Brian Culbertson is one of the most uniquely important artists doing funk today. He was a musical prodigy who was born in 1973. He learned not only rhythm and melodic instruments but also trumpet,trombone and euphonium. Its relatively rare that multi instrumentalists also play horns as well. An Illinois native,Culbertson eventually attended DePaul university in Chicago. This was where he began working on his first CD. And eventually got a record deal. And shortly after began working with his wife Michelle on a number of jingle related projects before getting his recording/touring career fully started.
With a career that’s over 22 years old and 14 albums strong,only ever brought and listened to one Brian Culbertson album all the way through. It was 2003’s Come On Up. Even though it was several years old when I heard it,the album showcased how the stifling smooth jazz production was giving way to a return to hardcore jazz funk as far as Culbertson was concerned. A couple of his albums have been 100% funk based in concept as well as jazz. His newest one from 2016 is actually entitled Funk! There are many strong grooves here. The one that stands out for me most is called “Let’s Take A Ride”.
A hand clap powered groove with a Nile Rodgers/Prince inspired higher rhythm guitar. After that a high powered funky shuffle moves into the mix-adding dancing P-Funk synth bass along with some Sly Stone style pitch bent horn charts accenting the melody Culbertson sets up on his acoustic piano. After a few bars of choral/refrain variations on this musical theme an extended bridge comes in. That consists of Culbertson playing a dissonant piano improvisation as a variation of the intro (this time with the synth bass) rises into the final chorus of the song before it fades.
“Let’s Take A Ride” represents all of the different elements of funk Brian Culbertson listened to coming up in a single song. It has the hand claps and guitar sound of the Minneapolis sound. There’s also the electric synth bass of P-Funk and spin offs such as Zapp. There’s also the singing,rhythmic horns of James Brown and Sly. Yet at the same time,Culbertson’s melodic piano also finds a home in this hard groove mix. Really goes to show how funk is still a wonderful rhythmic blanket for jazz musicians to solo in. Especially when its in its most organic and vital forms.
Spring and summer are always good times for releasing new funk grooves,no matter from what era of the music they might derive from. As my friend Henrique pointed out in one of his articles a bit back,it’s a time of a lot weekend getaways and being outdoors. So with so much activity,the dance of life is officially commencing. And that dance needs some funky music to go with it. Two years ago,Pharrell Williams gave us such as song in the culturally influential “Happy”. Again it would seem that that the same thing is about to happen again,only this time from Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake really excited the pop music world four summers ago with the first volume of his two part 20/20 Experience. This helped herald in the modern pop world’s reboot of appreciating full length albums as both musically and commercially vital.. As well as giving the cinematic soul/funk genre a big leg back up on that same level as well. Since then,even greater such experiences as D’Angelo’s Black Messiah were set upon the public. And now Timberlake is is returning with a new groove from the forthcoming DreamWorks film Trolls. It’s appropriately entitled “Can’t Stop The Feeling”.
The song starts out with a deep piano based melody accompanied by some swinging hi hat. Hand claps enter the mix before the snare drum kicks into the 4/4 beat of the song. This accompanies Timberlake’s voice,a round and bubbly synthesizer line and one of the most funky dance oriented bass lines this side of the late Bernard Edwards of Chic. On the choruses,rhythm guitars and later in the song string and horn effects enter the mix. A breakdown bridge near the end of the song builds back up from the bass,guitar and back on into the song-closing it all out with a gospel like vocal choir of the songs chorus.
Justin Timberlake premiered this song six days ago. The song was co-written with Swedish music producers Max Martin and Shellback. These two have been responsible for hits from Ariana Grande,Pink,Taylor Swift and Adele in recent years. Doing this song really brings out the tradition of European producers continuing to have a firm grip on the soul/funk/disco sound that black America has struggled to find success with on their own terms for decades. In any case,the fact that a new Justin Timberlake song is proudly based in the disco funk vibe says a lot for his potential future musical priorities.
Filed under 2016, disco funk, drums, Funk Bass, hand claps, Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, new music, nu disco, Nu Funk, rhythm guitar, Shellback, Uncategorized
Prince & The Revolution were a band that truly evolved into their own name. With the announcement. With the announcement that surviving members Lisa Coleman,Brown Mark,Wendy Melvoin,Bobby Z and Matt Fink are planning on a reunion tour in tribute to their fallen bandleader,it reminded me of just how much these musicians expanded Prince’s grooves as it progressed. That progression went from the stripped down new wave of the Dirty Mind/Controversy era to the brittle electronic Minneapolis sound of 1999 and Purple Rain. Shortly thereafter,their sound made an even broader change.
During the summer of 1985,Prince and his band mates expanded. He added saxophonist,brother of his manager Alan Leeds and trumpeter Matt “Atlanta Bliss” Bliston along with guitarist Miko Weaver. The band also eschewed their flamboyantly dandy style clothing in favor of dressy,tailored clothing and slicker haircuts. This also effected their sound as they recorded for Prince’s next film project Under The Cherry Moon and it’s accompanying soundtrack album Parade. The song from the album that might best project Prince & The Revolutions evolved sound is “Mountains”.
The song starts with two by two snare drum heavy beat with right on the rhythm hand claps. A pounding drum machine introduces the up-scaling piano melody that carries the musical refrain of the entire song. It’s that same rhythm filled out with chiming guitar,percussion and high pitched,otherworldly synthesizer. On the choruses of the song,Prince plays call and response with his new horn section. The bass line of the song is equally fluid. It moves throughout under the drum as both a thoroughly percussive element while basically playing the melody of the piano.
The instrumental bridge of the song strips the music down to the rhythm that opens it. This time the rhythm guitar is playing a bluesy chicken scratch riff that Prince segues by shouting out “MOMMY I’M CLEVER!”. The following vocal shriek leads directly into the final repeat of the chorus. The harmonic horns scale down at the end of that chorus when Prince’s falsetto shouts find those horns playing a swelling evolving fanfare. An electric sitar inaugurates the refrain-a somewhat East Indian classical melody with the sitar wash holding up the James Brown style horn charts as the song fades out.
“Mountains” is a Prince song that really fascinated me from the moment I heard it. It mixed in the spiritually ethereal quality of gospel with a psychedelic airiness to the production. As my friend Henrique points out,on the other hand, the rhythmic nucleus of this song is strong galloping funk. The drums,the hand claps,the bass,the horns and rhythm guitar clop along like instrumentals hooves working their way down a heavily funky road. It’s mixture of cinematic drama with a strong ear for a phat groove showcase just how vital Prince’s musical progression was to the 1980’s.
Filed under 1980's, Atlanta Bliss, Bobby Z, Brown Mark, cinematic soul, drums, Eric Leeds, Funk Bass, hand claps, horns, Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink, Miko Weaver, Minneapolis, Minneapolis Sound, Prince, Prince & The Revolution, Psychedelia, Saxophone, trumpet, Uncategorized, Under The Cherry Moon, Wendy Melvoin