Tag Archives: Teo Macero

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Black Satin” by Miles Davis

Miles Davis seemed to record a lot of his electric music of the early 70’s with his noted sense of spontaneity. He had his producer Teo Macero just record whatever he and his players were doing-all of it. And than have individual songs cut for albums later on. He did this on his fusion breakthrough Bitches Brew. And it’s a strong possibility he approached his 1972 album On The Corner in much the same way. That accounts for why there have been so many “complete sessions” box sets during the CD era for Miles. And it also points to the general approach Miles came at the whole idea of grooves and rhythm.

Miles said of On The Corner that he recorded the album as a way to “reach the kids” as he put it. Henrique and myself had a very meaningful discussion on this recently. And he bought out an excellent point. Miles was a member of America’s silent generation. Musically,this was a generation who championed melody. His own mother had advised him to “always play something you can hum”. As an innovator of modal jazz in the late 1950’s, Miles tended to view funk’s rhythmic base as solely for a dancing mindset. However ,he was able to fuse rhythm and melody here on the song “Black Satin”.

Badal Roy’s tabla drums and Khalil Balakrishna’s electric sitar washes introduce the album. After that Mtume’s percussion and Michael Henderson’s up-scaling three note bass line kick in to fatten up the groove. Miles plays a high medium pitched,processed trumpet fanfare. He punctuates with single note,percussive hits throughout the song. All between bursts of wah wah guitar,Herbie Hancock’s tweeting synthesizer and manic hand claps. On the last section of the song,Miles’ solo fives way to the cinematic organ of Harold I. Williams before the tabla/sitar intro that opened the song fades it out.

Miles’s On The Corner album is almost like one 54 minute jam sliced into four pieces. “Black Satin” would function as the second segment of that jam. But it has the most melodic content of the entire album. And it comes from Miles’ solo too-that aspect of the song you can hum. In terms of harmonic atonality, Miles was inspired by the experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Henderson’s bass line and the fast,percussive tempo tell another story. It’s based very much on the chase scene music of the blacksploitation films of the day. And this song was used as such in Don Cheadle’s film Miles Ahead.

The very first time I heard On The Corner,it was like being transported into a funky utopia. Part of the appeal was that the melodies were so minor or absent. It was like music where every aspect of it was doing it’s own dance. As time as passed,this song with it’s budding melody epidermises Miles’ extending on James Brown’s concept of turning his whole band into a drum. Also with the poly rhythms of this groove and the psychedelic sitar soloing, “Black Satin” also blends Afro-Caribbean and Indian flavors for pan ethnic funk delight. It brings Miles’ sound into the early forefront of the world fusion jazz/funk sound.

 

 

 

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Filed under 'On The Corner', 1970's, Afro-Cuban rhythm, Badal Roy, blacksploitation, electric sitar, Funk Bass, Harold I. Williams, Herbie Hancock, jazz funk, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Khalil Balakrishna, Michael Henderson, Miles Davis, Mtume, organ, percussion, Psychedelia, synthesizer, tabla drums, Teo Macero, trumpet, wah wah guitar, world fusion

Anatomy of THE Groove 1/09/14 Rique’s Pick : “Sing a Simple Song” by The Budos Band

“Sing a Simple Song”, first written and performed by Sly & The Family Stone on their landmark 1968 album “Stand”, is one of the prototypes of funk, a clear cut example of how it is done. It stands alongside songs such as Sly’s own “Thank You”, “Cold Sweat”, “Shotgun”, “Tighten Up”, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “Respect”, “Funky Broadway”, “Express Yourself”, “I Thank You”, and many other songs that took the advance gaurd in delineating how to drop the funk bomb. In the case of this song, the funk formula was a monster two bar riff with a rolling consistency and some sharp, sassy syncopated accents, played with a sharp attack. Everything is based on the guitar and bass riff, and the riff itself has become one of the cliche’s of funk, a style of phrasing musicians return to regularly when soloing or playing. This is backed by Greg Enrico’s funky straight ahead drums, long extended horn notes and the joyful singing of the mixed choir that was Sly & The Family Stone. Daptone Records Brooklyn New York based The Budos Band’s rendition of this classic on their 2005 debut gives you this funk staple in a raw uncut form. Doing a song like this is a great realization of that portion of the Nu Funk movements goals. The Budos Band and their associated groups at Daptone Records make music that cleary evokes the glory of funk musicians coming up with their parts together and recording as a unit, in the style of the original bands.

The song begins with an extremely funky vamp that basically loops the second bar of the “Sing a Simple Song” riff. The harmonized bass and guitar play over drums and percussion, repeating the riff in the manner of an ostinato. This particular piece is the part of the song that grabbed me the most when I first heard it. In particular it reminded me of several things Miles Davis and Teo Macero put together on Miles’ landmark 1969 “Bitches Brew” album, which was in itself influenced by Sly and songs such as “Sing a Simple Song”. Miles would go on to base a section of his song “Right Off” from the Jack Johnson soundtrack on “Sing a Simple Song” as well, with that riff going on to become one Miles returned to for the rest of his career. The Budos Band’s opening vamp has the same repetitive, cut tape quality that Miles and Teo got on songs such as “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” and “Pharoah’s Dance.” They got it by extensive manipulation of tape, creating vamps that repeated themselves over and over, and The Budos Band achieves a similar sound here, which also has a very Blaxploitation scene quality.

After the vamp repeats the drummer kicks it off into the main groove. The bass player plays the classic riff to the song with guitars playing the same riff but harmonized on different notes. The whole sound is dark and skeletal, with the horn section playing a sustained rising riff behind the rhythm. Other horns come across that, playing where the voices of the Family Stone would be, adding the “Hey, Na Na Na Na’s” of the song. The Bands instrumental vibes stretch out and elongate the classic riff, atoning for the abscence of the joyus vocals. At around 1:20 in the music changes up to an extremely funky rendition of the chorus lead in. At 2:05 they hit the famous break section of which Greg Enrico’s drums have been sampled extensively. The song ends on a return to the opening “Miles Davis” vamp, only with more participation from the horn section.

The Budos Band’s rendition of this classic reminds me of what one would probably have heard from a nightclub funk band in the early ’70s, and I mean that as praise, not a slight by any means. Which means its a great vibe cut and would be excellent music for movies and various scenes. The band succeded in capturing a dark and funky undercurrent to this most joyful of funk songs (“Try a little do re me fa so la ti da!”) by incorporating the vibe of one of the countless musicians it influenced, sounding at times very much like the opening vamp on Miles Davis’ “Pharoah’s Dance.” They also show that live band instrumental funk is very much a part of musics present and (hopefully) future!

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