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Music 4 the Nxt 1, 04/01/17: “Junie’s Boogie” by Nicholas Payton

New Orleans multi instrumentalist Nicholas Payton has been one of my favorite artists working in modern music for at least the past 5 years now. He’s escaped the limiting prison of “jazz” music despite being one of the greatest trumpeters on the scene, through his sense of groove and his broad artistic vision. He also has articulated the social and personal ideas behind his music through his blogging. He has turned his musical movement, which he has titled “Black American Music” or “#BAM”, into a record label and an ongoing institution. His latest album, “The Afro Caribbean Mixtape”, is self released on his own label and features a numnber of highly rhythmically and melodically engaging tunes, but today’s selection, “Junie’s Boogie” is one that stood out to me for Paytons’ patented brand of late ’70s/early ’80s funk, which was very much in the vein of a great musician we lost this past month, the Dayton Funk multi instrumentalist Junie Morrison.

“Junie’s Boogie” starts off with Payton playing a funky pentatonic bass line that moves upward. The line sounds as if its played on a piano sound and a clavinet sound together, so that it has that extra weight. The line plays two times unaccompanied to set the groove up. The second part of the bass riff has a little Nicholas Paytonism that I’ve heard on some of his other lines such as the one from “By Your Side (Illeth’s Blues).” After the bass figure is introduced, the groove starts to heat up with a percussion roll accompanied by string glissando’s and a 2 and 4 bass kick. The bass line also plays on synthesizer, while Payton also plays high synth lead melodies. When the groove comes in it has a funky churning motion, as the bass line steps upward and the melody descends. The drums just maintain a steady groove with an open hi hat. The groove swtiches up to a sweetly melodic section after 8 bars, based on a bouncy octave type of groove with multiple instruments maintaining the same rhythm. Payton also unleashes some sweetly wailing synth lead lines, switiching the analog synth sound to another lead sound as the arrangement goes into a passage that ratchets up the intensity through its use of insistent strings in the middle of the “Funky Worm” style synth patch. The strings and synth tastefully take their rest as the main groove returns, but continue to add punctuation as the groove begins to take on more and more of a jam feel within its well arranged structure. The groove calms down for Payton to begin his trumpet solo, which is backed by strings playing at a lower dynamic that occasionally swell, a funky electric bass, and Payton playing choice phrases. The regular groove comes back during Payton’s solo and is eventually joined by choral voices while Payton plays the same line the voices are singing on his trumpet. After the vocal/instruemntal interlude Payton adds some starp phrases followed by a change in the arrangmeent that takes on a darker minor tone over a rich chord progression. Payton trumpet interacts with his analog synth lines before he plays a long sustained note that signals the end of the tune, while he plays a phrase on piano very reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man.”

“Junie’s Boogie” is a wonderful tribute to the late Junie Morrison and a great example of how the rich late funk band vibe is still fertile for current musical growth. Payton’s musicality is of such that he creates a groove that fits in with the groove of the time period he was invoking without direct copying , but using subtleties such as the synthesizer melody reminiscent of the patch on The Ohio Player’s “Funky Worm.” “Junie’s Boogie” introduces a very funky groove and surrounds it with dynamics while also leaving room for improvisation. It has that epic late ’70s funk feel of a Junie Morrison classic like Funkadelics “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Which is both a fitting tribute to that legacy and music to groove to in the here and now!!

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Anatomy of the Groove: “Long Come Tutu” by George Benson & Al Jarreau

A special tribute to Al Jarreau and Miles Davis I penned over on Andresmusictalk

Andresmusictalk

Al Jarreau and George Benson’s 2006 album “Givin It Up” was one of the most common sense musical collaborations I have enjoyed since I’ve been a fan of music. The two singer/musicians existed in their own rarefied air of international jazz vocalist pop stardom. Through their successful projects they brought the vocalese innovations of King Pleasure, Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks and the other great jazz singers to the masses mixed in with the genre’s of funk, soul, R&B, and slick adult contemporary pop. The passing earlier this week of the fantastic Mr. Jarreau is a great time to look back on this collaboration which is now going on 11 years old though their funky jam, “Long Come Tutu”, which features the two greats riffing on a great funky jazz song by another legend who is long gone now, the great Miles Davis.

“Along Come Tutu” is special because not only…

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Music 4 the Next 1, January 3, 2016: “Leave My Curl Alone” by Lord Gord & the Posse

As the New Year of 2017 begins, its time for another funky song to set the new year off right. This week has a song I’m particularly proud to bring you, from Los Angeles California’s own Lord Gord, with his group, The Posse. It has always been my hope through my blogging activities on “riquespeaks” and “Andresmusictalk” to not only share the finest in classic Funk/Soul/R&B/Jazz/Afrobeat, but also to help introduce the public to new music in that vein as well. In the case of Lord Gord, we have a talented artist who enjoyed my funk based content on this blog and reached out to me to keep an eye out for his music. Lord Gord is a young artist from SoCal who is extremely serious about bringing back the funk! He reminds me of the attitude me and my friends had back in the ’00s. Gord would like nothing more than to see the Funk come back to its rightful position and for bands and instrumentalists to regain a prominent position in the presentation of Black popular music in particular, and in mainstream music as a whole. His first step towards that goal is his album, “This Isn’t T.V”, with its lead off single we’re featuring here, “Leave My Curl Alone.” The song is his modern funk, live band interpretation of the West Coast tongue in cheek rap classic of the same name by Hi-C. I remember when the original came out back in the early ’90s, and the way it stood as a kind of defiant anthem. Lord Gord uses it here to display both his talents for funky musical arrangements as well as his Morris Day influenced sense of funky showmanship and humor, because, to quote him, “You cant spell the Funk, without FUN!”

Hi-C’s original song was based on a sample of Brick’s “Dusic”, which was later used by Hammer in his song “It’s All Good.” Lord Gord eschews the sample of the original for his own funky arrangement. The song begins with him counting off and the drummer striking up a phat breakbeat style drum pattern, accented by high on the neck, choppy rhythm guitars and a high string like synth melody, while Lord Gord gives his introduction, “but when you’re cool from the inside out/those are things you just don’t have to worry about.” After a high pitched Mack laugh, the full groove is introduced for Gord’s verse, which adds a heavy bottom end bass guitar line that has a rolling quality to the beat, along with a Fender Rhodes electric piano line that begins on the 3rd beat and plays a nice accenting riff, alongside a single note rhythm guitar line. This is the foundation for Gord to drop the lyrical story, a humorous tale where the narrator faces rejection for his Jherri Curl. When he goes to the “Leave My Curl Alone” chorus, the song adds sharp horn blasts, while the groove keeps bubbling underneath. One interesting facet of the horn arrangement is the way it melds sharp blasts of brass on top, with more reedy sounding sustained notes underneath. Lord Gord’s appreciation of developing horn parts is confirmed by the different horn line that supports the latter half of his second rap verse. Also of particular interest is the super funky breakdown at the end with the drummer ending with a drum fill quotation from Stevie Wonder’s “I Am Singing!”

“Leave My Curl Alone” is a perfect introduction to the type of fun, energetic, modern day instrumental funk that Lord Gord is unleashing on the musical world. A Funk full of personal quirks, individuality, hearty party enthusiasm and a strong appreciation for Funk’s foundations. Support his music and sit back, and enjoy grooving to the musical journey of a new funk artist!!!

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Call for Papers “Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince”, Media City UK, University of Salford, Uk May 2017

Dr Kirsty Fairclough

I’m very pleased to announce the following call for papers:

“Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince”

A two-day international conference hosted by The School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK and the Department of Recording Industry, Middle Tennessee State University, USA 24th- – 26th May 2017 Media City UK, University of Salford, UK.

Convenors:

Dr Mike Alleyne, Dept of Recording Industry, College of Media & Entertainment, Middle Tennessee State University

Dr Kirsty Fairclough, School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK

Tim France, School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, UK

Proposals are invited for a two-day international conference on the life and legacy of Prince.

This conference aims to provide fresh perspectives on the creative and commercial dimensions of Prince’s career, re-examining the meanings of his work in the context of his unexpected death.

This conference seeks to address the issue…

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Music for The Next 1, 11/19/16: “Day to Day” by The Robert Glasper Experiment

Robert Glasper has pulled off something very thrilling within the past decade that has great meaning for a lover of variations of R&B, Funk, and Hip Hop that have space for the type of swinging improvisational music known as “jazz.” Just as Miles Davis, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Charles Lloyd and many other luminaries did in the ’60s and ’70s, he has sought out, with his band, an instrumental jazz form that maintained the root rhythmic appeal of popular Black music. He’s advanced the type of instrumental fusions championed by Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Quincy Jones, by opening up Jazz improvisation to the more modern R&B variants of Neo Soul and J-Dilla influenced Hip Hop. Now mixtures of Jazz and Hip Hop are by no means new, with Herbie Hancock striking gold with “Rockit” in 1984, and Miles Davis final “Doo Bop” album with Easy Mo Bee, in addition to the way artists like George Duke and Norman Brown in the smooth jazz idiom embraced New Jack Swing beats as a foundation for improv. What makes what The Robert Glasper Experiment unique is by virtue of age, its members are just as much Hip Hop people as they are Jazz/instrumental people. So they have no qualms giving a song exactly what they feel it needs, as opposed to viewing a songs primary purpose being as a vehicle for improvisation. While I have not always liked everything they’ve done, feeling they’ve tended to rely more on setting a head nod mood in the vein of ’90s Neo Soul, “Day to Day” is truly a standout cut from their latest album, “ArtScience.” The band does something unique on this song, which is far more frequently done across the pond than here in the lower 48, which is craft a disco-jazz influenced dance floor vocal song in the vein of Herbie Hancock’s work in the late ’70s. “Day to Day” was a groovy surprise to me and is our featured song of this week.

The song begins with a rock solid, march step post-disco dance beat, accompanied by an off beat cowbell riff. Corey Benjamin’s vocals come in at a somewhat surprising spot, before the introduction has finished it’s 8 bar cycle. His first lyrics are “Its Now…”, which combined with his earlier than expected entry, helps magnify the funky sense of urgency. When Benjamin comes in, he’s accompanied by some middle aged piano chords. Benjamin’s vocals also are coated with a slight layer of auto tune which forcefully send one note into the next. After he gets through one verse, the bass guitar is introduced, and it plays an interesting variation on Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean” bassline, but instead of repeating the pumping 8th note riff on the same notes, the bass player moves the baseline through the chord change sequence. At the chorus uplifting chords are introduced along with the hook, “I’m living day to day/show me the way to your heart.” The bass also gets in some Paul Jackson style fills, while the arrangement adds Fender Rhodes to its acoustic piano tones. During the next verse a funky rhythm guitar riff is introduced along with strings as the arrangement begins to build in intensity. By the next chorus the strings are more lively, as is the background singing, as the chorus adds some extra repetitions. This is followed by a bridge section where Benjamin sings accompanied by Glaspers Fender Rhodes runs. Which then falls off into an interlude where Glasper plays a simple but funky single note Fender Rhodes rhythm part supported by string stabs. After which, the chorus comes back in with its vamps, which puts the record solidly in the mode of late ’70s dance records. As the record vamps on and on Glasper has more space for the Herbie Hancock like Rhodes playing. Glasper plays his steady Rhodes parts in the interlude as the guitar plays a chopping octave part. The guitar continues to vamp on in that vein until it fades away to the sound of the guitar player playing a bluesy riff.

“Day to Day” is a unique disco/funk/jazz song. Most musicians who reference the fusion era of jazz tend to go for the more experimental, solo heavy side of it. But there was a whole other school of funky jazz that also toyed around with disco rhythms and structures at the end of the ’70s on into the early ’80s. Herbie Hancock played with this style on his albums like “Sunlight”, “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now”, and “Monster.” And this song screams Hancock, from Corey Benjamin’s vocoder like auto tune, to Glaspers Fender Rhodes noodling, to Paul Jackson like bass playing. What makes it unique is that these jazz men who play brilliant straight ahead on the rest of the album, here find the song craft and production sheen to play a straight dance oriented song with vocals. Bringing back the sound of quality dance music played and produced by well trained musicians, something lacking in today’s music that was so common it was taken for granted in the ’70s and ’80s. Lets hope that highly eclectic and diverse band continues to mine this as one of their musical sounds on into its future!

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Music for the NEXT One Purple MusicLives Edition : “Virtual Chocolate Cherry” by Wallace Roney

 

The only way I’ve been able to really come to grips with Prince’s passing has been through the artistic medium he mastered the most during his lifetime, music. Today’s “Music for the NEXT One selection, “Virtual Choclate Cherry” has several layers of musical and personal associations with Prince’s life and music. Wallace Roney is one of the “Young Lions” of Jazz who appeared on the scene in the 1980s. Unlike Wynton Marsalis, who although greatly influenced by Miles’ second Great Quintet, allowed himself to be positioned in the media as a sort of Anti Miles Davis, Wallace Roney embraced the broad, “Social Music” concept of post “In a Silent Way” Miles. He did this with a tone that was so Miles influenced that the members of the second Great Quintet, with all the original members save Miles himself, used him to take Miles place when they staged a reunion tour during the ’80s. Roney is also reputed to be one of Miles few trumpet students, and he supported Miles at the 1991 Montreaux Jazz Festival, with Quincy jones conducting Gil Evans classic arrangements from his collaborations with Miles. Of course, Miles and Prince were mutual fans of each other’s work as well as their mutual Gemini complexities. One of my big musical “what ifs” is imagining how the music would have sounded if those two Giants were able to record more. There are a few examples of their collaborations, but today’s song, “Virtual Chocolate Cherry” by Wallace Roney, might be the best example I’ve yet heard of a Miles musical attitude in a Prince type of musical environment. Roney takes Prince’s classic from the “1999” album, “D.M.S.R” and keeps the party going with room for the musicians to solo, and a fascinating new mix of synthesized pop and acoustic jazz textures.

The song begins at the beginning with the 8 note funky synth riff from “D.M.S.R”, played on a synth, sitting right on top of Lenny White’s drums. White’s drums have his classic, full, wide marching jazz sound, playing a funky, laid back variation of Prince’s original Linn Drum beat. In the 4th bar the acoustic bass comes in, and it has the freedom to improvise different funky lines as the electric piano plays a bluesy sounding riff. There is an electric wave sound in the background most likely added by co-producer Kareiem Riggens. At this point in my first hearing of the song I knew I was hearing “D.M.S.R” but I didn’t know how far Roney and company would go.

When the five note “D.M.S.R” blues riff comes in (DA-Da-DAAAH-DADA) you realize they’re going all out into full Purple mode! The synth hits with Mineapolis sound gospel chords as the acoustic bass begins to play Prince’s classic line. The Acoustic piano of Geri Allen takes over the playing of the introductory line played on synth. Wallace Roney comes in playing his variation of Prince’s vocal melody from the song, and he Tounges his trumpet very aggressively, spitting out staccato, funky notes, with the same type of bluesy tail off that was a trademark of the Miles Davis sound. Underneath Roney’s melody, Lenny White plays funky drum rolls, which he builds up to crescendo’s that pop right along with the synthesizers at the end holes in Roney’s melodic phrases (Wear lingerie to the restaurant!!!)

About 1:33 in, a very Minneapolis sounding keyboard riff comes in that moves the song through several keys, supported by Whites drums. This is the setup for the instrumental solo section of the song, which is still very well arranged through Roney’s solo. The first time around it serves as a cue for Roney to play the melody from the top again. The second time it appears it serves as a bridge to a serious minor key groove, which White begins by playing a James Brown style stop and start funk beat while the piano plays some dark sounding, ominous phrases. This serves as the launch pad for Roney to play some very Miles style things, one moment he’s playing a well shaped phrase and leaving space between it, the next he’s soaring like Miles in the ’60s and tumbling back down the horn. What makes it unique is he goes from ’60s Miles to playing things more reminiscent of an ’80s album like “Star People.” The sax and keyboards come in and play a unison line taken from Miles Davis song “Star on Cicely.” As the sax solo plays the piano stabs out well stated chords.

After the sax solo, a Fender Rhodes solo is introduced, quite tellingly it’s not the lush Rhodes sound we know and love, but the brittle, time heavy Rhodes sound from Miles recordings with Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea in the ’60s. After that piano comes in and plays a groove supported by synth. The Mineapolis key changes again bring us right back to the top, with Roney playing the “Dance Music Sex Romance” melody, the band laying down some calamitous jazz funk, and trumpet and tenor playing a duet on the way out that Roney leaves with an abrupt trumpet call, leaving it to the Tenor man to play us on out.

I love “Virtual Chocolate Cherry” because it realizes in a musical sense, the deep love and respect Miles Davis had for the music of Prince. It Los gives us a taste of how the ’80s could have sounded if the soul jazz musicians like Jimmy Smith, Lou Donaldson, and Jimmy McGriff could have gotten their hands on Prince’s music and created true fusions of electronics and acoustics in line with their ’60s records. The mixture of Prince’s composition and arrangement, Roney’s rearrangement to fit a jazz style, and Miles way of musical thinking, trumpet sound (through Roney), and even some phrases and instrumental textures from “Star People” and “Bitches Brew” make for an incredible, never heard before musical combination. And a good way to console ourselves in this time of a Prince’s passing and “Miles Ahead” in the theaters, thanks to musicians like Wallace Roney and his band, Jazz, Miles Davis music, and the music of Prince will live on!!

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Music for the NEXT One 02/26/16 : Special Denise Matthews Memorial Presentation, “I’m a Slave for U” by Britney Spears

Saturday, Febuary 26, 2016, marks the funeral of Denise Matthews, known during her performing career as Vanity. Though she left that name and it’s negative implications for her behind almost a quarter of a century ago, the character that Prince crafted for her and she executed is still one of the most potent of it’s era. Prince took the beautiful biracial model, who most people thought was Latina, and made her the embodiment of sexually liberated freakieness. In truth, Ms. Matthews association with the funk was strong, even outside of the Artists direction, dating Rick James in the early days as well as doing album covers for Cameo. Today I want to honor the impact of her eternal, Prince composed and produced hit “Nasty Girl”, rcorded by the Vanity 6. “Nasty Girl” is one of the eternal dance funk classics. I recall being hypnotized by it’s Carribean, Afro Latin funk dance beat for as long as I can remember. Prince married an incredible funky rhythm track, highlighting a stop and start beat from his Linn Drum, with some steel drum type sounds providing a low, hollow bass line, with brief snapshots of his super funky guitar rhythms and New Wavey synths. It was the epitome of a feminine funk groove, one that seduced you instead of drove you, through means of it’s pregnant pauses and pelvic pops. On top of that Vanity spoke-sung a lyrical text that really couldn’t get any nastier and sexually frank, even if she added the obscenities that would become commonplace for female sex stars like Lil Kim and Nikki Minaj.

As the 2000s began and Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo came to prominence, I noticed that when they really want to give a female artist some funk power for the dance floor, their basic template is “Nasty Girl.” And who can blame them, as the record established a groove that still sounds fresh all these years later. I was hardly a Britney Spears fan when she came on the scene, and even less so when I realized her hit debut single, “Hit me Baby One More Time” was a very sterile, stiff attempt at a funky track. But when the Neptunes gave her this beat in 2001? I didn’t buy the record, no, but I surely enjoyed the video radio play when this one came on. “I’m a Slave for U” is our first of a three part tribute this weekend, celebrating the funky triumph of “Nasty Girl”, Prince, the Neptunes, and the late Denise Matthews.

“I’m a Slave for U” screams “Nasty Girl” from the first bar, opening with a clever milenial re imaginging of the classic rhythm pattern. The song begins with a drumbeat, a hard kick on the one setting off an unhurried funk tempo. Conga drums fill in the large spaces between the beats. On beat three in particular, two conga beats leading to beat four gives the track away as a clear daughter of “Nasty Girl.” But the Neptunes make sure baby girl has her own features, as the sampled sounding hi hats and the Neptunes abstract synth glisses take the tonality of the song far away from the Vanity 6’s tune, making use of a darker sound palette only implied in the steel drum bassiness of the original. After Britney’s spoken intro, the verse comes in, with Britney singing in a terse lower register and the Neptunes synths playing active rhythms in the mould of Prince’s rhythm guitar work. The keyboard sound has this guitar/clavinet vibe that was one of the Neptunes original sonic trademarks.

Britney was going for an independent vibe on this particular album, released in the year she turned 21. The lyrics play out a story of her going to a nightclub, possibly for the first time, with the intention of dancing and having a good time. She begins, “All you people look at me like I’m a little girl/well did you ever think it be okay for me to step into this world”. She ends up sprung off the dude she ends up dancing with, feeling like a “slave” to the lust and passion she feels. I must admit it tripped me out to hear a white singer sing about being a slave in an attraction/sexual context, but the lyric is also in line with Diana Ross classics such as “Love Hangover” and even “Upside Down.” The track behind her has the Neptunes classic pitch sliding bomb drops, and defined video game blips. They also make skillful use of a chord change to give the groove a different flavor during the refrain, and break the beat down to the Conga inflected beat with the haywire computer sounds accenting the rhythm. All through the chorus Britney is panting and breathing heavy, trying to match the sex appeal of “Nasty Girl” is her own Millennial way.

“Nasty Girl” has been viewed as somewhat of a song of female sexual empowerment over the years, because of the way The Vanity 6 boldly and witheringly spoke about their sexual needs, with ne’er concern for the male ego. It was fitting then that the Neptunes used Prince’s incredible track for a base to take Britney Spears into more mature adult subject matter. There was not much in the way of funky stuff I was excited about in the popular outlets in 2001, but this track hit me instantly when I heard it’s “Nasty Girl” update! The other songs in this weekend series, “Milkshake” by Kelis, and “Blow” by Beyonce, will highlight how Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams took “Nasty Girl” and institutionalized it in popular music as the heartbeat of female sexual outspoken dance music, even as Prince and Denise Matthews begged their Lord to forgive their youthful horny expressions!

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