Category Archives: New Orleans

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 7/19/2014: ‘A.J. & The Jiggawatts’

AJ & The Jiggawatts

 

Its been known to me for quite a few years that,even after the crossover potency of funk had diminished on the radio,that the music still had a home on radio and in the record stores of the American South. That extended onward into the 90’s era when the Southern hip-hop sub-genre emerged with acts such as Mystikal,The Goodie Mob and of course OutKast as some of the most thoroughly funk oriented of hip-hoppers of their era. With the emergence of the whole Dap Tone scene during the new millennium,it also seemed that large live funk bands were suddenly becoming the domain of indie record labels-much the same as the earliest music of the original funk and early disco era had actually been. While randomly leafing through the R&B section of the record store,I came across this album. It was a large horn funk band from Nashville,usually known to me as a mecca for country music. It described AJ & The Jiggawatts as a blistering live band. But what would the studio make them out to be on this CD?

Right of the bad with the intro the album is of course abound with fast paced,uptempo horn funk such as “Throw A Fit”,”Get Wild”,”Pushin’ Forward”,”98 Degrees”,”Once And A Lifetime”,”Don’t Mess With Me” and the intense “The Drop”. These numbers are some of the most hyperactive funk I’ve ever heard,since its usually a genre I tend to associate with a slower rhythmic structure. Might be good to use James Brown’s “I’m A Greedy Man” to describe the tempo and flavor of the funk on those songs. “Back Alley Beale St” and “Brown Bottle Fever”,both with a bluesier New Orleans groove,use the lyrical metaphor of intoxication. “Typical Feeling” is a sunny,melodic groove that deals with the virtues of skepticism and reason-citing what sounds like the contemporary climate crisis as an example. “Shake It For Me” has a commanding horn fanfare throughout it while “Pimp Decisions” espouses the virtues of balancing ones needs with those of others while “Stand Up” ends the album (as a bonus track) with some strident,wah wah heavy funky soul.

Musically this is a fantastic album through and through. One of the best things about it is that it updates the sociopolitical lyrical impulses of classic funk for the post Generation X years. The ideas of “do what you want to do” and “come together,people” are superseded with the concepts of reliance on ones own views and abilities. There’s also a strong working class sensibility about the album as well-dealing with people in tight economic situations trying to keep relationships and the like afloat amid their stresses. The musicians,especially the cracker jack horn section are superb. And the production is clean and loose as they come. The only thing I am not 100% taken with is AJ Eason’s singing. While he has a powerful,assertive vocal tone and is an extremely strong songwriter/lyricist? His vocal technique itself is extremely sloppy,similar to the lead singer of the Intruders where he often loses control of his voice and is very badly off key on the choruses. While people probably have their own ideas about Eason’s singing that will differ from mine,its not enough from keeping this a stand up example of a contemporary live band funk juggernaut!

Original Review Written On July 14th,2014

*Link to original review:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1JKY3VXYHMOQL/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

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Filed under A.J. & The Jiggawatts, A.J. Eason, Blues, Funk, Generations, James Brown, Nashville, New Orleans

Andre’s Amazon Archive for May 24th,2014: Labelle’s ‘Back To Now’

Back To Now

            Obviously many classic soul lovers have been awaiting this for a very long time-finally Sarah Dash and the incomparable Nona Hendryx team back up with the now solo diva Patti Labelle for a full fledged reunion. ‘Back To Know’ features the production help of both “contempo” musicians Wyclef Jean and Lenny Kravitz along with old Labelle pals Gamble & Huff for this gutsy,funky soul fest-full of those high energy gospel shouts and harmony’s that Sarah,Nona and Patti can give us. All of the songs are excellent-even “Rollout”;the only cut obviously designed to “reach the kids” of the new millennium with it’s bass heavy hip-hop/pro-tools softwhere sound. Aside from that all of the music here could easily have been ripped from a late 70’s follow up to Labelle’s last album Chameleon (a classic more then worth hunting down);”Candlelight”,”Superlover” and “System” all explore the waters of soul,gospel drenched R&B and hardcore funk before each tune is out. Lenny Kravitz’ presence makes itself clear on “Truth Will Set You Free”,a tough funk rocker reminding us not only that Labelle were one of the earliest female groups to combine funk and rock but that none of that spark has faded with time or separation.

            Even if the music world of today welcomes them the world Labelle are making a comeback in has changed dramatically. We’ve moved way beyond Marvin Gaye’s concerns about an “overcrowded land” with “fish full of mercury”;we have global warming,a disintegrating economy and paranoia about terrorism. In their tradition Labelle over up almost half an albums worth of messages songs,all with a different motivation-in “Tears For The World” documents in traditional funk message song style a litany of todays problems and our unexpected apathy towards them;that maybe showing feeling might bring people to act.”Dear Rosa” is a tribute to the late civil rights pioneer-thanking her for her efforts but somberly pointing out that she died before you dream was fully realized. On “How Long” and “Miss Otis Regrets” stories of triumph and wonder prevail and we as the listener really feel we’ve experienced something magical,and we have. It would be a pity if this was the last we heard of Labelle as a unit but if it is this would be a worthy,if long long delayed,goodbye.

Originally Posted On October 21st,2008

*Here is the original review on Amazon as well:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R55XEUEI3M0CD/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B001E2PTIG

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Filed under Disco, Funk, New Orleans, Patti Labelle, Rhythm, Soul

Andre’s Amazon Archive for April 19th,2014: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings ‘Give The People What They Want’

sharon Jones album

For the sake of its relative importance to this review,I do have a personal experience with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings this year. I was watching 2013’s annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade-enjoying the usual parade of happy balloons and the floats,which often contained a musical act of course. Most of them were of course second tier teenpop acts of today. Some of then such as Ariana Grande were not actually half bad. But much to my surprise this band appeared performing “Ain’t No Chimney’s In The Projects”-an extremely atypical type of Christmas song to be appearing at such an event. Shortly after that I learned about the release of this particular album this year. No needless to say I was extraordinarily excited seeing as their last album,while excellent,was basically a collection of outtakes. Whatever the situation,this album is certainly not disappointing to me.

“Retreat” starts out the album with a hugely percussive stop-start rhythm with some lightening fast blues/funk chord changes. “Stranger To Happiness”, and “Get Up And Get Out” both deal with a strongly polished Motown styled uptempo sound while “You’ll Be Lonely”,with its stuttering guitar riffing and slow crawl,represents fine hard Crescent City style funk at some of its finest. “Now I See” goes into the horn heavy soul shuffle with a very strong roadhouse blues style melody-showing how strongly those musical ideas mingled together so well to begin with. “Making Up And Breaking Up” is a grandly performed balled with a beautifully reverbed multi-tracked vocal chorus for that otherworldly flavor. “Long Time,Wrong Time” has this strong electric piano Memphis gospel/soul-funk attitude with it’s stripped down atmosphere. “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” is fast paced Windy City style funk/soul “people music” frankly addressing the inequities between the econimic classes which,sadly,still continues the world over. “Slow Down Love” is a dynamic,horn break oriented ballad to close out this album.

Yes its short but,of course in the Daptone tradition the analog era minded flavor is maintained throughout. Of course two things album this album that I appreciate is the Dap Kings total devotion to their instrumental sound and songwriting. They always realize that its not only important to play “real instruments”,but also to have the creative vision to produce with with strong recording values and substantive lyrical content. Not only that but this is also a band that never ceases to emphasize uptempo funk and soul with prominent melodic content as well. As long as Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are around,there’ll be very little chance that people will think of retro soul as some type of generational trend. This band is always emphasizing the instrumental and melodic importance/vitality that the mid/late 60’s style soul/funk process era which they’ve embraced had to offer. They’ve done that progressively more so with each of their progressive albums. Somehow or other,each and every time there is just a little more growth and a little more power to their approach. So I can only hope they’ll keep bringing the positive end of the soul and funk spirit out in their music for a long time to come!

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Filed under Blues, Funk, Memphis Soul, Motown, New Orleans, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Soul

Anatomy of THE Groove 3/28/14 Rique’s Pick : “By My Side (Illith’s Blues) by Nicholas Payton

 

“By My Side” is the first track on Nicholas Payton’s 2011 mixtape  “Bitches.” Payton is known for being an excellent jazz trumpeter, but that fact notwithstanding he, like the great Lester Bowie, disdains the term “jazz”, viewing it as a limiting term. Today’s “Anatomy of the Groove” feature, “By My Side”, the first song on the album, shows him to be a musician as comfortable with funk, R&B and soul as the worlds of improvisational swing.

The tune kicks in the door with funky, clamourous New Orleans dope beat. The kick drums sounds like somebody either knocking on a hollow wooden door or stomping on a wooden plank floor. The snare sound is just as rowdy, clanging out a clave-ish rhythmic pattern.

The bassline is very special, the bait that lured me into the story of Illith’s Blues.  It uses an analog synth sound with portamentau/glide. I love the funky glide, moving from one pitch to the next, with a slow attack, pitches that take their sweet, funky time going from tone to tone.

The effect of the synth bass’s skipping, scooping, dragging and scrapping is something like a chipper tipsy man trying to get dried dog poop off his brand new Italian loafers. The hard New Orleans percussion is therby mixed with a lazy, drawling Bayou feel.

The sunshine on the track comes from Payton’s bright, ’80s style digital synth tones. The mix of analog and digital sounds, bluesy melody and bright major chords all add to a feeling of desperate brightness. There is both happiness and pain in the sound. The harmonic foundation is bright and major, but Payton gives an impassioned bluesy/soulful vocal, backed up by a digital Clavinet sound that provides even more rhythm, along with counterpoint and testimony to Payton’s story of life enhancing love.

“Travel deep inside the jungle/to find the best of my soul”, is how Payton begins his soul searching love affirmation. The song goes into “So What” style chords as Payton says “I ain’t afraid of the next level/although I’m sure to see the Devil.” The song paints the picture of a tough, rascalish “Trouble Man” who has finally found that “ride or die” woman, and is feeling good about it. I should tell you, “By Your Side” is the first song of an album based around the full story of a relationship. Like Payton’s favorite artist Marvin Gaye’s album, “Here My Dear”, the story does not end “well” in the conventional sense. But it does have many riches of sentiment, soul, funk, love and reflection to offer. “By My Side” begins the story of this love affair on a funky, soulful, hopeful note, and it will do the same for you on this or any other weekend on your own journey of love.

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Filed under Blogging, Music Reviewing, New Orleans, Soul, Stevie Wonder, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove 3/21/14: “Long Weekend” by Trombone Shorty

Since it would seem that that New Orleans has the reputation of being the birthplace of the concept of funk itself,what with the first acknowledged jazz musician’s Buddy Bolden’s song “The Funky Butt”,it makes perfect sence that an important element of the modern funk revival would emerge with the Crescent City’s own Trombone Shorty. Originally named Troy Andrews,he grew up in the cities Treme’ region-playing in the local marching bands and eventually becoming a featured member of Lenny Kravitz horn section in 2005. Having already entered into rising adulthood having been reared with a musical synergy of the traditional Dixie Land marches of his local area as well as the late 80’s funk revelations such Cameo’s “Word Up” and Prince’s “Housequake” ,Andrew’s had the musical wherewithal to zero in on a somewhat under-explored middle ground between both those divergent funk approaches on Trombone Shorty’s 2013 release Say This To That with a groove entitled “Long Weekend”.

Kicking off with an announcing drum kick,the rather percussive and slow crawling drumming is immediately joined by a cleanly played,melodic funk guitar line with a high electric organ swirl slowly building in the back round. Another drum kick announces the introduction of Andrew’s expressively earnest lead vocals. When singing the chorus of the song,he’s joined by his own multi tracked backup vocals when the songs title is mentioned. The bass line of the song isn’t generally as prominent throughout the song as the guitar and drum/percussion part is. However at the end of each instrumental chorus,especially before a drum kick,the popping jazz/funk bass line comes to the forefront much more heavily. On the bridge and during the outro of the song,the melodic and rhythmic structure of the song totally changes. The bass is lifted to the forefront scaling down to a powerful bass/guitar chord that intensely amplifies the funkiness in the center and end of the song.

While funk is not as widely known as a musical genre as some of its admirers might think that it is, a majority of musicians performing funk are doing so very much in the late 60’s/early 70’s raw live band type James Brown/Tower Of Power style. Considering his music is strongly based in jazz-fusion/blues and psychedelic soul/rock, Trombone Shorty and his bands’ approach to this song emphasizes a trend in contemporary funk music that seemed to have spawned from Pharrell Williams productions for Justin Timberlake,Robin Thicke and Daft Punk. And that is a strong emphasis on the production style of late 70’s Ohio based funk bands such as Heatwave and Slave. This is a style where the bass/guitar/drum interaction is still hard grooving funk. But the sound is more studiocentric than developed mainly for live performance. Of course Andrew’s adds a more jazz oriented electric piano groove on the bridge to give the song his own type of flavor.

Another element of “Long Weekend” that’s very similar to the music of Slave in particular is how close the lyrical and melodic content of the vocals are to that Ohio bands adolescent party funk aestetic. In particular the way Andrew’s is pitching woo to an older woman,once the subject of a high school type unrequited love and is now old enough to appreciate her-particularly on a somewhat scandalous “long weekend” with this lady that even includes “a trip to the liquor store” to ensure a little physical adventure-even though he doesn’t feel able to tell his peers. Of course this attitude lends itself very well to the near perfect balance of studio production and live instrumental production. Judging from what I have seen in a video of Trombone Shorty performing this song live? Today that late 70’s style of recorded danceable funk music is just as viable on stage as it is on record. And “Long Weekend” emphasizes that very strongly.

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Filed under 1970's, Blues, Funk, Funk Bass, Late 70's Funk, New Orleans, Rhythm, Trombone Shorty