Posts Tagged ‘The Meters’
Why fuse rare breaks, hip-hop, early 70’s Soul and Jazz with roots reggae?
“Because nobody else has done it!” as musician, writer and producer Michael Hunter aka Butch Cassidy Sound System (formerly also known as Pablo) says. And he solved the problem of modern roots reggae with this release. Why? In my eyes there are a lot of fine roots reggae bands, but only a very few are performing a modern version of it (i.e. Groundation, who add a jazzy touch), most are boring retro groups. BCSS from Glasgow breaks out of the retro limitations and the results are pretty amazing. Look out for Michael’s diverse production, showing us why the Butch Cassidy project is far more than just reggae. There is soul, funk, r&b, hip-hop and house all on show. Despite the main reference for the album being a firm focus on 70’s reggae, Michael takes the individual tracks in very different directions, but the album in general veers far more towards classic dub reggae than new age fusion. That´s no surprise, because for the recording of this project, Michael collected together all the vintage instruments, compressors and effects. He also mastered the album from two inch tape, to achieve the authenticity of sound he wanted, and to create, a perfect mix of funk and reggae. And you have to hear the dub version of The Meters´ “cissy strutt”, which will keep most dance floors jumping.
“Joe who?” I had to ask the guy from the record shop twice, whose record was playing and finally he wrote it down for me. I never heard of this musician before, but the song “confusion” – which was played in the store, sadly only one song from a compilation – bumped around my mind until this day and soon I found some more stuff from this jazz guitarist, named “Boogaloo” in order to distinguish him from other jazz artists of the time. From the slow groove to blues influence, “Boogaloo” has it all, one of the grooviest jazz guitarists and highly recommend, sadly he never got the recognition he deserves in his lifetime until today. This rare gem came out after he recorded a number of sides for Prestige Records (i.e. with Willis Jackson and Richard “Groove” Holmes) , in 1975, on the tiny Joka label, and never really got into proper circulation at the time -making it one of the indie jazz funk classics of the 70s. His sound and style clearly derived from the blues. But it was a solid understanding of rock that Jones brought to his style of jazz and he really excelled in the jazz-funk groove and proved himself a first-rate blues player. None of his albums are groundbreaking or marked by individual achievements. But today his songs are discovered and celebrated from the club crowd as the cornerstone of “acid jazz.” “Boogaloo Joe” settles his greasy, quick-picking style into a bass-drums-keyboards-sax format, groovy stuff for the dancefloor. As already said, nothing gorundbreaking, but if you like to move your hips to Grant Green, The Meters or The Greyboy Allstars, this is a must-have, inluding a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Got it Bad, Girl”.
Spaceways Inc came into existence out of a need to pay dues to the music of Sun Ra and George Clinton. Thirteen Cosmic Standards (Atavistic) was the immediate result. On its sequel, Version Soul, Chicagoan reedman Ken Vandermark and drummer Hamid Drake and Boston-based bassist Nate McBride open their hearts with a set dedicated to various heroes.
Six Vandermark compositions have explicit dedications: reggae keyboard maestro Jackie Mittoo, musical director of Coxsone Dodd’s crucial Studio One label; Serge Chaloff. One of the finest exponents in jazz of the baritone saxophone (Vandermark has now added baritone to his armoury); Larry Graham, pounding electric bassist with The Family Stone and Graham Central Station; drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, swamp-funk engine of The Meters; righteous free jazz saxophonist Frank Wright; plus painter Mark Rothko, whose meditative wavelength has harmonized with an astonishing range of musical sensibilities.
Other unidentified currents flow through this taut, vital music. McBride’s three pieces name no names but key presences are felt, not least on the concluding “AII Frequencies”, where Vandermark’s clarinet sounds like a melodica as he engineers a real time virtual encounter between King Tubby and the Upsetter in Chicago. Drake is a marvelous reggae drummer – make that a marvelous drummer, full stop. In particular, McBride (on electric bass) is outstanding, technically and emotionally. If Version Soul invites influence-spotting, you can also listen to it straight, as these three superb musicians are making music that’s incredibly alive.
By mixing funk and reggae with some old-fashioned Hard Bop and a touch of free, the saxophonist lets the listener know this is something somewhat different than usual. From the opening sluggish “Back of a Cab ” it is clear that this is anything but a high-energy session. The trio rides through a series of dedications, including the airy “Reasonable Hour (for Serge Chaloff)” the powerful “Force at a Distance (for Frank Wright) ” and the introspective “Rothko Sideways (for Mark Rothko).” There are times when it seems to drag a bit, but much of what is heard is not about impressing with power, but instead exploring a range of emotions, something which Hamid Drake and Nate McBride do particularly well. For those tired of the saxophone trio – a format that has sometimes exhausted itself – Vandermark tries partially successfully – to resurrect it as a vehicle of broadened inspiration, where the traditional functions of sound, melody, and rhythm are primary, but where limits are transcended.
A power trio in the truest sense of the word, Spaceways Inc. takes its riddim responsibilities quite seriously. It’s a funky job, but somebody has to do it.
(I stole several parts from reviews by Steven Loewy/Cadence & Julian Cowley/The Wire)