Arguably the most sampled record of all time, “Funky Drummer”, from IN THE JUNGLE GROOVE, is most well known for the Clyde Stubblefield drum break that has appeared as a sample on countless hip hop beats since the late 80′s. it also contains some incredible sax work by Maceo Parker and the ridiculously stinky organ of James Brown himself. this tune clocks in at about nine minutes but i can never seem get enough… in the wrong hands, funk can come off as repetitive, cliche driven junk. “Funky Drummer”, one of the foremost examples of the style,  is in fact an intricately balanced tapestry of subtly morphing rhythmic motifs  between the drums, bass and guitars, that support Brown’s  conversational- then- melodic vocalizing over greasy organ stabs, and Parker’s sermonizing tenor sax. the accompanying voices have specific roles but they are free to take liberties as the moment dictates. the one constant is the hypnotic chant of the horn section that acts as congregation to preachers Brown and Parker. i think the thing that fools many who listen to James Brown’s music is that its relaxed, off the cuff pose masks a rigorous discipline. when listening to this song, try zeroing in on a specific voice and checking out all the variations on the initial motif that happen over the course of the song. the bass line (played by Charles Sherrell) is a thing of beauty. it becomes simpler or more complex in response to the other voices but more importantly, it melds with the drum pattern and never lets go. Parker blows liberally through most of the song with a biting tenor sound, reminiscent of Stanley Turrentine, and short, highly syncopated riffs that weave in and out of the horn section line. like Yusef Lateef who i wrote of in a previous post, Parker sculpts each note with bends, smears, staccato attacks, etc. his solo’s complexity does not necessarily lie in the note choices (he rarely moves outside of a blues scale), but rather in the intricate rhythmic delivery and endlessly varied articulation which is in a class by itself. will this song ever get old?


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16. June 2010 by james
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