Category Archives: Ricky Peterson

Anatomy of THE Groove: “The Undertaker” by Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples represents the  black American civil rights era in music so much for me. She went from a gospel child star to one of the earliest purveyors of “people music” as the lead vocalist of The Staple Singers alone. She made a series of solo albums during the 1970’s. All without officially leaving her family’s musical fold. During the early 80’s,she returned with the Staple Singers as they modernized their sound. Later in the decade, Prince celebrated her strong musical legacy of humanistic gospel and funky soul by signing her to his Paisley Park label. There she recorded two more solo records in 1989 and 1993.

During her collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy as her producer,Mavis has never ceased to make civil rights messages the focus of her songs. That’s extremely admirable. Yet her productions by Tweedy and now M.Ward find her in a bluesy country rock musical direction-one where only her voice projects the strong funky soul element. Her brief time recording with Prince (including her memorable appearance in his final film Graffiti Bridge) really allowed Mavis to be funky AND sociopolitical at the same time. One good example comes from her 1993 Paisley Park album The Voice in the form of “The Undertaker”

Backup vocalists The Steeles  start the song off by singing its title. That breaks off into Michael B’s slow funky drum shuffle. Sonny Thompson’s 2 note bass pump is held up by non other than the late Pop Staples’ bluesy guitar licks. The NPG horns and Ricky Peterson’s organ washes play a call and response element to both Mavis’s vocal leads and The Steeles’ back-rounds. On the last couple of refrains of the song,Pop’s and Mavis deal with that father/daughter duet style they did so well-with his gentle tone and her husky well leading the groove onto it’s fade out.

This bluesy funk jam is a fine example of funky message music in the early 90’s. With it’s use of re-sequenced vocal and horn licks,it plays along with the slowly funky variety of hip-hop at the time as well. The New Power Generation’s groove holds up Mavis’s gospel authority delivering the basic message to the streets saying “Put away the guns for future’s sake/Don’t you be another number for the undertaker”. This LA riots era concept resonates with what’s happening today-with black American’s having enough of institutionalized violence towards them. So in that sense,this funk is still right on time!

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Filed under 1990s, blues funk, drums, Funk Bass, hip-hop funk, Mavis Staples, Michael Bland, New Power Generation, organ, Paisley Park, Pops Staples, Prince, rhythm guitar, Ricky Peterson, Sonny T, The Steeles, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove 4/3/2015- Put It Where You Want It (Extended Version) by Larry Carlton

Considering how many times they’ve been reinterpreted from within their own catalog of songs? Band members who have come in and out of the Crusaders over the years seem to able to find ways of expanding on the elasticity of their own compositions. And even styles of soloing with other musicians. In 2001 Larry Carlton,always a very reliable album maker over the years,released his seventeenth solo album entitled Deep Into It. As was usually the case? Larry surrounded himself with a small group of jazz/funk session players both old and new. And included two remakes of the Crusaders classic “Put It Where You Want It”-one of which was an extended version that really caught my ear in particular.

It all starts with a burst of organ from Ricky Peterson,which burns hot and cold by turns over the intro as Larry plays a subdued bluesy guitar solo with an equally subdued percussive back-round from Paulinho Da Costa-while Chris Potter joins in with a like minded sax solo. Each of the main refrains of the song have this exact same flavor-subdued and slowed to a crawl. While on the main chorus the drums of Billy Kilson drives home the other musicians to higher musical power.On the third refrain,Potter drags out his sax solo into the same grits ‘n gravy attitude as Larry’s funky guitar.

This pattern extends itself through the remainder of this song-each musician taking a similarly themed solo over the stripped down musical backup. From the grooving Wurlitzer of Rick Jackson to the hiccuping slap bass of Chris Kent-all for the final five minutes of the song. By that time? Each musician are all playing the main melodic theme in a subdued whisper of an instrumental conversation with each other-really throwing on the strong,down home bluesy gospel/soul style melodic orientation of the composition to it’s fullest possible affect.

One of the things that strikes me instantly about this interpretation of the song is the fact it takes down an entirely different attitude than the 1972 Crusaders original. Both have a rather tight flavor-with the solos all taking equal presidents over understated unison playing. This version truly embraces the idea George Clinton coined that any groove slowed down to a bluesier crawl makes it funkier. Now this song was already as funky as one could get to start with. But this amazing sextet of musicians just take it directly into the pocket of the song. It’s almost as if to say that,by the time of the new millennium,each musician who’d been a Crusader at one point was able to bring that groove to any other musician they played with. And if you ask me? That’s a pretty amazing musical feat for the funk!

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Filed under 2001, Billy Kilson, Chris Kent, Chris Potter, Crusaders, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Larry Carlton, Paulinho Da Costa, Put It Where You Want It, Rick Jackson, Ricky Peterson, slap bass, Wurlitzer organ