The Real Funk and Nothing But The Funk II

by Rawn Randall

Well I’m back with a funky update. The original article is from 2003. All lot has changed since then. Most note worthy is the ascension of YouTube and Google into the fabric of our lives. What that means for you funkateer wannabes is that there is a great deal of information out there.

With the advent ITunes you can buy individual songs. Google, Wikipedia and Amazon are also excellent sources of information.

On YouTube you can find any number of bassists playing ‘their’ version of popular bass lines. This is sometimes laughable as some renditions are just plain wrong, awful and out of time. But some are right on. There is one guy in particular named, MarloweDK. He’s the real deal! Check him out.

So in the last 10 years technology has made it more convenient to access the funk. Getting on YouTube is like falling down the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’. You never know what you’ll find.

Yipes, they caught up! In the past 10 years non-Americans have learned how play basketball really well. (see Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitski.) They also learned how to funk. I’ve upcoming interviews with: Kenji Hino from Japan, Jaytee Teterissa of Holland, Pascal Mulot from France, Andrew Lauer from Germany and Dario Deidda from Italy. Yes also with video.

Technology has also changed the way we record music. I’ll be writing an article with accompanying video on the near computer software that allows us to record and play along with your own funk jams.

There are a bunch new funky pedals out there that we must explore. We have gone far past the Mutron of yesteryear. I’ll be writing an article with accompanying video on Gear Updates.

On a sadder note, my teacher and Guru, Steve Logan passed away since the last article. Steve ‘Tweeter Banks’ Logan (a strange nickname for a bassist) left behind a rich legacy of licks, tricks and runs than I’m going to share with you. Again, with video. The torch has been passed.

PS. If you haven’t heard of Steve Logan look him up here on YouTube!

I had the honor of spending a few days with Marcus Miller as he recorded his upcoming 2012 CD. Wow, Mr. Miller is taking it NExT

Finally on a the lighter side of things, I finally got the opportunity to see Larry Graham play live last year. I’ve met a few times though the years at trade shows and such but never got a chance to see him do his thing.

Now, I know he’s never seen me play live so I was wondering how he stole all my best licks! LoL

It was a pleasure to see the master at work. That’s where all this thumb stuff came from!

Top 10 Required Listening 2011:

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Uplift Mofo Party Plan
    bassist: Flea
    drummer: Chad Smith
  2. Roy Hargrove, RH Factor
    bassists: Reggie Washington, Lenny Starworth
    drummer: Willie Jones, JT Thomas
  3. James Brown, Greatest Hits/Rhino
    bassist: Bootsy Collins, Various
    drummer: various
  4. Incognito, Live in London
    bassist: Randy Hope-Taylor
    drummer: Pete Biggin
  5. Sam & Dave, Soul Men/Stax
    bassist: Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn
    drummer: Al Jackson
  6. Fred Hammond, The Essential

    bassist: Fred Hammond, Terrence Palmer. et al
    drummer: Various
  7. Jeff Lorber Fusion, Wizard Island
    bassist: Danny Wilson
    drummer: Dennis Bradford
  8. Parliment/Funkadelic, Give Up the Funk
    bassist: Bootsy Collins, et al
    drummer: various
  9. Pleasure, The Best of Pleasure
    bassist: Nathaniel Phillips
    drummer: Bruce Carter
  10. Michel Petrianni, Live
    bassist: Steve Logan
    drummer: Victor Lewis

(editor’s note : this is the original article written by Rawn not quite 10 years ago)

The Real Funk and Nothing But The Funk

by Rawn Randall

One of the most effective tools for learning a particular style of music is to listen to the ‘cream’ of that particular genre. I have compiled a list called the ‘Top 10 Required Listening for Funk’. A list limited by only 10, is bound to have great omissions. My most sincere apologies to Prince, James Brown, Earth Wind and Fire, Parliment/Funkadelic, Jaco Pastorius, Ohio Players, Tower of Power etc. These artists all belong in the Top 10. In truth there are about 100 albums in the Top 10!

The list encapsulates both traditional finger and slap style funk. I have indicated which style is emphasized on each record. In some cases, both finger, and slap are employed equally. A distinction can also be made between Jazz/Fusion Funk and Soul/R-N-B Funk. The biggest difference, is that R-N-B Funk usually has vocals while Fusion Funk has the melody carried by an instrument (not always by the bass, but in some cases) and more solos. I have tried to give an equal sampling of each in the list.

The time line spans from 1970 to 2003. LARRY GRAHAM, the father of slap bass, is represented on the ‘Greatest Hits’ of Sly and the Family Stone. Not all bandleaders on the list are bassists. MARCUS MILLER is on the list on two separate albums. I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Miller for the past few years and I’ll share some interesting insights possibly in a future article.

I have notated the drummers as well as the bassists because of the unique way that each tandem interacts with each other. It is very important for the drummer to create the correct pocket for the bassists. Notice how Poogie Bell sets MARCUS MILLER up and leaves him tons of space for his percussive slap solos. The same can be said of Phil Gould of Level 42. He does a great job of staying out of the way of a very ‘notey’ MARK KING. Also of special interest is the role of the bass synth holding down the bottom while the bassist solos away. MARCUS MILLER’S ‘Ozell Tapes’ gives us a clear example of big bottom bass synth support.

Another key to highlight is how one drummer interacts with different bassists and vice-versa. On ‘School Days,’ STANLEY CLARKE is working with three very different drummers. Listen how each drummer has a particular style and how Stanley weaves his craft between them. On ‘Outbreak,’ by drummer Dennis Chambers, bassists WILL LEE and GARY WILLIS show how their very different styles work with a ‘busy’ drummer.

While the list is not composed in any particular order, these 10 albums are what I consider to be the most influential albums to my own playing and what I recommend that my students listen to. Let me repeat, another set of 10 could be considered equally valid. Pay special attention to ME’SHELL N’DEGEOCELLO’s ‘Plantation Lullabies.’ She is the youngest bassist on the list, and perhaps you can hear how she has been influenced by some of the other ‘masters’ on this list such as PAUL JACKSON and LARRY GRAHAM.

Top 10 Required Listening:

  1. Me’shell N’degeocello, Plantation Lullabies 1993 (f) (r/f)
    bassist: Me’shell N’degeocello
    drummer: Gene Lake
  2. Stanley Clarke, School Days 1976 (b) (f/f)
    bassist: Stanley Clarke
    drummer: Steve Gadd, Gerry Brown, Billy Cobham
  3. Level 42, World Machine 1985 (s) (r/f)
    bassist: Mark King
    drummer: Phil Gould
  4. Brother Johnson, Look Out for Number 1 1976 (s) (r/f)
    bassist: Louis Johnson
    drummer: John Robinson
  5. Marcus Miller, The Ozell Tapes 2002 (s) (f/f)
    bassist: Marcus Miller
    drummer: Poogie Bell
  6. Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits 1970 (s) (r/f)
    bassist: Larry Graham
    drummer: Greg Errico
  7. John Scofield, Blue Matter 1986 (s) (f/f)
    bassist: Gary Grainger
    drummer: Dennis Chambers
  8. Miles Davis, Live in Japan 1981(b) (f/f)
    bassist: Marcus Miller
    drummer: Al Foster
  9. Herbie Hancock, Headhunters 1973 (f) (f/f)
    bassist: Paul Jackson
    drummer: Harvey Mason
  10. Dennis Chambers, Outbreak 2003 (f) (f/f)
    bassist(s): Will Lee, Gary Willis
    drummer: Dennis Chambers

funk style key
f – finger
s – slap
b – both
f/f- fusion funk
r/f – r-n-b funk


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