, standards, Terence Blanchard

Sonny Rollings Hold The Stage,For The Forth Time: An Overview By Ron Wyn

Sonny Rollins

Today at 2:25 PM

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Filed under Bobby Broom, concerts, Jazz, jazz icons, Live music, Music Reviewing, Ron Wynn, Sonny Rollins

Jazz Golden Age?-An Article From Ron Wynn

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Filed under Jazz, Kendrick Lemar, Miles Davis, Robert Glasper, Uncategorized

Grooves On Wax: Funk On The 4th Of July

Soul Survivors

These Philly one hit wonders made a big splash with “Expressway To Your Heart” from this 1967 album. It always reminded me of the Young Rascals. And most of this album does too. They do have some amazing Hammond B-3 organ work here,especially on a version of James Brown’s “Please Please Please”. Where the album gets most interesting is when the Indian classical and psychedelic soul influences come in.

Key Jams “Expressway (To Your Heart” and “Taboo-India”

Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson’s 1968 album reminds me of how close the musical flavors were between windy city soul and the Motown sound. Jackie was the link between the two as Berry Gordy wrote a lot of his big hits of the 1950’s. This represents his most uptempo soul oriented album (with only two show tune styled ballads) of his late 60’s comeback. And the Motown connection even begins the album with a version of “You Keep Me Hanging On”.

Key Jams: “I Get The Sweetest Feeling”,“You Brought About A Change In Me” and “Nothing But Blue Skies”

Rainbow Bridge

Hendrix was near the end of his tragically short life and career when he appeared in this film. I actually liked the story of a young woman’s journey to Hendrix’s music through a political awakening. The soundtrack showcases how he and the Band Of Gypsies (Billy Cox and Buddy Miles) were about to change the game on the funk/rock sound the same way Hendrix and the Experience had a couple years earlier with psychedelia.

Key Jams: “Dolly Dagger”,”Earth Blues” and “Star Spangled Banner”

Supremes_1970s_Touch

This beautifully arranged 1971 album by the post Diana Ross Supremes has some very loving liner notes from the now Sir Elton John. It actually showcases the revived trio’s sound as focusing their mid tempo cinematic soul sound more towards an album than a singles focus as well.

Key Jams: “Nathan Jones” and “Happy (Is A Bumpy Road)”

Ahmad Jamal

This Ahmad Jamal 2 LP collection came borrowed from my father,who loaned it to me. It’s a rare 1973 collection of Jamal’s not entirely common three Impulse albums such as 1968’s Tranquility and 1972’s Outertimeinnerspace. A lot of these songs have an Afro Cuban/ Caribbean vibe with a does of soul jazz thrown in with Jamal’s trademark cool,light piano touch. He even pulls out the electric piano on one occasion with amazing results.

Key Jam: “Bogota”

Bar Kays Coldblooded

The Bar-Kays third and final album for Stax in 1974 was probably their most funkified overall thus far. They still had a lot of the psychedelic soul/rock touches that had them freaking out hard on their earlier albums. Yet the wah wah continued to let go big time on the title song,and the influence of Sly Stone and their penchant for funky impersonation started to show up on “Fightin’ Fire With Fire” as well.

Key Jams: “Coldblooded”,“Smiling,Styling And Profiling” and “Be Yourself”

Bell & James

Leroy Bell’s career arc from success to obscurity and back reads almost like fiction,as it turns out. In partnership with Casey James,the multi instrumentalist duo served up this 1979 album that didn’t provide as big a commercial as they did on the hit “Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)”,but did really get down with some sleek Westlake studio sounding disco/pop/funk/soul straight out of the Off The Wall vibe. And with a lot of the same musicians playing on it as well.

Key Jams: “Shakedown”,“Laughing In The Face Of Love” and “Fare Thee Well”

stephaniemills-stephanie(1)

Stephanie Mills 1981 album is one of those boogie funk classics where every song,especially the uptempo ones,stand on just about equal footing in terms of success potential. Reggie Lucus and James Mtume’s writing and production help a lot in this degree. Even though it has it’s predictable aspects,the strong sound and Mills’ gospel/soul vocal chops really give this album quite a workout.

Key Jams: “Two Hearts” and “Top Of My List”

spinners-labor_of_love

One thing I really admire about The Spinners is that they kept up with uptempo boogie and electro funk sounds even after the disco era-rather than focusing solely on slow ballads.  This 1981 album,one of records very funky albums they put out that year,has perhaps even more harder driving funk material than their 70’s hit period with Thom Bell. One of it’s few ballads,”A Man Just Don’t Know What A Woman Goes Through” even focuses on male sensitivity to the opposite sex when it comes to aging. Not to even mention closing with a good attempt at an early rap/funk hybrid.

Key Jams: “Long Live Soul Music” and “The Deacon”Let There Be Sun

Sun were among the handful of iconic Dayton,Ohio funk bands who came out of the late 70’s. Each of these bands had their special qualities. This 1982 release being their next to last albums is actually the first Sun I’ve ever heard thus far. And want to hear more considering their own distinct approach to the P-Funk vibe they seem to have here.

Key Jams: “Slam Dunk The Funk” and “Super Duper Super Star”

Tyka Nelson

Yes,this 1988 album was presented to me on the selling point that Tyka Nelson was Prince’s sister. I knew all about Tyka before this,but not that she ever had a musical career. The overall vibe of this album is very much of a mid-tempo dance and ballad urban contemporary album of it’s day. Tyka’s soft,melodic voice actually carries these sleek numbers quite well.

Key Jams: “No Promises” and “Marc Anthony’s Tune”

 

 

 

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Filed under 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, Ahmad Jamal, Bell & James, Boogie Funk, Chicago, Funk, funk rock, Jackie Wilson, Jazz, Soul, Soul Survivors, Stephanie Mills, Sun, The Bar Kays, The Spinners, The Supremes, Tyka Nelson, Vinyl

Prince’s Place: Influence And Inspiration

Ron Wynn Prince Article

Prince: influence and inspiration

By Ron Wynn
The arts, especially music, film and literature, as well as sports, have been personal passions since childhood. As the son of two academics who never hid their contempt for most of what is now called “pop culture,” it was made clear to me rather early just how little value my parents saw in collecting records, attending movies, and either playing or watching sports.
Only when I could show through reading books on these subjects and then quoting them back facts or knowledge did they at least see limited worth in my obsession, mainly because it at least reflected a love of the written word, and a willingness to diligently devour any and all things I could find about these subjects.
Their disdain for my loves worked in a strange, yet positive fashion. Because there was no one to fill my head with notions about what music I should or shouldn’t hear, films not to see or sports that Blacks shouldn’t follow, no limits were placed on my quest for knowledge or enjoyment in any area.
The music that surrounded me was predominantly gospel courtesy of my grandmother, soul & R&B from my friends, and country and pop through the commercial radio stations of the day when living in Knoxville, which didn’t get a black radio station until James Brown brought an AM day-timer and converted it to WJBE in the late ’60s.
My three prize possessions growing up were a library card, baseball glove and transistor radio. A fourth, a cheap portable record player with a ceramic cartridge, came a bit later, while a fifth, a 15-inch black and white TV with very poor UHF reception, I didn’t acquire till my senior year of high school.
Classical and jazz became part of the equation through piano lessons from age 11 to 17. I developed a profound respect for classical, and jazz became one of several lifelong idiomatic obsessions, even as it quickly become rather obvious from my struggles with the transcriptions for Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock compositions that I wasn’t going to be leading any jazz combos, no matter how much I practiced.
However my valiant but hopeless struggle to become a jazz pianist didn’t lead me to abandon my other musical joys: it enhanced them, just as not having enough speed to be a good football wide receiver or the hand/eye co-ordination for a successful baseball player enabled me to better understand and appreciate the skill it took to achieve those goals at the professional level.
Fast forward to college, where I began doing some sports writing, and on to grad school, where I did political columns, more sports, plus music and film reviews while deciding that this was going to be what I’d do for a living. Despite some detours into TV work, and various part-time radio gigs which continue to this day, writing about the arts and sports has been my combination work and joy for almost 39 years now, 19 of them in the daily grind, the others for various weeklies, monthlies, specialized publications and occasional ancillary gigs like bios and liner notes. This leads me to my newest venture, contributing weekend columns to my friend Andre’s music blog, which he’s been generous enough to allow.
Some of these will be think pieces, commentaries on particular cultural issues of interest. Others will be review columns, Once a month I’ll spotlight a favorite radio show or TV program. Hopefully, there will be some things that will interest the readers of Andre’s blog. The bulk of it will cover what I consider roots music: jazz, blues, vintage R&B, soul, gospel. Also I’ve long enjoyed international music, particularly various Latin, reggae and African sounds. Over my time on this beat, I’ve done my share of obits, appreciations, reassessments and evaluations, which brings me to the current subject: how to evaluate  the late Prince Rogers Nelson.

I preface this by saying normally I hate making comparisons, because I’ve always felt every artist offers their own unique view of the world, and should be viewed through that prism rather than evaluated against someone else’s conception. But I also understand this is a practice many enjoy, and it can aid in understanding a performer if you recognize and accurately assess the things that have influenced them. It’s even more enjoyable when it’s someone who draws from so many sources that the more you discover, the more it broadens your own horizons.

Which is the thing that makes Prince not only special, but a real inspiration. In my lifetime of following music he and Stevie Wonder, and for that matter Ray Charles (but he’s not quite as much a contemporary as the other two), have best exemplified to me among non-jazz/blues stylists the qualities I most admire in artists: versatility and consistent excellence, as well as a dedication to their craft that places artistry ahead of commerce. Certainly they are not the only ones, so folks can hold off on the objections. But all three cited here are multi-instrumentalists and bold conceptualists, not restricted or confined to any one genre. They are also compelling vocalists and performers who’ve continually ignored conventional wisdom in regards to what they should or shouldn’t do in and with their music.
Since his death April 21, there have been thousands of words written about Prince. Everyone from Rolling Stone to People, Time to Newsweek, Ebony and Essence have either released or will soon issue commemorative volumes dedicated to his music. Sadly, there’s also been as much prose about how he died, who may or may not inherit his money, what might happen to his immense set of unreleased recordings, and whether his late image as a dedicated Jehovah’s Witness and Vegan was a fraud. Much of that doesn’t interest me. What does is the question of exactly how Prince should be viewed musically.
There’s one school of thought that undervalues his contributions. Folks on this end maintain that while he was certainly an outstanding pianist, fine guitarist, good bassist and accomplished on other instruments, he didn’t revolutionize or change the way anyone approached them the way Charlie Parker did everyone who’s played alto since. He didn’t turn around how people thought about the blues the way Muddy Waters did, or open up the possibilities of secular music to gospel acts like Sam Cooke and Charles did.
All of that is both true and besides the point. What he demonstrated was there were no limits to what an artist could do in the studio, particularly a Black one in an era (’80s and ’90s) when there were cretins at rock radio and such places as MTV who truly thought being African-American meant you couldn’t play rock or punk or new wave. This really sounds ultra-stupid today, and it was then, but there were plenty of folks around in positions of control and authority culturally who believed it, and some who were even willing to say it publicly.
Unfortunately, there are still those around who believe it in 2016, though one would hope there are fewer of them. There were also plenty of others at the time who didn’t openly express that sentiment, but showed they believed it in the way they routinely denied access to Black acts playing in those styles. But Prince’s sheer brilliance and popularity enabled him to break through those barriers, and forced the cultural brokers who clung to those stereotypes to acknowledge his music was an exception to their ignorant notions.
Another equally inaccurate line of thought puts too much value on his prodigious compositional output, assuming that everything he did was invaluable. The truth is Prince recorded constantly, and often was working things out in the studio on a nightly basis. Not everything he cut was a gem, nor should every single Prince tune be issued. Certainly there are no doubt plenty of magnificent items in the vaults that haven’t been heard, but here’s where someone who truly knows and understands his music needs to be hired for however long it takes to ensure there’s not a flood of sub-par material issued to take advantage of the current public thirst for his music.
There are two jazz greats whom I think putting Prince’s music in a contemporary comparative vein makes sense. One is Duke Ellington: the other John Coltrane. Ellington from the curative/presentation vein, Coltrane from the personality/cultural impact sphere. Duke Ellington’s vast catalog of compositional delights spans multiple decades, and is still being evaluated and examined. He understood the importance of matching music to individual players, and saw his work as the expression of a people. Without overlooking the considerable input and importance of Billy Strayhorn to the Ellington legacy (a separate discussion), it is fair to see Ellington’s music as a host of sonic colors that were designed to be illuminated by individual players and instruments.
Prince gave equal consideration to tone, sensibility and instrumental configuration in his writing. He penned numerous works for other musicians, and was a marvelous producer and talent scout, especially in finding and collaborating with gifted women artists. It will be years before his catalog can be accurately evaluated, but there’s no question that the body of work already out, both commercially issued recordings and bootlegs, reveals an impressive, varied and extensive legacy,

Coltrane’s journey from sideman to bandleader to cultural force isn’t quite identical to Prince’s, but it is fair to say both men enjoyed a wide-reaching societal impact. Coltrane became a mentor and symbol to jazz musicians for both his search for a singular identity, and a desire to make music that was personally satisfying, no matter how esoteric or baffling critics, record company executives and fans might find it. His quest may have puzzled those who failed to understand how someone who could play so beautifully on “Ballads” could embrace the seeming chaos of “Ascension” or “Cosmic Music.” Yet it was precisely that search that made him such a hero to others in different musical worlds who could identify with someone ultimately more interested in a creative vision than the bottom line.

Prince certainly had plenty of hits, but he also had “Under The Cherry Moon,” and other songs and albums that left even the most loyal fans wondering what he was doing. His desire to control his output and be free of any restrictions led to open warfare for years with Warner Bros., the label that felt they’d made him a star, and then wondered why he turned on them. Like most corporate cultural controllers, they never understood that it was always about the music, and that Prince cared far more about that than anything else.

While shying away from labeling Prince a 21st century Duke Ellington or John Coltrane, those two strike me as the jazz models that most closely align with the way Prince led his musical life, and the sizeable inroads he made away from the studio and off the bandstand. Add the many contributions to social causes and willingness to help fellow musicians that are just now coming to light, and the result is a portrait of someone who is every bit as much a giant in his era as any of the greats of jazz, blues or any other idiom were in earlier times.

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Filed under Duke Ellington, Jazz, John Coltrane, Minneapolis Sound, Prince, Uncategorized

Miles Again: Don Cheadle and Robert Glasper Being Very Musical About Selim Sivad

Miles Again!

Miles Davis was possessed of a character that was elusive to biographical translation. When Don Cheadle began work on his largely crowd funded motion picture Miles Ahead,the best approach to Miles’ story would be more a personal ambiance than informational. Cheadle imagine Miles Davis as he would like to have seen himself. Along with bits of half remembered personal history and playing witness to fragmented pieces of himself.

Robert Glasper is a modern day pianist who feels exactly the same as Miles did about music in general. That the improvisational art of jazz consistently has to be re-invented with new themes,new standards all the time. And that’s it’s the musician, not the writers/ critics, who sets that tone. Since Cheadle worked with Glapser on  the music surrounding the film,it seemed appropriate to explore the full spectrum of this musical project.

Miles Ahead-Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Over the years,I’ve generally avoided soundtrack albums. It seems all too easy for someone to simply pile a series of songs onto the CD and call it a soundtrack. Don Cheadle’s film Miles Ahead takes a more cinematic approach to the Miles Davis attitude as opposed to being a straight biographical narrative. Cheadle was joined by 80’s era Miles alumni in drummer Vince Wilburn and the defiant pianist Robert Glasper in terms of producing this album. The selection of songs for the project could’ve been exhaustive-considering the breadth of Miles’s recorded catalog of music. So instead of going with the traditional method of soundtracks that keeps me away from most,this takes another sort of approach.

Songs that represent Miles’ modal period such as “So What” flow along into “Solea”,the uptempo “Seven Steps To Heaven” and “Nefertiti”. These represent his acoustic period on this collection It goes from there into what Miles referred to as his “directions in music” with songs like “Frelon Brun” and the 6th take of “Duran”. His full blow fusion sound is represented by “Go Ahead,John”,an edit of “Black Satin” and “Back Seat Betty” from 1981. Glasper provides the sax heavy jazz-funk of “Juniors Jam”,the orchestral electric piano heavy ballad “Francessence”. “What’s Wrong With That?” is a flowing fusion/funk jam with Cheadle actually playing trumpet with the surviving members of Miles second quintet of the 1960’s.”Gone 2015″ ends the album with an big horn fanfare of a jazz/hip-hop number from Glasper and rapper Pharoahe Monich.

This album traces the musical legacy of Miles Davis from 1959 through his early 80’s comeback-the time period dealt with in the film. What really makes it a standout motion picture soundtrack is that it takes the Spike Lee approach in telling a story through the full album format. Moments of Cheadle portraying Miles’s famous quotes and statements are put into the mix as interludes between songs. This allows for the soundtrack to feel like a journey one is taking through the mind of Miles. Which essentially reduces down to an audio version of the films intent. Ending with Miles inspired new numbers from Robert Glasper makes this perhaps the sonic film soundtrack experience of 2016.

Everything’s Beautiful/Miles Davis & Robert Glasper 

Over the last several years,Robert Glasper has been seeking to change the vocabulary of jazz. His approach has always seemed to me very similar in that regard to the late Miles Davis. He often has made similar references that jazz needed to look outside itself for new standards on which to create new improvised art. From what I’ve heard of Glasper,he’s largely looked to hip-hop as a musical medium for the nu jazz sound of which he’s a major player. He ended up being the musical directer behind the new Don Cheadle film Miles Ahead. So it was very exciting for me to see Glasper create an entire project based on the man whose musical ethnic most shaped his own.

“Talking Shit” opens the album with a rhythmic sample of Miles’ 1969 discussion with drummer Joe Chambers that sets up the album title-the trumpet players view on music itself basically. “Ghetto Talk” features the soaring vocals of longtime Glasper collaborator Bilal and while “They Can’t Hold Me Down” brings in rapper Illa J. These songs all have blunted hip-hop beats with jazzy funk atmospherics. “Violets” brings in the Foreign Exchanges’ Phonte in for a brooding,slow swinging piano based groove. “Maiyshia (So Long)” has Erykah Badu dealing with an electronic bossa nova with a sassy rhythm. “Little Church” and “Silence Is The Key” deal with a modern electronica reboot of Miles’ classic modal sound.

“Song For Selim” takes on the same effect of re-imagining modality in a current context while Georgia Anne Muldrow sizzles up the electro swing big time for a makeover of “Milestones”. “I’m Leaving You” is one of my favorites here-thick bluesy funk sampling Miles himself with Ledisi’s vocal leads and John Scofield’s guitar. Stevie Wonder comes in for the closer “Right On Brother”-looking Miles’ solo from “Right Off” into a synth bass heavy funk/house context. Glasper didn’t want a trumpet based tribute to Miles here. He knew the man wouldn’t have wanted that. Instead,he showcased Miles Davis’s influence on musicians as a whole. And did so by again re-inventing the nu jazz sound in the most funky possible manner.

Everyone involved in both of these projects understood very well the creative daring and self absurdness that defined Miles Davis’s music during his lifetime. When it came to Robert Glasper creating his own music based on the Miles attitude and musical school,he did so with the maximum amount of strong,extended melody and funkiness wherever it was needed. So for what would’ve been Miles’ 90th year of life,this is a special occasion.

 

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Filed under 2016, Amazon.com, Don Cheadle, hip-hop/jazz, Jazz, jazz funk, jazz fusion, Miles Ahead, Miles Davis, Music Reviewing, nu jazz, Robert Glasper, Soundtracks, trumpet

Record Store Stories: Another Sunny April Afternoon From Behind The Racks

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One of the ongoing points Henrique Hopkins and I have in our conversations about shopping for records has to do with my experiences with the record stores in coastal Maine towns. Whether it be Acadia Nation Park (the location of the famous vacationing town of Bar Harbor) or the mid coast region that includes Belfast,Camden and Rockland there is nearly always a brick and mortar record store to hang out in and find new grooves. These are also areas that flourish with great appreciation for the arts. Doesn’t matter of one is a painter,musician,writer or stone mason. These are usually wonderful places to enjoy,purchase and especially create new works of art.

Camden was always a favorite place to go. It was once the home of Wild Rufus. This is where a lot of my immediate pre and post millennial crate digging sessions took place. That store’s been closed down for some years now. However today I met the man who started it up before I was even born. His name is Matt Brown. He and his wife Karyl share a store front. He sells the music/music related media and she sells homemade jewelry and clothing. The music part is called Manny’s,the other is Karyl’s Handmade Jewelry. My father told me to go investigate this new store a couple of weeks ago while he was in Camden with my mom. So she  and I decided to venture  there today.

These are the four CD’s I picked up from Manny’s today. Mr. Brown sells modern vinyl as well as new and used CD’s. Many of his used items are actually from his personal collection. And they account for Larry Carlton and Billy Cobham albums I picked up. He professed to love jazz and blues,and even commented on how strong a guitar player he felt Carlton was upon seeing my purchases. We also talked about my seeing B.B. King with Dickey Betts five years ago at the Bangor waterfront. And how great it was to see Muddy Waters perform with Eric Clatpon,Albert Lee and Muddy’s band at the Augusta Civil Center in Maine on May 25th,1979.

This coming Saturday is National Record Store Day. It’s been a couple years since I began this “record store stories” concept for Andresmusictalk. Meeting this Matt Brown was a great experience for me. And am looking forward to future encounters in his record store. I’d like to conclude this article by saying something to every jazz/funk/blues/soul/rock crate digger/record collector reading this. If you travel and decide to visit mid coast Maine this summer,stop into Manny’s and Karyl’s if your in the town of Camden. They have a growing collection of records he Brown makes it a great experience for anyone interesting in music.

*Below is a link to an article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot about Matt Brown and Manny’s:

Wild Rufus founder opens new record and CD shop in Camden

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Filed under 2016, BB King, Blues, Camden Maine, coastal Maine, Eric Clapton, Jazz, Larry Carlton, Maine, Manny's, Matt Brown, Muddy Waters, Record Store Day, Record Stores, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Be Bop Medley” by Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan’s very musical essence could be summed up through jazz. It was listening to Billie Holiday growing up in a family of visual artists that inspired her whole vocal approach. As a late 60’s counter culturally inclined teenager,she became involved with organizations such as the Black Panthers as well as Affro Arts out of her native Chicago. She encountered folks who’d later be members of both Sun Ra’s Arkestra and Earth Wind & Fire through Affro Arts. And this was all before she teamed up with a band known as Ask Rufus,and went on to enormous success as a leader singer and eventually a solo artist. So from jazz to rock to funk,Chaka never strayed from what inspired her.

Now in my late teens,there was one piece of vinyl of Chaka’s that I suppose would be referred to as a grail by the modern vinyl collecting community. It was her self titled 1982 album. While the least commercially potent of her early/mid 80’s Warner Bros. albums produced by Arif Mardin,it was known as being among the most unique and funkiest of her solo records.I personally found the vinyl in Boston. Eventually I managed to purchase the rare CD import offline. The album itself is a masterpiece of brittle yet cinematic electro funk. Chaka’s solo albums generally contained at least one musical tribute to her love for jazz. And on here it was perhaps her most defining one in”Be Bop Medley”.

A powerful drum kicks off with Chaka’s screaming vocalese before a chanking rhythm guitar strums along. A Vocoder kicks into a sturdy 4/4 dance rhythm with a synth bass scaling down. That’s the rhythmic element linking each part of the medley. The Hot House part of it has a metallic synth playing the chordal pattern whereas a Arabic style Fender Rhodes solo segues into “East Of Suez” along with some spirited percussion. An electric sitar begins the frantic synth bass take on Epistrophy whereas Yardbird Suite and has Chaka duetting with the Vocorder. Con Alma slows the song briefly to a swinging ballad tempo as a sax led Giant Steps finds Chaka scatting her way out of the song.

Having listened to this particular song over and over again for fourteen years now,this is one of the most instrumentally intricate and futurist examples of jazz/funk in the 80’s. It showcases once and for all that the electro funk movement did not represent a great to the funk genre. As Miles Davis-later a friend and collaborator of Chaka’s might’ve said, all quality music needs is the best caliber of instrumentalists. Steve Ferrone,Will Lee,Hiram Bullock and especially Robbie Buchanan’s rhythmic synth bass absolutely burn on this song musically. Plus her jumps from melody,harmony to chordal based singing-changing pitch and speed on a whim,make this perhaps Chaka’s most defining solo number.

Another significant musical element to this is how Chaka and the musicians playing with her on this showcase how much the instrumental innovations of be bop carry over into the funk era. It’s a stripped down,synthesizer derived naked funk that provides the main groove of this song that’s present throughout. It protects the beat much as Max Roach might’ve with Charlie Parker. Showcasing the evolution of bop from Bird,Dizzy and Monk on through John Coltrane is accomplished here by Chaka’s lead voice being the horn like voice,and her backups being much like string orchestrations. So also on a purely musical level,this paved the way for a possible whole new level of funk for the early 80’s.

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Filed under 1980's, Arif Mardin, be bop, Chaka Khan, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, drums, electro funk, Fender Rhodes, Hiram Bullock, Jazz, jazz funk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, percussion, Robbie Buchanan, Saxophone, scat singing, Steve Ferrone, synth bass, Thelonious Monk, Uncategorized, Warner Bros., Will Lee

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Judas” by Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding has always celebrated the ebb and flow of jazz in her career arc thus far. Being a bassist and therefore rhythm player,she’s adapted herself into a number of different tributaries of jazz. From small chamber groups,to vocal to funk. On the latter end her Radio Music Society album of five years ago dovetailed nicely into her work with Janelle Monae a year later on their collaborative song “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”. There is one concept that Spalding has been evolving over the last few years. It’s based on her understanding of the 60’s super group Cream consisting of jazz oriented members in Jack Bruce and the late Ginger Baker. And that’s her adapting her sound to a rock power trio.

That trio consists of guitarist Matthew Stevens,whose played with Christian Scott and on Harvey Mason’s newest album along with drummers Justin Tyson and Karriem Riggins-the latter of whom is also a DJ whose played for Erykah Badu and with Slum Village.  Their brand new album is titled for an alter ego (Spalding’s middle name) called Emily’s D+Evolution.  She describes this concept as dealing with a modern mind afflicted by a primal urge. And how great strides in creative development could be inspired from a less enlightened version of oneself. As applied to the music of Spalding’s new album, only one track with a groove that impacted strongly on me. And it is called “Judas”.

The song begins with the peddling swinging drum rhythm with Spalding scaling up and down on her electric bass. After that the high pitched electric/acoustic guitar comes in to accent the songs constantly scaling and complex chordal structure. The song itself is very chorus heavy-with the Afro-Latin rhythm breaks of the percussive,hi hat heavy drumming being the consistent element in a song where the main melodic change is from the major chords of the chorus to the more minor chords of the refrains. After each repeat,the calmer riff that opens the song repeats itself before the next set of choral refrains until Spaldings vocals and the hi hat cycle out of the song itself.

Because this song is stripped down with a vocal melody based around the chords of the rhythm section, this song has a similar musical technique to the be-bop styled singer/songwriter folk-pop of Joni Mitchell’s late 70’s work. Instrumentally the trio she’s playing with project a strong jazzy fluidity here. Having streamed this album early on,I was quite unimpressed with what came across as raggedy alternative rock instrumentation that seemed to get in the way of Spalding’s complex songwriting on the majority of the album. But the combination of the boppish Latin rhythms makes this one song stand out as both jazzy and funky.

About the “Emily” concept itself  it’s effects on this song,Esperanza herself describes this musical character as someone she does not yet know fully. She’s been touring for a year or so now with what’s known as the ACS trio-also consisting of Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington with the songs from this album.Lyrically the song “Judas” comes across as the childhood dreams that inspired Spalding for this musical act. If I were to try to break it down,the lyrics to this song seem to be about just making it in a complex world. And it’s described more in terms of stream of conscious actions than realistic events. So the music and lyrics of this song really look to providing Spalding clarity for her new concept.

 

 

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Filed under 2016, Afro-Latin jazz, alternative rock, bass guitar, drums, Esperanza Spalding, Jazz, jazz funk, Joni Mitchell, Karriem Riggins, Matthew Stevens, new music, Nu Funk, rhythm guitar, Uncategorized