Category Archives: Marcus Miller

Never Too Much At 35 : The Sugar And Spice Of Luther Vandross

Never Too Much

Luther Vandross is someone whom I’ve come to view as the 80’s era Smokey Robinson. His focus was on the sensitive male soul singer of the 70’s era Thom Bell variety. At the same time, he over a decade of experience as a backup singer before his performance on the band Change’s song “The Glow Of Love”. This in turn led to his solo debut album in 1981’s Never Too Much. This album turns 35 today. Vandross had a difficult time crossing over throughout his life.  But this debut is one of his most defining for many reasons. Here’s an Amazon.com review I wrote five years ago about some of those reasons.


Considering that,similar in manner to the career of Huey Lewis that it took over a decade for the musical career of Luther Vandross to really take off it may also come as no surprise I also got into him rather late. My first exposure to this album came from a cassette tape I found at a yard sale almost a decade and a half ago. At the time what I knew of Luther’s musical accomplishments came from books. Honestly? The album had a pretty near instant appeal when I first heard it.

Considering the fact I was at that point already deeply interest in early 80’s post-disco urban funk/soul and the music of Marcus Miller for that matter,that too was a plus. Two things surprise me. For one,I apparently haven’t reviewed this album I’ve listened to many many times before. Not only that but in the time I’ve listened to this on both tape and CD how much every part of it just gets better and better with the passing of time.

Especially considering the late Vandross’s reputation as a balladeer the music on this album is primarily based in uptempo urban funk. It’s full of great guitar/bass interaction and plenty of heavy popping bass from Marcus Miller. The title song is a great debut hit for Vandross,sophisticated jazzy funk/soul pop with a great guitar line,a popping bass,terrific arrangement and powerful hook.

Even though it wasn’t a hit,the major key “Suger And Spice” has a really heavy bass/guitar rhythm and some great soul/gospel type back round chorus including Vandross himself. “I’ve Been Working” blends in this album Donald Fagen type rock and soul shuffle with one of Vandross’s most powerful vocals on the whole album. “She’s A Super Lady” is basically “Jump To It” mark 1,with this great drum/bass funk break at the beginning from Marcus and Buddy Williams.

While the slow funk grooves of “Don’t You Know That” and “You Stopped Loving Me” are the best slower numbers here to me I’ve actually warmed up a lot to “A House Is Not A Home”. This elongated cover is actually very tastefully and sparingly done,with Vandross actually incorporating some near acapella and bittersweet vocal breaks,particularly near the end. For a debut album this is very effective. It’s fully arranged even though it primarily emphasizes the music of the five core musicians involved.

Not only that but it’s a true showcase for Vandross’s writing and producing talents. Because of the sensitive and sassy nature of his writing,his style in that area lent itself very well (stereotypically that is) to producing for female talent. Most famously Aretha Franklin. And while I enjoy all of Luther’s music on different levels,this album still holds a special place in my heart. And I am sure many others as well.


One of the things about this album that keeps endearing it to me is how much it focuses on Luther Vandross: the funk based post disco soul/pop uptempo artist. For one thing,big time jazz/funk players such as Nat Adderley Jr. and slap bazz maestro Marcus Miller are all over this album. And mixed up high on all these songs. While the melodic singability of Vandross’s writing,producing and arranging are all over this album,its truly amazing how much he was making gospel drenched soul and funk the major priority on his very first solo album. And that’s why its such a special album to me,for what it is.

 

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, classic albums, funky soul, Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller, Music Reviewing, Nat Adderley Jr, Never Too Much, pop funk, post disco, slap bass

Grooves On Wax: 1988 Albums,1987 12″ Inch Singles

Siedda Garret

She was the songwriter who bought us Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”,and was also his duet partner on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. One year after all this,Siedah Garrett released her very first solo album. It featured the majority of Quincy Jones’ Westlake studio crew on board. Along with one heavily re-worked Thriller era Rod Temperton  composed MJ outtake “Got The Hots” on the ultra funkified “Baby’s Got It Bad”.

Key Jams: “Kiss Of Life”,”Groove Of Midnight”,”The Legend Of Ruby Diamond” and “Baby’s Got It Bad”

Brown Mark

The reason this didn’t wind up listed with the Prince alumni article I did was because this album has nothing at all to do with Prince,or Paisley Park. Former Revolution guitarist Mark Brown (rechristened Brownmark by Prince) released this album for Motown. As with Prince,Brown plays most of the instruments. His approach as a multi instrumentalist is closer to the harder kick of a Teddy Riley, however. And this is not an album that compromises on the funky uptempo material at all.

Key Jams: “Next Time”,”She Don’t Care” and “Stakeout”

Clyde Criner

Clyde Criner is a fairly obscure figure. The reason I picked up this album was because of how much it flaunted its personnel. Mainly MY MAIN BASS MAN Marcus Miller. His slap bass soloing is all over this album,right along with Criner’s melodic block chords on different electric pianos and synthesizers. This album is a potent combination of synth funk and electronic jazz fusion licks.

Key Jams: “Just Might Be That Way”,”Spider” and “Kinesis”

Henrique and myself have a constant conversational theme about how 1987 in particular showcased a time period where heavier funk again became the main basis for dance oriented pop records of the era. And that year was a MAJOR year for 12″ mixes. I don’t have a all of them yet. But this was the first year that brand new music really made a significant impact on me at 6-7 years old. So its a good place to speak for early firsthand experience.

It was Henrique who turned me onto Barry White’s 1987 comeback single “Sho You Right”. This song mixes the synthesized Freestyle dance sound of that era with the strong Latin samba funk attitude White used to get with his Love Unlimited Orchestra. This 8+ minute extended 12″ mix really brings out the sauntering rhythm of it all by emphasizing the drums. The instrumental B-side focuses on the Santana-like Latin rock guitar solo.

The history behind the Alexander O’Neal song “Fake” is amazing in Minneapolis funk circles. It was written by AND for alumni’s of The Time. Jam & Lewis really bumped out the percussive,bass heavy funk for this number. The best part of these 12″ inch mixes is how they thoroughly explore the song. You’ve got an extended mix,a vocal remix-the “patty mix”,an a cappella mix featuring O’Neal,percussion and light synths only PLUS an instrumental with an amazing electric piano walk down. Amazing exploration of the groove and therefore one of the strongest 12″ inch funk singles I’ve heard this far.

Ray Parker Jr. is one of the most underrated guitarist/multi instrumentalists I know of. After a string of funky pop hits in the early 80’s as a solo artist,Parker emerged in 1987 with the single “I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone”. That,along with the guitar solo oriented instrumental “After Midnight” (title song of his album that year) showcase the urban contemporary jazzy funk side of his nature from his earlier session work with Herbie Hancock and Rufus. This 12″ mix of the song really showcases that.

Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam really brought the new jack swing pioneers Full Force into the limelight. Their Latin freestyle/dance club hits of the late 80’s were not only ultra catchy,but ultra funky as well. with Full Force being there to re-cut and remix  their hits “Head To Toe” and “You’ll Never Change” showcased just how deeply these songs grooves.

M/A/R/R/S’s “Pump Up The Volume” was my first exposure to both House music and sampling,though I didn’t know what either were at the time of hearing it. This is an awesomely funky house/scratch/hip-hop number out of the UK. When I heard the Bar Kays “Holy Ghost” a decade or so later,it created a flashback to the “put the needle on the record” segment of this song. Another group member AR Kane provided the B-side “Anitina”,a brittle,Bill Laswell like funk rocker that I always enjoyed.  Wanted to say a quick RIP to M/A/R/S member Steve Young,who passed away last month.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 12 inch singles, 1987, 1988, Alexander O'Neal, Barry White, Brownmark, Clyde Criner, Full Force, House Music, Jam & Lewis, Latin Freestyle, Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam, M/A/R/R/S, Marcus Miller, Pump Up The Volume, Ray Parker Jr., Sampling, scratching, Siadah Garrett, Vinyl

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘Afrodeezia’ by Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller Afrodeezia

Much as I hate to admit it? As much of a Marcus Miller admirer as I am? Still don’t even come close to personally owning every single one of his albums over the years. It’s actually something on my musical bucket list though. Because Marcus is one of the bass players I admire most now because of his total involvement in any whole musical process he gets involved with. It’s not just that he’s a multi talented DIY artist.

Though he is that…multi talented DIY artist. But this album’s subtext represents what I appreciate most about him. Having recently became a spokesmen for UNESCO’s Slave Route Project? He has taken the Quincy Jones-style approach of using the connective thread of black American music to illustrate the struggles up from slavery. And this album actually reflects that ambition on a musical level as well.

One of the most interesting aspects of this particular album is that a good chunk of it follows an extremely specific rhythmic pattern,provided by a group of African and Caribbean instrumentalists whom I’ve never heard of before. “Hylife” begins the album on the funkiest end of this with Marcus’s slap bass leading the way alongside the percussion and accompanying melodic piano and vocalese. “We Were There” has a similar approach with more of a Brazilian jazz rhythmic twist.

The song also includes vocal scatting from Layla Hathaway and melodic horns in beautiful festive unison. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” brings in Keb Mo for a very bluesy style take on the Norman Whitfield/Temptations funk classic. Same sound applies to the steel drum/rock guitar fueled “Son Of MacBeth”.”Preachers Kid” and “I Still Believe I Hear” are both somewhat more meditative numbers featuring vocal choirs and more Egyptian/Arabic style Afrocentric modalities.

The psychedelic electronica of the interlude “Prism” leads into the probing and expansively jazzy ballad “Xtraordinary” while “Water Dancer” has a bluesy jazz/fusion flavor with a great sax solo on the bridge. “I Can’t Breathe” ends the album with Marcus and Mocean Worker playing a thickly swinging funk showcasing bass clarinet and layers of guitar and keyboard with Chuck D rapping in fine form (as is typical) about the messiness of today’s revived racism.

First thing that can be said about this album is that it is political. Not in the lyrical sense as most of it is totally instrumental. But in the thoroughly musical statement it makes. With it’s basic percussive funk,fusion and blues approach? This albums brings African America and Africa itself both into clear creative focus with each other. It’s ever present sense of melody is alternately joyous,confused,sly,uneasy,romantic and sometimes even confrontational. Yet overall the general mood of the music is super relaxed and at ease with itself. It’s never just one sound. It’s a lot of different sounds meeting at their middles and harmonizing deeply. Of course,this is highly recommended as a meaningful new musical endeavor for Marcus Miller!

Originally Posted On March 17th,2015

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE

Read more about the Slave Route Project through UNESCO by clicking this link.

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Filed under 2015, Afro Funk, Afrocentrism, Amazon.com, blues funk, Brazilian Jazz, Chuck D, Keb Mo, Lalah Hathaway, Marcus Miller, message music, Mocean Worker, Music Reviewing, slap bass, Slave Route Project, UNESCO

Anatomy of THE Groove: “The Only Reason I Live” by Marcus Miller (1983)

Marcus Miller is probably my favorite contemporary funk bass players. The youthful prodigy was discovered by by Michael Urbaniak in the mid 70’s. He went on to have a 15 year long career as a session bassist-recording with everyone from Luther Vandross,Bryan Ferry to perhaps his most famous stint as the right hand man in Miles Davis’s early/mid 80’s band. How many bassists who emerged after 1974 had that breadth as a player. Later in the 80’s,he became a musical director of NBC’s Sunday Night Live-as well as being a member of the house band for the show. This was yet another musical feather in his cap.

Marcus’s career came to my personal attention via a cassette tape that my father picked at a local thrift store. It was of Marcus’s self titled sophomore solo album. His solo career was at first more instrumentally informed by his work with Luther Vandross at the time-especially in terms of uptempo tunes. Following him being the main musical figure (in lieu of the absent Prince) on Miles Davis’s 1986 album Tutu,the sound of Marcus’s solo albums from 1993 onward follow more in Miles’s direction. His 1983 debut Suddenly showcases another side of his talents with songs such as “The Only Reason I Live”.

Yogi Horton starts off this song with a fast rolling drum-one that hits fast and hard every other beat on the snare. That in addition to providing a Mutron-type,round filtered drum flash on the next beats. Marcus comes in with a brittle chicken scratch guitar-throwing down a fast ans ascending synth bass line underneath it. On the choruses,he adds a high pitched blast of synth blast. The bridge features Marcus scat singing over the even more kinetic drums and synth solos. On the final refrains of the songs,Marcus’s thumb slams away on the electric slap bass as well just before the groove fades away.

As times marched on,this has become one of my favorite early vocal funks jams from his first solo career in the 80’s. On songs like this,Marcus merges two vital elements of boogie/post disco synth funk. It has the fast dance tempo and instrumental flair of a Quincy Jones Westlake production like “Love Is In Control”. But it also has the brittle, stripped down sound of a Prince song such as “Erotic City”. Considering that,aside from Yogi Horton’s drums,that Marcus played all the instruments on this song showcases he was on the funky musical forefront even early on in his solo career.

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Filed under 1980's, Boogie Funk, chicken scratch guitar, drums, elecro funk, Funk Bass, Marcus Miller, naked funk, post disco, session musicians, slap bass, synth bass, synth brass, Uncategorized, Yogi Horton

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Full Nelson” by Miles Davis

Miles Davis’s chief musical inspiration during the 80’s was Prince. He even referred to the late Minneapolis music icon as a “genius” in an interview with Bill Boggs. In 1986,Miles left Columbia after a decades long relationship and signed with Warner Bros.-the label Prince happened to be recording on. Prince did compose one song with Miles for a planned album session between them. The song was called “Can I Play With U”. As the story goes,Prince pulled the song because he felt the song didn’t fit with the other material Miles had planned for the album,which he named for the Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Miles ended up working with the multi instrumentalist /composer/arranger/ producer Marcus Miller. Miller had been part of Miles band since the beginning of his comeback in 1980. The album Tutu finally came out in September of 1986. While the album was largely reviewed in the same snide manner as much as anything of Miles’ electric period,it did totally bring his sound into the electro funk era. The impropriety of South African apartheid seemed to be on Miles’ mind while making this album as well. And therefore it ended with a very powerful groove entitled “Full Nelson”.

Starting out with a bit of trumpet practice,Miles mutters “go ahead” before the song breaks in. The song has a stomping,Cameo style drum machine beat. A pulsing,ultrasound type electronic bass sound bubbles into the back-round. Miller starts out playing a thick rhythm guitar. Than when his slap bass comes in,Miles improvise across the bass lines. Those lines descend into Miles on trumpet and Miller on sax playing the strong choral melody over an ethereal,orchestral synthesizer. After several rounds of Miles soloing across thick bass and synth pops,the song fades out again on it’s chorus.

Miles Davis really perfected his understanding of the full bodied funk song on “Full Nelson”. Marcus Miller totally embodies the Prince approach of multi layering digital horn synthesizers,melody and bass/guitar interaction with Miles trademark trumpet soloing style. Miller also lends that distinctive style of his own to the Minneapolis style groove here-including a somewhat thicker rhythmic stomp. Miles gets all the space and accents he needs to do his own thing as well. Tutu is a strong mid 80’s rebirth for Miles as it stands. And that it ends on possibly it’s most funky note says a lot.

 

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Filed under 1986, drum machine, elecro funk, jazz funk, Marcus Miller, Miles Davis, Prince, rhythm guitar, Saxophone, slap bass, synth brass, synthesizers, trumpet, Warner Bros.

Anatomy Of THE Groove For The Brothers And Sisters Who Aren’t Here: “For The Sweetness Of Your Love” by Luther Vandross

Luther Vandross is one of the later journeyman soul/funk artists of the late 20’th century. This native New Yorker ended up writing for David Bowie,Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway and even a song for the original stage production for The Wiz. A year later he joined up with former members of his early group the Shades Of Jade to form the singing quintet called Luther,who had a couple of minor hits before he sang on Quincy Jones Sounds…and stuff like that album in 1978 before landing a gig with the band Change-singing lead on their 1980 song “The Glow Of Love”. And all of this occurred before he turned 30.

In 1981 he was finally signed up to Epic records and recorded his debut Never Too Much. That and his sophomore solo Forever,For Always, For Love album established his relationship bassist/composer Marcus Miller. This team began additionally writing songs for female soul singers Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin-especially when it came to helming Aretha’s two major comeback hits “Jump To It” and “Get It Right” between 1982 and 83. During that year the pair assembled to put together Vandross’s third solo album. This album was entitled Busy Body. And the song that stands out on the uptempo side for me is called “For The Sweetness Of Your Love”.

Drummer Yogi Horton starts off the groove playing a fast 4/4 beat with some ultra speedy hi hats before Marcus Miller’s metallic synth bass introduces the melody. Doc Powell’s clipped,bubbling rhythm guitar doubled up with Georg Wedenius’s. Marcus plays two lead synth  lines. One has only several notes and plays the slower aspect of the melody,while a slightly higher toned one plays the faster part. On Vandross’s vocal parts,the opening part of the song acts as the refrain along with Marcus’s lightening fast slap bass playing along. Meanwhile his two synth lines represent the chorus. The bridge features a stripped down,instrumental variation of the refrain featuring a percussive synth line before the song closes out with the repetition of the chorus.

Luther Vandross is generally not known for his faster songs-with most of his career arc position him as a balladeer of slower,heavily orchestrated songs. At the same time,Marcus Miller and Vandross’s talents as instrumental arrangers add a lot to his more danceable side. This song not only contains Luther’s Smokey Robinson style lyrical wordplay,but also integrates the brittle energy of early 80’s electro funk. Another thing about this song is how bass heavy it is. The liquid rhythm guitar has a low,heavy tone-as does the two prominent synth bass lines and Marcus’s slap bass itself. The fact this song is so percussively bottom heavy makes this some of the finest funk of Luther’s solo career.

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Filed under 1980's, dance funk, Doc Powell, drums, elecro funk, Georg Wedenius, Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller, rhythm guitar, slap bass, synth bass, synth funk, synthesizers, Yogi Horton

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Instant Love” by Cheryl Lynn

Cheryl Lynn was something of a rarity of her day. Her career came through a performance of the Joe Cocker hit “You Are So Beautiful” on a 1976 episode of The Gong Show-in a manner similar to how an American Idol or The Voice contestant would today. A juggler actually won that episode of The Gong Show she was on. But record companies began courting her to sign up. She ended up on Columbia by 1978. And that same year scored her first hit,and signature song in the disco era classic “Got To Be Real”. With her strong,rangy and loud gospel/soul vocal pipes Lynn was very much creatively suited to uptempo dance/funk as well as melodically complex ballads.

One of the big male producer of female soul/funk singers in the early 1980’s was Luther Vandross. With his sensitive approach and brilliant way with a ballad,his understanding of musical femininity applied in equal measure to uptempo songs. That had a lot to do with the fact that his keyboardist Nat Adderley Jr and of course bassist/composer Marcus Miller are just about two of the funkiest instrumentalists around. In 1982,Lynn worked with Vandross as a producer and his band backing her up for what would turn out to be her fourth album release entitled Instant Love. The title song of this particular album was a real standout groove from her on this album,and the one I’ll be breaking down today.

Marcus’s thumping slap bass begins the song,which moves into the drum playing in somewhat odd time. It’s assisted by a deep piano along with higher pitched synthesizer orchestration. Than the percussion kicks in along with a more brittle bass synthesizer and the higher ones playing horn like accents. Throughout the refrains and the choruses,a JB’s style funk rhythm guitar keeps the groove going strong-both as a higher pitched sound and a deeper one. On those choruses,Vandross himself is audible singing the songs title along with Lynn and his classic team of backup singers. After a bridge featuring her vocally gliding over the stripped down intro,the song fades out on it’s  chorus.

Instrumentally this is heavy,thumping boogie funk at it’s finest. Marcus Miller has just about every musical aspect of this song playing in or around the bass line he lays out. One thing about he and Luther’s uptempo numbers is how they always seemed to equate hard funk jams with big voiced singers. And Cheryl Lynn fit the bill for that. Another thing that Miller and Adderley bring out is the influence of Prince’s Minneapolis sound. The high pitched synth lines are overdubbed to play horn lines throughout the song. So it finds Cheryl Lynn on the forefront of at least two different and exciting movements during the electro funk era.

 

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Filed under 1980's, bass synthesizer, Boogie Funk, Cheryl Lynn, elecro funk, Luther Vandross, Marcus Miller, Minneapolis, Nat Adderley Jr, percussion, rhythm guitar, slap bass, Uncategorized

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 6/13/2015: ‘Amandla’ by Miles Davis

Amandla

Cannot tell you why I spent almost a quarter of my life as an admirer of Miles Davis’s music and passed over this CD over and over again. No reason but,well the wait it over. Seems this album titled is based on a Zulu word meaning “power”. And Miles must’ve been feeling a lot of that musically. His body was swiftly deteriortating by the time this came out. But what mattered is that his 1986 Warner Bros. debut Tutu was triumph,for him and producer/writer/collaborator Marcus Miller. This album was to be the follow up to that. And essentially follow the same format: Miles would play his horn while Marcus did almost everything else. However Miles’ own personality was given somewhat more of a kick by the presense of Joe Sample,Omar Hakim and Joey DeFrancesco here. It may not have been the approach that many might’ve viewed as Miles’ own cup of tea,being as confident as he was creatively. But at this point putting his dwindling physical energy into his playing was paramount.

On the first two numbers,”Catembe” and the George Duke collaboration on “Cobra” that afrocentric polyrhythmic percussion flavor is continued on from where Miles left off on the previous album. Duke had the good sense to take some notes from Miller’s approach in that regard. “Big Time”,the more brooding “Jo-Jo” and of course “Jili” take a step forward. With the strong surge of success of go-go and it’s more commercialized cousin new jack swing Marcus Miller began to integrate those digitized funky shuffing beats into those songs,all of which have strong melodies and look ahead to the possibility of more hip-hop type music in Miles’ future. “Hannibal” is a very thick jazz-rock similar again to some of the music on the previous album. The title song is the slower number here with a melody teeter tottering between reflective and sunny. The closer “Mr.Pastorious”,a tribute to the than recently befallen Jaco is a strong song compositionally on the jazzier end.

Interesting thing about this album to me is that it was the final album Miles’ released in his lifetime. His final album Doo Bop was released a year following his passing in 1991. And even here with Marcus Miller you can hear the strong groundwork laid for some of the jazz/hip-hop fusions Miles would go for on his final recordings. Of course this is a fully instrumental album so he was not making the full change over to anything overtly hip-hop here. Just Marcus’ passing nods to the go-go and new jack swing sounds he was probably pretty interested in at the time. And likely had appeal to Miles because of their relation to the funk he’d fallen in love with. So it was great to see Miles,even as he was at the twilight of his career by this poing,still being two steps ahead of what else was happening in the jazz world of the time. Innovating all of ones life time is amazing. But being able to do that pretty much near your death bed? Well…maybe that’s just Miles for you.

Originally posted on June 20th,2012

*Link to original review here

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Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Fusion, go-go funk, Jaco Pastorius, Jazz-Funk, Joe Sample, Joey DeFrancesco, Marcus Miller, Miles Davis, Music Reviewing, Omar Hakim

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 2/7/2015: ‘Healing The Wounds’ by The Crusaders

Healing The Wounds

In the days since the passing of Joe Sample,I continue to be bought back to the moment when I first heard the Crusaders album Street Life on the brand new cassette deck-cruising back from Strawberries record store on a balmy summer evening in the family’s 1992 Toyota Corolla sometime in early 1994. This was the first time I can recall hearing the Crusaders. Of course then being deep into my Jacksons/ Michael Jackson period,it never occurred to me that Wilton Felder played bass on “I Want You Back” in 1969. As time has marched on? The Crusaders have come to represent the very core of the qualities I most appreciate in instrumentalists overall. This was an album my father had in his collection for years. It was the Crusaders first release of the 90’s. And it featured the bass playing and production of one of my top favorite musicians-Marcus Miller. Hadn’t heard it in some years,and when I did wasn’t sure who this was. So its a privilege to come back to this now,with the knowledge I have today,to go more in depth into it’s contents.

“Pessimisticism” is ever the classic Marcus Miller style production-with the heavy funk bottom. Interesting enough,its another of Joe Sample’s harmonically expansive compositions-setting a very probing,questioning melodic mood. Joe Zawinul’s classic “Mercy Mercy Mercy” is given the classic Crusaders slow burn groove treatment-one where Felder’s sax (as usual) really gets a chance to shine as he sustains and bends the notes of the chorus just beautifully. ” Little Things Mean A Lot” is a mid tempo bossa with a Caribbean flavor added to the rhythm. Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” receives a very progressive fusion style arrangement-ending with some very cinematic chord progressions built around Stevie’s iconic melodicism. “Shake Dance” represents one of my favorites on the album-another Miller composition with a very strong late 80’s hard funk feel-centering strongly not only around his bass but rapid fire instrumental breaks. “Maputo” is another favorite of mine,and another Miller composition and is another slow burning groove with a strong,swelling melody. Joe Sample finishes off the album with the title song and “Running Man”-two more melodically probing compositions with that ideal blend of jazz and funk rhythms the Crusaders do so well.

Music throughout the decades can be slickly produced. But slick production changes with every technological innovation in recording. And in their time together,the Crusaders had by this time already been recording entities through at least three significant recording innovations. By this time,that included the era of full digital recording. What made it all work was the renowned synergy that was not only created by the Crusaders themselves,but any other musicians who happened to be playing with them. And that also adds into another thing that makes the music the band creates so special: those small instrumental touches that almost seem like they shouldn’t be too significant. Session guitarist Michael Landau’s lowly mixed guitar riffs generally only play accents on these songs,for example. But they serve as an important building block that creates the house of rhythm. What may sound like a minor instrumental part on a Crusaders albums such as this serves as far more than mere sound coloring. They have a voice. They make a statement. Everything about a Crusaders song-instrumentally and melodically,just seems to have meaning when you listen to it. And it’s this gift of instrumental personality and strong affection for their craft that made musicians such as Joe Sample masters of the very thing they did best.

Originally Posted On September 14th,2014

Link to original review here*

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Filed under 1990s, Jazz-Funk, Joe Sample, Joe Zawinul, Marcus Miller, The Crusaders, Wilton Felder

Anatomy Of The Groove 1/9/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Berlin Street Funk” by Peter Muller

One of the true blessings of the internet is the ability for independent musicians,from all different genres,to have the available infrastructure to not only promote and release their music but also be able to maintain it’s intended creative flavor. Bremen Germany born Peter Muller is such a case of a vital funk bass player whose career took off entirely during (and to a great degree because of) the internet. With a father playing acoustic bass and piano,Muller became a sideman during the 90’s who was very much attracted to the playing approach of Stanley Clarke,Mark King and the incomparably multi talented Marcus Miller.

Shortly after joining the UK’s Frank Mead Band,Muller started a solo career. And in doing so became among one of the earliest pioneers who made full use of digital recording software to record his music directly on and to his own PC.  Developing his own studio known as Wave Island,Muller recorded his debut in 2003. His second album The Flow became a prominent aspect of the then still growing iTunes Jazzhcharts. After several years of working primarily as a music educator,Muller assembled some of the members of the Frank Mead band,including the man himself for his next album in 2014’s No Mind-which opened with the song “Berlin Street Funk”.

Beginning with an isolated and classic funky drum solo directly from the Clyde Stubblefield school,Muller’s punching slap bass solo comes in playing a bluesy funk solo,followed up by keyboardist Tobias Neumann’s jazzy notations on the Rhodes. Mead then comes in on sax playing the basic melody Muller originally threw down on his electric bass. All surrounding an unusually clear cut sample of the rhythm guitar line from James Brown’s “Sex Machine”,. Following a bridge featuring a sax improvisation from Meade? The music builds up to an intense unison of grooving led by Tim Canfield’s wah-wah guitar eventually building into a reverb laden jazz-rock styled electric guitar solo that is cut off by Mead’s closing sax solo that provides the final fanfare to the song.

Perhaps it was Muller’s years as a music educator that inspired him to present this song the way he did. The fact that each instrument from each of the band members he was working with build up the song from the foundation upward? Each playing directly off the drum and bass part Muller put down? There is just as much of an instructional element to this song as their is entertainment factor. And that factor is very heavy too because each of these players combines the funky basics of James Brown,the slap bass of Marcus Miller and the harmonically enriching electric piano approach of a Herbie Hancock and mixes them together for a potent and live band style funky stew of grooves,rhythms and complex melodies. Surely this qualifies as Peter Muller’s own jam of the year!

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Filed under 2014, Frank Meade Band, Funk, Funk Bass, Germany, James Brown, Jazz-Funk, Marcus Miller, Mark King, Peter Muller, Stanley Clarke