Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt. 6

A little more flavor in the pot from Eddie
An element in the novel MUMBO JUMBO, by Ishmael Reed is a virus called Jes Grew that causes white people to become obsessed with Black culture. According to the text, it's the cause of the roaring 20's and the jazz age. America, being a segregated nation at it's roots, has a curious habit of categorizing music to the extent that they segregate music from itself. Also having a cultural addiction to exploitation, musical forms can be co-opted from their originators and the history re-written. Much of American music is rooted in the African and Native American musical traditions and culture. The differences between blues, funk, jazz, gospel and subsequent soul/ r&b are more about stylistic nuance then actual differences. A lot of what was called Hillbilly music (modern term, Country) was a composite of Scottish folk music mixed with blues and termed "blue-grass" to disguise the forms Black roots, the same way that Alan Freedman would call R&B "Rock & Roll" to disguise it from white parents who didn't want their kids listening to Black music.

A floor tom with a broken kick petal makes quite the boom
When you produce a soul-funk record and start to pay attention to each element and track, the American imposed lines of delineation quickly disappear, especially when the only industry standard that you adhere to is production quality. The percussion tracks are like the ancestral voices blessing your song, the patterns and grooves of various African styles, with Caribbean interpretations opens you up to new musical possibilities in the song. This you can experience when creating House music, but working on an album like this definitely takes you on that path.

As I listen to the playbacks on some of our cuts, like "The Storm" and "Make It Look Easy" I find the exploration here must be what Berry Gordy felt when he went to New York to hear Jackie Wilson record one of his songs, and the producer added some Afro-Caribbean back-beat percussion, and how it gave his song a whole new feel and groove. Likewise, when you have the basic trio rhythm section lay down one pocket, and the djembe and bongos come back with a counter groove; all tied together by 'the one', especially when we decided to lay in the western, big drum on the songs. Here, in the percussion tracks we have several examples of call and response between African (West and east) and 'Pan NDN' percussion.
My Djembe brought some ancestors into the mix

Building an album, to an extent, is like creating audio imagery, where the sound becomes a mood-based landscape if you will.  As music critic, Howard Dukes once observed of my work as a producer, I tend to be a fan of the classic 'concept album' approach to a project. With this project the concept is simple, a band of grown and funky musicians grooving through a set list at a concert. The final sound needs to be organic, ambient and exciting, while groovy, warm and funky... a dichotomy of sounds and textures... an audio rice and beans dish.

In building these tracks, what I've done is taken the recipe of funk albums produced in the 1960's and 70's, combined it with elements found in 1980s and '90's hip-hop and creating an album of the raw, funky, boom and bap free of samples, drum machines, time correction, and left as a pure work of musicianship.

bongos and cowbells... funky...
The nature of funk The 'jes grew' of Ishmael Reed's classic novel is a virus of primal, and ancestral spirits, taking possession of all who it encounters.










Missed any of the parts? Follow the Whole Producer Notes series here
PRODUCER's NOTES




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