Tag Archives: Ben Sidran

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Red Top” by Steve Miller

Steve Miller, a Milwaukee native, had very strong connections to jazz growing up. His mother Bertha sang in a very jazz oriented manner. And his father George, called Sonny, did some record engineering in his spare time off his job as a pathologist. While attending the University Of Madison, Miller and his longtime friend Boz Scaggs formed The Ardells-eventually joined by keyboard player Ben Sidran. This began the circle of musicians who’d eventually become The Steve Miller Band. Their psychedelic blues sound evolved into a more pop friendly sound during the early 70’s.

By the early 70’s, The Steve Miller Band had a series of eclectic hits from the rock of “The Joker” to the synth pop/new wave of “Abracadabra”. After the band took a hiatus in the mid 80’s, Miller began recorded a series of blues and jazz oriented solo albums. One of them was 1988’s Born 2 Be Blue. It reunited him with Ben Sidran, who acted as a producer and keyboard player on the album. My father had the cassette of the album in the late 80’s. And there was one Lionel Hampton song Miller recorded at the end of the album that became an ear worm for both of us at the time. It was called “Red Top”.

Gordy Knudtson’s drum kickoff starts off the song-with the late sax great Phil Woods blowing away the melody before a break for Miller vocally introducing the chorus. Knudtson’s drum takes on a more New Orleans type flavor. Sidran’s synthesized organ plays a strong foundational role in this as well-along with Miller’s bluesy guitar riffs accenting it all. Billy Peterson’s bass line bounces right along with the drums. On the bridge, the rhythm all swings for Woods to take a full sax solo. After this the song has an extended chorus before coming to a stop on a reprise of the intro.

“Red Top” has been recorded by a lot of people since Hampton composed the song. There’s something about Steve Miller’s version that really brings it to a new generation. The song of course as a straight up 12 bar blues structure. But between Ben Sidran’s keys and Gordy Knudtson drumming, there’s a strong Crescent city jazz/funk flavor to this song that takes the actual melodic structure of it to another level. Miller himself seems right at home in this particular musical setting. And its actually among my personal favorite things I’ve heard Steve Miller record.

 

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Andre’s Amazon Archive for 9/20/2014: ‘Apocalypse’ by Thundercat

Apocalypse

It has never ceased to delight me that since 2010 there has been a consistently high level of innovation happening within music. For one thing,indie developments of the past fifteen years aren’t so indie anymore. And musicians who have been waiting in the wings to emerge are again beginning to do so with new and exciting musical hybrids. This is especially true of the jazz/funk/soul spectrum. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner-with a father and brother who’ve alternately played with the likes of Diana Ross,The Temptations,Stanley Clarke and so on is one of these people. Having been the bass player for thrash/funk/metal band Suicidal Tendencies with his brother Ron Thundercat re-upped as a solo artist in 2011. Rather makes sense if you think about it since metal and funk are more easily blended than one might think due to both music’s emphasis on a strong groove and being rooted in the blues. The difference is the approach-playing dirty (metal) or playing cleanly (funk). So this is Thundercat’s sophomore release. The question I have to ask myself in this situation is one asked before: why am I only hearing about Thundercat just now?

Produced with the help of Flying Lotus this album begins with “Ten Fold”,”Heartbreaks + Setbacks”,”The Life Aquatic”,”Special Stage” and the ambient styled “Tron Song”. These songs are build around harmonically rich swirls of electronic synthesizers-pulsing Moog type bass blending with Thundercat’s electric bass riffing. His high,ethereal voice keeps up with these melodically and rhythmically challenging grooves. The bass groove “Seven” is one of the speediest and most nimble I’ve heard on such a spare “nu jazz” number,apparently a funk hybrid I didn’t know the name to. “Oh Sheit It’s X” is brilliant,my favorite on here with it’s 70’s TONTO style Isley Brothers meets P-Funk mixture of retro synthesizers into a think funk groove with wonderfully elaborate melodies again. “Without You” is a much more spare mid western Minneapolis/Ben Sidran approach to funk-jazz-with it’s juxtaposed stop/start and steady rhythmic sound. “Lotus And The Jondy” is another deep groove with a heavy bump to it-another favorite. “Evangelion”,the intro “We’ll All Die” and the orchestrated closing epic of “A Message For Austin/Praise The Lord/Enter The Void”-tribute to the passing of Austin Topper Peralta are all ornately psychedelic style fusion numbers.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album recently that actually innovates it’s unique sound from an accumulation of the many musical innovations of the 60’s,70’s,80’s and even 90’s quite the way this album does. And it does so while sounding not contemporary but instantly somehow ahead of its time. This is a factor that has produced the pasts most enduring music. One of the best part is how he manages to blend nearly complete non-commercialism musically while writing,singing and playing songs that are melodic and highly memorable to the human ear and the human soul. The instrumentation here is very elaborate and expansive. Lyrically he takes on a rather pantheist level of spirituality and human self improvement completely in keeping with the funk era his music celebrates with elements of Eastern and Christian ideas. By blending together all the best elements of jazz,funk and psychedelia of the past Thundercat has made a masterpiece…that will likely be found in the electronica section of your record store. Today this is an excellent place to find unique and very funky and jazzy musical hybrids like this. A strong candidate for the most innovative funk/jazz album of 2013 thus far.

Original review posted on July 10th,2013

*For original review,click here!

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Filed under Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz-Funk, Thundercat