Category Archives: Mayer Hawthorne

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Book Of Broken Hearts” by Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne’s musical vitality has continued to grow on me every time I hear his music. As many times as he’s been written about musically here,his own story as a musician is a very important one to this day and age. Born Andrew Mayer Cohen in Ann Arbor,Michigan the man came out of loving hip-hop growing up-inspired by his father Richard being a bass player in a local rock band called The Breakers and his mother Kathi having once played guitar. He took his stage name from the street he grew up on. After moving to LA, the multi talented instrumental/arranger/producer/singer/songwriter signed up with Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stone Throw Records.

Hawthorne originally recorded  instrumental tracks for the label specific purpose of sampling by other artists on the label. When Wolf heard them,he decided they were worthy of a solo album for Hawthorne. After three of his solo recordings released between 2011-2013,Mayer Hawthorne teamed up with hip-hop producer Jake One for the electro funk/boogie album project entitled Tuxedo. Hawthorne was more a musician than a vocalist. But his soulful phrasing and range lends itself well to the instrumental craft he has continued to develop. His newest album is entitled Man About Town and the song that perhaps best shows off all his talents here is “Book Of Broken Hearts”.

The drum patter that opens up the album sounds (and possibly is) directly from the early 70’s drum machine the Maestro Rhythm King. Than Hawthorne’s revving bass lines opens into the song-whose main chorus is build around sunny rhythm guitar strumming. He surrounds this with several equally melodic layers of electric pianos and horn charts. On the refrains of the song,he builds this instrumentation on the pumping rhythm of the bass line. His  vocals have the same propulsive quality. On a bridge of the song towards the end,Hawthorne sings with a sea of his own vocal harmonies before it all closes out on the chorus that began the song.

The fact that Hawthorne’s chief musical inspirations are producer/arranger’s such as Isaac Hays,Curtis Mayfield and Barry White it’s no surprise how he approaches his grooves. His vocal arrangements on this song come out of the Daryl Hall school. At the same time his West Coast style of funk sound has the heavy pop craft of Sly Stone and Quincy Jones’ productions for the Brothers Johnson in the mid 1970’s. Hawthorne doesn’t concentrate on trying to be new and original rhythmically,an approach which can lead to cold and boring music today. Instead he focuses on a solid pop/funk groove based on the time honored musical process that created so many of the classics of the genre he admires.

 

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Filed under 2016, electric piano, Funk Bass, funky pop, funky soul, horns, Maestro Rhythm King, Mayer Hawthorne, Peanut Butter Wolf, rhythm guitar, Stone Throw Records, Uncategorized, West Coast

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 12/14/2015: “Holiday Love” by Tuxedo

Tuxedo have already been pretty thoroughly covered on Andresmusictalk already. And it looks like Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One are at it again. Just in time for the holidays too. Since I got back into doing this blog with my “five days of funk” concept?  Have had some difficulty finding any nu funk to cover,which was part of my original intention. And this single of a new Stone’s Throw label compilation came at me via my YouTube subscription to the duo’s channel on that site. And the name of the song is “Holiday Love”.

The groove gets going with a percussive,mid tempo drum machine rhythm. This is first accompanied by a glossy orchestral keyboard harmony, along with a round and brittle synth bass line. The chorus is sung Roger Troutman style by Jake through a Vocoder. On the second chorus sung with Hawthorne harmonizing on lead? It’s all accompanied by the sound of sleigh bells in a similar manner to the Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush” from 40 years ago this year. It all outro’s it begins, along with the orchestral synth wailing away.

In many ways? This song completes an important multi generational triad of Christmas themed funk. It probably began with James Brown’s “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” in the late 60’s,continued on a couple years later with Donny Hathaway’s iconic funky soul of “This Christmas” and ends with the 80’s electro funk revivalism of this jam from Tuxedo. Musically it blends elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Zapp’s “Computer Love”. Topped off with Mayer Hawthorne’s soulfully honey’d lead vocals.

Message wise the song is right on time. The music video depicts Mayer and Jake pitching woo to their girlfriends-culminating with drinking wine in bed-while all sharing in their musically creative process. It’s just a simple idea of setting time aside for your romantic partner as a holiday gift. Since the last three holiday seasons have consisted mainly of depressing,gun related mass shootings and the conservatively motivated contrivance of the “war on Christmas”? This funk will not only move,but might just remove those undesired effects this holiday season.

 

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Filed under "Sexual Healing", 2015, bass synthesizer, Christmas music, Donny Hathaway, drum machine, elecro funk, Jake One, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Mayer Hawthorne, Stone Throw Records, synth bass, synth funk, Tuxedo, YouTube

Anatomy Of THE Groove for 4/24/2015: “So Good” by Tuxedo

It was actually Issue 61 of Wax Poetics magazine that made me aware of the existence of this duo. During the first half decade of the 2010’s? It would seem as if funk,especially it’s analog synthesizer oriented cousin known as boogie,has been rediscovered as a vital template for contemporary soul, electronic, pop and hip-hop artists. And it’s really been healthy for instrumentalists in particular. And happily it’s emerged again from a source that has been drawn to it for over two decades at this point.

Stone Throw Records has really upped the ante in terms of celebrating live instrumental hip-hop and it’s offshoots. From the days of Peanut Butter Wolf,through the late J Dilla and Madlib. This was the beginning of hip-hop’s journey around to straight up funk again. Now Tuxedo has emerged from this brew. Staring the musical talents of Seattle native Jake One,producer for contemporary rappers such as Drake and Rick Ro$$ along with singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne? The duo have come out with a self titled album including songs such as “So Good” here.

Starting off with an insistent percussion accented drum beat out of the “Billie Jean”/”Ghetto Life” early 80’s “naked funk” school? A phat bass synth opens the door for a sharp,punchy and higher pitched melodic synthesizer. Both of these analog synthesizers dance and bounce rhythmically to the slow dragging funky drum of the song. This provides the musical core for Hawthorne’s vocals-assisted by an alarm like “video game” counter melodic line. A bridge of the song cuts out the bass synth and concentrates on the melodic one as an orchestral element-returning to the original electronic duet to the closeout of the song-with Hawthorne harmonizing with his own back-round vocals.

One of the things that I appreciate about this song is that it showcases the meatiest possible elements of boogie/electro funk. Jake One seems to possess a keen understanding of how much that style of funk and first generation commercial hip-hop of the early 80’s went hand and hand. The tongue in cheek video,recorded on VHS tape cable access style showcases Hawthorne,Jake One and the band performing the song in an expressionless manner. The actual song expresses a great sense of warmth and vitality in it’s melodic ideas-which lies in contrast to the loping rhythmic funk stomp underneath it all. A powerful example of modern day hard electro/boogie based synth funk.

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Filed under 2015, Billie Jean, Boogie Funk, electro funk, funk revival, Hip-Hop, J Dilla, Jake One, Madlib, Mayer Hawthorne, Peanut Butter Wolf, Stone Throw Records, synth funk, Wax Poetics magazine

Anatomy of THE Groove 11/28/14 Rique’s Pick: “Her Favorite Song” by Mayer Hawthorne

Any participant in the night life has seen them, whether they be casual partakers or hardcore intemperate indulgers. Those lovely, fly women in the club who seem to be having a fantastic time, all the time. But all that glitters is not neccesarily gold, which is the theme Mayer Hawthorne dealt with in his fantastic 2013 single “Her Favorite Song.” This song has already achieved instant classic status in my book, both for its smooth juxtaposition of two totally different funky feels as well as it’s deconstruction of the nightlife/single ladies narrative, along the lines of Amy Whitehouse’s “Fuck Me Pumps.” But Mayer goes beyond any type of moral judgement or reprimand by providing a song for the woman to sing, her favorite one in fact. “Her Favorite Song” in fact functions as two different songs, one is Mayers composition of the contemporary hip hop based grind that is the nightlife world his character inhabits, and the other is the song she turns to for refuge and true musical healing.

The song begins with a rock hard bass line, based around the interval of an octave. The bass has a heavily overdriven or distorted sound. The drums play a huge loud drum fill at the end of the pattern as the beat kicks in. The drumbeat itself is a fairly typical 1990s hip hop beat, rock hard, straightforward with a dirty snare sound and minimal syncopation. Hawthorne goes on to tell a story of a woman who “Walks straight to the bar in a party dress.” The woman is disturbed but trying to party her blues away, and it doesent quite work because she starts to tear up.

The next section is the “Her Favorite Song” portion, in which he says, “But when she gets home/she puts her headphones on/she plays her favorite song/and fades away.” The music itself for this section is a fluid, syncopated rhythm, with a a bossa nova style kick drum, a super hip bassline, and Earth, Wind & Fire Brazillian style vocals. Her favorite song gives her the wisdom and understanding to see “The world keeps turning/life goes on.” No matter what she was previously troubled by.

This particular one hits me on several levels. For one, the juxtaposition of the hard, grinding hip hop influenced funk track with the melodic, syncopated, loose Brazillian funk feel of the chorus is very meaningful for a fan of funky music in todays times. It’s like the sound of the world versus the sound of ones self. Hawthornes lady is like many of us, a person who has connected to music deeply in a manner that it can provide multiple levels of information and comfort to her. No matter how hard and unfeeling the world seems, the music is her comfort. In particular, Hawthorne being a funk/soul fan like myself, I dig the music he used to illustrate that, because it reminds me of my initial immersion into that world in the first place. While all the cars in the street where playing their ’90s hip hop, I was one who would go home, put on my AKG’s and play my favorite (funky) songs. Hawthorne tells a story of the power of music, when strong drinks and quick flings won’t do the trick. A story I’m sure many of us continue to live out in the here and now.

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Filed under Funk Bass, Mayer Hawthorne, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Nu Funk

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 11/8/2014: ‘Where Does This Door Go” by Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne

If those who read this are aware of my musical tastes,it would seem that someone like Mayer Hawthorne would be just up my alley. That is someone in my age group who was taking up with the pre hip-hop sub genre of retro soul/funk. Interestingly enough that was the main reason why I shied away from him. There was something about his entire approach that was,to use a rather tired critics device,a bit derivative. On the other hand,from the individual songs I heard there was an individual musical personality bubbling under the surface. At the same time as a singer,songwriter and multi instrumentalist Mayer Hawthorne was someone whose music did interest me. So when it came to my attention Mayer Hawthorne was dropping a third album that would be a stylistic (and more individualistic) change in his music,I thought it was the time was right to begin exploring what he had to offer.

“Back Seat Lover” and “The Innocent” are very spare Fender Rhodes electric piano led pieces-kind of a “naked jazz/pop/funk” hybrid for those familiar with writer Ricky Vincent’s categorizations within the funk genre. “Allie Jones”,”The Only One” and “Crime”-featuring what I find to be a rather useless (to me anyway) rap by Kendrick Lamar,are probably the biggest departure because they do reflect modern hip-hop’s approach to funk more. Still it is very much live instrumental funk too which gives it an extra dash of spice. “Wind Glass Woman” is a favorite of mine on this album,with it’s spirited late 70’s dance/funk friendly ethic. The vocal range and bass/keyboard dynamics on “Her Favorite Song” are another amazing turn here. Two songs here are very indicative of Steely Dan’s production approach. “Reach Out Richard” has a strong Aja era flavor while “The Stars Are Ours” is a heavier jazzy funk shuffle. Appropriately both showcase the more…shall I saw reflectively seedy aspects of the lyrics to these songs.

“Corsican Rose” has a larger,mildly electronic mid 80’s production yet at the same time a contemporary funk via hip-hop type groove-yet another effective hybrid. That electronic flavor of course shows up again on the witty “Robot Love”,another spare groove introduced by a sample from “Family Guy”. Of the two ballads the title song is a huge sounding,orchestral soul epic whereas the closer “All Better” is a somewhat more subtle piano based melodic type number. Hawthorne does a lot with his sound on this album. These songs have much more elaborate melodies and vocal harmonies that what I’ve heard from him. The key to this album is the heavier emphasis on the deepest end of the sea of funk. Mayer’s bass lines on some of these numbers are among the heaviest on a modern soul/funk album aimed at a contemporary audience. His love of hip-hop actually guides this album (for the most part) in a very positive way as well-more through rhythm than production. I personally feel this is a very impressive album and an excellent way for Hawthorne to develop his own unique signature sound.

Originally posted on July 18th,2013

Link to original review here!*

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Filed under 1980's, Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz-Funk, Late 70's Funk, Mayer Hawthorne