A Jazz Library: Funk Jazz
Somewhere between the soul-jazz of the early sixties (often called
"funk" in its day) and the disco of the
mid-seventies, funk jazz was born. Rock was already crossing over into jazz.
And it just made sense that rock would inject soul jazz with a greater sense
of urgency and a stronger feel for the groove.
Funk had that thing that made soul and any other kinds of dance music what
it was - a deep, true conviction to getting you moving.
The birth of funk can probably be traced back
to 1967 when bop saxophonist Lou Donaldson hit big with Alligator
Boogaloo. It was the start of a movement - and, to many, the demise of
the legendary Blue Note label. Jazz labels like Blue Note, Prestige and
Atlantic, who were staying alive selling R&B records, recognized the
value of funk instantly. These labels, their artists and producers (Bob
Porter, Francis Wolf and Joel Dorn) are the primary movers and shakers of
the whole genre. But there were certainly others who came along and funked
up their jazz (dig Creed Taylor's CTI and Kudu output between 1970 and
The whole thing probably ended in 1975, when
disco (and an increasing array of electronica) started taking funk in a new
yet still worthy direction. But the musical edge of funk was clearly getting
replaced with slicker effects.
A decade later, when jazz was suffering under
the post-fusion tradition-bound conservatism of Wynton Marsalis and
"the new young lions," young DJs in London (spearheaded by Gilles
Peterson) began to rediscover these old funk records in thrift shops and
spun them for the young dancers in the hippest clubs. Here, "acid
jazz" was born. It still took another decade for the US to realize its
own funk legacy and by the late 1990s, surviving funk musicians were finally
getting paying work and hero worship bestowed upon them while a whole new
slew of funksters (Greyboy, Galactic) were born.
But check out the real funk first. It's held
its own over the years - retaining that primordial urge to getting you
moving it's always had.
Legends Of Acid Jazz Vol. 2
Columbus, Ohio tenor man Rusty Bryant (1929-91) produced
two of the toughest funk workouts ever in 1971 with Wildfire
and - especially - Fire-Eater (both heard here). Kickass
contributions from organist Bill Mason and, of course, Idris Muhammad.
Used to be very rare and hard to come by. So get this disc while you
can! Dig "Fire-Eater," "Free At Last,"
"Wildfire" and "All That I've
Nearly a carbon copy of 1967's funk progenitor, Alligator
Boogaloo, 1968's Midnight Creeper perfected bop-pro Lou
Donaldson's groove. Back again fanning the fatback are George Benson,
Lonnie Smith and Idris Muhammad with Blue Mitchell spicing up the sauce.
Lou would also wax great funk on Mr. Shing-A-Ling (1967) and Pretty
Things (1970). But this is the foundation. Dig "Midnight
Creeper" and "Bag Of Jewels."
Even though Les has always messed at mixing soulful jazz with
r&b and gospel, here he came up with one of the most spiritual and
exploratory funk workouts ever. His electric keyboards do all the
singing on this 1971 jewel - and Yusef Lateef blows a bewildering brew
of heady exotica. All three of these long tracks will blow the mind.
||Boogaloo Joe Jones:
Acid Jazz Vol. 2
New Jersey guitarist Ivan "Boogaloo Joe" Jones recorded
only a few records between 1966 and 1978. But he could out-funk Grant
Green any day of the week when it came to faster-than-lightning
single-note funk runs. Much of the two records heard here - No Way!
(1970) and What It Is (1971) - are dance classics and feature the
awesome pre-solo funk lamentations of Grover Washington, Jr. Dig
"No Way," "If You Were Mine," the original
"Sunshine Alley," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Fadin',"
"What It Is" and "Inside Job."
Blue Note never had a funkier organist than Reuben Wilson. He cuts
fatback soul with goose bump licks and staccato grooves that beg you to
move. His best moves are heard right here (aided in no small measure by
guitarist Melvin Sparks): "Bus Ride," "Orange Peel"
and "Blue Mode."
You'll find David Newman (sax/flute), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Eric
Gale (guitar) and Bernard Purdie (drums) on many essential funk sides.
But in 1971 they laid down this trippy, little-known dance floor
classic. Unknown bassist Steve Novosel cranks out one of the toughest bass lines
you'll never be able to sit through here too. Dig on "Captain
Buckles," "Joel's Domain," "The Clincher" and
Legends Of Acid Jazz
Melvin Sparks's guitar has launched many a groove. But his scorching
guitar really sears thru his first two solo albums, 1970's Sparks!
and 1971's Spark Plug, both collected here. Funked up playing
comes courtesy of Houston Person, Grover Washington, Jr., the great and
underrated organist Leon Spencer and, of course, Idris Muhammad. Grooves
abound here, peaking at the celestial
The Soul Brotherhood
West Coast organist Charles Kynard (1933-79) taught disadvantaged
children by day, recorded infrequently and has become too little
remembered today. But you gotta hear this. His attack is sharp, fast,
clever and highly rhythmic - often drawing from the lower ends of the
B-3 (digging deep into the soul). These two 1969 LPs are his best - The
Soul Brotherhood with Blue Mitchell, David "Fathead"
Newman" and Grant Green and Reelin' With The Feelin' with LA
superstars Wilton Felder, Joe Pass, Paul Humphrey and the great electric
bassist Carol Kaye.
This was always organist Jimmy McGriff's bag. But HE coined the
phrase and used this 1969 LP to corner the market. Famed funk arranger
Horace Ott lays down hard- edged horn riffs (Blue Mitchell? Stanley
Turrentine?) and driving electric bass vamps. McGriff noodles
streetwise, offering one hot lick after another. Dig on it: the classics
"The Bird Wave" and "Spear For Moondog" plus
"Chris Cross," "Miss Poopie," and "Funky
It wasn't the first - or last - trip Herbie Hancock took into funk.
But it's some of the best - and most sophisticated and musically
advanced funk jazz ever made. Late into the groove (1974), he and his
headhunters (Bennie Maupin, Paul Jackson, Mike Clark and Bill Summers)
conspired to achieve what amounts to a textbook case of how interesting
and excellent funk could get. Best of all, Herbie's arsenal of keyboard
sounds never sounded better integrated than here. The lovely groove
"Butterfly" is here plus some def-defying funk in "Palm
Grease," "Actual Proof" and "Spank-A-Lee." Yep,
the whole thing.
More funk to hear:
“Vibrafinger” - Gary
Burton: Good Vibes (Koch Jazz); “The Jungle Boss” and
“Jungle Strut” - Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back!
(Fantasy); “The Black Cat” - Gene
Ammons: Legends Of Acid Jazz (Fantasy); “The Great Escape” -
Larry Coryell: Barefoot Boy (One Way); “Whistle Stop” - Joao
Donato: Joao Donato (32 Jazz); “She’s Gone Again” -
Johnny Hammond: Soul Flowers (Fantasy);
“Is It In” - Eddie
Harris: EH In The Uk/Is It In? (Collectables);
"Well I'll Be White
Black," "Don't Cha Hear Me Callin' To Ya" - Junior Mance: With
A Lotta Help From My Friends (Collectables); “Turn It On,”
“Goin’ To D.C.” - Sonny Stitt: Legends Of Acid Jazz (Fantasy);
“Louisiana Slim” - Leon
Spencer: Legends Of Acid Jazz (Fantasy).