Funk philosophy for a Bluesman

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Joe P, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    My present musical priority is the band Funk University - a new band that's never played out. We've been having weekly practices now for about seven months.

    One problem that we have is that the horn players - sax and trumpet - are former-bluesmen.. Well, not-exactly "former". The thing is - They're not really picking-up the Funk grooves like I'd like to see, and they're still going to one or two open blues jams a week together; at the same time, I don't think they ever get together on non funkband practice nights to write arrangements or rehearse for Funk U. This is evident to me at rehearsals; these guys are GOOD, but they SOUND like blues-players!

    In me trying to talk to them about this, there have been some misunderstandings - they think I'm just a "Blues-hater". In reality, I'm just trying to get them to immerse themselves a little more into the Funk grooves, and into their Funk U. horn parts!

    I spent hours writing this letter to one of them (the trumpet player). I thought someone here might be interested.

    After that recording session, I'm convinced that we can be a tight, grooveful, successful band. Those tracks went down smoothly, and the parts went-down RIGHT! Remember that we should strive to have all thirty-some songs AT LEAST that tight and authoritive!

    Let's keep working on our groove-feel, Bill; that's the-thing with this kind of music.

    Here's an excerpt from an email conversation I had with Mary:

    The thing is: in funk music especially - extreme groove is practically the PURPOSE of the music! With funk, groove is the transcendent property. As you've said yourself - I'm sure that there are plenty of rock and blues bands that couldn't convincingly (if not "could only lamely") pull-off funk music. I've been listening - practically continuously - to this track-dump of No Parking, and it never ceases to amaze me how sparse and simple the song actually is; it's all in the groove!

    ...We have to work to elevate our band-groove. That's the foundation of where our success lies. Of course, in any type of music, groove is important (yes, there is such-thing as a 'good Polka-groove'), but some of the great funk and soul songs are 'stripped-down' to more reveal the raw groove to the listener on a deeper level - No Parking is a good example of this, I think. Our groove has been getting better and better; now I truly believe that we can be a great band.

    Y'know, Bill: I hope you understand what I mean by my comparisons between Funk and Blues. I certainly greatly-appreciate The Blues. You heard my rendition of Blue Jean Blues - I truly think I dug-down and nailed a true and mature blues-feel; that kind of 'guts' can hardly be faked. The Mole Patrol - the former-passion of my musical life - played many songs that were closely-related-to, if not authentic, Blues numbers - and I loved playing them (and singing them - my voice is not-only a bit of 'a natural' for Blues, but I WORKED on it, you know).

    I have a great appreciation for The Blues - even though there's practically NO money in it. Why do I bring-up money? Because it's an indication of blues-players and blues bands being 'a dime a dozen'. Why is that? Because Blues is such a natural, organic, primitive, grass-roots kind of music. So is Blues the grass-roots music of the masses? No - you still have to admit that a great number of 'regular' live-blues listeners are BLUES MUSICIANS, or their family and friends! Hence the big week-night 'Blues jam' scene (which may seem 'big' to you, but it's NOT, if you step-back a little and look at our huge metropolitan area; there are FAR are more people at skating rinks, bowling alleys, or perhaps most-interestingly: "BAND-FREE" TAVERNS on any given weeknight). Then on Fri and Sat nights - the nights your average grass-roots Folks want to go out for a good time, I'll bet more than HALF the bars that have Blues jams on their (otherwise-dead) weeknights, DON'T run Blues on the weekend!!

    Music DOES affect ones mood and attitude and outlook, of course, and the Blues-feel is... well - kind of 'smoky' and melancholy (a different kind of 'smokie' than what the Funk-scene is famous for, of course). It's amazing how well masterfully-done Blues can just impart this deep blues-mood on the listener, isn't it? We both know that no other style of music can impart this certain kind of organic, gut-felt melancholy feeling. Even 'fast blues' - shuffles and whatnot - somehow hide a certain measure of this distinctive feel. But the thing is: Why would someone want to come-out of the drudgery of their workweek, and into their supposedly stimulating, reviving, fun weekend - to enter into a blues-feel?! This is the main reason I don't care to perform blues - I want to give folks what they want; what they need to feel youthful, revived and JOYFUL. Joyful!

    ...But I'm serious when I say that groove-wise, Blues is the "anti-Funk". I'm speaking technically now - musician to musician. The basic beats and swing-properties, the groove-feel, the drive-and-drag properties (drive and drag, along with the beats that are accented, are a BIG part of this), the way each note of a given instrument are made to attack, sustain and decay, the way a note's pitch is approached or transitioned - these are all part of the magic of The Blues.

    These technical properties, along with the resulting psychological effect they impart, are nearly DIRECTLY ANTITHETICAL to Funk-feel, and Funk culture! This is why we can't even 'accidentally' inject these 'blues properties' into Funk University's show - they are mutually destructive.

    Listen to Funk. Play Funk. Study Funk! It's not a joke. It's Joyous, Bill. Joyful!

    We're all counting on each other to be faithful to the mission and calling of Funk University. We want Folks to celebrate life with us.

    Could your Bluesman friends say that Disco is 'gutless'? Sure they could. We can leave-out the guts; play from your brain and your groin, and 'spread the joy', Man.

    Seeya -

  2. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI

    OK, then; I guess not.

  3. zac2944

    zac2944 Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Long post are tough for some people. If you want more replies, try to keep things more to the point and focused.

    I understand your situation. I play in a 13 piece funk band ( Our horn section can be tough to work with as well.

    I have had to tell my horn players "get it right", or risk being replaced. I even told one guy that he was our "weakest link", and although we like having him in the band his playing and commitment were not where they needed to be.

    I think it's more about attitude than anything else. You want your band to be funky. Your horn players don't seem to dig "funky" and aren't willing to change. A professional musician does what it take to give the bandleader what he wants. Regardless of how good someone is or how much experience they might have, if they don't give you what you want they're not worth it. I would replace a difficult to work with 20 year sax veteran with some kid out of high school band if the kid had the right attitude.

    Are you in a position to replace your guys? Lay down the law. It's tough, but it is part of what a band leader does. If your band is more of a group of friends than a group of pros, or if you are not the band leader, then it might not be so easy.

    Good Luck
  4. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    I'd go with a shorter letter that has a less didactic tone, or scrap the letter and just talk to the trumpet player. Also, capitalizing multiple words within a paragraph makes it seem like you're exasperated, as if you're shouting those words to make your point to a less-than-intelligent audience. Your letter indicates frustration with the band, and some degree of a know-it-all attitude. Is this your band? Are you really 40X funkier than the trumpets? Personally, I'd be miffed if a bandmate wrote me a letter like that, in which he makes so many assumptions about the genre I most enjoy and my own playing.

    Sentences that sound like this will not make Bill very receptive to your message "Y'know, Bill: I hope you understand what I mean..."

    Try saying, in the simplest and most honest terms possible, 'We aren't getting a really solid funk feel, here are a few examples of what I mean.' If you have some songs that demonstrate your point that would be helpful. I'd focus less on your descriptions of blues and funk and more on just giving examples of what you'd rather be hearing them play. And, if they're never going to play funky horn lines, you'll have to get new players.
  5. is the problem that they don't tongue the notes?
  6. +1

    That letter was full of condescension.

    If you as a band leader can not show them what they are doing wrong by explaining the technique that need be applied you should find player that already have what you are looking for.

    And they pegged you for a Blues hater, Go figure. :meh:
  7. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    If you can just talk to your brass/blues guys, that's prolly better than e-mail. Emotion is difficult to convey, and he/they may read something into your words that you did not mean to convey at all.

    Its cool that they are still going to blues jams...but they need to listen to the material for Funk U, too. I work with three different project...a swamp/blues band, a country outfit, and The Knowbodys, which is rock. In order to get the feel for these diverse kinds of music, I have to *listen*. I am not crazy about country, but it butters the bread in Texas, so I listen to the pieces I am to learn, even though rock is my true love.

    So...if I can do all that, work a job, and raise kids, your brass guys can take the time to *listen* to what they are supposed to play, and get it right.