Photo: Stefan Malzkorn
Walk up to anyone and ask them to play the word-association game: the game where you say a word and they blurt out the very first thing that comes to mind. Say the word “funky,” and more than likely their response will be “James Brown,” “Horns,” “Chicken” or “Funkadelic.” And while there really is no right or wrong answer in a game designed to observe the human thought process, a better response arguably would have been “Maceo,” the first name of the player synonymous with the head bopping sounds of his funky alto sax. Tried and true, Maceo Parker is the funkiest horn player to have risen from the dawn of funk music. He has played with both James Brown, cutting a total of twelve albums with the Godfather of Soul including “Sex Machine,” and adhered to various syndicates of the first family of funk, Parliament-Funkadelic, for a total of ten albums including “Mothership Connection.” He first joined James Brown in 1964, and from then on was an integral player in defining and fostering funk’s sound. It’s even been written that between Maceo Parker and funk music it’s hard to discern which one came before the other—a living, breathing, chicken-or-egg paradox. Read the rest of this entry »
When George Duke succumbed to leukemia on August 5, he had already left behind a gigantic legacy in the music world through his innovative vision as a keyboardist, singer and composer. However, he still had something to say, and that was what turned out to be his final album, released just a couple of weeks before his untimely passing at age sixty-seven.
The album came after a long hiatus brought by the death of his wife in 2012, but the break served his music well—the album is a piece of art that encompasses the sounds of his four-decade career, beginning from the aptly titled title track, which has touches of psychedelics and funk, going to the jazz fusion groove of “Stones of Orion,” a tune that features one of the genre’s heroes, bassist Stanley Clarke. The cut just fizzles with electricity thanks to the chemistry between the two veteran musicians. “Change The World” begins with recordings of various speeches, and then various singers share the message of hope and understanding. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
The greatest myths are good stories. And tales behind the discovery of any band are just decent fiction—or at least realities tweaked well enough to conjure up towering imagery.
Sweden’s Goat isn’t issuing its Stateside debut because of outstanding European festival performances but rather because a band it shares practice space with just shot a video over to Chris Reeder, UK’s Rocket Recordings honcho, and he dug it. That’s only part of the story, though.
“Over the course of the next few months when we were putting the seven-inch together, the band themselves started communicating with us,” Reeder says about his earliest digital interactions with the Swedes. “Then we didn’t really hear anything else from them until about May … when out of the blue ‘World Music,’ all finished and mastered, landed in our inbox.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Benedict Smith
The perception of Lonnie Smith as an organ deviant stems from a variety of career choices. Being plucked up outta Buffalo by guitarist George Benson and incorporated into his funky quartet, Smith came to prominence amid the bandleader’s combination of swing and grace. Of course, the sporadic covers worked up by the quartet, including “All of Me” from 1966’s “The George Benson Cookbook,” made for some shoddy territory. And while Smith hasn’t taken to the mic to regale listeners with favored lyrical numbers, he has laid into “Sunshine Superman.” Wading into popular music didn’t relegate “Boogaloo” Joe Jones or “Groove” Holmes to lesser-known status, but the industry’s constraints weighed on Smith, stifling his ability to move beyond genre limitations his early career helped define. From the mid-1960s through the following decade, Smith released visually and aurally singular works—his “Think!” remaining one of the strikingly designed Blue Note albums of the era. Read the rest of this entry »
Billy Martin, best known as the driving, percussive force behind Medeski, Martin and Wood, pairs with former Chicagoan Wil Blades, an organist who’s performed with Galactic’s Stanton Moore and a handful of other funky luminaries. Martin, a player in his MMW configuration who keeps a table of noise-making toys by his side on stage, ditches the avant-approach on a set of tunes the duo’s simply titled “Shimmy.” The album ostensibly offers what fans expect: Inspiring percussion and loads of organ vamps with attendant solos. Recorded amid the duo’s recent West Coast run, the performances sound alive, clearly retaining some of the late-night vibes these players trucked to venues. Read the rest of this entry »
As the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. At the end of October, Matt Clark and Jeremy Lemos of the unconventional sound-based band White/Light performed a live re-creation of Funkadelic’s immortal rock/psych/funk album, “Maggot Brain.” Their set was part of Playing Favorites, a musical series occurring the last Sunday and/or Monday of every month at the Whistler in Logan Square.
This White/Light show went far beyond a forced attempt at covering assorted P-Funk hits. Clark and Lemos revealed a candid sense of Maggot Brain’s true influence by interpreting the album in their own musical style—which is often described as experimental drone-guitar. Lyricless, it sounds like the music that might exist if the fate of the human race fell subject to computer domination, like in “The Matrix:” hypnotic mainframe pulsations layered with screaming drills evocative of dental machinery. An unlikely comparison for innovators of the funk music sound. Read the rest of this entry »
New Orleans-born saxophonist Donald Harrison has completely transcended genres or musical styles with his unique musical blend, which embraces straight-ahead, contemporary and New Orleans Jazz and even soul. Though his latest release, “Quantum Leap,” is in fact a jazz album, he stretches around by picking up some influences from other genres as it goes along. Read the rest of this entry »
Canada-based Cuban Alex Cuba has been building a strong following in the Latin alternative and indie crowd with his mix of funk, soul and Cuban beats. The fact that he is a gifted performer with great charisma doesn’t hurt, either. Early on, he participated in showcases like the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar, and he was able to engage audiences and get them to sing along with him almost immediately—even if that was the first time anyone in the room had heard the song. Read the rest of this entry »
As part of a triumvirate of great jazz-fusion bass players of his generation (the other two being Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten, who collaborated with Miller on 2008’s “Thunder”), Marcus Miller could just be turning in albums of the music his fans expect to hear, but instead he keeps on reinventing his sound and taking further the idea of the jazz bass as a lead instrument. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a good thing that this Chicago-based quartet did not try to reinvent the wheel with their forthcoming debut release “Dig On It” (Tippin’ Records, out in October). Their sound is clearly inspired by the works of Booker T. & the MGs and they are not ashamed to recognize the influence of the Stax Records house band. In fact, one of the best rock-inflected originals on the CD is called “Booker,” and the liner notes acknowledge the influence that the creators of “Green Onions” have had on them. Read the rest of this entry »