Funk music has produced it’s share of unique stylists throughout its history. This includes musicians like Wah Wah Watson, Skip Pitts, Patryce “Chocolate” Banks, Dexter Wansel, James Gadson, Louis Johnson, and many other players who’s style goes beyond musical proficiency into a unique language on their instrument. Byron “Pshycho Bass” Miller is one of those unique funk stylists. I was first introduced to his singular filtered bass tones through George Duke’s funk classics “Reach for It” and “Dukey Stick”, which were unusual not only in their funk, but also in their usage of Byron’s bass solo’s as compositional elements. His bass playing reminds you of Bootsy because his voice is based on quacking bass filters, and some people mistakingly thought the solo’s on the big Duke hits were played by Stanley Clarke, due to his working relationship with Duke. But it was the 19 year old Motor City Bassist Byron Miller playing those soulful, funky solos, which were the perfect counterpart to Duke’s own blues drenched, wailing synth improvisation. “Pshycho Bass”, taken from Miller’s current album of the same name, is a funk throw down in the same P Funk vein George Duke and Miller triumphed with back in the day.
The song begins with the drums counting off a unison intro lick, with the bass, guitar and drums all hitting the same beats. After the show starting intro, there is a pause, which soon gives way to Miller saying, “Yeah” as he slides up his bass guitar. The groove kicks in and it’s classic Funk, thick, heavy and laid back, like classic Parliament or George Duke hits. Millers bass is filtered, hits hard on the one and then goes into a classic soul-funk-gospel phrase. The drums are crisp while keeping a steady beat. Guitars riff, and a strong improvisational funk groove is struck up, as long as the bass marks off the one beat hot and heavy, there is plenty of room for the guitarists, keyboardists, and Miller to riff around the other beats, with the classic dropping bombs approach Leon “Ndugu” Chanceler used to use with George Duke in full effect. Every two bars or so the drummer stops the groove so that when the groove comes back in on the one its heavier than before.
Miller begins to “rap”(talk) in the classic funk style perfected by George’s Clinton and Duke, and Bootsy, telling us this broadcast is coming in on station W-Funk. Right there Miller is reintroducing an Afro-Futuristic, humorous, fun larger context for his funk, rarely seen since the late ’70s.
Miller introduces himself, then a large chorus of voices coming in singing “Pshychoalfa….” In the mold of Parliament’s “Aqua Boogie.” The song goes on to its change section where the voices tell us Pshycho Bass” is going to put the funk back “In your brain, in your face.” The song then goes into what we came here for, one of Miller’s patented funk bass solo’s, and he delivers a fluent solo with lots of hard picked staccato notes, meshed in with runs, followed by a thick toned single note Fender Rhodes solo. When the Rhodes is done soloing, the drums leave another one of those holes, which the entire band steps Into in double time. The double time section, allows Kamasi Washington to blow some soulful sax, supported underneath by percussion in a groove reminiscent of the up tempo section of The Headhunters “Sly.” Washington’s solo goes into jazzy chromatics as the drummer seems to try to pull the tempo back down, which turns out to be a false stop because the groove revs back up! As The sax solo gets more and more intense the Keyboardist pulls his end of the groove the other way, first placing chords all over the keyboard, and then by slowing his groove down playing long sustaining chords. The solo comes to an end and another groove starts, with Pshycho Bass telling us “Have no fear, Pshycho Bass is here.” The song goes back to the chorus one last time as Miller plays his fluid, vocal bass riffs, ending with the pronouncement, “Ladies and Gentleman, Pshycho Bass is here.”
“Pshycho Bass” is one of the most fun funk songs I’ve heard in a long time, a throwback that still sounds up to date because the original style was so futuristic. Miller takes us back to the hey day of P Funk and George Duke, and reintroduces us to his phenomenal blues funk bass solo style, the perfect complement to the late George Duke’s keyboard style. It’s great to see a veteran of funk hear what we hear in their music, something worth preserving and coming back to from time to time. For those reasons Byron Miller deserves all the Funkateer booty he can handle for his current project!