Tag Archives: DJ’s

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Heartstroke” by Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell Williams,Ariana Grande and Young Thug

Calvin Harris is yet another example of a European DJ/producer/multi instrumentalist in the 2010’s who have wound up keeping strong funkiness in their club oriented music. As a matter of fact, many of them (Harris included) have taken many contemporary singer/performer’s along for the ride with them. Hailing from Dumfries, Scotland, Harris is the son of a biochemist. Calvin himself had a very working class trajectory after high school-working odd jobs to buy DJ gear to develop his craft further.  By 2011, Harris was working with pop artists such as Rihanna. And had several major albums on his own too.

Last week Harris, whose generally EDM based releases have generally veered about as far as nu disco in the past, released his fifth studio album entitled Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1. It is his first to include no instrumental pieces. And is heavy on collaborations with contemporary singers and rappers. The album first came to my attention riding around town with my mom and hearing the song “Feels” from it on the local new music radio. Very much enjoyed it but upon listening closer, I found Big Sean’s language in it too profane. On the song I’m doing today “Heartstroke”,its a somewhat different story.

A cymbal and jazzy electric piano melody opens the album,with Pharrell Williams deepened voice being soon joined by light percussion and rhythm guitar. When Young Thug’s lead vocals coming,the songs post disco beat and grinding,popping bass line comes in to join it for the first verse of the song. Pharrell joins Young Thug in call and response harmony on the choruses. The song changes octave a bit when Ariana Grande comes in as vocal lead-again duetting with Pharrell. After a bridge with a more sustained synthesizer part, it all fades out on a psychedelic Latin funk wah wah/percussion tone.

What “Heartstroke” actually does musically is very interesting. It showcases the most condensed groove present in the (in its day) somewhat necessitated lower budget of early 80’s post disco/boogie music. Yet it also has some the jazzy electric piano and Brazilian style percussion flavors of late 70’s jazz funk. The type that found its way into Quincy Jones’s late 70’s/early 80’s productions as part of the “LA sound”. Young Thug’s language has its issues here for sure. But he presents it with a Jamaican dancehall style vocal that makes this a strong mixture of older and newer funky musical ideas.

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five Staring Grandmaster Melle Mel

Melvin Glover,the Bronx native known as Melle Mel,is known today as one of the first MC’s of hip-hop. He teamed up with another hip-hop innovator in the best known early hip-hop DJ Joseph Sadler-known to most as Grandmaster Flash. While they had their first single pressed with 1979’s “Superrappin”. After they moved to Sugar Hill Records shortly thereafter,they found themselves at the mainstay of recorded hip-hop. Which by 1980-81 was still considered largely a live medium-dances in city parks or after hours MC/DJ battles after a night at the discos.

Interestingly enough,it was a member of the Furious Five,Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins,is credited to have first coined the word hip-hop. The term came as a jest to a friend who was about to join the Army- mimicking of the sound soldiers make while marching. Seems pretty apropos as the Furious Five more or less became the first hip-hop army of the recording era. Their biggest (and often best known) contributions to hip-hop came from a record I first heard about in my mid teens. It was the title song to the groups 1982 album release entitled “The Message”.

A delayed drum machine with percussion effects opens the song-as a hi hat effect with lots of echo. That same rhythm sustains itself throughout the song. Addtionally, a pulsing synth brass sound keeps time with the delayed rhythm. At first,its accompanied by a very digitized synthsizer playing a reverbed,psychedelic sound and accompanied by brief rhythm guitar flourishes. After condensing down to the basics of the rhythm and pulsing synth brass,the main musically theme continues-with brief flourishes of synth bursts here and there before the song fades out after just a little over 7 minutes.

What amazed me about “The Message” upon first hearing it is that musically,it was still a straight up electro funk groove. It was sparse,the drum machine and percussion weren’t totally on meter and everything was set up to emphasize Mel’s rapping. The song is best known for being the end of hip-hop’s lyrical obsession with partying and upsmanship-as it presents different character vignettes about the harshness of young black American life in the ghetto during the early 80’s.  The he instrumentation follows Mel’s rap about “trying not to lose my head” in a world of people and music that was totally changing.

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “(Every Time I Turn Around) Right Back In Love Again” by LTD

LTD are yet another wonderful example of a funk band with true state to state ethic,in terms of it’s membership. They started in Greensboro,North Carolina in 1968. As they migrated to Harlem. It was in Providence,Rhode Island that Jefferey Osborne joined up as lead singer and drummer. Two years after being in NYC,the band went to LA and bought in Jeffrey’s brother Billy and in 1974 signed up to A&M Records. After two commercially unsuccessful albums,they shortened their name from Love,Togetherness & Devotion down to LTD. Their third album in 1976 Love To The World  got them their first big hit in “Love Ballad”,redone as an uptempo song four years later by George Benson to similar success.

Today is Jeffrey Osborne is turning 68. During 1977,Osborne focused his musical energies on being the lead singer of LTD with his rich gospel/soul baritone. During this time, Osborne began to share drumming duties with Melvin Webb. This was especially important on the bands fourth album Something To Love. The band maintained their mixture of hard funk and richly arranged soul ballads across this album. To this day,I don’t actually have a copy of this album but have heard most of it’s cuts. The one song from it that made the most impact on my ear holes actually wound up being the bands’ most successful songs. It’s called  “(Every Time I Turn Around) Right Back In Love Again”.

The groove starts right in with the basic groove that defines it. It’s a percussive rhythm with a bouncing drum swing. This is carried along by a chugging wah wah guitar-along with a rhythm guitar playing a JB’s/P-Funk style horn line. The actual horns themselves carry the main melody after a rhythmic break. And the horns themselves continually to play that melodic role throughout the song. On each turn,these horns are either accessorizing Osborne’s lead vocals,or the rhythm licks of the refrains themselves. At the end of each chorus,the backing vocals of Lorraine Johnson sings the title lyric. The instrumental refrain of the song grooves on until the song fades out.

Somehow I always felt this is one of LTD’s strongest funk number. Considering that a lot of people see this band as more ballad oriented,this song was an enormous success as a #1 R&B hit and reaching the pop top 5. My friend Henrique’s commentary on this song is the most meaningful to me personally. He illustrated a funk jam played on just about every turntable in the homes of the black community in it’s time. Most importantly,the song had been a huge dancefloor success with gay DJ’s at the Paradise Garage,a disco in lower Manhattan famous for popularizing early EDM. But it also featured many classic funk acts and songs. So all around this is a funky triumph for LTD and Jeffrey Osborne.

 

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Filed under 1970's, DJ's, drums, Funk, horns, Jeffrey Osborne, LTD, New York, P-Funk, Paradise Garage, rhythm guitar, Uncategorized, wah wah

Anatomy of THE Groove 12/5/2014 Andre’s Pick: “L.O.V.E and you & I” by Jazzanova

During the summer of 2002 my father was continually playing an album entitled In Between. It was by Jazzanova, Berlin based DJ/producer collective whose members are Alexander Barck, Claas Brieler, Jürgen von Knoblauch, Roskow Kretschmann, Stefan Leisering, and Axel Reinem. Every time the two of us would run an errand or go on a short road trip? My father would continually play the albums opening song “Love And You & I”. Even for years after? My dad and I would fun on one another about how entranced he seemed to be with playing this song so often. But as is often the case with my musical influences such as my father? As my understanding and tastes in music continued to expand and grow,so did my appreciation of what this particular song,which I heard so often,was really all about.

The song starts out with a dragged out sounding sample of what I recognize easily as “Something’s Missing” by the Five Stairsteps,followed by the the same line sung by a 50’s type pop vocal choir. After a female singer responds “Could It Be Love” that slowly descends into a choir of the same phrase and a lower female singer simply singing “love”,the instrumental part comes in with a mellow jazzy piano punctuated by breaks of slow latin percussion and electric piano bursts. On the second refrain of this,the song goes into a deep male vocal chorus-followed by a solo voice singing “the sun,the moon,the sky and you and I”. This is accompanied by a hip-hop type funk drum beat-different and more flamboyant variations of which come in throughout this refrain into a female chorus returns,amid calling trumpet solos “love bum,bum,bum,bum”.

After all of this the song begins an entirely new instrumental cycle-going from a trumpet choir into a lightly Brazilian style funky electronic piano rhythm-before returning to a repeat of the first chorus. After this the song abruptly slows to a crawl before an EWF style vocal chorus of “LOVE LOVE LOVE” followed up by a complex string and acoustic guitar driven latin jazz rhythm kicks in with both the first and second vocal chorus responding the sound and emotional attitude. That leads into an instrumental bridge showcasing tbe upright bass of Paul Kleber accompanying vibist David Friedman. As Friedman’s bass fades out,Kleber’s bass fades back into a fade out of all the variations of the different “love” related vocal refrains from throughout the song-accompanied by a swinging,acoustic guitar led bossa nova up to the very end of the song itself.

What can I say about this song today? To boil it down? It just has everything. It has the funky electric guitar,the swinging jazzy drum brushing,the Brazilian percussion flavor and a harmonic mood that lays somewhere in the middle between wonder,anticipation,relaxation and of course love. Generally speaking in hip-hop,sampling of any sort is used as a form of archival musical identification. In this case a range of samples from everyone from  70’s jazz and jazz/fusion groups such as Catalyst,Bobby Hutcherson,Branford Marsalis,Antonio Carlos Jobim,Les DeMerlealong with soul/funk from The Sueremes with the Temptations and The Sylvers to create a live band Latin jazz/funk fusion flavor. Each sample is arranged in such a way where it sounds like a band actually interacting off their strengths and weaknesses as musicians-though the broken up nature of sampling is still made clear to the ears as well. It’s one of my very favorite examples and uses of jazz and funk sampling in the immediate post millennial era.

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Filed under 2002, Brazil, Brazilian Jazz, DJ's, Funk, Funk Bass, Fusion, Hip-Hop, Jazzanova, Motown, Sampling

Andre’s Amazon Archive for 9/13/2014: “Sample This” by Joe Sample

Sample This

I could spend a good deal of time focusing in on the double meanings behind this album title. Of course Joe Sample,on his own and with the Crusaders was being sampled right and left by this time by one jazz/funk obsessed DJ after another at this time when there was a huge sense of 70’s funk revivalism occurring in the hip-hop/electronic/scratch scene. Kind of good news for Joe Sample,whose career was still going incredibly strong at this time with successful releases with the Soul Committee on Did You Feel That? and reunions with the Crusaders. Ever the jazz improviser however funky and soulful he was,Sample bought in George Duke to help with production as well as his classic team of session aces from Steve Gadd,Lenny Castro,Dean Parks and the multi talented Marcus Miller to re-imagine his own material.

Much of what’s here I have to admit to not hearing in it’s original form. But for those I haven’t I’ll comment on what the sound says on it’s own terms. “Rainbow Seeker II” begins the album in that soulful,piano oriented vein that he maintains throughout “Caramel”,”In All My Wildest Dreams”,”Snowflake”,”It Happens Everyday”,”Fly With The Wings Of Love” and “Melodies Of Love”. These are classic Joe Sample jazz grooves,modernized enough to keep them fresh but punchy enough to keep them out of smooth jazz cliche’s:something of a Sample trade mark. Dianne Reeves throws her pipes well into the samba flavored “I’m Coming Back Again” where Dennis Rowland takes over for Bill Withers on “Soul Shadows”.

As the album gets more into the uptempo music “Night Flight” and “Chain Reaction” slide into the grooves very smoothly and easily. On “Street Life” the rhythm is changed to a more instrumentally inclined jazz/reggae style with no lead vocal. Probably the most radically different to me. “Free As The Wind” and the classic “Put It Where You Want It” probably dig deeper into the groove,even slowing down the tempo to an even funkier level than the originals and he ends the album with his solo piano rendition of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Shreveport Stomps”. While I’m not usually very keen on an artist re-doing their old material,even in the jazz world defined by improvisation of all sorts,this really works wonderfully for me. For one,it’s one of a series of wonderfully made Joe Sample albums…full of soul,the blues and groove as he always is. Also it makes it more than clear that jazz-funk can,indeed,be very successfully improvised on as much as acoustic music.

Originally posted on November 4th,2012

*For original Amazon.com review,click here!

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Andre’s Amazon Archive for 7/5/2014: Madlib’s ‘Pinata Beats’

Pinata Beats

 

He’s been called The Beat Conductor,The Loopdigga,Quasimoto,DJ Lord Such,his own name Otis Jackson Jr,Yesterday’s New Quintet. But whatever name he chooses,Madlib is someone who crosses the barriers between two sources of musical information in my life: my friend Henrique and my father. It was my father who first started introducing me to Madlib when he shared a mutual interest with keyboardist/then local DJ Nigel Hall in his Shades of Blue and fascination with Mizell brothers period Donald Byrd. So each time a new Madlib CD came out,my father got it and we listened to it on the way home from the record store. Hearing all the layers of 70’s and 80’s soul/funk/jazz-funk samples in his music? Madlib really began to call to mind Henrique’s discussions with me about hip-hop being an important archival music for the funk,jazz and soul music that moves both of us. When this album was originally released earlier this year featuring the rapping of Freddie Gibbs? I had a feeling an album like this would follow from Madlib himself. This was what I wanted to hear. And what a thrill it is too!

With “Scarface” as the orchestral opener the album goes into the slow crawling cinematic oriented soul break of “Deeper-after which comes the the call-and-response clavinet based melodic funk of “High”-featuring the lyric “I get high” which slows down to a crawl by songs end. “Harold”,with its jazz guitar solo and “Bomb” with its symphonic electric pianos and keyboards are both deep,spare funk pieces. “S**tsville” and “Thuggin” are both beautifully dramatic pieces based on keyboard and guitar oriented orchestral soul-with the mildly classical twist a Stevie Wonder or David Sancious might add to the mix. “Real” and “Uno” are very spare pieces-more designed to focus on an MC than the music itself. “Robes” on the other hand is a melodically soulful jazz type number a beautiful female vocal looped in and out of the mix. “Broken”,”Lakers”,”Shame” and “Knicks”,the later with a male soulful vocal moan loop are all beautifully orchestrated,piano based Thom Bell style early 70’s soul ballads. The album continues on with the horn oriented intro “Watts” before going into “Pinata”-an early 70’s sitar led slow groove with the organ solo repeating again with the string refrain breaking it up now and again.

As someone who was never at all part of any aspect of hip-hop culture from the inside? I’ve had to observe the genre from without. And though I greatly admire the rapping abilities and lyrical statements of people such as The Roots’ Black Thought,Chuck D and KRS One? There are many times when certain MC’s,especially those of the more braggadocio and profane variety,to be highly distracting to the often fascinating music that is often taking place around them. Therefore the instrumental hip-hop of artists like Madlib always interest me. Since the man is obviously far,far more versed in the soul/funk spectrum than I? Have to admit I am not 100% aware of most of the artists he loops and samples in his music unless specifically indicated. But still the fact that many rap superstars give the impression that hip-hop is all about personality and not music tends to make many people forget that their is a very strong musical art form at the very core of hip-hop. Its part of the DJ based culture that rose out of the disco era. And since that mid/late 70’s era is Madlib’s favorite period to draw inspiration from? I personally champion him as a strong modern purveyor of the thoroughly music end of the hip-hop genre. And that is why I chose the instrumental version of this,as opposed to the one with Freddie Gibbs as MC. Either way,this is impressive funky soul loops,breaks and cinematic grooving delights!

*Here is the original Amazon.com review:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1RXM661BTN9JO/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00K5XZC78

 

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Filed under Amazon.com, DJ's, Hip-Hop, Madlib, Music Reviewing, Sampling, Soul