Tag Archives: Music

Seeing The Music: Andre’s Guide To Funk,Soul & Jazz Documentary Essentials!

SONY DSC

                   During the time I was growing up,the majority of men  around me were mainly interested in watching sports on television and action films in the movie theaters. From adolescence onward, the one thing that moved me in both media were musical documentaries about the black American musical spectrum that I was then absorbing like a sponge. The understanding of rhythm and harmony I received from seeing these musicians perform,speak of their histories along with the music they made provided me with a full sensory experience far beyond what I could’ve received from the limited literature of the era I was receiving.

                        Initially I was going to combine documentary films with biopics in the same blog. Since dramatizations  are a completely different medium of film making technique? Decided instead to break them up in separate but related blogs. Also because I received a very different level of education from them as well. Before hand,some of these documentaries are very hard to find even on YouTube. Many have never even been issued on DVD. Yet I highly recommend seeking all of them out if you are looking to seek out a first hand education on the soul,jazz,funk and R&B musical spectrum.

rock-n-roll

        This aired on PBS in 1995. The eighth part of it focused specifically on the genre of funk and it’s development from James Brown on through George Clinton. The final volume focused on hip-hop. The names of Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash first came to me through watching this documentary. Not to mention the knowledge of rap’s musical roots in Jamaican reggae DJ’s such as Kool Herc. While some of the narrative commentary shows a limited understanding of the connectivity of black American music’s connectivity? The insights of interviewees such as Maceo Parker,Alan Leeds,George Clinton,Afrika Bambaataa and Chuck D are extremely insightful to what drove the music forward.

record row cradle of rhythm and blues

Narrated by the late Chess Records icon Etta James,this documentary not only opened my eyes to understanding the history of blues,soul and funk in 60’s Chicago. But was also the first glimpse I got into the idea of black American financial empowerment. Jerry Butler explained it best in this when describing how Curtis Mayfield starting his Curtom label,taking control of his publishing,took the Chicago scene into the funk era by closing down the era of people such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker functioning as “musical sharecroppers”.

The strong emphasis this has on United Record Distributors,the only black American record distributors  in their time run by the Leaner brothers,proved extremely significant in my understanding of black America’s experience with capitalism for years to come. And the level of communication in the civil rights era through the iconic radio station WVON,such a significant force in the city that if an artist wasn’t on their play list,record stores would not stock their music. Possibly my favorite musical documentary all told.

motown40

It was this epic documentary mini series,hosted by Diana Ross that really allowed me to understand the internal workings of Motown records. From it’s foundational years when Berry Gordy,having failed as a record store owner in Detroit,began writing songs for Jackie Wilson. And then borrowed $800 from his family to start what become an American musical institution. A black American institution. The interviews follow Motown’s changes from it’s salad period in the mid 60’s,through the funk and disco era when the artists had the most creative control,on through Berry deferring ownership of the company in the mid 80’s through it’s resurgence with vocal boy bands and then Puff Daddy Combs remixing the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”. A very complete and thorough history on The Sound Of Young America.

jazz-show

Overall I’d apply the same viewpoint to this documentary as I would apply to PBS’s  Rock ‘N’ Roll from seven years earlier. It’s understanding of musical connectivity,absolutely key to jazz,is more limited to the participants (such as Ken Burns  and Wynton Marsalis) perceptions of the music than it is lacking. Yet the decision to weave an internal documentary on the life and career of Louis Armstrong as a key figure in jazz is double edged: it didn’t quite succeed in term of historical continuity but did showcase how the aspect of modern black American musical might’ve derived from Armstrong’s approach. I learned about important sociological figures in the music such as Buddy Bolden,James Reese Europe and Sidney Bechet here as well. With the help of my father’s asides,this helped complete my historical understanding of jazz.

Scratch

Went to Portland Maine to see this movie,in a little movie theater underground of a local clotherie. It was actually a suitable environment for this film. It traces Grand Mixer DST’s pioneering turntable work with Herbie Hancock on his “Rockit” project. It than goes on to discuss the fine art of crate digging for used vinyl by hip-hop scratch artists. There was no irony to the fact that I was myself crate digging myself,only for my personal listening pleasure and musical enlightenment,less than an hour after seeing this in the used record stores of the city of Portland. One of those films that was both influential and validating exactly at the time I saw it.

Earth Wind & Fire Shinning Stars

Probably the one documentary I was the most excited to learn about upon it’s release. It follows the ascension of Maurice White from his childhood in Memphis to switching his college major from premed to music and playing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio before forming his first and second incarnations of Earth,Wind & Fire. The fact that bassist/trombonist Louis Satterfield,saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk,drummer Ralph Johnson and guitarist Al McKay go deeply into their own insights on how music functioned in terms of being a member of Earth Wind & Fire during it’s prime period.

Stevie Wonder Classic Albums

In terms of the Rhino Classic Album series? This now very hard to find DVD interviews all of the musicians involved in the long winded and dramatic recording sessions to what is considered Stevie Wonder’s shinning musical pinnacle. Stevie demonstrates the double keyboarded Yamaha GX-1 (known as the Dream Machine)- a polyphonic synthesizer I find sonically and visually impressive. Another favorite part is where Stevie showcases how his musical acumen allowed him to cover over for a harmonic solo at the end of “Isn’t She Lovely” that a harmonica player of his caliber shouldn’t have made. Hearing the musical insights of this mans inner visions was a hugely important musical milestone for me.

Marvin Gaye Life & Death Of

Marvin Gaye’s history has,especially in the hands of author David Ritz,was generally depicted for me literarily in extremely magisterial terms. This BBC documentary,one that came my way through a life changing act of barter in itself,really did a lot to put more of a human face on the complexities of Marvin Gaye’s musical and personal life. Through interviews with the artist himself and penetrating reenactments of the even of his childhood? I’d recommend this as the best available visual documentation on Marvin Gaye.

Tom Dowd

Tom Dowd is probably listed as the producer of more albums than anyone in American music history. This man started out working for the Manhattan Project on the atomic bomb. And his career as a producer extends throughout both the black music and rock era spectrum-an array of artists as diverse as John Coltrane to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The amazing about this documentary isn’t merely the musical history. But Down provides an inside look,right at the mixing board,onto how he instrumentally layered songs such as “Layla”. A key story for understanding the intricacies of the musical creative process.

Bob Marley

For many years Bob Marley was mainly known to me as a superficial icon of a certain local stoner culture,one that tended to feel sociopolitical change derived solely from drug use and how it changed the consciousness. This story chronicles the complex wheel of Marley’s musical life-starting from his childhood in Trenchtown,Kingston in Jamaica through his near assassination attempt in 1976 through his passing on from Melanoma in 1981. This really broke it down exactly what about his back-round and viewpoint on the Jamaican music industries corruption that motivated the sociopolitical consciousness of the reggae music he helped to pioneer and export the world over in his lifetime.

Respect Yourself

It was thanks to Netflix that I found out about this documentary about Soulville USA! Stax Records were both the rival and opposite to Motown’s business model during it’s mid 60’s heyday. This is extremely thorough on it’s representation of Stax literally rising back from the dead following the double cross of Jerry Wexler’s Atantic Records ownership over Stax’s catalog following the death of Otis Redding, the labels burgeoning social consciousness embodied in Isaac Hayes,the Staple Singers and Wattstax during the early 70’s and financial bloating bringing the label down mid decade. Than Stax came back decades later-with a music school for young musicians to boot. Especially following the creative managing of Al Bell and interviews with many of the artists from Stax’s heyday? This is the essential story of Southern Soul from when Stax really bought the funk into the music.

Michael Jackson Life Of An Icon

Michael Jackson’s story has been re-purposed in the media so many times? It is nearly impossible to approach his life story with total objectivity. Thus far,this is one documentary that does the best job of doing so. For one,it concentrates on Mike’s late teens and early adulthood in terms of his musical development. And by interviewing everyone from Bobby Taylor,who first discovered the Jackson’s performing onto 80’s era manager Frank Dileo? It strips away some of the overbearing adulation and downright hero worship that this distinctive and funky musical talent found somewhat responsible for his own end. An end that came far too soon. Probably the essential Michael Jackson documentary thus far.

unsung_logo2012-wide

Unsung is an unprecedented documentary series on the cable network TV One. The reason for it’s importance is that it profiles an often underrated musical icons from within the soul/funk spectrum. And does so with a great level of care and compassion. As of now I’ve not been privileged to see every episode of the series. Yet the stories of people such as Tammi Tarrell,David Ruffin,Donny Hathaway,Full Force,Angela Bofill and Heatwave lead singer Johnnie Wilder provided an excellent insight into artists either misrepresented or not even spoken of broadly in other media circles.

Finding Fela

It was a reference in Paul McCartney’s documentary Wingspan that first gave me indication to the name Fela Anikulapo Kuti. This story probably brings my understanding of the African American musical spectrum near to it’s final stages. My conversations with blogging partner Rique are consistently referencing Kuti. And this film really expands on that understanding. The understanding of Fela as the Nigerian James Brown,whom he in fact was very highly influenced by through travelling through America during the years of black power in the late 60’s.

While the man bought the sound and social consciousness of total rhythm into his combination of African Highlife and jazz-funk?  He also set upon living a lifestyle of breaking down conventions,largely coming out of the corruption that led to tragic events such as the murder of his own mother. This really embodies the full spectrum of emotion a life can have-from pioneering,to humorous to tragic. And it also helps bring out peoples understanding and misunderstanding of what African culture is really all about.


Sometimes when I try to encourage people to watch more documentaries,they often respond by saying that they find them boring. At the end of the day they say? They want to escape,not learn. What I’ve personally come to understand is that knowledge functions as both a destination and an escape. Just depends on how you receive it. Being lectured at about topics by a teacher isn’t always the idea method of education. Yet through documentaries on a favorite subject? One can experience first hand,sometimes comic history,joy and tears from the viewpoint of all involved.  And for me? These have all provided the ultimate in learning while being simultaneously entertained.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1990s, Bob Marley, Chicago, crate digging, Earth Wind & Fire, Etta James, Fela Kuti, Funk, George Clinton, Heatwave, Herbie Hancock, James Brown, Jazz, Ken Burns, Louis Armstrong, Marvin Gaye, Maurice White, Mavis Staples, Memphis Soul, Michael Jackson, Portland Maine, reggae, Stax, Stevie Wonder, Tom Dowd, Unsung series, Vee-Jay

Rique & Andre Proudly Present 2014: A Year In Funkativity For Andresmusictalk!

Andresmusictalk Year In Review 2014

 

Have to totally agree with my blog partner here Rique and fellow WordPress blogger The International Review Of Music that 2014 has been a tremendous all around year for funky music. And funky is Rique and my favorite kind of music from my understanding. And this year we’ve had that become popular on a massive level thanks to starting the year out grooving with Pharrell William’s “Happy”. This was a global phenomenon-with people all across the world doing their dance to the song on YouTube. For the first time in history,a number one funk song connected billions of people in the internet age. And that alone is no small feat. And one Pharrell should be proud of  for his entire life.

If “Happy” was standing by itself this year? That would have been wonderful. But it did so much more. Kelis and even 90’s quiet storm soul singer Joe released tremendously funky music this year! And massively welcomed comebacks from Prince,Funkadelic,War,D’Angelo and posthumously from the late Michael Jackson were also enormously successful events. In fact D’Angelo’s Black Messiah ended off the year with a major surprise release in the wake of the tragic and highly topical police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. That album may have had to wait until 2015 to see the light if that dark day hadn’t have shinned the light on the need to talk,sing and play about it.

Since funk was the key to providing not only great music but positive and enriching messages this year? I wanted to conduct our first interactive blog here on Andresmusictalk. There have been many wonderful releases this year in the funky spectrum of sound. Hoping all of you have been enjoying them. So presented below is a list of key funk,jazz and soul related albums from 2014.  Inviting all of you to select which ones interested you most! Wishing everyone a new dance and new vitality of life for the year to come and enjoy the polling everyone! Thank you!

 

Hear Some Of The Best Music In The Soulful Spectrum Of 2014

2014 Remembered: A Year Of Funk-Written By The International Music Review

HAPPY FUNKING NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!!!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014, Chromeo, D'Angelo, Disco, Funk, Funkadelic, Fusion, Harvey Mason, Jazz-Funk, Joe, Kelis, Late 70's Funk, Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Stansfield, Michael Jackson, Pharrell Willaims, Prince, Robin Thicke, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

The Anatomy of THE Groove 5/30/14 Rique’s Pick : “On the One” by the RH Factor

Texan Trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s “RH Factor” band/project was one of the most interesting and consistent funk projects of the ’00s. Hargrove has made a name for himself as a trumpet leader who performs music in a wide variety of contexts. He won a Grammy in 1998 with his Afro Cuban band, Crisol, and participated in D’Angelo’s seminal funky neo-soul classic, “Voodoo.” “On the One” is a bumping, hand clapping summertime funky song, perfect for both twilight dance scenes filmed with old 8mm camera’s at summertime cookouts and driving down the cost. The song is written and sung by RH Factor vocalist and keyboardist Renee Nuefville. Nuefville is the RH Factor vocalist but she was also a member of the great ’90s group Zhane.

The tune establishes it’s dreamy summertime feel right from the start with an 8 bar intro that sets up the mood. The drums hit softly on the kick drum for all four beats of the measure, as the bass riffs very melodic lines. A clavinet is also in play, delivering very vocal, wah wah accented rhythmic lines. The main  feature is a little melodic fragment, very syncopated and sing songy, played on a keyboard, that sets up a call and response relationship with a musician on the flute. The pattern is only three notes, played in a syncopated rhythm, with the keyboard playing and the flute echoing the phrase in the next bar. This cheerful, melodic, almost Seaseme Street like phrase will recur throughout the song. It also gives one a feeling of the sun on a bright new day, which is made clear when Nuefville begins her vocals, “It’s a new day”.

Once the song has woken up so to speak, it wakes up with a thunderous funk swagger. The drum beat hits with simple, solid, steady, two and four drumming, supported by a rarity now days, real live hand claps. The bass line is a beauty, and the anchor of the song. It’s a monsterous classic ascending funk pattern, playing a stomping ascending line in one bar, and a sparser, accenting pattern in the second and final bar of the phrase. This bass line does not change for the song, simply dropping in and out during certain dreamy sections. The combination of the bass line, handclaps and keyboard tones all intensify the summer time swagger of the song. One of the textures that makes RH Factor unique and different from the typical R&B production you’d hear on the radio is the support and comping of Roy Hargrove’s trumpet. Hargrove plays around Nuefville’s vocals, blowing supporting riffs and tones, in the tradition of Louis Armstrongs comping with Bessie Smith. It reminds me of Miles Davis saying he didn’t play “over” a singer, rather playing a little before or a little after the singer delivers their line.  Nuefville sings a song of a relationship that is a bit astray, going through problems of communication. Periodically, the groove lets up to uncover the dreamy, wistful summer time flavor, at which point Nuefivlle says, “I really miss the days I used to talk to you.” Her solution? “Drop it on the One.”

“On the One” is interesting for using the funk terminology of “On the one” in a romantic context. Most of us of a certain age remember Malcom Jamal Warner as Theo’s phrase of “Jamming on the One” on the classic episode of The Cosby Show featuring the great Stevie Wonder. And we know “The One” is the key beat in funk, and the centerpiece of the musics ability to capture hearts and booties, upheld primarily by James Brown. George Clinton expanded the metaphor from music into a call for social harmony, and here Rene Neufville and the RH Factor bring that into the specific context of a harmonious relationship.

Hargrove plays some brash trumpet calls around 3:17 into the song, making you think he’s going to play a flame throwing trumpet solo, but instead, mellowing out into trumpet riffs that support the overall groove. One of the interesting things about playing funk for jazz musicians, is that the service of a groove requires even more humility than the group improvisations of jazz often times. Jazz rhythm section people might be used to this, but the trumpet by its nature is an instrument that stands out. Hargrove however, has no problem on the RH Factor recordings sublimating his horn to the groove, as he does beautifully on the fadeout of “On the One”. The song vamps out for two minutes on the end, and Hargrove plays both harmonized horn parts and beautiful, softly blown melodies.

“On the One” is a very special song that merges a great feel good, get down groove with a wistful, romantic song of longing, and resolution of that longing. The RH Factor proves itself to be a very unique and versatile group with the ability to communicate in multiple ways, both musically and lyrically. Very soon after clearing the space to listen to this song, you may very well find yourself “On the One.”

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Funk, Funk Bass, Jazz, Late 70's Funk

The Anatomy of THE Groove 5/9/14 Rique’s Pick : “Automatic” by the Spandettes

There’s always been something special to me about the summer time and soul, funk, disco and hip hop dance music. It’s my feeling summer in particular is the season in which funk flourishes. Something about the excitement of a dance rhythm seems to be the perfect soundtrack to the warm weather’s improvement of human mood and attitude. It’s only May, but I can already put The Spandettes “Automatic” on my summer time playlist. The 13 member combo from Canada’s song is a triumphant, giddy feel good music opus about an attraction that happens easily, smoothly, and naturally, somewhat like the best summer time connections.

The track kicks in the door with a pounding drum beat, four on the floor, just like during the reign of disco. The hi hats set the pace, making the song feel much faster than it actually is, playing a sixteenth note pattern with some extra acrobatics in place, some 16th note quadruplets to keep you honest. The 4 bar drum intro, a staple of dance funk one rarely hears these days, is soon joined by the rest of the band, Bass, Electric Piano, Guitar, and Horns.  The bass player plays a very simple but effective and funky Afro-Carribean-Latin dance line that anticipates the beat and outlines the chord changes. The guitar player chooses to join forces with the drummer’s hi hat, playing a funky, rhythmically busy 16th note, guitar scratch and one note line, perfectly locked with the drummer’s cymbals. The horn section comes in with a brash, celebratory, triumphal voicing, with the trumpets playing a very attention getting note at the top of the voicing, with the whole band giving way to the guitar players very similar chord, a mean splangalang played high on the neck of the guitar, with those attention grabbing notes on the top.

The three female singers for the band are Alex Tait, Maggie Hopkins, and Lizzy Clarke. The lead singer sings a tune of instant attraction, the kind that quickly breaks down any hard to get, legs crossed (closed) posturing, “No way to control it/it’s to-ta-lly au-to-ma-tic/whenever you’re around.” The melody she sings reminds me of two ’80s songs, Jeffery Osbourne’s work on “Plane Love” and the DeBarge’s melody on “Rhythm of the Night.” The horns riff along in support of the vocals the whole way.

One aspect of the song that really impresses me is the song structure, in addition to the general big, bright, sunny dance funk vibe. The song is well constructed from a pop sense, as if the Spandettes had in mind making a #1 funk and pop HIT. There is a nice stop and start groove leading to the chorus, during which the ladies croon the word “Automatic” broken down to syllables, in their three part harmony. This is backed by a nice jazzy, softly blown horn chart. At 2:25 in, the band gets their time to shine, in a nice break/instrumental interlude that lasts from 2:25-2:49. The break has space for the horns and bass, the electric piano, and the drummer to all shine.

“Automatic” is a bouyant, feel good song that I hope will serve as a soundtrack for some great moments for me in Summer ’14. What impresses me the most, besides the Spandettes singing, songwriting, and musicianship, is the audacity they have to make a funky song in 2014 with the clear design of a radio/club/popular hit in mind. Instead of treating funk as if it was some dusty relic that’s power relied only in it’s obscurity, The Spandettes remember funk use to be the soundtrack for a lot of peoples good times. And they aren’t giving up any ground to hip hop, EDM, dance punk, Indie, or any other music form out there. “Automatic” is a cute, fun song with a proper “hands in the air” bounce that can rock clubs, wedding receptions, cover band gigs, and many other functions. And in this musically (and culturally) segmented world we live in, such versatility of groove is essential. So I invite you to put this on your summer party list along with the Margarita mix.

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Disco, Funk

The Anatomy of ‘Happy’- Rique’s outlook: An Anatomy of THE Groove Special Presentation Part Duex

 

 

 

Pharrell Williams recent triumph with an infectious ditty about human joy and the movements of the human spirit is one that fills me with tremendous joy and that I  identify with very personally. I see it as the culmination of a career spent highlighting the spirit enhancing aspects of Black music at a time when darkness was accepted as the norm.

Back in my high school days, my main friends who I referred to as my brothers,  Jesse, Osceola, and Frank use to spend our time before, after, and sometimes during school hours at OC’s house, eating gumbo, cooking, playing bass and discussing and debating how we were to make it in the world.  Often times we looked at the current culture around us, in the days of bling rap and very ignorant music as inadequate to the views we had of ourselves and how we wished our lives to be, not to mention the attitudes we’d inherited from our well meaning parents. The late 1990s seemed to be an extremely long ways away from the vitality we associated with other days of black culture in particular.

Outkast was the closest of any group at the time to who we felt we were. There were many other groups we liked bits and pieces of, but no one captured it as well as them. Then, at some point in 1999 we started to hear another groove. It was electronic, sparse, and FUNKY. It was heard on records like Mase’s “Lookin at Me”, ODB’s “Got Your Money” and “Recognize” and especially Kelis’ “Caught Out There.” Then one day out of nowhere, we heard that same beat but we got some vocals, on a track called “Oh No” by Nore, we saw a handsome, carmel skinned brother with throwback aviator shades on, giving an old school hip hop chorus in a falsetto voice. Osceola, ever the sharp eyed visionary, said simply, “I like that dude.”

As the milenium turned, the hits rolled in, like Mystikals James Brown influenced “Shake Ya Ass”, Nelly’s “Bustin Loose” influenced “Hot in Herre”, and several records that referenced The Vanity 6’s eternal Purple Funk classic “Nasty Girls” (“Milkshake”, “Slave”, etc). Pharrell and Chad Hugo, the Neptunes, could give you aural images of Run DMC’s “Sucker M.C’s” on a track like the Clipse’s “Grindin'”, and recall both Cameo and Slave on Snoop Dogg’s “Lets Get Blown.” And Pharrell’s own “Frontin”, may be one of the few R&B love songs that came out in the last decade that I truly identified with, not just as music, but as experience.

The Neptunes music took the black historical sound of funk, and edited it, filtered it through hip hop, and presented it as the hottest party sound of the new milenium. Pharrell’s falsetto, used in the beginning simpy to guide singers on demo’s, recalled Eddie Kendricks, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, and many other legends, who I’ve heard him all reference in interviews. I was always amazed at Chad and Pharrells skill at interpolation, building new funk off old funk and making an ahistorical young urban audience accept it as THE THING.

This past year has been one of special triumph, with Daft Punk’s directly late ’70s influenced “Get Lucky”, Robin Thicke’s “Got to Give It Up” tribute “Blurred Lines”, and now, the ’60s get back in the alley groove of “Happy.”

In the black church, the moment of the utmost jubilation, when people speak in tounges and do the holy dance, and the organ and drums begin to vamp, is called “Getting Happy.” Pharrell mentioned on his interview with Oprah that after 9 tries at nailing down a song to represent the joy of the villian on the film “Despicable Me 2”, he finally hit on this groove. He said the chords were gospel, because that’s the aim of gospel music, to get people “happy”, on a profound spiritual level that gives a glimpse of the eternal joy that all religions promise, with the goal of getting people through an often rough existence on this here earth.

Pharrell accomplishes this in the most spiritual, profound way on this song. He has always aimed to make people happy, his litany of dance hits is proof of that, but this  one hits on another level. The ’60s back beat, straight out of the book of Benny Benjamin and Uriel Jones, is matched with a low down electric piano and bluesy tone. The blues scale is an actual rarity in “R&B” music these days, it seems black musicians RUN from that historic tone. But the triumph of blues music borne of the black experience is the ability to acknowledge sadness while promoting joy. That is why it is universal, because all of humanity seeks that, the combination of reality and hope. Pharrell embraces a bluesy, funky sound with an uplifiting beat that will make your backbone slip into the jerk, the mashed potatoes, and the monkey if you let it!

The R&B singer Tank, when asked about the struggles of R&B in recent years, made some very illuminating comments. He basically said R&B’s obssessive focus on sex and love have limited it. He mentioned “Happy” in particular as a type of song that “used to be R&B.” And it makes me proud that an artist primarily associated with hip hop laid this on the world. The reason is, for all the bad rap (pun intended) hip hop often takes (and gives), I do feel hip hop is the repository of black musical history and musical history in general that no other music is. Songs like “Hey Ya” by Andre 3000, “My Umi Says” by Mos Def, “Sexual Eruption” by Snoop Dogg, even Ol Dirty Basterd’s rendition of “Coldblooded”, reference the past and the fun spirits of past musics in a way few contemporary R&B artists ever attempt.

But the true genius of Pharrell is in his vision and his uniqueness. Pharrell and a handful of other artists, have always made me feel it was okay to be myself and pursue my own path. They brough the spirit I admired in Miles Davis, James Brown, George Clinton, Stevie, Sly, Marvin, etc, into the present day, when most of my peers would tell me, “That was back THEN.” And it is an amazing act for a black male artist at this time to stand up and make the whole world dance singing a song that says “I’m Happy.”

From the beginning, Pharrell understood this song was the people’s song.  I was amazed when he created the worlds first 24 hour music video, with people uploading their own videos dancing to the song, a truly democratic and positive use of current technology! And his song has become so big that the U.N used it as their theme for their “International Day of Happiness.” The video I posted is from Liberia, my mothers home country and a country both of my parents love dearly. Liberia’s main image currently is one of 19 years of one of the most brutal civil wars seen in recent memory.  But this was a country founded as a country of hope for individuals who were not allowed much in their home land. But Pharrell’s song and the “Happy” video show that the human spirit lives on, as it always has. My mother, who usually does not dig the message of many current musics, actually asked me to bring home Pharrell’s album for HER the other day. I often bemoan the fact that todays black music, in contrast to a song such as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, is not often something kids and grown ups can share together. How can a consciounable parent bring their kids out to dance at 2 am to “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe?” But “Happy” is most definitely a song that makes both me and my mother dance. I heard another young lady say that she plays that for her kids in the morning when she’s taking them to school. At that, I’ll say Pharrell has made quite a contribution in his time to the never ending, always elusive human quest, and for 3 mintues and 53 seconds at a time, he plants his flag on that tall and distant summit of joy.

2 Comments

Filed under Motown, Music, Music Reviewing, Pharrell Williams

Anatomy of THE Groove 4/11/14 Rique’s Pick: “Magnificent” by Steve Arrington & Dam-Funk

 

Steve Arrington and Slave, are one of the more underappreciated pure funk groups from a pop standpoint. However, in Urban communities, for a certain late Baby Boomer and early Gen X funk audience, they’re right up there at the top with Prince, Rick James, Cameo, and others who were hot in the late ’70s and ’80s. Lead vocalist Steve Arrington originally joined the group as a drummer, but his unique nasally, well enunciated vocals were discovered during the recording of Slave’s 1979 disco-funk classic, “Just a Touch of Love.” Arrington went on to make several important records himself, including “Weak at the Knees” and “Dancing in the Key of Life.” Arrington is a first rate drummer, of a heavy jazz fusion bent, and his vocals are very unique, influencing such later day artists as Keith Sweat. Arrington is also a pastor and imparts a positive, upbeat spiritual message to everything he does, encouraging and uplifting people.

Dam Funk of Stones Throw Records, the master of a genre he’s innovating called “modern funk”, did an album this past year with Arrington.  The album is a triumph of fat bottomed, big beat, West Coast funk, with Arringtons nasally, silky, langourous vocals motivating, serenading, and persuading. Dam Funk’s funk is clearly a West Coast vibe, and extension of the G Funk of Dr. Dre, DJ Pooh, Battlecat, Above the Law, E-40 and Too $hort, all West Coast Hip Hop artists who used instrumental funk to back up their raps, based on the late ’70s synthesizer “video game sound” of P-Funk, the music of Roger and Zapp, and several other artists who’s sound made up a transitional early ’80s funk sound called “Boogie”, a bridge between the disco-funk of the late ’70s and the electro-funk and freestyle of the mid to late ’80s.

“Magnificent” is a dreamy, heavenly ode to a special lady from Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk’s album, “Higher.” The track begins with a big, solid drum beat, reminiscent of a fat boogie beat like One Way’s classic, “Cutie Pie.” The hi hats play what I call a ‘Time Bomb’ pattern, tight, ticking 8ths, like the O’Jays intro to “Give the People What the Want”, minus the washed out reverb. Over the phat drumbeat, Dam-Funk layers his trademark synth pads, a bright, beautiful sound of discovery and new dawns. Dam Funk uses this pad sound to play the chord progression for the song, but it’s very dreamy and functions as sound as well as music. The connection is also there to the modern “chill” movement. It’s a sound very reminiscent of the Los Angeles life and sunshine.  The song also features the hallmark of the West Coast sound, fat analog bass. The groove is one that is great for getting going in the early morning or cruising around town with the top down.

Steve Arrington uses his plain, direct, well spoken lyrical style, articulated in his classy, well pronounced, crooning vocal manner. It’s a song of praise that is old school in it’s approach, how many R&B artists praise women these days? But it also has that modern edge Arrington has always had, “You know you treat your homie like a King/You know I treat my shorty like a queen”, “you’ve got that way/with so much swag/what can I say.” It works instead of falling flat because Arrington is a cool uncle, compared to other funk stars who’ve passed on to being father, even grand father figures. Arrington even delivers a spoken interlude toward the end where he rips off synonymous superlatives for “magnificent”, like “indefatigueable.” Most def a lesson in many ways.

Arrington and Dam Funk are doing a great thing here. The song is laid back Cali vibe , as is most of the album, and I was hoping for a little more of the dry, driving funk Arrington delivered on songs such as “Weak at the Knees.” But stylistic parsing of hairs aside, the pair deliver the goods in a positive, funky, chill way. Their album should be in the possession of anybody who needs good, positive kicking it music!

2 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Funk, Late 70's Funk, Music, Music Reviewing

Introduction to “Anatomy of the Groove”

One of the primary goals of our activities here at Andresmusictalk as well as other websites we participate in is the promotion of new and worthwhile music. There are times when we’ve lamented the state of the recording industry and the promotion, avaliability and popularity of the musics we enjoy the most. In the case of that brand of music known as “funk”, there has very rarely existed a “funk aisle” in your typical music store. You can find a funky soul album like Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack for the film “Superfly” in the Soul/R&B aisle, Africa Baambaata’s electro funk classic “Planet Rock” and Outkast’s progressive “Aquemini” in the Hip Hop aisle, Johnny Guitar Watson’s “A Real Mutha For Ya” in the Blues section, The Talking Head’s “Remain in Light” and Ian Dury & The Blockheads “Do It Yourself” among the rockers, Justin Timberlake’s “Futuresexxlovesounds” in the pop section along with GaGa and Miley, Fela Kuti & The Egypt 80’s “Beasts of No Nation” in the World Section, and Herbie Hancock’s “Secrets” in Jazz. While this stylistic scatter quite effectively illustrates the time span, musical diversity and wide social reach of the Funk, it does little for the recognition of Funk as a distinct musical style and aesthetic.

We still get quizical looks from people when we tell them about our love for the funk. To combat this limited view, we created this special funk feature. Every Friday, Andresmusictalk contributors Rique and Andre will select a song a piece to get your weekend started on a funky groove. These recordings will be exactly like your trip to find funk in the music store. When looking for funk today, no genre is left unexamined, from Hip Hop, to Soul, to Jazz, to Neo Soul, to World, to Rock, to EDM,  to modern funk artists if it’s funky, it will be here. We will post a link to the song where avaliable so you can enjoy it along with some artist information and musical impressions of the tunes selected.  Our definition of “new” is actually closer to “rarely heard”, as we’ll feature in particular, songs being released in the given year of the feature, but also songs from the last 20 to 25 years you may not have heard due to the lower profile of funk artists, album cuts from various albums that never got recognized because they werent singles, album cuts from artists you don’t appreciate as funk artists, and songs from independent sources. Many times you may recoil at the name of the artist who produced the song, for instance thinking “When did _________ do anything funky?” We ask that you hold tight, and when in doubt, ‘”put your body in it” and dig this funk.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Dialog, Funk

Welcome To A New Year And A New Blog!

2014-Numbers-free-Happy-2014-New-Year-Image-Wallpaper

    I would like to welcome everyone to Andresmusictalk,my newest blog here on WordPress. This blog is going to serve as a collaborative effort between myself and Henrique Hopkins-a main inspiration for creating my first blog here The Rhythmic Nucleus. For those of you who familiar with that blog,it was primarily focused on funk music and its many tributaries. Since of course my own personal musical pallet of interests is very eclectic,the topics on that blog began to drift into different musical territories.

          The purpose of this blog is to expand the level of dialog regarding the full spectrum of music. Regarding its history,creation,generational potency and anything else of interest in that regard. Just about every musical form on Earth bleeds into each other over time. The “rhythmic nucleus” of it all likely began in Africa. But it has spread across the world over millennium after millennium in a symphonic gumbo-with each subculture of humanity making wonderful new contributions as it goes. If that sounds like a big deal,it is. And music grows into even more of a big deal as time progresses.

           The levels of experience and perceptions of music between Henrique and myself have many similarities. Yet our environments have shaped them in very different ways between us. This will be an important element in our two literary styles that will be presented here. And to paraphrase one of Henrique’s own quotations,this will also serve as a possible springboard for broader articles that might one day find they’re way into the realm of professional publication. So as the two of us continue to grow as human beings,so will go the breadth and scope of our writing here.

               On some occasions,I would like to see the two of us engage in call and response type writing-wherein myself or Henrique create a blog post here in direct response to the others. Not only would that reflect the spirit of the soul/funk music we love,but help us grow as writers and continue that educational experience. In this age where the “less is more” adage has perhaps been too readily applied to human conversation,it is actually in our dialog that we learn most from. And the best forum to give and receive our knowledge. So enjoy what is to come! Many exciting things to read,see and hear await you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Blogging, Dialog, Earth, Funk, Humanity, Literacy, Music, Rhythm, Soul, Time