Jean Paul “Bluey” Maunick decided to change things up in 2013. A long standing member of the flexible lineup oriented acid jazz/funk group Incognito, he began a solo career. Bluey’s sound has by now joined many of the jazz/funk greats such as Donald Fagen and the late Joe Sample in aging to near perfection much like fine vintage wine. Of course a lot of changes have come thick and fast during the years 2012 through 2015. His solo music had enormous potential to showcase the many bright shades of the musical rainbow.
Bluey has elected to expand his musical vision into something that represents the very core of what funk (as a thematic concept) can truly accomplish in terms of speaking directly to people’s souls. “Dance To My Drums” opens with applause,funky drums, popping slap bass and rhythmic backup singing right upfront. The title song has a bass and dripping rhythm guitar based uptempo post disco/boogie funk sunshine to it.”Hold On” keeps that same instrumental vibe-only stripping it down to emphasize the hand clap powered rhythm.
“Saints And Sinners” is a very stripped down electric piano led neo soul/acid jazz style rhythm while “Trippin’ On The Feelin'” features a melodic synthesized symphony in a thickly percussive Brazilian jazz rhythm. “I’ve Got A Weakness For Love” extends the spare instrumentation into a more rhythm guitar led mid tempo groove. “Tomorrow Never Lies” is a stomping Brazilian tinged jazz funk melody while “Columbus Avenue” has a swinging rhythm accompanied by big heavy piano chords for an acoustic vocal jazz oriented number.
“Caught Up In The Grey” has a sleek contemporary jazz flavor based on the piano. “Been There Before” has a melodically bright groove about its thick rhythm. “More Than Getting By” and “The Poetry Of Life” are both stripped down acid jazz mid tempo numbers while ‘Sunships On The Shores Of Mars” takes on an acoustic bossa with cosmic lyrical poetry concluding the album. On every level, this astounding album is a fluid journey that references jazz/funk’s past,present and future as one expansive musical continuum. Very happily? Bluey accomplishes that beautifully with this album.
Prince’s final album Hitnrun Phase Two , to me anyway, still lives in the shadows as the Prince swansong it was never intended to be. It was a completely different album than the more contemporary pop centered first volume in the series. This was generally a live band album featuring a 28 member lineup of the NPG-very likely the largest lineup of that band Prince ever had. It also featured contributions from other artists such as Ledisi and Cassandra Wilson. The oddest part about the album was that it was released on CD only a couple of weeks following Prince’s passing.
The album was originally only released digitally through Tidal,in a bundle with the first volume of the series, at the end of 2015. Up until April of the next year, it was slowly released for sale on CD in different places and venues. In particular at the Paisley Park gala performance of Prince’s Piano & A Microphone tour. With absolutely no bias on my part, I found Hitnrun Phase Two to be the strongest album of his 2014-2016 comeback period. Especially in terms of funkiness and musicianship. The song that stands out to both Henrique Hopkins and myself is “Stare”.
Prince starts out with a hard hitting slap bass line-starting out slowly and speeding up on the final part of its bar. This hefty bass run provides the basis for the entire groove. After the unaccompanied intro,the drum plays every rhythm change within the bass line. The NPG Hornz and Prince’s low rhythm guitar each accent these changes with ever more elaborate variations as the song progresses. There’s even a sample of “Kiss”‘s opening rhythm guitar early on. The bridge of the song is basically a false fade-followed up by an emphasis before the song comes to an actual dead stop.
“Stare” finally allows every type of funk that Prince ever dealt with coming into its full flower. It has his live band funk style he’d been perfecting on and off since the late 80’s. But also has the digitized crunch of his earlier electronic grooves even with the live instrumentals used for this. This also emphasizes the hard slap bass more than most band oriented Prince funk,which was generally paced on a higher pitched rhythm guitar sound that isn’t present here. Its funky,stripped down,Minneapolis and all the way Prince. And as it turned out,as good a funky swansong as one is likely to get.
Bobby Caldwell is someone whom I’ve tended to view as a artists musician and something of the epidome of what they often call “grown folks music” these days. Another native New Yorker deep into jazz and classic pop/rock,Caldwell found musical homes in both Memphis and Miami. These cities are strong musical melting pots in and of themselves. Having myself recently dug right into his late 70’s/early 80’s albums,Caldwell has revealed himself to something of a solo multi instrumentalist Steely Dan musically. Only with rather more emotionally earnest and romantic lyrical content.
Caldwell’s West Coast style jazzy funk sound is best known to most through 1977’s “What You Won’t Do For Love”. Recently,Caldwell met up with producer Jack Splash while on tour-which Caldwell does frequently while also recording fairly consistently. Splash has been noted for his retro styled productions with folks such as Alicia Keys,Mayer Hawthorne,Cee Lo Green and many other similar artists in the neo soul/electro funk vein. Last year he and Caldwell collaborated on a project entitled Cool Uncle. One song that got my attention from this strong album is called “Never Knew Love Before”.
A thick,funky drum begins the song starts the song with pounding,right in the Afro Latin clave percussion. A slap bass brings in two different keyboard lines. One is a brittle synthesizer line playing the chord changes,and a splinkling electric piano plays the main melody somewhat in the back round. The drumming solos for a moment before the chorus comes in,which in turn adds a sustained slap bass line to the keyboards,drums and percussion. Breezy accenting horn charts (or samples-difficult for me to tell) play along with the song until the electric piano and sustained cymbal closes the it all out.
Caldwell’s talents as a multi instrumentalist are at top form on this song. One thing this song totally brings out about Caldwell’s talent is that he doesn’t write simplistic songs on any level. The boogie/electro funk has modern instrumental sounds for sure. Yet the entire musical content is hard core 80’s funkiness. Also its a song that celebrates arrangements. In a day and age where a lot of contemporary R&B songs have three or four basic chords, Caldwell delivers refrains,choruses and bridges with strong melodic differences. This really makes “Never Knew Love Before” stand out all the stronger as top notch nu funk.
Filed under 2015, Bobby Caldwell, Boogie Funk, drums, elecro funk, electric piano, horns, Jack Splash, jazz funk, multi instrumentalists, Nu Funk, percussion, slap bass, synthesizers
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.
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
It was through his collaboration with Phonte on the latest album by The Foreign Exchange that got me interested in the music of Matthjis “Nicolay” Rook. Now this is a Dutch native who has been creating both solo albums and different collaborations within the funkiest side of the electronica/hip-hop/soul spectrum of music. His emphasis on live musicianship with his acumen as a multi instrumentalist is a big part of his artistic appeal for me personally.
Over the past decade,Nicolay has released a series of solo records in his City Lights series. Generally weaving them directly in between his released as a member of The Foreign Exchange. I’ve never had one of these albums. Yet the newest volume of this was subtitled ‘Soweto’-as a tribute to the South African township of the same name. And through online streaming? It was it’s opening song “Tomorrow” which caught my ear the most.
Beginning and ending with the voice of what is perhaps Bantu language conversation in the back-round? The song begins with a round bass synthesizer chord-accompanied by breezy orchestral electronics. Suddenly a burst of intense percussion kicks in for the main rhythm of the song-with congas,high hat and other Afro-Latin percussive sounds. On the bridge of the song a high pitch,and still round toned series of synthesizers play a horn like jazzy riff before gearing down into a higher pitched synth scaling up and down. All before the song ends with a light Ebonic vocalese.
One of the things I enjoy about this song is some of the same quality I heard on “If I Knew Then” from The Foreign Exchange. This song is of course far faster and electronic in straight up instrumental tone. That being said? Nicolay borrows a lot of his technique from early/mid 80’s Prince. In the sense that he is a master programmer and creator of live rhythmic and warmer,brittle bass lines with electronic drums and keyboards. It also helps greatly that he’s also an electric bassist and guitarist as well. He therefore understands the importance of a fat,rhythmic groove. Whether or not it’s produced organically. Along with it’s similarity to 1980’s Miles Davis and Weather Report? This song brings out the link between funk and contemporary electronica very strongly.
Filed under 2015, Afro-Latin jazz, electro funk, Electronica, Fusion, Jazz-Funk, new music, Nicolay, Nu Funk, percussion, Phonte, South Africa, Soweto, synth funk, The Foreign Exchange
Looks as if I’m going to have to add Mick Hucknall/Simply Red to my list of groups and artists with the “fine wine” syndrome-of just having a musical sound that just gets better with time. Since the group first implanted their ear worm of “Holding Back The Years’ from their debut Picture Book? Their music has always keenly interested me. The question I’m always asking myself is…why do I tend to ignore their new releases when they come out every 5-8 years or so? The answer is I didn’t know then,don’t know now. After 2008? I vowed that the next new Simply Red album I’d pick up because of my own negligence of this group I really enjoy and appreciate. Finally I made the right decision with this album all the way!
“Shine On”,opening with album with a big arrangement,”Daydreaming” as well as the more hyper-kinetic grooves of “Tight Tones” and “WORU” are all rhythm guitar heavy disco/funk dance numbers with creamy wah wah’s and uptown melodies all the way. The title song is a piano/guitar driven mid tempo soul ballad,with the sound and flavor that had me falling in love with the music of Simply Red from the get go. “The Ghost Of Love” and “Love Gave Me More” are lusciously orchestrated funky/soul numbers while “Love Wonders” and “Coming Home” are more atmospheric,cinematic numbers while “The Old Man And The Beer” is a ,slow swinging soul jazz style number. The album is rounded out with the more pop/rock style mid tempo melody of “Dad” and the more baroque pop ballad of “Each Day”.
From beginning to end? This album distills what makes this groups music flow as well as it does. For sure they have a well oiled sound that is distinctive and instantly recognizable. Yet it’s a style that can adapt itself to different variations very easily. The focus of this particular album is very much on orchestration. In this particular case in the Barry White/Marvin Gaye/Gamble & Huff mode. Happily Hucknall’s highly melodic and well constructed songwriting is of course very well suited to this. And everything from the rhythm section to the arrangements are extremely strong and well done. This is superb and mildly lyrically nostalgic/reflective adult funky soul from 2015 at it’s finest. And one I very highly recommend you give a try to!
Originally posted June 2nd,2015
Link to original review here*
Filed under 2015, Amazon.com, Barry White, cinematic soul, disco funk, Gamble & Huff, Marvin Gaye, Mick Hucknall, Music Reviewing, Simply Red, Soul, soul jazz
I’ve actually written on an Amazon.com review,which I posted on this blog in fact, about the Washington State native Allen Stone. He’s a rather interesting artist in many ways. His creative themes have a certain level of uncertainty and ennui that’s often inherent in the Northwest US bred alternative music scene of the past twenty years. But they also posses his funky soul musical calling’s fuller level of hope,love,caring and emotional expression. These qualities all came together wonderfully on his second full (self titled and released) album. Which was the first I’d ever heard of the man.
After a year or so of writing and recording a series of songs? He finally emerged with his third album Radius. While his love of the groove is sincere and honest? Most of the songs on the album didn’t move me enough on a positive musical level to buy it. Always felt that the most successful funk and soul come from a synergy of factors coming together to create hard grooving fire. While previewing these songs? There was one that actually leaped out as being the type of jam that successfully communicated Stone’s intention. It is entitled “Fake Future”.
The drum introduces the basic groove-with is a powerful boogie funk groove that’s presented very sparely. There a grinding,popping bass line is presented as an upfront melodic element with the bluesy funk choral body of the song. This is accented by some higher pitched Fender Rhodes piano solos. There’s a refrain that has some of that Afrocentric/Arabic style ascending/descending melody. All of these instrumental movements are punctuated rhythmically by bursts of strings-perhaps of the electronically simulated variety. These fade out the song as they slip off into the echoplex.
It’s a very short song at just under three minutes. Yet the groove has so many vital sources. Musically it has the vibe of the 90’s acid jazz/funk revivalism of bands like Jamiroquai,Brand New Heavies and DAG. Lyrically it could very possibly come from a twin creative consciousness within Stone himself. The core of the song is a right on time message about the vital importance of instrumentalists. Especially with lyrics such as “what good is my microphone if I don’t really sing?/What good is my music if it ain’t really me?”
Now the other side to these important rhetorical questions come when Stone is actually seeking possible answers to them. He’s beginning the song asking current musicians to chuck their laptops,lights,glitter and cash crop. Also citing himself as being on creative life support. The chorus points to recent concerns that much recent history will be lost due to lack of physical media in the online age. That serves to make this a musically clear cut post disco/funk groove that thematically contrasts the need for true creative expression and the mild paranoia that may come with what Prince refers to as “art official age”. So this groove presents a lyrical conversation more than worth having.