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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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Music for the Next ONE 10/17/15 : “Fela 1” by Nicholas Payton

This weekends post is in honor of the worldwide celebration of Fela Kuti’s life, music and political activism known as the “Felabration” which falls yearly around his birthday of October the 15th. This celebration was inaugurated by his daughter Yeni a year after his death, in 1998. It has been exciting to see this festival grow in Africa, Europe, and The United States as the legend of Fela has continued to grow bigger and broader. Today’s tribute recording, “Fela 1” is the first part of a two part Fela suite on Nicholas Payton’s 2003 album “Sonic Trance.” Payton is one of my favorite musicians and he shares the sign of Libra with Fela. The song also will remind you of a man who was an influence on Fela and Nick, and who was himself inspired by Fela’s music later on, Miles Davis. “Fela 1” combines a Fela Kuti inspired rhythmic setting with a texture based environment that recalls the fusion work of Miles Davis and his bands on albums such as “Bitches Brew”, “Get Up With It”, “Jack Johnson”, and other now legendary records. The album marks an ever ongoing broadness in Payton’s work and worldview, in which he has substituted the term jazz for the term “Black American Music”, or #BAM.

The tune starts off with Vicente Archer playing a strong, archetypical Fela Kuti bassline on acoustic bass. I must say right off the bat, this is what hooked me on the song first, the incorporation of Fela Kuti’s style of funky African bass, being played with the timbre of the acoustic bass, which we associate with “jazz”, is a new sonic texture that opens new possibilities in sound. The funky strut of the bassline is soon joined by sizzling, consistent hi hat/cymbal work from Adonis Rose on drums. The piano gets going with some dark sounding, minor key/whole tone sounding arpeggios that capture the dark Miles Davis type melodic flavor of the piece. The percussion work by Daniel Sedownick adds to the rhythmic foundation, as the drums come in with kick drums placed in a manner similar to Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen.

After the rhythm is set, the horns play a short, dark blue melody that’s is kind of Monkish, kind of Milesian. Saxophonist Tim Warfield then goes I to a ex tended solo on soprano sax that recalls Miles’ saxophonists of the fusion period, such as Steve Grossman, Wayne Shorter, and Gary Bartz. The Fender Rhodes piano, overdriven here to “Bitches Brew” darkness as opposed to Ohio Players lushness, makes statements and comps in the back, with the horn sometimes answering the piano. As the solo reaches it’s peak and falls, a Clavinet line is introduced that doubles the Afro-Beat bass line. The Rhodes adds texture as Nicholas Payton comes in on wah wah trumpet. The solo he plays is more atmospheric, based more on manipulation of the wah wah and it’s rhythms than on telling a story by running through the scales. He hits low growl notes and ends his solo with the wah wah opening up slowly as he manipulates the notes to color the groove.

“Fela 1” uses the mighty musical ancestory of Fela Kuti and Miles Davis to provide Nicholas Payton with a way to escape the prison that he regards the term “jazz” as. It’s thrilling to hear Afro Beat rhythms enrich improvisational music. Jelly Roll Morton often spoke of “The Spanish Tinge”, a rhythmic flavor that was essential to jazz. Well, Jelly Roll’s era was so racist it could not acknowledge the African roots of this “Spanish Tinge”, with it’s congas, shakers, clave’s and dance rhythms. The inclusion of Baba Fela’s beat, which itself was inspired to become more African by musicians such as James Brown and Miles Davis, is a wonderful expansion of the transatlantic conversation of the African diaspora. It’s my firm belief that if more “jazz” took on this funky challenge, it would receive it’s rightful credit as the soul moving music it is. But it needs a new dance beat. My man Nick Payton finds it here with Fela Kuti and Tony Allen, letting Miles oversee it all! “Fela 1” is a fine tribute song for this weekends “Felabration” as well as an example of how Fela’s music can help the world of music as a whole move forward.

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SoulSchool: Kevin Toney, Gary Bartz and Nicholas Payton memorialize Donald Byrd, Yoshi’s San Francisco, August 24th 2013

Legendary saxophone artist Gary Bartz with Riquespeaks

Legendary saxophone artist Gary Bartz with Riquespeaks

Two of my best recieved posts this past year have revolved around Dr. Donald Byrd, and his protoge Kevin Toney. Dr. Byrd passed in Febuary of this year, but last year, I had the privilege of meeting keyboardist Kevin Toney of the Blackbyrds and seeing him perform Blackbyrds music at Yoshi’s Oakland. That was a very fun experience because I’ve long been a fan of the Blackbyrds and though some might have memories of the group buried way back in the recesses of their mind, I know many for whom the group was central to their experience of a certain time and place. Kevin himself was very personable and very encouraging
to us in our endeavors as well.

This past weekend, Kevin Toney came to Yoshi’s, the San Francisco edition in the revitalized Filmore district, with a dynamite band, in order to perform the music of Donald Byrd. This project has particular resonance in being lead by Kevin Toney, since he both participated in Donald Byrd’s music, as well as had the benefit of Donald Byrd overseeing his music with the Blackbyrds. The band he brought in was excellent, with a front line consisting of Gary Bartz and Nicolas Payton, on saxophones and trumpet, respectively. Gary Bartz is a legendary saxophonist, one of those who took part in expanding Jazz’s audience in the ’70s. I remember him from my bootleg video tapes of Miles Davis electric band, a slim young lightskinned brother with a beard and no mustache, underneath a towering Afro. I remember him playing long improvisations on the soprano sax, with that Coltrane type of spirit. I told him I was a fan of other works such as “Music is My Sanctuary”, and the “Drinking Song”, which he told me Erykah Badu was a big fan of and performs. It was beautiful to get the chance to hear him play, a great musician who has worked with so many great musicians, not the least of which my hero Miles Davis.

Mr. Nicholas Payton is one of those young lions of the trumpet, well known in improvisational circles. He played trumpet with a bright, powerful tone and even gave us some of those good ol New Orleans growls, the kind that cats like Bubber Miley, Buddy Bolden and King Oliver used to give us. Dressed in all black, Payton’s stage demeanor was serious, a bad cat there to play.

The rhythm section was excellent as well, and not to be overlooked. Guitarist Charles Julian Fearing was once the lead singer for Ray Parker Jr’s Raydio, and also producer of such timeless classics as Debarge’s “All this Love.” He told us a great story about the production of that song that will air on Soul School Television in the next few weeks. His razor sharp guitar licks did the Saturday night however, as he locked into the James Brownish rhythm guitar part on the Blackbyrd’s classic “Rock Creek Park.”

Michael Bradford protected the low end of the music like a Funky Doberman, reanimating funky bass lines played by bss players such as Chuck Rainey. I was especially pleased when they went into one of my favorite bass lines in the world, Donald Byrd’s classic “(Fallin Like) Dominoes”, which Kevin Toney told the audience was most likely Donald Byrd’s biggest black radio hit. Rayford Griffen kept time well but he also got to do much more than that with thunderous solo’s of his own.

It was also great again to see and enjoy Ms. Dominique Toney’s performance with the band. She delivered vocals on the Donald Byrd classic’s “Christo Redentor” and “Think Twice”. It hits me in a speical spot in particular when she does “Think Twice.” Dominique’s got a great stage presence and charisma when she performs. She is on the verge of releasing her album, and you will definitely hear more about it here.

Kevin Toney himself got to shine in a more straight ahead jazz context and it was enjoyable to hear him comp and solo on a grand piano as well as the Korg Triton.

Afterwards we were able to hang with the band and discuss music and life and record some interviews that were just golden, both for their vibes and for the history we were able to get down. We had both legends, and youth, great interviews with Kevin Toney, Gary Bartz, and Charles Julian Fearing that dealt with various realms of music legend, and interviews with Dominique Toney and Kevin Toney’s assistant Norris Barnes, that give a sneak preview of somethings in musics present and future. All in all it was an excellent experience and I hope the band can continue on giving tribute to the music of Donald Byrd!

Calvin Lincoln of SoulSchool TV with the great Gary Bartz

Calvin Lincoln of SoulSchool TV with the great Gary Bartz

The lively and talented Dominique Toney With Riquespeaks

The lively and talented Dominique Toney With Riquespeaks

Dominique Toney and Calvin Lincoln of SoulSchool TV, backstage after the show

Dominique Toney and Calvin Lincoln of SoulSchool TV, backstage after the show

Nicholas Payton and Riquespeaks

Nicholas Payton and Riquespeaks

The band

The band

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