Willie Bobo has somehow managed to be a huge part of my musical growth. Especially when it came to the transition from adolescence to adulthood. That being said,I haven’t really heard a great deal of his music. My father has two of his albums. One is a CD of his 1967 release Juicy and the other a vinyl of his 1978 Columbia release Hell Of An Act To Follow,produced by Crusaders’ founder Wayne Henderson. Bobo is better known to me as a session man,playing on dates such as Herbie Hancock’s Inventions And Dimensions in 1963. As well as being a regular part of the house band on Bill Cosby’s short lived 1976 variety show called ‘Cos.
Born William Correa in NYC’s Spanish Harlem with Puerto Rican ancestry, Bobo began his career while in his late teens studying with fellow percussionist Mongo Santamaria. As well as acting as Mongo’s translator. Gigs with Tito Puente,George Shearing and Cal Tjader led him to begin recording as a band leader during the early 60’s. All the while maintaining his session work,which always seems to be good for percussionists. He had two Columbia albums in the late 70’s. The second of which was simply entitled Bobo. While I regretfully passed up a vinyl copy of this not too long ago,one song from it caught my ears online. It is called “Comin’ Over Me”.
A rolling drum is assisted by Bobo’s percussion,which of course is the base of the song itself. The rhythm is accompanied by a ringing rhythm guitar and slap bass interaction-both of which are accompanied by horn charts that brightly expand on the melody with an intense amount of joy. Along with occasional bursts of electric piano. This repeats over two choruses-the second of which scales up with a rock guitar solo on the end. The bridge of the song features an instrumental break showcases a trumpet solo-before going back to the songs second chorus. The song concludes with those two percussive choruses repeating themselves until it fades out.
This is a strong,chunky Afro-Latin funk jam with a very strong pop/soul melody. It’s very much in the vein of some of what Carlos Santana (whom Bobo had done session work for) was doing at the time. It showcases how much Bobo’s Afro-Cuban percussion has extended itself up to the late 70’s funk era and even after. In fact his son Erin wound up becoming a percussionist for the hip-hop crew Cypress Hill. That idea of keeping a musical legacy in the family when it comes to Afro-Latin rhythm is very meaningful in terms of keeping the strength of the groove alive. And this song represents some fine funk from what turned out to be Willie Bobo’s final album.
Filed under 1970's, Afro Funk, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Funk, horns, Mongo Santamaria, percussion, rhythm guitar, slap bass, Uncategorized, Willie Bobo
James Ambrose Johnson,better known as Rick James has very misunderstood legacy to a number of people. Due to the controversy surrounding his sexual and drug habits, his musical legacy has been somewhat buried in the public eye. He started out as a member of the group The Myna Birds featuring Neil Young. He signed to Motown successfully with his Stone City Band in the mid 70’s following only minor success on the A&M label. A year or so later,he helped champion the career of another fledgling Motowner known as Teena Marie on her first solo album. And by the time the 80’s rolled around,James’ was poised for a whole other level of super-stardom.
According to Rick’s autobiography Confessions Of A Super Freak he pointed out how,very much like Prince he was a multi instrumentalist capable of doing so in the recording studio. Still he felt that the interaction of a full band,with it’s different rhythm and horn sections,could provide a broader musical base for his songs. So in the very first year of the 1980’s decade,Rick recorded the first album on the Stone City Band alone called In ‘N’ Out. I found a vinyl copy of this while crate digging over a decade ago. It’s an excellent big band funk album overall. It was the next to the last song on it that really caught my attention. It’s called “F.I.M.A. (Funk In Mama Afrika)”.
A space funk synthesizer starts everything off with accenting,marching conga drums. A shrieking Brazilian style disco whistle inaugurates the main song. From there it’s a ferocious mix of phat percussion,bassy wah wah Clavinet and horns playing to the Afrocentric vocal chanting. On the second refrain,this chanting becomes a call and response between the choral and solo voices. The percussion is also turned up louder in the mix at this particular point. The disco whistle and a slithery,liquid synthesizer emerge as the accompanying rhythm to this as well. The song fades out as this point with no break of the orchestration of the following tune leading it out.
There are times when listening to vinyl that I’ll move the needle on the record to one particular song that excites me-over and over again. And this groove is near the top of that list. Must admit that at the time of first hearing this, I had somewhat typecasted Rick James’ “punk funk” sound into too strict of a box. Was not expecting to hear such a hardcore Afro-Brazilian funk jam from the same man about to unleash “Give It To Me Baby” and “Super Freak” into the world. This song finds Rick playing a similar role to his band as Barry White did to Love Unlimited Orchestra-acting a an arranger and band leader (rather than singer) for a festive,funky and meaningful instrumental revelry.
Filed under 1980's, Afro Funk, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Afrocentrism, Brazil, clavinet, Disco, horns, Motown, percussion, Rick James, Stone City Band, synthesizer, Uncategorized, wah wah