Tag Archives: Funk

Let us Rejoice! Most Systems Go!: The Neville Brothers

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Well, all systems are go! At least for now, even if behind the scenes a veritable tech menagerie is working overtime to stave off complete oblivion. In my free hours since the loss of my digital world I’ve dug out ancient tiny external drives and copied the most complete libraries of music and photos that survived to other safe havens. My desk is a bomb site of USBs, wires, little external drives and those two ugly fat Seagates, still dead as stones.

Even the MacAir which was similarly defunct has been persuaded (by the good unblocker, Ganesh, perhaps?) to come to life again. So while the panic levels have decreased somewhat there is still some ways to go before I can sleep completely easy at night.

Thanks to all of you who provided comfort and even offers of help and cash to get the show back on the road. That was unexpected and really, very deeply appreciated!

So to celebrate the resurrection of the Dog, let’s groove to one of my perennial favorite family acts: the Neville Brothers of New Orleans Louisana USA. Lots of sparkling music and plenty of excellent positive vibrations seems like as good a way as any to pick up where we left off.

Dig it!

(P.S. as with all Neville Brothers records, volume up high is recommended)

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Track Listing:

01 Love Spoken Here

02 The Sound

03 Holy Spirit

04 Soul To Soul

05 Whatever You Do

06 Saved By The Grace Of Your Love

07 You’re Gonna Make Your Momma Cry

08 Fire On The Mountain

09 Ain’t No Sunshine

10 Orisha Dance

11 Sacred Ground

NB

Heal thyself: Cymande

Cymande

Cymande

Wo!

Just the first day of the working week and one’s soul and body is already aching. No complaints, mind. Just a cold assessment of the current reality. Several more similarly long and full days await until the weekend arrives and I depart on another trip. This time to my favorite part of the world, India. Mumbai for a couple of short weekend days and then the nation’s capital for meetings and hopefully a bit of down time to stalk through the streets with all my senses open to ‘receptive’.

 

One does find there are days and weeks of days when despair and sadness are hard to keep at bay. What with all the shit happening in the Middle East and the suffering and rudeness of the ruling classes towards anyone who is not one of ‘us’ is enough to make the heart break.

When I get into those kind of places I generally find a long walk outside followed by a cold beer and some fine tunes return my inner barometer to the normal range. And over the weekend the tunes I turned to were from an old band with the slightly hard to pronounce name of Cymande (Shamaanday).

I used to spy this album in record stores years back and inevitably paused to take in the intriguing cover art. There was something just off beat enough about it to want me to try it out but of course I would opt for the more familiar product. In those days of youth when one is supposed to be full of adventure, I have to confess my musical tastes were firmly unadventerous. But let’s not look back.

Except perhaps to give praise. And much praise is due to these chaps with the unusual name. A group of West Indian immigrants in the UK, Cymande mixed together reggae, proto-dub, funk, sweet soul harmonies and a righteous message on their very limited number of records.   Except for a tiny number of music snobs, club hounds and critics the records didn’t get much uptake; the band disbanded in the late 70s.

Rediscovered by samplers a number of decades on, Cymande has probably reached a wider audience in the past 20 years then they ever did in their heyday.

This is very groovy music. Listen. And you’ll instantly be aware of its healing qualities. The deep throbbing bass shakes the blues loose (or perhaps packs it further down?) and slowly draws you to surrender.   Like a musical body tonic, Cymande, are an elixir.

Heal thyself!

The Message

Track Listing:

01 Zion I

02 One More

03 Getting It Back

04 Listen

05 Rickshaw

06 Dove

07 Bra

08 The Message

09 Rastafarian Folk Song

C Y M A N D E

 

A Funky Frog Indeed: Mr President

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As a writer about music I regularly struggle to find sufficient vocabulary to express certain concepts and feelings.  Take, for example, ‘funky’.  I certainly know when a piece of music is funky. It has that sound of course, which is a bass-driven beat overlayed with jittery guitar or keyboards. Sometimes a dollop of brass in sprayed into the mix to fill (or accentuate) particular gaps.  Funky music has a certain feel, for sure.  It makes your knees wobble back and forth, up and down. Soon your shoulders are nudging around and your eyes are closing as your head sways in time to the beat. That feeling is good! Outasight!! Fantastic!!! Groovy!!!!

 

There is more to funky then a feeling or a type of rhythm. There is a spirit to funky. A funky person has a certain presence, perhaps even an aura. His clothes hang differently on his body. They are filled with a funky-ness, which is invisible, inaudible but most definitely palatable.

 

Funky, sources tell me, derives from a Kongolese word, lu-fuki, which means, in its literal meaning, ‘strong body odor’.  The meaning is is perhaps reinforced by contact with fumet, ‘aroma of food and wine,’ in French Louisiana. But the Ki-Kongo word is closer to the jazz word ‘funky’ in form and meaning, as both jazzmen and Bakongo use ‘funky’ and lu-fuki to praise persons for the integrity of their art, for having ‘worked out’ to achieve their aims. In Kongo today it is possible to hear an elder lauded in this way: ‘like, there is a really funky person!–my soul advances toward him to receive his blessing (yati, nkwa lu-fuki! Ve miela miami ikwenda baki) Fu-Kiau Bunseki, a leading native authority on Kongo culture, explains: ‘Someone who is very old, I go sit with him, in order to feel his lu-fuki, meaning, I would like to be blessed by him.’ For in Kongo the smell of a hardworking elder carries luck. This Kongo sign of exertion is identified with the positive energy of a person. Hence, ‘funk’ in black American jazz parlance can mean earthiness, a return to fundamentals.

 

And as the truest form of funky music came out of New Orleans (adopted so wholeheartedly by Brotherman James Brown) this etymology which blends Louisana French and African languages seems completely plausible.

For all the interest the above digressed introduction may generate I am still at a loss to find a word that embodies the sound, the feel, the spirit and the smell of ‘funky’.  So, I won’t even try.

Mr President

Mr President

One of most satisfying purveyors of funky music that I’ve come across in recent years is a French guy who goes by the name of Mr President.  His birth name is Bruno “Patchworks” Hovart and he’s an accomplished groove-miester with a number of groups/identities/projects behind him, including the very cool Uptown Funk Empire.  Here is an interview, which though a trifle old (2006, before his Mr President persona), speaks to the influences and journey of Mr Hovart.

 

imgresThere are so many uplifting, moving and grooving grooves on this record it is not possible to sing all of their praises. The revue-esque intro Mr President Theme, lets you know this is going to be a ‘show’ with lots of stuff going on. Hovart’s very bad (meaning good) guitar strokes are a highlight throughout, conjuring up aural images of afrobeat bands or the aforementioned Godfather of Soul.   But it is not just the guitar playing, it is the arrangements, and structures of each song, that are so alluring. Each one has a different feel but not one misses the mark. Horns are here, organ and silky soul voices too.  Highlights for me are the neo-soul, The Best is Yet to Come as well as the Al Green super classic Love and Happiness to which Mr. P has added a glassy edge. But the swinging closing number Trouble  (the tenor sax that jumps all around the bottom of the groove is addictive) is hard to ignore. Ditto: Left to Right and Tribute to RZA.

 

Not bad for a Frenchmen I say!

Encore!!!

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Track Listing:

01 Mr President Theme

02 Meet Again

03 From South To North

04 Celebrate

05 Tribute To RZA

06 Love & Happiness

07 The Best Is Yet To Come

08 Left And Right

09 Get It Sometime

10 You Move Me

11 Ginger X Walk

12 Homeless Soul

13 Bike Riding

14 Who’s Gonna Fall

15 Trouble

♪♫∞¢

Funky Rising Sun: Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media

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Another slice of Japanese musical sashimi for everyone’s aural pleasure tonight. I’ve just returned from a long and hard couple of weeks of travel, which took in Tokyo, Seoul, Paris, Brussels and now (tomorrow) Singapore!  Feeling pretty wiped out!

I love Jiro Inagaki’s music which is usually referred to or labelled as jazz.  But as this album shows, and the title suggests, jazz for Jiro, is definitely not bebop or post bop.  Rather it is more on the funky, soul jazz, R&B side of the tracks.  He often covers soul standards (Funky Stuff, here) and doesn’t hesitate to draw dance beats, WAR-sounds and lots of brassiness into the equation.

I’ve not been able to dig out much useful information about Mr Inagaki but his name pops up from time to time as a sideman with other Japanese jazz artists and he has enough name recognition in record stores in Tokyo for the shop keepers to point you to a (small) section of his CDs.

Whoever he is, I think he plays the sax with great feel and funk. His band, Soul Media, is pretty capable as well. Quite a big band it sounds like which would probably be even more fun live than on tape.

Nothing wrong at all with this piece of Japanese-jazz-funk-soul.  Grab a geisha and settle down for some groovy moments.

Funky Stuff

Track Listing:

01 Painted Paradise

02 Funky Motion

03 Breeze

04 Scratch

05 Funky Stuff

06 One for Jiroh

07 Gentle Wave

08 Four Up

**^

 

Shaman of the Soul: James Brown

Brother James Brown

Brother James Brown

This most definitely is the album of the week.  It’s been playing again and again for days: when I wake up, before I go to bed; taking over the spirit like a bol weevil of the soul.

 

To get you into the mood here is a brilliant article on the man, James Brown, and the feature for this evening, The Payback, by none other than Julian  Cope. The article itself is a shining of example of the lads from Liverpool having more acute vision for American black music than most Americans themselves.

The Payback

Track Listing:

01 The Payback

02 Doing The Best I Can

03 Take Some… Leave Some

04 Shoot Your Shot

05 Forever Suffering

06 Time Is Running Out Fast

07 Stone To The Bone

08 Mind Power

★★★★★

 

 

 

Soaring Soul: Tower of Power

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The renowned horn-driven funk outfit Tower of Power have been issuing albums and touring the world steadily since the early ’70s, in addition to backing up countless other musicians. The group’s leader since the beginning has always been tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo, who was born in Detroit, but opted to pursue his musical dreams in Oakland, California. It was in Oakland that Castillo put together a group called the Motowns, which, as their name suggested, specialized in ’60s-era soul. Castillo teamed up with a baritone sax player (and Motowns fan) Stephen “Doc” Kupka, and soon the Motowns had transformed into Tower of Power (one of the first tunes the duo penned together was “You’re Still a Young Man,” which would eventually go on to be one of Tower of Power‘s signature compositions).

Tower of Power played regularly in the Bay Area throughout the late ’60s, as their lineup often swelled up to ten members, including such other mainstays as Greg Adams on trumpet and vocals and Rocco Prestia on bass. By 1970, the funk outfit had inked a recording contract with Bill Graham‘s San Francisco Records, resulting in the group’s debut the same year, East Bay Grease, which failed to make an impression on the charts as Tower of Power were still trying to find their own sound.

 

Tower of Power

Tower of Power

But it all came together quickly for the group, as 1972’s Bump City would touch off a string of classic hit releases, including 1973’s self-titled release (which included another one of the group’s most enduring tunes, “What Is Hip?”), 1974’s Back to Oakland, plus 1975’s Urban Renewal and In the Slot. While Tower of Power remained a must-see live act, the quality of their subsequent records became erratic, resulting in some admirable releases (Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us NowLive and in Living Color) and several uninspired albums that are best skipped over (We Came to PlayBack on the Streets).

Despite the dip in the quality of their albums, Tower of Power remained a much in-demand backing group for some of pop/rock’s biggest names, including Elton JohnSantanaBonnie RaittHuey LewisLittle FeatDavid SanbornMichelle ShockedPaula AbdulAaron NevilleAerosmith, Michael BoltonBilly PrestonPiLRod StewartTotoMerl Saunders, and others. Tower of Power remain very active to this day, keeping up a brisk touring schedule and issuing such new albums as 1999’s Soul Vaccination: Live; while several compilations were issued around the same time: Rhino’s double disc What Is Hip?: The Tower of Power Anthology (1999) and Very Best of Tower of Power: The Warner Years (2001), plus Epic/Legacy’s Soul With a Capital “S”: The Best of Tower of Power (2001).

The band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 and still retained five original founding members. (AMG)

 

Ain't Nothin' Stoppin' Us Now

Track Listing:

01 Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now

02 By Your Side

03 Make Someone Happy

04 Doin’ Alright

05 Because I think the World Of You

06 You Ought To Be Havin’ Fun

07 Can’t Stand To See The Slaughter

08 It’s So Nice

09 Deal With It

10 While We Went To The Moon

♪♪

It Certainly Is!: Grant Green

Grant Green

Grant Green

My favourite jazz guitarist has always been George Benson (sans the singing, except on Breezin’, which is simply one of the most delightful albums on the 1970s) but it is Grant Green that I love listening to more these days.  Green is a guitarist who puts the tune above the technique. Whatever he played seemed not just to swing, but to sing, as well.  And I love soul-jazz which Grant became known for in his latter years.

Often overlooked by jazz critics and snobs, Grant Green, is now building a posthumous reputation as an exceptionally expressive and talented musician.

Green was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He first performed in a professional setting at the age of 12. His influences were Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Jimmy Raney, he first played boogie-woogie before moving on to jazz. His first recordings in St. Louis were with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest for the United label. The drummer in the band was Elvin Jones, later the powerhouse behind John Coltrane. Grant recorded with Elvin again in the early Sixties. Lou Donaldson discovered Grant playing in a bar in St. Louis. After touring together with Donaldson, Grant arrived in New York around 1959-60.

Lou Donaldson introduced Grant to Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records. Lion was so impressed with Grant that rather than testing Grant as a sideman, as was the usual Blue Note practice, Lion arranged for him to record as a group leader first. However, due to a lack of confidence on Green’s part the initial recording session was only released in 2001 as First Session.

Despite the shelving of his first session, Green’s recording relationship with Blue Note was to last, with a few exceptions, throughout the Sixties. From 1961 to 1965, Grant made more appearances on Blue Note LPs, as leader or sideman, than anyone else. Grant’s first issued album as a leader was Grant’s First Stand. This was followed in the same year by Green Street and Grantstand. Grant was named best new star in the Down Beat critics’ poll, in 1962. He often provided support to the other important musicians on Blue Note, including saxophonists Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine and organist Larry Young.

Sunday Mornin’ , The Latin Bit and Feelin’ the Spirit are all loose concept albums, each taking a musical theme or style: Gospel, Latin and spirituals respectively. Grant always carried off his more commercial dates with artistic success during this period. Idle Moments (1963), featuring Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson, and Solid(1964), are thought of as two of Grant‘s best recordings.

Many of Grant’s recordings were not released during his lifetime. These include McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones (also part of the Solid group) performing on Matador (also recorded in 1964), and several albums with pianist Sonny Clark. In 1966 Grant left Blue Note and recorded for several other labels, including Verve. From 1967 to 1969 Grant was, for the most part, inactive due to personal problems and the effects of heroin addiction. In 1969 Grant returned with a new funk-influenced band. His recordings from this period include the commercially successful Green is Beautiful and the soundtrack to the film The Final Comedown.

Grant left Blue Note again in 1974 and the subsequent recordings he made with other labels divide opinion: some consider Green to have been the ‘Father of Acid Jazz’ (and his late recordings have been sampled by artists including US3A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy), whilst others have dismissed them (reissue producer Michael Cuscuna wrote in the sleeve notes for the album Matador that “During the 1970s [Green] made some pretty lame records”).

Grant spent much of 1978 in hospital and, against the advice of doctors, went back on the road to earn some money. While in New York to play an engagement at George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge, Grant collapsed in his car of a heart attack in New York City on January 31, 1979. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was survived by six children. Since Green‘s demise, his reputation has grown and many compilations of both his earlier (post-bop/straight ahead and soul jazz) and later (funkier/dancefloor jazz) periods, exist. (Wikipedia)

Ain’t It Funky Now! is the third of three thematically organized Grant Green compilations in the Blue Note Original Jam Master Series — all of which focus on his final period recording for the label, between 1969 and 1972. Green was deeply interested in popular Black music in his late period and that is reflected in these seven cuts taken from six different albums. The title track, of course, is the a read of the James Brown classic and also features Blue Mitchell on trumpet and Idris Muhammad on drums, among others. At nearly ten minutes, it’s a deep-stretch groove piece with Green‘s guitar playing gritty and dirty center-stage. Other highlights include “Ease Back,” a Meters cover from Green‘s Carryin’ On outing, and a nasty version of the Isley Brothers‘ “It’s Your Thing,” with Chuck Rainey and Muhammad in the rhythm section. The set closes with a decidedly non-funky yet very soulful cover of the Stylistics‘ “Betcha by Golly Wow” with Wilton Felder on bass, Hall Bobby Porter on congas, and fine soprano and tenor work from Claude Bartee, Jr..  (AMG)

Ain't It Funky Now_ Original Jam Master 1

Track  Listing:

01 Ain’t it Funky Now!

02 Ease Back

03 It’s Your Thing

04 Love on a Two-Way Street

05 Let the Music Take Your Mind

06 I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing

07 Betcha by Golly Wow

✪✪