Friday, May 19, 2017

Superstar A Cappella Group Pentatonix Take On Michael Jackson’s Classics

World-famous a cappella group Pentatonix harness their vocal gifts to pay homage to Michael Jackson in the epic video “Evolution of Michael Jackson," uploaded in 2015. The group performs a medley of some of the pop/soul legend’s biggest hits, from his early days with the Jackson 5 through the Dangerous era. The talented quintet brings their flawless harmonies and creative vocal arrangements to these timeless classics.

Formed in Arlington, Texas in 2011, Pentatonix are one of the most successful a cappella groups in the world. They have sold more than six million albums in the U.S. alone and have earned three Grammys, as well as several other prestigious awards. And hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe flock to their sold-out concerts. Also, the group has shared the stage with music luminaries such as Stevie Wonder and Dolly Parton.

Additionally, Pentatonix’s videos garner millions of views on YouTube: "Evolution of Michael Jackson” currently has more than 32 million views, and their "Evolution of Music,” video has over 100 million views.

Group members are Scott Hoying (baritone), Mitch Grassi (tenor), Kirstie Maldonado (mezzo-soprano), Avi Kaplan (bass) and Kevin Olusola (beatboxer/ vocal percussions). Kaplan recently announced that he will be leaving Pentatonix after the group wraps up their world tour in September. He explained on a video posted at the group’s Facebook page that their fast-paced schedule had become too draining for him, mentally and physically, as well as prevented him from seeing family members and friends when he needed to.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Something In The Water by Mike Zabrin’s Funktastic – Album Review

Funk, jazz and R&B lovers get your ears and groove motors ready for some hot new music by bass wunderkind Mike Zabrin and his talented crew Funktastic.  The 25-year-old musician, songwriter and producer is set to release his new album, Something In The Water, on June 6.

The 10-song collection is a worthy successor to Zabrin’s widely acclaimed debut album Funktastic (2014). Like its predecessor, Something In The Water seamlessly fuses funk, jazz, soul and R&B on its tracks, as well as showcases the Chicago-based musician’s tremendous chops and consummate production skills.

The album kicks off with the hugely funky “Here We Go Again,” which features a powerhouse vocal performance from Laura Burke. Zabrin puts an exclamation point on the funk with his stellar bass work. The track also boasts some dirty guitar licks from Dumpstaphunk’s Ian Neville and super-tight horns, including a funkified trumpet solo from Connor Bernhard.

The band mellows things out a bit on the second track, “Blinded by Love,” with guest vocalist Sam Trump serving up some smooth soul. The lush groove is underscored by the impeccable horn work. And Zabrin’s bass playing here is fluid and funky. The track has a really chill and relaxed vibe going on.

Burke illuminates “What Do We Call This?” with an incandescent vocal performance. The soul-drenched love jam boasts a terrific sax solo from Jim Schram. 

The album’s title track is a superb jazz-funk workout that showcases drummer Dana Thompson’s fantastic chops. The track also has an excellent horn arrangement, and Hayden Ashley kills it on keys. Burke adeptly handles the vocals here.

Zabrin delivers another incredible bass performance on the brilliant jazz-fusion instrumental “Slice.” The track also features some more dazzling sonic pyrotechnics from Funktastic’s badass horn section.  “Slice” is followed by the gorgeous “Where I Stand,” featuring Burke on vocals. 

The second half of the album starts off with the luminous soul ballad “Only,” which features award-winning Chicago vocalist Sarah Marie Young.

Things get funky again with “You Stepped In A Dream,” another potent jazz-fusion instrumental that showcases the band members’ impressive musical abilities. The album closes out with two more amazing fusion instrumentals, “Familiar Faces” and “Count It In Again,” respectively. 

Something In The Water is a really strong sophomore effort, displaying Zabrin’s consistency and versatility as a musician, producer and songwriter.  For those who love listening to great music performed by extremely talented musicians, this collection is definitely worth checking out.

In addition to those already mentioned, the Funktastic crew also includes Jeff Swanson (guitar), Doug Ferdinand (keyboards), Kiana Mayes (vocals), Ron Jacoby (trombone) and Nathan Mark (drums).

Check out Zabrin's website to preorder Something In The Water, concert dates, and other Funktastic-related info.

Video for "Here We Go Again," the first single from the album

Related blog entry: Review of Bass Phenom Mike Zabrin's Debut Album Funktastic

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prince and Sheryl Crow Performing “Everyday Is a Winding Road” at Lilith Fair

With the recent one-year anniversary of Prince’s death on April 21, I’ve been binging out on his music and videos over the last few days. During the binge, I came across this great clip of him sharing the stage with Sheryl Crow for an electrifying performance of her song “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” The performance took place on August 22, 1999 at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and was part of the Lilith Fair music festival.

This clip illustrates Prince’s incredible versatility as both a musician and performer. He was right at home in this country-rock milieu; he contributes some sweet country licks on guitar and brings some church to the proceedings with his gospel-infused vocals. And Crow delivers a bluesy vocal performance. She can definitely get down when she wants to.

Additionally, the Purple One transfixes the audience with a soul-stirring guitar solo. You can see the  passion and pure joy he had for the act of playing and performing here--a true artist in every sense. He and Crow elevated an already terrific song with this powerhouse performance.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Funk on Friday" by Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band

Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band are known their good-time funk music and creating a fun party atmosphere at their shows.  The Asheville, NC-based groove outfit definitely brought the funk and fun on their 2007 track “Funk on Friday.” 

The freewheeling funk groove boasts a superb horn arrangement with Greg Hollowell on sax and Derrick Johnson on ‘bone. And lead guitarist John-Paul Miller serves up some fantastic fret work while Ric Bennett holds down the groove with his extra-funky drumming. The song has a loose Fat Tuesday jamboree flow goin’ on and features a cool old-school-style rap from Josh Phillips. It's the perfect track to kick off the weekend on a funky note.

“Funk on Friday” is from the Booty Band’s critically acclaimed debut album, Now You Know, released in 2007. The band’s full lineup at the time of the album’s release was Al Al Ingram (bass and vocals); Greg Hollowell (alto and tenor saxophone); John-Paul Miller (lead guitar and vocals); Derrick Johnson (trombone), Ric Bennett (drums); Josh Phillips (vocals, percussion and rhythm guitar); Grady Gilbert (rhythm guitar); and Suzanna Baum (vocals).

Since the Booty Band dropped Now You Know, they have consistently released great music and are a badass live act; their concerts are like one big funky party. The hard-funkin’ band has some concerts lined up for May, July and August. Check out their website for show dates and music release info on new music releases.

The Booty Band performing "Funk On Friday" at the Emerald Lounge in Asheville

Related blog entry: Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band Releases New Album Funk Life

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Commodores Drop Some Southern Funk on “Gimme My Mule”

In addition to Lionel Richie’s chart-topping ballads, the Commodores were known for Southern-fried funk jams such as “Gimme My Mule," one of the Alabama-bred band’s funkiest releases.

The gutbucket groove is anchored by Ronald LaPread’s insanely funky bassline and boasts a wicked horn arrangement, nasty guitar licks and some sweet clavinet work from Milan Williams. And Richie delivers a raw, earthy lead vocal performance.

The song was written by LaPread, and its title references the unfulfilled promise of "40 acres and a mule" to newly emancipated slaves following the Civil War. It also touches on the virtues of living in a small country town versus the hustle and bustle of the big city.

"Gimme My Mule" was the first single from the band’s third album, Movin’ On, released in 1975.  The song peaked at #11 on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart. The album’s big hit was Richie's soul ballad “Sweet Love,” which climbed to #5 on the U.S. pop charts and #2 on the U.S.  R&B charts.

Following “Gimme My Mule” the Commodores continued to release great funk tracks throughout the mid and late ‘70s, including these groove nuggets: “Fancy Dancer,” “Thumpin’ Music,” “Brick House,” “Funky Situation” and “Too Hot To Trot."

Monday, April 10, 2017

George Clinton To Be Honored At SESAC Pop Music Awards

Funk legend George Clinton will receive the SESAC Legacy Award at the 2017 SESAC Pop Music Awards, which will take place on April 13 in New York City.  Clinton was the key architect and guiding force behind Parliament-Funkadelic, one of the most iconic and influential funk bands of all time.
With Clinton at the helm, P-Funk set the music world on fire in the 1970s with its rich gumbo of funk, rock, soul, gospel, psychedelic-soul and blues. The innovative groove outfit has had a significant impact on contemporary music, particularly in the genres of R&B, funk, dance, electro funk and hip hop; P-Funk’s massive influence on hip hop is probably second only to James Brown’s.

Some of the big-name artists and bands that have been majorly influenced by P-Funk include Prince, OutKast, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Gap Band, Dr. Dre, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and Digital Underground, to name of few.

Clinton, who was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, wears many hats as P-Funk’s leader: producer, songwriter, singer, impresario, talent wrangler and prolific idea’s man. Clinton’s boundless imagination, charisma and strong production skills coupled with the stellar talents of some of the baddest musicians on the planet made P-Funk of one the most important music acts not only of the 1970s but of any era.

And in addition to his work with P-Funk and its many offshoots, Clinton has released top-notch music in his solo efforts, including the acclaimed in 1982 album Computer Games, which contains the influential funk anthem “Atomic Dog.”

Over the last several years, the P-Funk mastermind has become an outspoken advocate for creators’ rights, particularly in copyright reform and royalty collection. His advocacy coincides with SESAC's focus on artists' rights.

Established in 1930, SESAC Holdings is the only U.S.-based Music Rights Organization that administers public performance, mechanical, synchronization and other rights. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Jackson 5 Get Funky On "Get It Together”

By 1973 the Jackson 5 had begun to shed their bubblegum-soul sound in favor of funk-laced dance grooves. The sizzling “Get It Together” exemplifies this new sonic direction. This was the funkiest single the J5 had released up to that point, and it still ranks as one of their funkiest tracks. The percolating groove features crackling clavinets, dynamic strings, poppin’ congas, funky bass and nasty guitar licks.

Michael delivers a gritty lead vocal performance, displaying a newfound maturity in his voice. The 15-year-old pop/soul star adapted well to the changes in his voice brought on by adolescence. Additionally, his brothers provide their signature smooth harmonies with some very soulful turns from Jermaine.

“Get It Together” was the lead single and title track from the group’s ninth studio album, released in September of 1973. The song was written by Hal Davis, Don Fletcher, Berry Gordy, Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino; and arranged by session guitarist Arthur Wright. It performed extremely well on U.S. R&B singles chart, peaking #2, and was a modest hit on the U.S. pop charts, climbing to #28.  Of course, the album’s breakout track was the Grammy-nominated smash “Dancing Machine,” which went on to become a J5 classic.

The J5 would bring the funk whenever they performed “Get It Together” live. They performed it on The Bob Hope Show, Soul Train, One More Time and The Jacksons TV Series. The group would also raise the roof with this hot cut in concert.

The Jacksons performing "Get It Together" in New Orleans during the 1979 Destiny Tour

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rock 'n' Roll Trailblazer Chuck Berry Dead at 90

Rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry died on Saturday, March 18, in his home outside St. Louis. He was 90.  Berry was one of rock music’s most important architects; his influence is incalculable—resonating in nearly every aspect of popular music. The rock legend's iconic guitar-playing style and peerless storytelling gifts in song are forever etched in the collective minds of music lovers the world over and will no doubt continue to be appreciated centuries from now.

Berry’s seminal tracks from the mid-1950s to the early ‘60s were vital in helping shape rock 'n' roll music. His sound was an exhilarating mixture of blues, R&B and country and western.

Also, Berry was a natural-born showman. He lit up the stage with his innate charm and humor, which were equally matched by his boundless energy and rare talent.

Berry truly embodied the spirit of rock music, and his tremendous impact cannot be underestimated. Every rock band and artist, from superstars to fledgling garage bands, owe a great debt to Chuck Berry, “The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

"Johnny B. Goode"

"Promised Land"

"Roll Over Beethoven" Live

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Legendary “Funky Drummer” Clyde Stubblefield Dead at 73

Clyde Stubblefield, one of music’s most influential and acclaimed drummers, died on Feb. 18 from kidney failure. He was 73. Stubblefield’s creative drum patterns on James Brown’s seminal grooves provided the foundation for the blossoming funk sound of the mid-1960s through early '70s. And he has not only influenced countless funk musicians but also legions of artists and producers in hip hop. 

Stubblefield was a member of Brown’s band from 1965 to 1971. And during his tenure with the Godfather, he played on funk classics such as “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Mother Popcorn,” and “Ain’t It Funky Now.” And he was featured on Brown’s Cold Sweat and Sex Machine albums.  Stubblefield also brought his powerful drumming talents to Brown’s legendary concerts.

Additionally, Stubblefield held the distinction of being one of the most sampled drummers in hip-hop history. His iconic drum break on Brown’s 1970 single “Funky Drummer” has been sampled on more than 1,000 songs. Some of the notable artists who have sampled the drum break for their tracks include Public Enemy, Run D.M.C., LL Cool J, Nas, Mos Def, the Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and Boogie Down Productions.

Upon hearing the news of Stubblefield’s death, Roots drummer Questlove wrote, “The Funky Funkiest Drummer of all Time. Clyde Stubblefield thank you for everything you’ve taught me. The spirit of the greatest grace note left hand snare drummer will live on thru all of us.”

Stubblefield's impact still resonates strongly today in funk, hip hop, R&B, breakbeat and many other music genres. Rest in peace funky drummer.

"Cold Sweat"

"Funky Drummer"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Funk Legend, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Walter “Junie” Morrison Dead at 62

Influential funk artist Walter “Junie” Morrison died on January 21. Morrison’s daughter, Akasha, confirmed the news via his Facebook page last Thursday.  He was 62. The cause of his death has not been made public.
The gifted multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, producer and arranger made a tremendous impact on the music world through his association with two legendary funk outfits--the Ohio Players and Parliament-Funkadelic.

The Dayton native joined the Ohio Players while still in his teens in the early 1970s. Morrison served as keyboardist, lead singer, songwriter, arranger, producer and musical director for the band. He contributed to the writing and producing of sterling tracks such as “Pain,” “Pleasure” and “Ecstasy.”

 And Morrison wrote and produced the quirky funk classic “Funky Worm” (1973) on his own. It was the band’s first single to reach number one on the R&B charts, as well as their first gold record. Morrison also provided the comical “Granny” voice on the track; and his inventive synthesizer  solos—played on an ARP Pro soloist—have been widely sampled on hip-hop records--233 songs according to the WhoSampled site.  Moreover, Morrison’s synth work on “Funky Worm” has been much-emulated by West Coast hip-hop producers, becoming a staple of the G-Funk sound of the ‘90s.

The musician left the Ohio Players in 1974 and released three solo albums—When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Super Groupie—before he began working with P-Funk in early 1978. He made major contributions to Funkadelic’s landmark album One Nation Under a Groove. His original composition formed the template for the album’s influential title track. Additionally, he contributed to the writing of nearly every track on the album.

 Other P-Funk albums in which Morrison contributed his myriad talents include Parliament’s Motor Booty Affair and Gloryhallastoopid; and Funkadelic’s Uncle Jam Wants You. He and George Clinton co-wrote the brilliant funk/dance classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep” for the Uncle Jam album. Morrison also provided the song’s incredibly funky Mini-Moog bassline. The oft-sampled track has also had a huge influence on hip hop.

Additionally, Morrison played keyboards and co-wrote songs for Clinton’s 1982 album Computer Games, which contained the iconic funk Anthem "Atomic Dog." Clinton is said to have called Morrison “the most phenomenal musician on the planet.” Morrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of P-Funk in 1997.

Morrison continued to work with Clinton and P-Funk off and on over the years as well as releasing more solo albums: Bread Alone (1980), Junie 5 (1981), Evacuate Your Seats (1984) and When The City (2004).

In addition to P-Funk, Morrison produced music for other artists, including two tracks on Soul II Soul’s 1995 album Vol. V: Believe (“Universal Love” and “I Care”).

Morrison’s music spans generations. Artists young and old have shown their appreciation for his invaluable musical contributions. Solange Knowles recently paid tribute to him on “Junie,” a song from her critically acclaimed album A Seat at the Table (2016).

The legendary groove master will be greatly missed by funkateers, hip-hop heads and general music lovers alike.

"Pleasure" by the Ohio Players

"One Nation Under a Groove" by Funkadelic

"Super Spirit" by Junie Morrison

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nik West Drops Funky New Joint “Bottom Of The Bottle”

Bass dynamo Nik West recently released her hot new single “Bottom Of The Bottle.” This irresistibly funky track showcases both West’s prodigious bass skills and impressive talents as a vocalist.

The song boasts an infectious melody that’s supported by a dope bass-thumpin’ groove; West also throws a cool little rap into the mix. The track is accompanied by a vibrant, colorful music video, which nicely complements the song.

In a recent interview with Vibe magazine, West explained that "the song is about letting go of all of your worries, and instead of wondering why bad things happen, and instead of drowning yourself with the negative, don’t let hard times keep you down for long. Live your life to the fullest and try to see the good in it all. Smile, whistle, sing, dance even if you’re “’at the bottom of the bottle.’”

The talented young musician/singer/performer has definitely been living life to the fullest and making a name for herself in the music game in the process. She has been receiving tons of praise for her incredible prowess on the bass as well as her electrifying live performances and strong vocal abilities. 

Additionally, the Arizona native has worked with big-name music artists such as Prince, Marcus Miller, Bootsy Collins, Lenny Kravitz, Steven Tyler, George Clinton/Parliament-Funkadelic, John Mayer and Dave Stewart. And she has appeared on the cover of a slew of bass musician magazines and has been featured in a number of publications for Vanity Fair, Teen Vogue, Rolling Stone, Afropunk, among others.

West has some gigs lined up next month. Check out her website to keep up with tour dates and new music releases.

Related blog entry: Funkiest Female Bass Players

Sunday, January 29, 2017

“Hot Pants, Pt. 1 (She Got to Use What She Got to Get What She Wants)” by James Brown

James Brown burned up the charts back in 1971 with his sizzling hit track “Hot Pants,” a funky ode to the women’s sexy fashion shorts.

This cut finds the legendary funk master completely immersed in his pure groove element. This is funk straight with no chaser as only the Godfather could do it.

Guitarists Hearlon "Cheese" Martin and Robert Coleman underline the funk with some sassy licks while bassist Fred Thomas and drummer John “Jabo” Starks adeptly anchor this killer groove.

The smokin’ horn parts are provided by Fred Wesley (trombone), St. Clair Pinckney (tenor saxophone) and Jimmy Parker (alto saxophone). The track also boasts a great bridge, where Brown lets loose with some primal funk screams.

Brown co-wrote “Hot Pants” with Wesley. The song, also produced by JB, topped the R&B charts in the U.S. and reached #15 on the pop charts. It was released as a three-part single on his label People Records in 1971. It’s one of his most popular ‘70s hits, which he’d often perform in concert.

“Hot Pants” has been sampled by a slew of rap artists, including Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid in in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness – the Cold Cut Remix),” MC Hammer, “Pump it Up,” and Gang Starr, "2 Steps Ahead.”

Additionally, some of Brown’s funk associates recorded Hot Pants-themed tracks, including “Hot Pants Road” by the J.B.’s and "Hot Pants - I'm Coming, I'm Coming, I'm Coming” by Bobby Byrd.