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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Freaks For The Festival” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, born Ronald Theodore in Columbus,Ohio, had a creative ethic strongly connected to his nigh time dreaming. That includes the two changes he made to his given name. As he started leading his own bands, his music grew from its hard bop roots to bring in elements of the avant garde and even older jazz styles such as ragtime. Kirk’s music also thematically explored the black power ethic of the 60’s-with a socially conscious comic wit that perhaps influenced 70’s funk era icons as George Clinton. As a multi instrumentalist, particularly with reed instruments, he was also a major innovator.

Blind from childhood due to a botched medical treatment, he developed a form of playing that has thematically broken records. It was known as circular breathing-which allowed him to sustain complex notes on saxophone almost indefinitely. Not to mention often playing three saxes at the same time. One album of his my father often playing parts of for me as a child was 1975’s The Case Of The 3 Sides Dream In Audio Color. It was a double album whose fourth side was largely empty saves for a sound snippet at the end. The song from it I’m talking about today though is called “Freaks At The Festival”.

Kirk’s rapping starts out the song before the ultra funky JB’s/Clyde Stubblefield style drum comes in-soon accompanied by Kirk’s bass sax melody. After this, his self made “one man horn section” accompanies the ever more flamboyant drumming, an amazing and complex funky electric jazz bass line. During the third chorus in, Kirk’s flute solo accompanies what I’m pretty sure is Richard Tee’s Fender Rhodes piano-with Kirk and the band exchange some their vocal raps. With some of the sax tones having some heavy fuzz peddle on them-all before everything comes to a big musical climax at the end.

“Freaks At The Festival” musically reminds me of what one might get if Cannonball Adderley,Art Ensemble Of Chicago and The JB’s all got together to do an avant funk record. The sound that the instrumentalists (who are hard to pin down due to crediting and my knowledge level at identifying musicians) is alternately controlled, focused, rhythmic and thematically chaotic. The wild way in which the melodies are played contrast heavily with its coherent funk rhythm attitude. And knowing what I know of him, this is one of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s most defining songs that I’ve yet heard.

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Anatomy of THE Groove for 6/5/2015: “Don’t Stop” by Brian McKnight

It wasn’t too long ago that I paid absolutely no mind whatsoever to the musical output of Brian McKnight. He seemed to be one of many groups and soloists who came out of the early/mid 90’s contemporary pop/soul scene. Most of these artists came across as possessing a docile performance ethic. And possessing little to no vocal and/or musical vitality. Without any undue cruelty? These artists didn’t seem capable of creating much in the way of uptempo dance music, let alone anything that was all that funky at all. One night while channel surfing half a decade ago,however? I came across The Brian McKnight Show.

This was an interview show at at contemporary artists involved in the creative process of music. Watching it a bit? McKnight revealed himself to be the same kind of multi instrumentalist (not merely a synthesizer/drum machine programmer),producer and composer he would generally be interviewing on the show. Often showcasing the artists and himself playing piano,bass and guitar? This got me curious enough to seek out some of McKnight’s current music. One such album, More Than Words opened with a song that continued this change of mind in the form of “Don’t Stop”.

Beginning with a jazz  fusion style drum roll and synth-horn improvisation,the song goes into a pulsing drum beat (accenting by the snare on one occasion) that is accompanied by a thick,phat and very funky slap bass line mixed right up front. That drum then turns into a rolling dance floor friendly,slow groove while the rhythm guitar comes in to play the higher pitched variation of the bass line right along with it. Along with the fusion like intro introducing each chorus? Not to mention the electric piano accompanied refrain? This groove keeps grinding itself into the listeners subconscious until it finally comes to an end.

While McKnights light (and often mildly over souling) vocal doesn’t add a great deal to the song itself? The way the chunky style bass/guitar funk groove holds up the songs extremely sensuous lyrical content provide some of the heaviest and strongest funk that Brian McKnight has ever produced in his long career. In a similar manner to Trombone Shorty’s “Long Weekend”? This songs slow grinding uptempo groove evokes the work of the underrated Ohio funk band Slave. Especially the bass playing of the late Mark “Mr.Mark” Adams. By focusing more on the instrumental groove than the vocals? This song,as Rique might put it,evokes a hip young middle class black American male circa 1980 driving around in a small car blasting Slave’s song “Watching You”. That plus it’s jazzy flavor make this a high water mark for instrumental funkiness for Brian McKnight

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Filed under 2013, Brian McKnight, Funk, Funk Bass, guitar, jazz fusion, Mark "Mr.Mark" Adams, Ohio, Slave