Tag Archives: funk guitar

Anatomy of The Groove 2018: “Filthy” By Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake has had a very full several years. He had a successful comeback tour for his previous two albums-both parts of The 20/20 Experience. That tour was the subject of a Netflix concert film entitled Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids. In addition, he also provided voice over work in the Dream Works animated film Trolls-as well as contributing the commercially successful single “Can’t Stop The Music” to the soundtrack as well. Since then, JT has been back in the studio. And at the end of this week, his newest album Man Of The Woods will drop to the public.

This latest album will feature 16 new songs from Timberlake-with two guest stars in the new millennium neo soul songstress Alicia Keys and another with modern country singer Chris Stapleton. So far there have been three videos for three of the new songs pre released from this album-including the duet with Stapleton. The first video/song from this new album to be released came as a bit of a surprise to me. And results showcased where Timberlake seemed to be focusing his musical energies as he was approaching his 37th birthday today. The name of this song is “Filthy”.

A rumbling guitar rumbles into a marching beat and a rocking, up-scaling riff as the intro the song. The drum suddenly changes to funky electronic tone-with a double percussion accent on the second beat. There is a dub-step style wobble bass starting things out on that rhythm. Than a live electric bass/guitar interaction comes into that mix for the song its main groove. Timberlake is rapping/chanting somewhat James Brown style in the beginning. On the chorus, an ethereal synth pad adds a high pitched layer of color. That pattern continues until a digital tone brings the song to a total halt.

“Filthy” is a song with a strong groove and a strong video-one with JT presenting himself as a Steve Jobs style figure presenting a animatronic dancing robot. The groove of the song is also an electro funk one as well.  The wobbling bass is normally associated with dub-step, EDM and trap. These are musical genres that usually emphasis more decorative beats and sounds. “Filthy” takes that modern instrumentation and brings it into a solid electro funk groove. Timberlake’s soulful vocal turns also help give the melody that funkified flavor as well. Making the song a good possible new direction for funk to take.

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Kiss The World Goodbye” by Mtume

James Mtume almost seemed to be born into the royal family of funk. Everything seemed to come into place for it. He was born in Philly as the son of jazz sax icon Jimmy Heath. He went on to play with Miles Davis  during the last few years before Miles’ late 70’s retirement period. That combination of being a Philadelphia native and having a strong back round is usually the key ingredients in a recipe for a funk icon. At first,Mtume had his mind on athletics. He achieved the title of the first black Middle Atlantic AAU champion in the backstroke, and in 1966 he entered Pasadena City College on a swimming scholarship.

After learning about music somewhat through the jazz musicians coming in and out of his adopted father,local Philly jazz pianist James “Hen Gates” Foreman,he had the abilities as a musician to begin his career as a session player on the West Coast by the early 70’s. He recorded a couple of albums as a leader.. These were both in a more free jazz style. In 1978 he’d teamed up with percussionist/arranger/producer Reggie Lucus and formed the funk outfit Mtume. They would hit pay dirt with 1983’s sexy “Juicy Fruit”. Yet one of their most telling grooves is the title song of their 1978 debut album Kiss The World Goodbye.

The drum kicks off the slow,percussive crawl of the rhythm for starts. A grinding guitar plays a funky blues riff that swiftly dovetails into another guitar line-this one a amp’d up rock one. This is assisted by some incredibly phat popping bass playing a lower version of the first guitar riff. This is the main body of the song-one that relies heavily on the one. As the song progresses,these main rhythmic elements are accented by both horn charts and synthesizer squiggles on every other chord or so. And this is how the groove goes on until it all fades out.

Taken as itself,this song is not only a great way for Mtume to debut as a band concept. But it is also so far removed from the electro/boogie sound they’d be known for 6-7 years later that is really showcases their musical arc. Mtume actually had four year gap from 1980 to 1983 where they didn’t record anything. But on this 1978 song,their focus was not only based more in the funk/rock aesthetics of Funkadelic,Ohio Players and Slave but the arrangement on this is especially thick. The instrumentation is so closely mixed,this song is among the most musically dense hard funk of the late 70’s.

 

 

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Through It All There’s You” by Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer was a consistently important figure in terms of continuing the appreciation of the full flower of American soul/funk by white artists/groups. The Rolling Stones got this going by progressing from urban blues covers of “Not Fade Away” to Al Green send ups like “Beast Of Burden” in the late 70’s.  Palmer,a Yorkshire native and 70’s Nassau Bahamas resident,also understood the strong progression black American soul/funk/R&B had by its very nature. So he evolved from New Orleans grooves with The Meters during the mid 70’s to electronic dance/rock/electro hybrids in his 80’s commercial peak.

Discovering Palmer’s mid/late 70’s music was a major treat for me in my mid 20’s. His first four albums from 1974 through 1978 were all primarily funk/soul based-adding Caribbean,reggae,blues and jazz influences along the way. His funk/blues/jazz hybrid sound is most evident on his first solo album Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley. It exercised his talents as an interpretive singer and a songwriter as well-splitting the album between two sets of musicians. Included among them were members of the band Stuff like Richard Tee and Cornell Dupree. Especially on the closing 12+ “Through It All There’s You”.

The majority of the song is based on a tripped down grooving vamp. This consists of a call and response funk bass and guitar line-with a heavily reverbed gospel blues organ playing all the changes to the pulse from kicking bass drum hits. This represents the first several bars of the song before the main,slow funky drum comes in. At about 5 and 8 minutes in,the bass drum and organ becomes higher in the mix for a an excited,joyful sound. Then the grooves slows down into a funky swing as the original vamp of the song slowly deconstructs itself for its own outro.

As one of Palmer’s own compositions on this album,”Through It All There’s You” represents the epitome of what he had to offer as an out and out funkateer. The groove is stripped down and instrumentally every bit as dripping with sexual energy as the lyrics. It starts with a heated buildup. And gets to the point of an orgasmic revelry at two points on the bridges of the songs. All before cooling back down at the end of the song. Palmer’s understanding of how to match lyric,vocal and instrumental mood in a song really shows itself strongly on this jam-honestly among my favorites of his from that 70’s period.

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Special” by Shuggie Otis

Shuggie Otis represents what I refer to as a “new old artist” who defined my musical interests just after the turn of the millennium. His only knowledge to me before that was a passing reference as the composer (and original recorder of) the Brothers Johnson hit “Strawberry Letter#23”.  It was through a Luaka Pop label reissue of his under sung 1974 album Inspiration Information that got my attention,through my father of course. My first thoughts hearing it was “this was a Prince/Stevie Wonder type musician who never was”.

Otis’s father Johnny was a very famous musical impresario,known in the lingo of his day as the “white negro” singer/musician/arranger/talent scout/DJ out of the Bay Area of California. Shuggie began playing with his dad in the end of the 60’s. But his own career never truly took off. In fact,he spent over 33 years tinkering with his follow up to Inspiration Information. The album was finally released in 2013 and was entitled Wings Of Love. Recorded over several decades,the first full song on the album (recorded around 1980) really caught my own ear. It was called “Special”.

A wooshing sound drives in the fuzz/ringing rhythm guitar combo of the intro as Otis responds to his own echoplex vocally. Than the main rhythm of the song kicks in-driving both the refrain and chorus whose changes are carried largely by Otis’s vocal changes. The drums have a heavy Brazilian march approach. The bass line loops around several guitar parts. One a phat wah wah,the other a light chicken scratch and another playing a quavering,high pitched ringing melody. On the refrain parts,Otis singing’s in a higher and calmer voice. And on the refrains,with a heavier shout along with the ringing guitar part.

Again,this was a song that seemed to be recorded in the early 80’s. Yet its origins seems to come out of the psychedelic/cinematic funk sound of the late 60’s/early 70’s. The production is very trippy-full of echo and fuzz filter on nearly every sound. Yet the groove is strong and funky all the way. In the intro especially,it reminds me a bit of Curtis Mayfield’s “(If There’s A Hell Below) We’re All Gonna Go”. Needless to say,this is generally punchier and more stripped down than that song was. Still,its one of the finest grooves I’ve heard Shuggie Otis throw down since the mid 70’s.

 

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Filed under 2013, chicken scratch guitar, cinematic funk, drums, Funk Bass, funk rock, fuzz guitar, guitar, lead guitar, psychedelic soul, rhythm guitar, Shuggie Otis, Uncategorized, wah wah guitar

Look Out For #1@40-George & Louis Johnson Tell Us About The Funk That All Of Us Release

Somehow it never occurred to me that the Brothers Johnson’s debut album Look Out For#1 was celebrating its 40th anniversary. Sadly,it did so without the presence of the late great Louis Johnson-who passed away in the spring of 2015. One of the most important things to say about this album,released on new years day of 1976,is that it represents the very peak of #1 funk-a time when the music was at its strongest in terms of crossover. It was also Quincy Jones’ first major funk/soul production for another artist. Which in turn paved the way for Quincy’s success in that arena in the early 80’s.

George and Louis Johnson started playing professionally with Billy Preston as teenagers. As they approached adulthood,the guitar/bass duo backed up Quincy Jones on his 1975 album Mellow Madness. The setup was that the brothers wrote the songs,played the guitar and bass parts while George did the majority of the vocals with his high,percussive vocal stutter.  This was essentially the setup for Look Out For #1. Other prominent jazz/funk instrumentalists such as Dave Grusin,Ian Underwood,Lee Ritenour ,Billy Cobham,Toots Thielemans and Ernie Watts were among the musicians who played on the album as well.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about this album is how it presents funk at its best recorded,produced and with its highest variety. “I’ll Be Good To You”,the primary single for the album,has a strong Sly & The Family Stone melodic singability. The instrumental “Tomorrow” has a similarly melodic vibe about it. Of course the song that gets the most harmonically advanced about that style is “Land Of Ladies”,the one song sung by Louis in his grunting,cooing vocal approach. Of course,after one goes from there Look Out For #1 is extremely dense with funk.

“Get The Funk Out Of My Face” is the most commercially successful example of this albums funkiness-with its fast tempo and processed wah wah effects. “Free And Single” and ‘Dancin’ And Prancin'”,with their heavy horn charts,take that same sound to the next logical step. A version of The Beatles “Come Together” and the closing “The Devil” are slow,gurgling deep funk that just grind the groove into the subconscious very deeply. The groove that pulls the sound of this entire album together in one song is titled for the brothers nicknames “Thunder Thumbs And Lightin’ Licks”.

There’s a deep point to this album that actually passed by even me,an avid funkateer,for sometime. A lot of times,even the most classic funk albums of this period mixed heavy funk in with jazz,rock or heavily arranged ballad material on an album. Even though this album has at least one slower ballad type number,the main priority of this album is on heavy uptempo funk. The immense talent of the Johnson brothers,as well as the instrumentalists playing with them,showcase how much the funk genre celebrates instrumental,melodic and rhythmic complication at its finest.

Conceptually,this album attracted me from the first time I saw the album cover on CD 20 years ago this year. It was a fish eye view from below,featuring the brothers playing their bass and guitar in front of a bright blue sky-both seemingly in the middle of singing. George is wearing a silver shirt and slacks with Louis has a silky,Indian looking shirt draped over him while in jeans. The whole image is that of just what they were-two super hip young brothers looking to play funky music for the people with enormous skill,style and flair. And that is what Look Out For#1 represents to me as it turns 40 years old.

 

 

 

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Filed under 1976, Billy Cobham, Brothers Johnson, classic albums, classic funk, Dave Grusin, Ernie Watts, Funk, funk albums, Funk Bass, funk guitar, George Johnson, Ian Underwood, instrumental, Lee Ritenour, Louis Johnson, Quincy Jones, Toots Theilmans

Andre’s Amazon Archive: ‘What The Hell Is This? by Johnny Guitar Watson

What The Hell Is This

Johnny Guitar Watson faced 1979 with a level of musical abandon after his previous album Giant,which blended the disco friendly dance rhythms into his by then well established jazzy funk/soul/blues framework maintained his musical momentum he had been building up in the preceding couple of years. Of course an election year was coming up,and disco had stirred a sometimes violent set of detractors based mainly on cultural and sexual anxiety.

This got millions of people to turn on a type of music production just made for dancers. Of course this interesting set of growing pains was just ripe for commentary from a blues based artist with the wit and musically expansive qualities that Watson possessed in abundance. So for his final album of the decade he faced all of this the way he always did.

The title song has one of the longest horn fan-fares in funk-nearly 1/4 of the whole song and the choruses as well as Watson expresses even more extreme irritation at the economic crisis than usual. With the beautifully orchestrated horn and strong laden ballads “In The World” and “Strung Out” finding Watson again in awe of someone of the opposite sex, “Cop & Blow” shows Watson very much in his pimping state of mind-on a very cinematic type mid-tempo groove of course.

On the funk march of “I Don’t Want To Be President”,he openly declares himself to be a commentator but,weary of the restrictive lives of politicians,not a potential leader of anyone. “Mother In Law” is fast,charged up funk as Watson bemoans the pushy title character we actually hear bemoaning him at the songs beginning. “The Funk If I Know” and “Watsonian Institute”,as the bonus numbers,both sound to have been recorded during these sessions are are two examples of the strongest,chunkiest melodic horn funk…that never made the cut on this original album.

Luckily for Johnny Guitar Watson this would not be the end of the musically winning streak he had been on since the beginning of his own funk odyssey. I personally never traced the exact history of it all down. However it would seem that from the mid 70’s up through the 80’s many a blues musician-from BB King to Etta James began recording with like minded jazz/funk players from bands such as The Crusaders.

And somehow I cannot help but think a lot of this had to do with the influence of the musically clever multi instrumentalist that was Johnny Guitar Watson. He definitely had a strong signature sound during this time that instantly identified the music as being his-filled with a lot of strong melodic horn breaks and synthesized bass lines. At the same time he was able to draw upon his talents as a veteran blues man to variate constantly on his instrumental and lyrical storytelling. And this might have a lot to do with why his music from this era continues to endure as time passes.

Originally posted o February 3rd,2014

LINK TO ORIGINAL REVIEW HERE*

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Filed under 1970's, Amazon.com, blues funk, disco funk, funk guitar, horns, jazz funk, Johnny Guitar Watson, message music, Music Reviewing, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove Post-Mothers Day Special Part 1: “Don’t It Feel Good” By Ramsey Lewis

Mothers and fathers are indirectly responsible for the first musical rhythms we experience as human beings. It’s the heartbeat of the child itself. Prince illustrated this in the mid 90’s on his jam “Sex In The Summer”. In terms of literal music,my mother’s own musical interests seem connected to her being a former modern abstract dancer/choreographer. I’d describe her musical tastes as being eclectic-perhaps even overreaching at times. But fundamentally,it’s still a good groove that inspires her. And as much as my father has been the main musical guiding light in my family? My mother has made her mark too.

Ramsey Lewis is an artist whom I discovered through my family about 20 years ago. It was during the time where I was really getting interested in funk. And asking my dad to pull funky music out of his vinyl collection whenever he could. Most of this came out of his jazz collection. However,there was one album that he and my mom purchased together when they were first married. The album was by Ramsey Lewis. And it was 1975’s Don’t It Feel Good.  While the funk percolated across it with “Spider-Man” and “Fish Bite”,it was the opening title song that always caught my mothers ear. And later mine.

A deep,chunky rhythm guitar begins the song playing a deep in the pocket bluesy riff. Right into the middle of this pocket,a round and pulsing Moog bass settles right in. The drum keeps up the entire song with a slow,pulsing swing with plenty of rhythmic breaks. This is orchestrated by an ARP string ensemble. Ramsey’s Fender Rhodes solo improvises on the blusiness of the guitar. That same guitar buffets the refrain and chorus. Each chorus has a different vocal chorus. One has a Latin-jazz style vocalese. The other,which fades out the song,is based on the bluesy melody and states “don’t it feel good RAMSEY!”.

This is one of those funk jams that understands two of the most important things about the classic funk era. The deep in the pocket groove keeps the bluesy slowness in the rhythm and melody. Also the vocals really bring that element of jazz Miles Davis always championed,based on his mothers advice,for musicians to always play “something you could hum”. Added to all this,the song really knows how to stay on the one. The refrain/choral sequence is all based in advancing the melodic and rhythmic drama of this groove. And that makes it among Ramsey Lewis’s finest funk of the 70’s.

 

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Filed under 1975, Afro-Latin jazz, ARP string ensemble, backup singers, blues funk, drums, Fender Rhodes, funk guitar, jazz funk, Moog, Mothers Day, synth bass, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Rough Times” by Angela Bofill

Angela Tomasa Bofill was part of a group of singers and musicians whom I refer to as as the original Brooklyn funk essentials. Coming from a Hispanic back round,she studied classical music as a child-all the while absorbing the Latin and soul/funk music scene happening right around her. Jazz flutist and bassist Dave Valentin is the one who introduced her to Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen. Her first album Angie was released in late 1978. With it’s critical and commercial success, Bofill was set up for a decades worth of soulful success.

One of the earliest artists at GRP Records along with Tom Browne,Bofill is turning 61 today. About a decade ago,she suffered two strokes a year or so apart. The second of which sadly robbed her of the ability to sing. Luckily her manager Rich Engel and the NYC radio stations Kiss FM and CD 101.9 held a benefit concert to help defray her mounting medical expenses. Being a native New Yorker,Bofill seemed to have a pretty keen understanding of the dramatic ups and downs life could offer. That’s why one song off her’s that really moves me personally is one from that 1978 debut entitled “Rough Times”.

A stinging Afro-Latin percussion begins the song,written by Ashford & Simpson, accompanying the Valentin’s thick slap bass. This forms the basic refrains of the song that supports Bofill’s vocals. As the chorus rolls in,an extra snare drum along with call and response horn charts enter into the groove as her vocal sustains push this chorus forward. The opening refrain is also the source of the songs instrumental bridge,where session icon Eric Gale played a crying,bluesy rhythm guitar around the main melody. The chorus of the song repeats itself afterwards until the song’s fade-out.

Ashford & Simpson seemed to really strike musical gold twice in 1978. First with Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and than this. Though it’s an album cut,”Rough Times” shows the GRP instrumentalists at their very funkiest-with it’s composers writing very much in awareness of Bofill’s Latina heritage. While blending the Latin jazz and disco-funk styles expertly,the lyrics to the song stand as something of a warning to people that violence and fear were reaching a fevered pitch in urban America by the late 70’s. And it expressed the power of funky “people music” to perhaps inspire an alternative.

 

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Filed under 1970's, Afro-Latin jazz, Angela Bofill, Brooklyn, Dave Grusin, Dave Valentin, disco funk, drums, Eric Gale, funk guitar, GRP Records, message music, message songs, New York, percussion, slap bass, Uncategorized

Anatomy Of THE Groove: “Step On Your Watch Part II” by The JB Horns

Maceo Parker was a musician that I began to appreciate long before James Brown’s music actually came into my life. In the mid 90’s,Parker came to the city of Portland Maine to perform with the road band he maintained at the time. Unfortunately I was not yet 17,and he was playing in a tavern where alcoholic beverages were being served. It was actually not too long after that when my father was constantly playing the compilation set Funky Good Time by the JB’s. He also pointed out a CD to me that was simply called The JB Horns. He said that even then it was pretty rare and recommended I check out a groove on it called “Step On Your Watch”. Very happy that I took his advice.

A delayed drum beat accompanied by two rhythm guitars-one a classic JB style higher pitched one and a lower dripping one is the way the song itself begins. At the end of each rapped vocal refrain an amp’d up,bluesy guitar segues between the breaks. Each instrumental chorus of course features two sets of horn solos between Maceo,Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. One is a very intense one,the other one has a gentler and more romantic tone about it. The vocal calls continue to keep the multiple guitars,back beat and the horn charts going on and on with a sustained level of funky intensity until the song finally fades itself out.

One of the qualities I appreciate about this song is that it presents a very professionally recorded variation on the classic James Brown funk approach. Being made around 1990,this song still has it all. The open rhythm in the beat that allows for solos to take flight, the calculated use of breaks and of course the renowned horn charts of Maceo,Fred and Pee Wee. Again it still gets to me that the music of the JB’s on their own came into my life before the music of James Brown really did. Hadn’t yet heard “Cold Sweat” all the way through at this point. So even to this day,there’s a quality about this song that really brings out the most exquisitely produced end of the JB style groove.

Maceo turned 73 yesterday. Much as I’d like not to admit it,with the recent passing of EWF’s Maurice White it feels appropriate to keep giving props up to the major instrumental icons of funk and soul while they are still living. Maceo is a musical institution who pretty much wrote the book on rhythm based funk saxophone playing. It was no easy task selecting one of the many James Brown,JB’s,Maceo & The Mack’s or Horny Horns songs that the man was involved with. The fact this one came right to mind showcases how it’s the music this man made,as opposed to enormous popular acclaim,that impacts most on the listeners funky emotions.

 

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Filed under 1990s, Funk, funk guitar, James Brown, Maceo Parker, Pee Wee Ellis, Saxophone, trombone, trumpet, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Spanish Joint” by D’Angelo

D’Angelo has already expertly been covered on this blog by Henrique Hopkins,with his articles on the songs “Chicken Grease” and “1000 Deaths”. There’s always been something about the music of the Virginia man born Michael Eugene Archer. Probably started over 20 years ago when the man’s debut Brown Sugar playing on the family car cassette deck on many a road trip. At first it was hard for me to fully understand D’Angelo’s musical appeal. The grand musical statements of Stevie Wonder and the Jackson’s were saying a lot more to me personally at that time. A year later I began to discover Prince. And D’Angelo’s approach became somewhat more clear to me.

Despite the press and the local airplay from Nigel Hall as a college radio DJ in my area,even D’Angelo’s sophomore album Voodoo didn’t light the spark of interest. It was after listening to the Roots and experiencing Questlove’s production for people like Al Green that the music of multi instrumentalist D’Angelo and his band the Soulquarians gained a new understanding within me. So I endeavored to go back and re-discover the Voodoo album. With hip-hop era jazz musicians such as bassist Charlie Hunter and trumpeter Roy Hargrove aboard for the affair,there was one groove on the album that leaped out at me in particular right about at the dead center of the album called “Spanish Joint”.

Afro Caribbean conga’s from Gionvanni Midalgo introduce the song. The man rhythm is a steady,fast paced Brazilian jazz/funk beat. Hunter’s rhythm guitar and bass line both do their nimble dance over the drums and percussion. On the choruses,Hargrove’s deep choral trumpet’s take on another life along with the more swinging cymbal/hi hat rhythms and D’Angelo’s call and response multi tracked harmony vocals. A brief bridge finds the instrumentation slowing to a complete halt and silence. After this the song swings on into a straight up Afro-Cuban jazz/funk groove with some counter melodies from D’Angelo on the Fender Rhodes until the song comes to a swinging,jazzy conclusion.

The thing that really excited me about this song is that it took neo soul’s naturalistic instrumental approach,then added to that the expansive harmonics of jazz and funk. Although D’Angelo and Questlove could’ve theoretically carried this song along as a purely rhythm section based song  Midalgo’s percussion touches,Hargrove’s trumpet charts and Hunter’s bass/guitar riffs greatly broaden the songs instrumental dynamics. People who love both neo soul and 70’s Brazilian jazz/funk could both easily listen to and dance off this song with the same level of enthusiasm. Aside from the strength of the song itself, that quality of bringing two generations of the groove together was a major feat.

 

 

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Filed under 2000, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Brazilian Jazz, Charlie Hunter, D'Angelo, drums, Fender Rhodes, Funk Bass, funk guitar, Giovanni Midalgo, Neo Soul, Questlove, Roy Hargrove, Soulquarians, trumpet, Uncategorized, vocal harmonies