Charles Earland passed away 17 years ago this year. He was yet another Philly based musician in this most musically soulful city of brotherly love. Now he was a composer and sax player,but his primary contribution was as a organist/keyboard player. He started out backing up Jimmy McGriff in his late teens. After similar stints with Pat Martino and Lou Donaldson,Earland struck out on his own. His career as a leader began primarily in the hard bop/soul jazz idiom. Of course being of the American generation known as Silent,it wasn’t long before his music grew into full blown funkiness.
In 1978,Earland recorded an album entitled Perceptions. The album focused heavily on the writing,production and occasional keyboard support of Randy Muller. Muller had headed up the Brooklyn based proto disco funk band Brass Construction. As well as being the mastermind behind the boogie funk sensations Skyy. Muller’s “Let The Music Play” actually got Earland a lot of disco/club action-keeping the funky dancers moving during the late 70’s. There’s another song from this album I just heard,and it just about blew my mind. The name of this jam is “Dance America”.
Skyy’s Anibal “Butch” Sierra revs up the deep rhythm guitar hard before the main groove kicks in. This main groove consists of a thick percussion accents supporting the upfront funky drumming. Earland’s Clavinet,a bass line that’s in the “Brick House” style school and Sierra’s processed rocking guitar all provide phat melodic AND rhythmic support all at once. The snare hits hard on the chorus-which is accented by a heavy space funk synth. The bridge features some hot horn charts. Then Earland begins rapping JB style about the different cities he and band intend to do their dance in before the song fades out.
“Dance America” sounds like one of the heaviest funk stomps to throw down during the height of the disco era. Backed up vocally and instrumentally by members of Skyy along with Earland’s band, this also delivers on some of the driving hard rock guitar solo flavor that bands such as the Isley Brothers and the teenage newcomers Slave were doing around this time. Earland’s growling enthusiasm on the rap that closes out the song not only adds to the funkiness of the song, but is part of what defines it. It’s a monster jam of an example for that musically collaborative spirit at the very core of funky music!
Filed under 1970's, Anibal "Butch" Sierra, Charles Earland, clavinet, disco funk, drums, Funk, Funk Bass, horns, percussion, Randy Muller, rock guitar, Skyy, synthesizer, Uncategorized
Just over ten days ago Larry Payton,the drummer for the Brooklyn based band Brass Construction passed away at the age of 62. The man was considered in the funk community as one of the major drummers of the day. Especially as danceable rhythms became a major musical priority in the disco era. Being that my mother was working in the modern dance field in mid 70’s NYC and was herself a Brooklyn native,it amazes me to think of all the powerful funk bands from Brass Construction to the Fatback Band having their days in the sun during that era. The story of this band and their musical breakthrough also runs very deep as well.
One of the bands founders Guyanese born Randy Muller. Originally founded as Dynamic Soul in Muller’s adopted home of Bedford-Stuyvesant (also my mom’s origin point),Brass Construction came out of an area blanketed by music as the funk era developed. A huge fan of the Afro-Latin percussion strains of Mongo Santamaria,the intellectually minded Muller turned down an offer for the band to sign to Motown’s Rare Earth imprint and signed the band to United Artists. Their self titled debut dropped in 1975. And it began with a song that would not only launch the band success wise,but also change the face of the funk for the rest of the decade. It was entitled “Movin'”.
The song begins with one of the heaviest horn blasts in funk before going into a quiet Fender Rhodes solo that launches into the main song. It is a hard hitting,percussive drum groove driven by hand-claps right on every beat. The rhythm guitar and a pumping, chordally jazz phrased bass line holds the groove steady as the horns play the main melody. A series of scaling chimes create a dream like atmosphere on top. On the refrains of the songs brittle wah wah guitar,sci fi synthesizers and the horns themselves each take on upfront soloing time. As the song goes on,these many combinations of rhythm and melody work with each other in funky unison until song fades out.
In terms of bringing the Afro Funk sound with it’s tight melodic horn charts and percussive drumming to the American public,”Movin'” really can’t be beat. With the emphasis on the basic 4/4 dance beat at the core,it was the nucleus of the New York disco sound that emphasized heavy funkiness. Payton’s drumming on this song echoed on through what would be heard on jams like “Running Away” from the Roy Ayers Ubiquity a couple of years after this. And this song was also kept funk’s Afrocentric identification intact in order to get people to really dance to their tune. This has made it one of the most enduring and important uptempo funk numbers of the mid 1970’s.
Filed under 1970's, Afro Funk, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Afrocentrism, Brass Construction, Brooklyn, disco funk, drums, Fender Rhodes, Funk, Funk Bass, horns, Larry Payton, New York, percussion, Randy Muller, rhythm guitar, synthesizer, Uncategorized