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?
Posts Tagged ‘FUNK’
Maceo Parker set the template for modern funk saxophone. if you listen to anyone who came up with him and after him- David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Arthur Blythe, the late Michael Brecker, Kenny Garrett, etc.- you’ll hear his substantial influence in their sound, phrasing and melodic choices. Parker’s story is familiar to most. as James Brown’s ultimate foil, he could always be depended on to bring the serious firepower whenever he was called into battle. he had a way of weaving in and out of Brown’s screams and moans and the rhythm section’s dense funk patterns, creating a rhythmic fabric that’s as complex and powerful today as it was when this recording was made 40 years ago. this version of “Mother Popcorn” is from a television show called “The Music Scene” which aired on, of all places, ABC-TV(!) James Brown and the band, as you can see from the video clip, were as powerful and finely tuned as a formula one race car. stylistically, Parker incorporates short, jabbing riffs over an insistent 2 bar vamp played by the rest of the band. everything he does is in service of the groove. no need for screeching high notes and other histrionics that so many mistake for emotional depth. just a gritty, singing sound, subtle and complex articulation, a rhythmic counterpoint that creates friction and intensity, and simple, declarative melodic motifs that function in relation to the band as a preacher does to his congregation. as a saxophonist who puts a lot of time into learning the language of jazz, i can really appreciate how difficult it is to maintain and build interest while playing the way Parker does on this recording. yet he pulls it off with an almost casual confidence. it’s a beautiful thing to behold… the video clip is below. the solo starts at 2:54 but check out the whole thing because James Brown- wow, what a performer! his energy and force is palpable through the monitor screen. most singers nowadays can barely walk and chew gum at the same time but this man could sing, dance and conduct the band while still managing to look as cool as a summer breeze. the way Brown and Parker interact with each other, musically and visually, is deep. pure, uncut vitamin F…
“MOTHER POPCORN (1969)”