=Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Funky Whistlers

Well... I promised a new mix about a week ago and it is finally ready to go. In the past I've whipped together mixes with a particular theme (take Windy City Workout and Baby Do Right By Me as fine examples), but have yet to put one together that focuses entirely on a single instrument. The idea of pooling together funky tracks that highlight the importance of a single instrument is by no means a new one. For instance, our dear friend Vincent the Soul Chef whipped together a funky guitar mix for Jemsite a few months back, while Mr. Funky 16 Corners has provided a number of smoking hot organ mixes in the past. With the solid staple of previous mixes highlighting key funk band instruments in tow, I decided to take the opposite route and throw together a mix focusing entirely on a rather 'un-funky' instrument, the flute. To keep things interesting, this mix highlights the flute playing a variety of roles. For example, in cases like Herbie Mann's Memphis Two-step, the flute plays a prominent role throughout the entire song, vamping along in a funky mode that really sets the tone for the entire track. In other cases, like Lonnie Liston Smith's Expansions, the flute remains hidden in the background while the other instruments really get things cooking, only to emerge for a brief time to treat the listener's ears to a killer funky solo. Regardless of the specific role played in each track, one thing is for certain, this mix demonstrates that in the hands of the right player even an instrument as unfunky as the flute can be mighty soulful.

The Funky Whistlers - Trunk of F.U.N.K. vol. 017

Artist – Song title - Flautist

Yusef Lateef – Nubian Lady – Yusef Lateef
Michael Howell – In The Silence – Bennie Maupin
Bobbi Humphrey – Chicago, Damn – Bobbi Humphrey
Mongo Santamaria – The Whistler – Grant Reed or Roger Glenn
Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes – Expansions – Donald Smith
Hank Crawford – Funky Rooster – Jeremy Steig
Herbie Mann – Memphis Two-step – Herbie Mann
Ron Carter – Uptown Conversation – Hubert Laws
Harold Johnson Sextet + - Delores – David Crawford
Cymande – Changes – Mike Rose

=Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rocking Chair - Brothers of the Ghetto

After a VERY long hiatus, I've finally found some free time to resume providing funky nuggets for your listening pleasure. In the time since I've been withdrawn from the blogosphere this site passed the one-year anniversary mark, an event that unfortunately passed by without any commemoration by yours truly (it's not that I didn't want to do something. This site has always been a "labor of love" that sometimes needs to take the back-burner to real-life responsibilities).
Hopefully, now that I've got a better handle on the whole being a dad thing, I'll be able to get back to a level of output similar to what was common in the "early" days of Trunk of F.U.N.K.

With the extended break from mixes and singles running through my mind, I thought I'd mark my return with a blistering funk 45 from a group out of the southside of Chicago.

Rocking Chair - Brothers of the Ghetto - Ghetto

The bits of information that I have on this band are few and far between. The Brothers of the Ghetto marked the first instance of recording, arranging, and performing original music for bass player Sam Cockrell. As far as I'm aware, this 45, on the Ghetto label, is the only recording by the group known as the Brothers of the Ghetto. This is recording is not, however, the only recording by the core group of musicians. Sometime after recording this 45, the group changed their name to Majik and recorded three 45s with Willie Mitchell for the Hi label (including the highly sought dancer "Back into your Heart"). After this time, I have no idea what happened to most of the musicians in the group. What I do know is that Cockrell later went on the record a minor national hit, "Gotta Get Up" with Kevin Bell of Kool and the Gang fame. Since that time, Cockrell has remained musically active, recording and performing with his group The Groove.

Today's single, "Rocking Chair", blasts out of the gate with a short, choppy drum break that's guaranteed to get beat nerd ears ringing. Luckily, the short break isn't what makes this track, but rather the full band joining in at a similar raucous pace after only a few bars of open drums to really get things moving. When everything gets going full speed ahead, it's clear that this 45 packs the kind of energy that is guaranteed to get people out of their chairs and onto the dance floor. Clearly, that must have been what the band had in mind, as the vocals serve little purpose beyond describing in detail how to make your body do the "Rocking Chair" (if you listen closely, unlike a lot of other 'dance craze 45s', I think the vocals herein allow for a pretty great mental image of what the guy on stage doing the "Rocking Chair" must have looked like). All in all, this 45 encompasses everything that funk 45 fans look for: a great party single, a killer break, and the relished, yet rarely found energy that truly defines the funk 45.

Enjoy, and I'll be back in the next few days with an all-new mix dedicated entirely to an oft-overlooked instrument, the funky flute.