10 Months Late

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1947-2016


It’s hard to believe that David Robert Jones, aka David Bowie’s surprising death is already 10 months ago.

Days before he passed he promoted a strange tangle of an album called Blackstar, complete with a new band, a new sound, and an ominous video about dying.

Then he died. I couldn’t listen to the album even though I was fascinated by it’s story.

McCaslin

Donny McCaslin

Our hero knew he had a fatal illness but shared it with almost no one. He hunted the New York nights for inspiration, finding it in Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist that Bowie always wanted to be. McCaslin had a progressive jazz combo that Bowie caught one night and immediately set up a meeting.

Walking into this jazz band’s practice space, Bowie opened up his notebook and proceeded to free jam song ideas and melodies with this band of guys he had never played with, much less met before!

It was all recorded, and it was so magical that it was almost released as the album! Can you imagine, the ultimate improv?


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But business and engineering interests prevailed so they set up recording sessions to properly render their ideas.

Like his previous album The Next Day, this was a secretive project. The result was completed and shipped as Blackstar just two days before he met his demise.

And it has sat on my Pono in hi-resolution for 10 months now.

Too painful to press play and accept that this was Bowie composing very concisely about his pending demise.

I say go for it. I did.

It was amazing. His whole career, his whole artistic essence, facing the end and needing to channel this into music. It’s utterly devastating.

He can do anything. Accepting his ultimate fear leaves him fearless.


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This might be his best album ever. I shit you not. It has no hits or singles. Nothing fashionable. Nothing I can scream out to you in small pieces.

It only is the most perfectly sad moment of music I’ve heard in quite some time.

 

Time for Apple Watch?

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Here’s a nice write-up from someone that has lived with the Apple Watch for half a year. He feels it’s in a similar place as the first iPhone iteration – not essential, highly flawed, yet still leaning into the future with simple and effective features he’s starting to appreciate.

I still don’t have one but his review sounds about what I expected. Apple follows a very tight script with these iOS products and all of them have gone through very similar stages of growth.


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Promises Fulfilled

I don’t think I ever posted this – this is from a guy that spends his life testing high-end audio devices – things like $15k Amps and $5k headphones. This ain’t my market as you know.

He ordered a PonoPlayer and by the time it arrived he was so sick of the hype, the politics, and the nerd battles raging online about Neil Young’s latest business venture that he skeptically pressed play.

Read his review to get a real nice impression of the impression this device leaves on people. Even the professionals.

He also has the technical chops and the connections to get into the nitty gritty of what is going on when you press ‘play’ on this odd shaped thing.

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Image from Inner Fidelity

Right, Natural, and Real

I’ve been telling you all about my snazzy new music player. And I’ve been fighting the good fight with online math geniuses that claim there is no such thing as hi-res. Here’s another review of the PonoPlayer, along with a response from pono’s head engineer and the designer of the audio chain inside of it. Good stuff.

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PonoPlayer Review Is Posted

I have a few revisions to make but I thought I’d get this thing posted so I can start sharing out the link next week. Enjoy my long-form run through what a PonoPlayer is, and why you might want one:

http://wfnk.com/blog/ponoplayer-review/


Just a symbol or a way to hear cymbals again?

Just a symbol of hype or the return of hearing cymbals?

 

Covert Bowie – The Next Day For Our “Heroes”

The great David Bowie managed something most music artists can’t achieve in their 4th and 5th decades – to stay relevant and ambitious both in the studio and on stage.

Releasing acclaimed albums in the late 90’s and early aughts, as well as selling out worldwide with a hot stage show, led many to believe Bowie was entering a second creative goldrush. But as he entered his 60’s, health problems slowed him down and he fell into an admitted writers block. 2003’s Reality album and tour was not followed and no one much heard of Bowie for a few years. He’d pop up from time to time as an artsy citizen of NYC but didn’t appear to be pursuing his music career further.

Which all makes his new album “The Next Day” that much cooler. Written, recorded, mixed, and released with no pre-release hype, no press teasers, and no leaks in this day of social media and instant gratification makes it a serious throwback to times when a new release could build natural buzz based on the artist’s quality.

The cover art kicks thing off proper with a Fluxus-inspired statement, using the cover of “Heroes” as the backdrop for a large white box over Bowie’s 1970’s mug. Inside the overly large white box is the title “The Next Day” in the plainest, least passionate black font they could find. The hook is the original title bar, modified to “Heroes” David Bowie.

Yes David appears to be feeling a bit nostalgic, doing what he rarely does and looking back and some key points in his life. The music is full of variety, grooves, riffs, hooks, builds, cliffs, even soaring ballads featuring mostly traditional instruments – real drums, real guitars, real horns, real keys played by Bowie, and great lead and backing vocals. The whole things is 17 songs of very musical and well-written work. It’s amazing he put this together (and out) with none of the marketing he usually receives.

Here’s a track to whet your appetite:

Bowie said in a recent interview that he didn’t feel his label would support the record and that he didn’t plan on touring extensively with this record, so he decided to do the whole thing as a covert project. Everyone involved had to use a cover story and keep the info that they were working on the a new Bowie record quiet. Amazing that it worked, and it’s exciting to just have a new record without waiting for it after months of hype. This record was released on Bowie’s 66th birthday with no press. Awesome.

Anyway, I bought this record in hi-def digital over at HDTracks and would buy the double-record vinyl set if I saw it. Bowie is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of artist and this record belongs in the catalog next to his other greats.

The Curious Case of W. Axl Rose

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It’s been 4 1/2 years, seemingly the right time to revisit something you might have dismissed,  you know, 4 1/2 years ago.

I dismissed this Axl Rose character, thinking for some unspecified reason that he was no longer the powerfully-voiced fighting machine that blew all other rock vocalists off the stage in the late 80’s.

Maybe it was drugs, women, insanity, or some cool rockstar mix of all three that had derailed him, I told myself. After all, Slash is just so cool! All that hair and those beautiful guitars! He was somehow more responsible for the classic GNR in my head. This was bullshit of course, I realize now.

Why this reversal? I finally listened to Chinese Democracy.

Played the whole record, loudly, from top to bottom. Finally. This record’s story and the characters behind it annoyed me so much it took me over 4 years to simply listen to the damn thing.

Continue reading

Headtronics: The New Doo Review

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Funky fresh and it’s about time…. If you want to see what music and live performance can be, get down with some improvised art and dance yourself silly then it pays to catch the project dubbed “Headtronics” if it comes near your domain.

Genre jumping has been popular among musicians for quite some time (and popular on the charts the last decade or so), but actually jumping ‘modes’ still proves difficult and rare. Headtronics, a strong trio of players consisting of DJ Logic, Freekbass, and Steve Molitz, is one of the first projects I’ve seen to successfully go “mixed mode”.

See, there’s several ways for Joe Citizen to enjoy himself some music when he leaves the house in the evening. In what mode he ends up consuming music that night depends partly on his tastes, partly on social constructs and then venue requirements.  We know he probably won’t catch a symphony at a loft party, a rock band on the corner, a solo sax in a dance club, or a performance art piece in the corner bar. It’s more than likely he won’t get out of his comfort zone at all.

For this dilemma DJ’s were created, and this was good.

Any music you want anywhere you want it is the promise. Musical taste gatekeepers blah blah blah. Some musicians hold a confrontational attitude towards DJ’s, and from a purely financial perspective it is understandable as they are fighting over the same beer markups. But ultimately those that love the music are at least as important as those who make the music, so DJ’s became important parts of the music ecology.


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In our categorization of everything we have put musicians on one side and DJ’s on the other, but this masks the fact that the best of each share many qualities. More on that in a minute.

Eventually our technology and transparency led us to this postmodern moment of ‘so, what’s new anymore?’. And if it’s new and cool, I already downloaded that, wiki’ed that, googled that, and I feel like I know all about that… that thing you just told me about.

Then I will forget about it nearly as quick as I ‘interlearned’ it.

Where does Headtronics fit into this? Several angles – this is a rant after all!

DJ’s do a set ultimately to keep people dancing / zoning out / chasing the blues from their day. They change tempo if and when needed, leave no dead air, do not focus on a piece but on the whole.

A great DJ does alot of things during a great set that musicians don’t do and don’t even need to consider most of the time. Musicians do a set to play each piece to it’s fullest, to perform their musical parts to their satisfaction, to connect with the audience, and keep their project’s name and songs in the fan’s memory forever. They construct sets but in a different way than a DJ, with different purposes.


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No project to my knowledge has been able to successfully deliver the holy fusion of DJ’ing and playing live music, while improvising it all, until Headtronics.

Yes, melodies, textures, and even rhythms were improvised and explored during pieces within a set as a whole. Logic had full scratch and break moments. Steve had space for perfect textures and melody lines. And Freekbass put out flavor and variations while sitting in a big fat pocket. They achieved the perfect measure of success in both DJ’ing and live gigging: the nicely mixed crowd danced for two hours straight and good times were had by all.

I will wrap this up because you get the point — go see Headtronics, see if you can dig what I’m talking about. I’ve seen DJ’s in bands, and I’ve seen musicians play over a DJ, but this is both and neither. It’s a whole new thang as they say, and it just feels right. It’s about time.

ezraz

ps — much respect to Urban Dance Squad and DJ DNA for blind ambition 23 years ago.

Posted via email from 2M :: REAX

Album Review: Slave (1977)

Album Review By Super J

[originally published at WFNK.com on 08/01/2000]

 


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Slave’s debut album came in 1977. With 9 members, the album promised to give us power funk and it doesn’t disappoint.

The sound of the album reminds me of Mercury-era Ohio Players with a slightly higher energy level. Only the tune “The Happiest Days” qualifies as a ballad. The other tunes are barn-burning party stomping jams.

With two guitarists and 4 horn players and C.B. who is credited with “all things off the wall” the sound is pretty full.

The tunes “Slide”, “Son of Slide”, and “You and Me” stand out on the record. They have the rich instrumentation featured in the more hyperactive jams, but are ever so slightly mellower and feature thick dark basslines with well-arranged rhythmic horn lines reminiscent of JB style riffs (especially in “You and Me”). However, the drumming is much more late-70s stomping-style than the sophisto-funk style of the JBs. The thick heavy pulsing drum sound was more popular in the late 70s, and most funk bands from the time employed it.

There is some subtle keyboard work providing a “vibes” atmosphere in the background of “You and Me”, which was also used by the Ohio Players but in a different way.

slave-slave“Screw Your Wig on Tite” and “Party Hardy” seemed a little over-the-top at first, but on repeated listening sophisticated grooves are revealed. Make no mistake – these are not subtle tracks, they tear the roof off without a doubt. But there is quality musicianship underneath the powerful rhythmic front.

I expected “Love Me” to be a ballad (because of the title), but it is actually a slap-bass workout with Ohio Player style horn-lines that is probably too powerful for today’s dance floors. It’s definitely a must-listen for the bass enthusiast. There isn’t any bass solos, but the rhythmic track is very nice.

Interestingly, Slave is one of those bands who can totally change one’s perspective by listening to an album. They bring the hard Dayton-funk sound from the beginning. Listening to a good Slave album like this one from beginning to end can truly change one’s perspective.

Here’s to one of the dinosaur funk pioneers. 4 out of 5 stars for an outstanding and shameless power funk album.


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Record Review: Funkadelic – Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On

[originally published on WFNK.com on October 1, 1999]

funkadelic-ontheverge_1024x1024 Album Review by Coffee

Funkadelic, in my opinion is the GREATEST “black rock band” of all time. But let us put that in perspective. I am using the words- black, rock and band there. Obviously, almost every member in Parliament and Funkadelic was/is African American. And I use the term ‘rock’ somewhat specifically because I am targeting harder edged material when I am citing rock music.

For instance, The Temptations are probably one of the greatest soul groups of all-time. True, they may have had some more agressive and psychedelic spurts here and there. But the Temps are known for their squeaky clean and rhythmic doo-wop over anything else that they ever created. So let us consider the career of Funkadelic as a funk-rock band just for reference.

Like their siamese sister band, Parliament, Funkadelic has had an illustrious and colorful career in changing the concept of black music. George Clinton played with legions of musicians, so I won’t even try to name every Funkadelic member. Here is the general list of artists who appeared on the album at hand, “Standing On the Verge Of Getting It On.” Praise thee-

funkadelic-standingGary Bronson: Drums
Ron Brylowski: Guitar
Eddie Hazel: Guitar
Jimmy Calhoun: Bass
George Clinton: Vocals/Album Producer
Raymond Davis: Vocals
R. Tiki Fulwood: Percussion, Vocals
Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins: Vocals
Tyrone Lampkin: Drums
Cordell Mosson: Bass, Vocals
Leon Patillo: Piano
Gary Shider: Guitar, Vocals
Grady Thomas: Vocals
Bernie Worrell: Keyboards, Vocals

Standing On the Verge Breakdown-

Intro- Some of the funniest first few seconds that I have ever heard on a record begin side One and Side Two of this album. My translation of intro 1: Our world can bite us in the ass if we don’t watch it! Check yourself and correct yourself. For Side two intro: Like peas of pod we’ll fit together until I introduce to you the cosmic highway to my mind.

Track 1: Red Hot Mama

– An Eddie Hazel guitar signature song and one of Funkadelic’s most successful singles ever. They hit the mark on this one. It is great when psychedelia sounds clean and cohesive like this. You can hear the layers working one another just as easily as they disappear into a sonic stew. If ever there was a funky song by P-Funk (without proclaiming funk’s name first), this is it. The story is of a fast woman from swamp country. She claims super diva status with her sexuality. You can sense brothers copping a jive talking session about it on the avenue.

Track 2: Alice In My Fantasies

-Wow. The thought of a blaxploitation version of “Alice In Wonderland” with this Hendrix-esquian echo funk sure sounds good to me. This song is on fire with acid headed freedom eruptions throughout. It is obvious that The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inspired by tracks like this ahead-of-its time motivator.

Track 3: I’ll Stay

-This R&B is sensual ebb and flow. It’s graceful romance deserves as much recogntion and cred as anything put out by the Temps or the Tops. Let Bernie W. and the rest take your head out to play with this smooth and slow jam. Making love music has never been so greasy and out of this world at the same time.

Track 4: Sexy Ways

-Disco dancefloor-doowop pick up lines in the groove. The funk has grabbed the soul of a thousand booties. The lust continues. Go ahead guys, do the first date thing- buy a flower, open her door and offer your coat in times of need. Then pop this track on in the den if you want her to know what you’ve really been thinking about.

standing_fullinsideTrack 5: Standing On the Verge of Getting It On

-The optimism and good intentions are offered here with absolute freedom. I have always thought that this song sounds like a more adventurous James Brown. This classic is still performed by Parliament-Funkadelic at concerts. If you can’t loosen up to this ode to the people, then your ass is in a coma. The harmonizing of the vocals and the lyrics see to symbolize the need for unsion and acceptance that is inherent to human nature. The funk is an aura of emotion that makes standing together part of the whole routine. It is not ironic that one of P-Funk’s most contagious groove has such an invitational message.

Track 6, Jimmy’s Got A Little Bit of Bitch In Him

-Hendrix is played on and quoted in this satirical look at his fashion sense and zoned out character. Jimi doesn’t take it too seriously watching P-Funk shows from up above. Parliament-Funkadelic’s attire and personality make Jimi look like Nat King Cole. Ok maybe that is a bit severe…

Track 7, Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts

George Clinton preaches spoken word funk over one of Eddie Hazel’s soul-searching psychedelic journeys that transcend emotion.

This is my 2nd favorite Funk album EVER. If you don’t own it- buy it now. Do not pass F, give up $15 or so and read those outrageous Sir Lleb liner notes when you open the merchandise. Check out the album artwork and vote for a virtual reality event to mirror its vision.

Peace and Funk,
Coffee

svgoinsideright

Herbie Hancock Gets Funky

WFNK.com Article

by Super J

Originally published on WFNK.com October 1999

 

This article discusses some of Herbie Hancock’s contributions to funk music and by no means is intended to be comprehensive. The emphasis of the article is to take a musical tour of Hancock’s works (under his own name) between 1973 and 1980.

The funk band – now that music has such strong roots in the Earth. With all the earthiness there’s always room for flight. The biggest reason I enjoy playing this new kind of funk is the contrast between the wide open improvisations and the funky foundation at the bottom. It gives the music a character that is broad, vast, yet in touch with the people” – Herbie Hancock, V.S.O.P. 1977

Herbert Hancock was born on April 12, 1940 in Chicago. He received classical training in piano and was performing at the age of 9, but was more interested in jazz rather than classical music. At age 21 he jammed alongside Coleman Hawkins and Donald Byrd, forming his first small group with Donald Byrd.


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He was offered a contract with Blue Note shortly afterwards. He recorded some cuts in the early sixties, eventually joining Miles Davis’ band and becoming an important sideman.

By 1968 he was experimenting with electronic sounds and started recording under his own name once again. He formed a Sextet and recorded experimental electronic atmospheric jazz. These sessions included percussionist Bill Summers, and Bennie Maupin – both soon-to-be Headhunters.

He found himself listening to the likes of Sly Stone and James Brown, becoming particularly taken in with the tune “Thank you falettin me be mice elf again” by Sly. Herbie was hip to the new sound and wanted to incorporate this energy and groove into his own music. The Headhunter group was born.


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He took a different approach to forming a group. Rather than selecting a small group of jazz musicians who could play funk, he chose a group of funk musicians who could play jazz. This included Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson, Bill Summers (from his previous group), Bennie Maupin (also from his previous group) and eventually numerous others. With this group he issued the album “Headhunters”.

“Headhunters” in 1973 busted it wide open

The album went straight to No.1 on the jazz charts and stayed at the top for fifteen weeks. The album was ahead of its time and jazz purists hated it. Herbie was one step ahead again, this time doing funk his way. It remains to this day a top-notch jazz-funk experiment. The musicians are so tight it is breathtaking, and the music is so complex that few live bands today dare to try and reproduce these tunes.

Track listing for Headhunters (1973):
Chameleon
Watermelon Man
Sly
Vein Melter

Sly is a tribute to Sly Stone, and is very sophisticated electronic jazz-funk. Chameleon has become a standard for some DJs and has been sampled numerous times. It ranks as one of the most important funk albums ever made.


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Since Herbie had just left Warner Bros. where records with the electronic atmospheric jazz group were made, WB released a compilation 2-LP package containing cuts from the albums “Fat Albert’s Rotunda”, “Miwandisihi” and “Crossings”. The compilation was called “Treasure Chest”. The album “Fat Albert…” seems to have been a rather funky LP, one which I haven’t heard myself.

In 1974, Harvey Mason left the band (temporarily) and was replaced by Mike Clark, who had already been jamming before with Paul Jackson. Herbie was commissioned to do a soundtrack for a thriller film starring Charles Bronson called “Deathwish”.

Track listing for Deathwish (1974):
Death Wish (Main Title)
Joanna’s Theme
Do a Thing
Paint her mouth
Rich Country
Suite Revenge: A. Striking Back, B. Riverside, C. The Alley, D. Last Stop, E. 8th Avenue Station
Ochoa Knose
Party People
Fill your hand


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The album in many ways was a traditional soundtrack. There were considerable amounts of string instruments used to reproduced film moods in typical ways. But a few of the tracks had a peculiar energy to them, showing evidence of funk creeping in. It by no means ranks as an important funk soundtrack, but contains some interesting musical moments and is worth a listen.

The next studio album for the group would be titled “Thrust”, also issued in 1974.

Track Listing for Thrust (1974):
Palm Grease
Actual Proof
Butterfly
Spank-A-Lee


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This is not an album to be trifled with. This is a hard-core funk record, and an astounding follow-up album to “Headhunters”. The funk style is not at all like the “funky 45” grits, but rather an aural assault by jazz-trained funk musicians.

Like the previous album, this is some of the most sophisticated funk-jazz ever put to record, making wispy crossover artists think twice before daring to label themselves “jazz-funk”.

Palm Grease, Actual Proof, and Spank-A-Line are top-notch driving jazz-funk cuts. Butterfly is a well-conceived ballad. This type of music is best suited to funk mind-trips and musical analysis rather than the dance-floor. Mind-blowing.

Late in 1974, Herbie would record a live album of this material from this period. His favorite place to play seemed to be in Japan, and he decided to record it. It was released the album (apparently only in Japan) under the name “Flood”.

Track Listing for Flood (1974):
Introduction – Maiden Voyage
Actual Proof
Spank-A-Lee
Watermelon Man
Butterfly
Chameleon
Hang up your Hang ups


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This album contains extended jams of cuts from the first two albums, Headhunters and Thrust. It also contains a new cut entitled “Hang up your Hang ups” which was to appear in studio form on their following album. The version here is a live one which lasts for some 20 minutes. The bass playing by Paul Jackson on this cut is the most some of the most complex finger-style funk bass playing ever put to record.

It appears from this recording and the previous one that Herbie was becoming quite taken in with the funk and wanted to seek the upper limit for orgasmic funk. His funky pinnacle lies on this record.

After these recordings several other jazz-funk musicians (including Louis Johnson from the Brothers Johnson) sat up and took notice. Harvey Mason had played on Herbie’s “Headhunters” album and wanted to rejoin (whether from listening to Thrust or Flood, or both). Mike Clark was still playing drums on some cuts, and another studio cat James Gadson, contributed on drums. Paul Jackson was still on bass, and was joined by Louis Johnson and Henry Davis on bass. Along with Harvey Mason, Blackbyrd McKnight (later to join P-funk), Stevie Wonder, and a whole menagerie of studio cats wanted a piece of the action.

It is not clear if these musicians sought out Herbie, or if Herbie invited them to play on the album, but Herbie (who was always the experimentalist) wanted some fresh blood on this album. The new album was called Man-Child. Jazz critics howled, feeling that the Blue-Note Herbie was lost forever.

Track Listing for Man-Child (1975):
Hang up your Hangups
Sun Touch
The Traitor
Bubbles
Steppin’ In It
Heartbeat


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Sun Touch and Bubbles are slow tempo tunes. Although they have steady beats, they are tending towards an atmospheric sound using a funk arrangement. Steppin’ In It is a pure funk-pop groove, sounding like it could have come straight off of a P-funk record (except for the fact that it is instrumental). One can’t help thinking of Bootsy Collins when listening to this track.

Steppin’ In It is also where Stevie Wonder makes a cameo appearance, playing harmonica throughout the track which adds a down-home feel to a rather circus-style funk track. Hang Up your Hangups was already being worked on from before and made its first appearance on the Flood album. It appears here as the studio version, still wickedly funky, and compressed from 20 minutes to 7 minutes. This still stands as Herbie’s finest funk track.

The Traitor was co-written by Louis Johnson (of the Brothers Johnson) and is also a hard-core funk cut, featuring some fine bass-slapping at the end of the tune. The arrangement is pure funk, but could stand up well as a straight-ahead jazz cut if played on acoustic instruments.

Heartbeat, although shorter (about 5 minutes) demonstrates well the tightness which the Headhunters group is famous for. I have actually managed to get a DJ to play this at a party, but found to my dismay that the average pop-music fan found it overwhelming. The beat is super heavy with a growling funk rhythm guitar. Absolutely nasty.

A new guitarist named Wah Wah Watson joined Herbie on this album and his contribution is unmistakable. Wah Wah Watson specialized in sophisticated single-note repeated rhythms combined with complex wah pedal patterns, adding a new level of nastiness to a sophisticated jazz-funk album.


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Herbie continued his funk experimentation in 1976 with a new album entitled “Secrets”. Sporting a huge Afro and goatee on the cover, he was hardly recognizable compared to the Blue-Note Herbie ten years earlier. Wah Wah Watson appeared again on this album, contributing his vicious wah-pedal guitar lines. Mike Clark and Harvey Mason didn’t appear on this album (although Harvey Mason was putting out albums under his own name, with Herbie playing on his records to return the favor). James Gadson was the only drummer on this new album with Kenneth Nash added as a new percussionist (Bill Summers was on Prestige recording under his own name) and Blackbyrd McKnight had joined the P-funk crew.

Once again another jazz-funk guitarist was added, none other than Ray Parker Jr., Mr. “Ghostbusters” himself (before he scored his own pop hit). The faithful Bennie Maupin also appeared on the album (and had been on all of Herbie’s albums to date since he joined him in the experimental jazz group). Herbie’s credit on the album reads like a summary of currently available keyboard technology:

Herbie Hancock: Piano, Rhodes Electric Piano, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano, Arp Odyssey, Arp String Ensemble, Hohner D6 JClavinet, Moog Micro-Moog, Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer, Echoplex.

And add to that Wah Wah Watson’s credit:
Wah Wah Watson: Guitar, Maestro Universal Synthesizer system, Maestro Sample and hold unit, voice bag.

…and you have a studio full of electronic music equipment. Herbie knew what he was doing though, and it showed on the album. The effects blend into the music, to the point where it is hard to imagine these cuts being played any other way.

Track Listing for Secrets (1976):
Doin’ It
People Music
Cantelope Island
Spider
Gentle Thoughts
Swamp Rat
Sansho Shima


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“Doin’ It” is a forecast of Herbie’s 1980’s electro-funk. It utilizes some vocals, fat and guttural wah effects and envelope filter effects. Sansho Shima is an interesting track, a wicked-jazz-funk tune with hints of pentatonic scale usage. The title is a Japanese name.

Cantelope Island is reworked to sound a little more like funky reggae (at least it sounds like this was the intention), it doesn’t really succeed as a reggae track, but fits well as a funky jazz piece alongside the other tracks.

There were tiny hints of electro-funk on Man-Child, but “Doin’ It” is pretty full-blown electro funk. Paul Jackson was still the bassist, except on “Doin’ It” where Wah Wah Watson plays bass. The drummer was another studio cat by the name of James Levi.

This was Herbie’s third drummer for the funk group. Harvey Mason, Mike Clark, and James Levi all have surprisingly similar styles, and all 3 were able to play some of the wickedest funk beats known to humankind. The sophistication of the musicianship and the piece structure is awesome. Compared to mainstream funk this material is on another level in terms of musical sophistication.


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The real crowning achievement of this album (and Herbie’s other funk albums) is that he can maintain a crack group of musicians, create tunes which are mind-expanding in their musical complexity and dexterity, yet through it all maintains a groove that kicks you right in the gut and keeps you moving. Quite an accomplishment.

Some musicians are tight, but don’t really groove and aren’t that sophisticated. Some musicians can play very sophisticated music, but are not tight or don’t have a groovy sound. Some musicians can play a good hook and groove but the music is simple and sometimes a little sloppy. But Herbie has all three elements: Sophistication, soul and an incredible sense of rhythm.

 


This article by Super J was originally published on WFNK.com on 10/1/99