Music for the Next ONE 7/04/15: “Watch the Dance” by Tuxedo

Tuxedo’s self titled debut album on the Stones Throw label stands right alongside D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” in terms of funk albums for 2015, if we excuse D’Angelo his late December surprise drop. The combination of singer musician Mayer Hawthorne, who’s work I’ve championed on this blog, along with Hip Hop producer Jake One, crafted a masterpiece of an album focused on music from 1980-1983. Thanks to the music and DJing of LA musician Dam Funk, among others, this time period is known as the era of “Boogie Music.” “Boogie” basically covers a brief period of Funk history where disco was dead, but the standards it set for widely danceable grooves remained, and funk was alive, but the taste in funk was much more streamlined than the era of the big funk bands. “Watch the Dance” is a beautiful boogie funk track that reminds me of the work of Leon Sylvers with Shalimar on Dick Griffey’s SOLAR label.

The song begins with keyboards playing a chord progression with an ’80s “wave” kind of tone. Hand claps accent the second and fourth beat while the kick drum drops in with a pattern that starts on the up beats. Real cool mid tempo, just setting the scene. In the third bar, a palm muted guitar comes in, playing a four note pattern and then playing the pattern again but displaced rhythmically by just a lil bit. The guitar lingers/echoes a little bit like it’s been placed through a delay. The chords move and the synth gets brighter in tone until it finds the key the song will begin in. The groove starts with a solid “one two” drum beat with loud hand claps and the funky one note at a time rhym guitar outlining the chord movements.

The full groove kicks in, with an analog synth sounding bassline and some glossy, high class ’80s digital sounding orchestra sounds. Mayer Hawthorne introduces the chorus, which is one of my favorite parts of the song, “No matter what your circumstance/just turn and/watch the dance!” Hawthorne pronounces both “chance” and “dance” with extra funky soulful twang. The song reminds me of Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards big hits because it spends a lot of time on the chorus and refrain right at the top of the song before the verse comes in.

Hawthorne sings the verse with a subdued dance funk backing, just the drum beat and an acoustic piano tone defining the chords. The synth bass lays out and then comes in with accents. The verse itself is very short and I appreciate the contrasting moods, letting the arrangement breathe. After another chorus the song breaks out a new groove, much more rhythmically aggressive in feel, with the guitar playing along to the rhythm of the vocals. From there on out Tuxedo basically just rocks the joint.

It’s dope to me that as time has progressed, so has people’s appreciation of the various eras of Funk. There was a time Funk meant James Brown, then there was a time when it meant P-Funk and Roger and Zapp. Now, alongside them it also means people like Steve Arrington, Leroy Burgess, D-Train, Shalimar and The Whispers. This brand of funk was specifically confined to the R&B charts in its hey day following the backlash against black dance music under the label of “disco.” It will be interesting to see where this sound will continue to grow as it’s picked up now. If it’s in the direction Tuxedo is taking here I’ll bet more and more people will have fun following it!

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Music for the Next ONE 6/27/15 : “All My Friends Are Here” by Arif Mardin and Friends

The late great Arif Mardin had the most Quincy Jones like career of anybody not named Quincy Jones. That was fitting, as his fellow Piscean Jones encouraged him to leave his native Turkey, allowing him to became the first recipient of the Quincy Jones music scholarship. He might have out Quincied Quincy at times, as he had perhaps less musical success than Jones putting out albums under his own name, and more as a pure pop producer, in addition to his talents as an arranger. He produced numerous hit acts such as The Average White band, Aretha Franklin, The Bee Gees, Hall & Oates, Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan and David “Fathead” Newman, among others. Mardin was a foremost member of that group of Turkish American music men who contributed to American music through their strong love for black music. Being that Mardin produced music in almost every style of R&B inflected music from the ’50s to the 90s, it should come as no surprise that his funk resume is strong. He was the producer of songs such as The Average White Band’s “Pick up the Pieces” and “Schoolboy Crush”, “Get Ready, Get Set” by Chaka Khan, “Listen Here” by Eddie Harris, and “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin. Today’s funk feature, “All my Friends are Here” is big jam session of a track featuring many artists that he produced, coming back to pay tribute to their friend and mentor in the twilight of his life.

The song begins with a super funky slow drum beat with the snare drum accenting the fourth beat, a very common beat in New Orleans music. That slow beat from the drum set is melded with funky accents from the Conga drum. Soon, Lalah Hathaway sings wordless, soulful vowel sounds as the super funky clavinet riff that’s the meat of the song gets going, played by Robbie Konder. Soon a full groove is struck up with sparse Meters like bass, organ, rhythm guitar and an interesting harmony on the horn stabs. The track contains the current lineup of The Average White Band on rhythm, including original member Onnie McIntyre. After the beat gets comfortable, the big chorus melody line of “All my Friends are Here!” Kicks in, and it’s voiced by singers such as the Gibb brothers of the Bee Gees, The Rascals, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Cissy Houston and many other artists Mardin worked with. The line itself has a booming, soaring horn part feeling, and it’s answered immediately by a horn phrase, from a section including trumpeter Randy Brecker and Tenor man Fathead Newman.

Arifs son comes in with a bass voice vocal that his father meant to sing but was too sick to do, influenced directly by Larry Graham’s vocals on “Dance to the Music”, saying “I’m gonna do it from the bottom”, to which Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees replies in falsetto, “And I’m gonna sing the top.” The feel is really loose as the choir sings the main line and the great singers ad lib around it. From there, the Mardin writes in a horn interlude with the horns sustaining an interesting harmony with a slightly dark tone. After that the arrangement moves to an interesting funky unison lick, like Stevie Wonder uses in so many tunes, played by bass, guitar, clavinet, and also vocalized by one of the singers, with the drums also playing along. After the lick the song breaks all the way down to drums and conga and the “I’m gonna do the bottom” Larry Graham style vocals. The song goes back to the main line, with the singers having even more room to improvise.

After another go round of the unison lick, Randy Brecker announces his time at the mic, with some “get out of my way” trumpet phrases before playing his solo, with singers ad living as he solos. He solos through the different grooves of the song as Mardin sends the arrangement back to the sustained horn chords for Brecker to blow over. The song ends out in a joyful riot of vocalization.

“All My Friends Are Here” is Arif Mardins last album, one in which he struggled to complete as he knew he was dying. It’s title and theme could well be one that he or any other “super producer” could call their work, emphasizing the connections they develop from the intimate work of making music. For that reason it’s very touching for me that all of these artists would arrange their schedules to do a song for their mentors album. And I like the way he went out, not on a morbid note, but on a funky jam session, rich with the joy if collaboration, peace, unity, and having fun, making the song an epitaph both funky and fitting.

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U.S. Government Prepares to STRANGLE Puerto Rico

riquespeaks:

While the Dominican Republic plots it’s black genocide and death, check what the U.S. Is up to in Puerto Rico

Originally posted on WAR AGAINST ALL PUERTO RICANS:

War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony

It finally happened.

For the past three months, I have been warning that the U.S. was preparing to establish a “Financial Control Board” over Puerto Rico.

I kept on warning about it. No one listened very seriously. Now it is about to happen.

According to the New York Times, Congressman Jeffrey D. Duncan has called for “a control board to take over the island’s beleaguered government.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/20/business/dealbook/financial-control-board-should-take-over-debt-laden-puerto-rico-lawmaker-says.html?_r=0

Duncan, a Republican congressman from South Carolina, is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

In a letter to his fellow lawmakers, Duncan wrote that some “management changes” may be necessary on the island, and that “legislation to require the establishment of a financial control board…to put Puerto Rico back on the road to self-determination, may be needed.”

This is a masterpiece of political double talk. Duncan is telling the U.S…

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What’s in the Pipeline

What’s in the Pipeline.

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Music for the Next ONE 6/13/15 “Sugah Daddy” by D’Angelo

Without debate, D’Angelo’s surprise album drop at the end of last year was one of the biggest musical events in a long time. “Black Messiah” immediately shot up to #1 in over 20 countries. The facts are, D was seen as the “Black Messiah”, or the savior of classically progressive styles of black music all the way back to 2000’s “Voodoo” and before that to ’95s “Brown Sugar.” “Black Messiah” the album is a deep, dense work featuring the chanking, splang a langing guitars of Vangaurd guitarists Jesse Johnson, Spanky Alford, Mark Hammond, Isiah Sharkey, and D’Angelo himself, the deep, rounded off tightly muted bass of Pino Palladino, the great background vocals and songwriting of Kendra Foster, and the drumming and musical brain power of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson along with a cast of many other talented musicians, singers and engineers too numerous to name here. The album was full of both deep, funky complex grooves as well as moments of pure beauty, with one of the most topical and politically relevant lyrical books to hit black pop in some time. “Sugah Daddy” is actually one of the most concise and to the point funk songs on the album, straight out of the book of James Brown and Parliament (not so much Funkadelic mind you, but PARLIAMENT) co written and played on by one of the funkiest drummers of all time, Mr. James Gadson.

“Sugah Daddy” is an interesting funky combo of a jazzy groove with a hip hop feel. When I say “jazz” I don’t mean the slick modern jazz of the classic era, no something much older. This goes back to the days of spats, the black bottom and mess around dances, James P Johnson’s “The Charleston”, and Maceo Pinkards “Sweet Georgia Brown”, the theme of the Harlem Globetrotters. The basic piano chord rhythm has the old feel of the Charleston, which is one of the first rhythmic patterns I ever learned on piano. The jazz rhythm with the solid back beat takes you back to the ’90s era of jazz inflected hip hop. As a matter of fact many musicians saw a potential for a new type of jazz groove in the slowed down, Go Go and New Jack Swing influenced Hip Hop of the late ’80s and early 90s. It’s used here to set a head nodding pace for D and the Vangaurd to lay down all of their big funk band techniques.

The tune begins with some hand patting rhythms from drummer James Gadson that give you a tap dance type of feel. The drum kit is added in layer by layer, bass drum first, then hi hats, followed by snare, and the chromatic piano chord riff that sets the groove for the song. The groove is both head nod, and backbone slip at the same time. Pino’s bass also comes in outlining the chromatic (step by step) descending chord movement. As the groove gets cooking, the master chef D’Angelo vocalizes funky exclamations, like a chef tasting a dish and being delighted at the way its coming together.

D goes on to tell a story about a scandalously sexy woman who makes the “congregation squirm.” The type of woman he sings about seems to be along the lines of Funkadelic women like their “Red Hot Mama” and also “The Freak of the Week”, or some of Prince’s women. But she also seems to be embued with another kind of deep, spiritual sexiness and appeal.

The groove takes another funky movement to the chorus, where D’Angelo sings highlighted by stop time music from the band: “Girls got a worldly view/Apparently she sees through you/Her love was never meant to share for two/She said I’ll Do it if you’ll be my Sugar Daddy”. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from listening to the song, as the chorus part goes deep into D’s infamous phased, obscured vocalizing. One musical aspect I love about the way the chorus was done is the way the last line “she said I’ll do it if you’ll be my Sugar Daddy” is sung with a jazzy riff and harmonized. After that horns are introduced into the song for the first time, as well as snippets of funky guitar, building up from the spare bass/drums/piano groove to a whole funky family affair. The song gets denser with more elaborate horn lines until it breaks down and vamps out with a minute of jamming.

“Sugah Daddy” was the first new music I heard from D’Angelo in quite a few years when it debuted in 2010. When he played it on television shows like the BET awards it sounded like more of a rolling, jamming groove, with the piano riff as the main element. It’s much cleaner, defined and sharp here, and it develops in musical intensity as the song progresses. The lyrical story itself is interesting, as D’Angelo wrestles with a woman who represents sin and salvation, in the tradition of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Prince and many others. It sounds almost as if it’s a story about a Pastor taking on a side woman, then spending the church’s money to “give the baby anything that the baby wants” as Joe Tex put it. One of my favorite things about the song though, is that D had the historical sense and the musical taste to get the great drummer James Gadson involved in the project, and that Gadson recieved a writing credit for the song as well. Writing credits on a platinum selling album can be substantial, so I’ve got to admire a funky song like “Sugah Daddy” that gives up the funk in more ways than a few!

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Remembering Louis Johnson

If American pop culture was tailored to the tastes of those folks Amiri Baraka described as “Blues People”, there would have been a video game called “Bass Hero” last decade. Imagine video game cartridges with illustrations of an animated Bootsy, or Larry Graham. Chuck Rainey, and Anthony Jackson, Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller. James Jamerson, and one with a special edition for keyboard bass, featuring Stevie Wonder, Billy Preston, Herbie Hancock, Bernie Worrell and Junie Morrison among others. Two of the funkiest and most popular games would undoubtedly be for two bass players who’ve now unfortunately passed on. Both of them came to prominence in the 1970s and took the bass advancements of the ’60s to a new level of visibility. Jaco Pastorius of Weather Report has been gone for a long time. Last month the great Louis Johnson joined him.

Louis Johnson’s death shocked me because at 60 years old I still considered him a young man. He was a young man relative to two other legends we lost last month, The great Kings, Ben E. And B.B. But I think the reasons I will forever view Louis Johnson as young have to do with his athletic, muscular style of bass playing, and the album cover to his first album with his brother George, “Look Out for #1″

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Now by the time I came along in the early ’80s, that first Brothers Johnson album was one of the newer ones in pops collection. By that time he was already moving into tapes and CDs and most of his vinyl had jazz era scenes on them. But “Look Out for #1 had two young black men on the cover with monster afro’s and nothing but blue sky behind them. Even a few years later in the design conscious ’80s that was a powerful statement. Then I remembered Dad telling me Quincy Jones was their producer, the same man who was producing Michael Jackson’s music, which was the biggest music in the world.

The essay on the cover of an album told a story of two young musicians, the guitar playing Brother George who’s nickname was “Lightning Licks”, and the bass playing Louis, “Thunder Thumbs.” Then when I heard the music I was mesmerized by “Get the Funk Out Ma Face.” I had no idea where the groove was coming from and even less idea of how Louis was making his sound. At that time all I knew of bass was it was a low deep sound I liked, but I was clueless to the actual techniques of bass playing.

I had also heard The Brothers Johnson tune “Stomp”, but Louis sounded different on that, more rounded and smooth, until he whips out his relentless bass riff on the bridge. Then Quincy Jones released “Back on the Block” and amazingly there was a song from The Brothers, “Tommorow”, this time with lyrics sung by Tevin Cambpell!

As my musical appreciation grew, so did my appreciation of The Brothers Johnson. The two brothers from LA took the soul music world by storm in the ’70s, playing with Billy Preston and Bill Withers. This eventually lead to their work with Quincy Jones on his “Mellow Madness” album. With Q’s production, and their own songs and unique, sibling synced funk, they blew all the way up on A&M. I’ve always viewed The Brothers Johnson as one of the bands in Funk that truly had the right situation to show off their talents and get their music to the people. This led to Gold and Platinum albums and their cover of Shuggies Otis’ song “Strawberry Letter 23″ being one of the classic songs of the ’70s.

George Johnson was the super cool vocalist and primary songwriter on most of their big hits, but Louis bass style made him an in demand session bassist in the mold of Chuck Rainey, James Jamerson, Carole Kaye, and Anthony Jackson. What was unique about Louis career was by the time he came along, people were finally hip to how much a strong bass line could do for a song. And he came to the plate with a flashy, powerful, super hip bass style. Larry Graham, Bootsy and Louis are probably the Trinity of funk bassists in terms of both style and recognition. Louis Johnson would be hired on record gigs basically to play Louis Johnson. This is significant because some great bass players get gigs with the expectation of them being versatile and playing what ever you put in front of them. Though Louis had some versatility as well, you hired him to bring the sound of Louis Johnson to your track, much as you would a great jazz soloist.

This led to one of the most successful studio careers in history, in what was both a golden age and a twilight for studio musician work. He played funk, soul, pop and jazz gigs. The more I grew as an enthusiast of records I’d discover things like the fact Louis was playing on Grover Washingtons “Feel So Good” album. It was like his groove was so powerful it was it’s own genre or style, you would hear a record with dope bass and be grooving to it without even knowing who was playing it. Then you’d find out it was Louis Johnson. And though he was known for slap, many times you would hear him playing finger style and the effect was the same. All ears on the bass! He most definitely helped pave the way for today’s world of star bassists like Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten.

I finally got the chance to see Louis perform here in the Bay Area in the mid ’00s. There is footage on the Internet of him teaching bass and he seemed like a very nice, soft spoken, cool person, which is a trip when you think of how aggressive his bass style was. I really can’t formulate any words of wisdom or way to summarize how I feel about Louis Johnson because he’s been a constant in my life for a long time, through his music. We still have his music of course, as well as footage of him teaching. But I think I feel good about his legacy when I see that girl play his classic bass part to Michael Jackson’s “Get on the Floor”, one of the meanest bass tracks in history. Yeah. That makes me feel much better….

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New Riquespeaks Weekly Feature : Music for the Next ONE

As any body who’s dropped in on this blog recently knows, I haven’t been active in a good while. Besides the various life circumstances we all face (I know, ya’ll don’t wanna hear about that..JUST WRITE DUDE!) I was also busy for the past year helping my good friend Andre Grindle over at his WordPress blog, “Andresmusictalk.” I had a ball over there writing articles and developing a feature column on that blog, entitled “Anatomy of THE Groove.” This is a weekly post that features new funky music. By “new” music, we didn’t mean music that is out this month, or last month, or even last year. We wanted to focus on music from 2000- that fit the category of funky music. We also wanted to go back and grab joints from the ’80s and ’90s, two decades not considered the best for funk, and talk about and hype them up. The blog went so well and so many new joints kept coming out, including this years #1 smash “Uptown Funk”, that we barely had time to dip back in the ’80s and ’90s like we liked to.

There have been times since I’ve become a huge fan of the funk that I’ve said, “there’s no good music coming out.” Many times you might hear people in your circles say the same thing. The facts are there is a motherlode of funk music to be found on blogs, websites, indie 12″ pressings, and other hyper democratic mediums of distribution. An artist like Madlib can do whole albums in the style of Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis and release them as soon as he has them mastered on the Internet.

But radio is no longer a home for funky music, unless it’s of the independent, listener supported or college variety. For years in the Bay Area we’ve been blessed to hear new funky music from my funk mentor, Rickey Vincent, the author of the “Funk” book, on KPFA radio. He would diligently play new releases from funk veterans and new groups sprinkled in with his classic funk to let us know funk still existed in the present tense. But local radio stations, even the “grown folks” station is no longer the home of funky music, switching to a “Hip Hop Lite” format.

This new weekly feature “Music for the next ONE”, takes over from where my contributions to “Anatomy of THE Groove” left off. Every Saturday I will be featuring songs from any artist of any genre, Funk, Hip Hop, Soul, Rock, Blues, World, Classical, Reggae, that fit the parameters of Funky Music established by James Brown, Stevie Wonder, P-Funk, Cameo, Curtis Mayfield, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Santana, Mandrill, Con Funk Shun, and so many other bands so long ago. The concept is that on a record to record basis, every musician and vocalist has some funk to unleash. If Frank Sinatra ever did anything funky, I’ll find it, share it, and write about it!

It was my observation, along with Andre, Dameion, Frank Jamison and several other friends I discuss music with regularly that today’s music era of streaming, MP3s and downloads bears more resemblence to the early rock and roll 45 rpm dominated era of the 50s and early 60s than the AOR, “Concept album” era of the late ’60s and ’70s. Young people in particular shift through music and pick only the songs they dig. Many other people have made similar observations. Though we miss the day of coherent, strong albums, which are an art to themselves, the current climate is a great one to deal with one funky record at a time. And that’s what this column will do!

When I think of new music I think of my late father. He was the primary music fan in my life who introduced me to a whole lot of music and he always stayed current. To the end of his life he was picking up music by his old time favorites as well as new artists who caught his ear. I remember him enjoying Seal’s (an artist he always liked) rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come” and asking me to get the CD for him when he was in the twilight of his life. His favorite local station, KBLX has changed format a great deal in the six years since he passed. When I hear new funky music from people like Foreighn Exchange and Sharon Jones I think of who’s going to play it? Those artists have great word of mouth, but I also take it upon myself to let as many people know about good music as possible as well using the knowledge of music I have to educate on it as well. Because when a music is not as popular as it once was, the understanding of it decreases as well. So roll with me on this funky trip, and don’t forget to check out my buddy Andre on Friday’s as well for “Anatomy of THE Groove”, as well as the rest of his great content!

Andre Grindle writes at http://www.andresmusictalk.wordpress.com

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