Saturday, September 02, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

I was visiting my friend Roger Lindgren recently, and I noticed he had a DVD of the documentary “Make It Funky- The Music That Took Over The World.” I had seen this fine film at The Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon last year and wanted to view it again. I borrowed Roger’s copy and just got done seeing it one more time. I have to say it is the best film to explain what New Orleans music is and how important the New Orleans sound is to American music.

The brass band street tradition, the second line and Afro-Cuban rhythms are the main factors contributing to the funkiness of the New Orleans sound. The second line being the second wave, returning from a funeral, with upbeat drums leading the charge - the bass drum, keeping the solid beat, and the snare drum working the syncopation. This is likely where funk came from. The film talks about the influence of the piano in New Orleans music and how Fats Domino brought The Big Easy’s music to the world. The film also talks about the Mardi Gras Indian traditions and the social clubs that were a way of bonding and dealing with the “Jim Crow” laws of the day.

“Make It Funky” is narrated by Art Neville of the Funky Meters and the Neville Brothers. A large segment of the film deals with the R & B era of the fifties and sixties with commentary from Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Art Neville, Jon Cleary, Bonnie Raitt, and legendary drummer Earl Palmer to name some.

There are some great live performance footage with the likes of Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas (with just piano and Irma’s great vocals), the Neville Brothers, and a great clip from the seventies of Doctor John and Earl King playing with Professor Longhair. Also check out a spry Earl Palmer cookin’ on the drums to “Rip It Up” with vocals by Ivan Neville.

“Make It Funky” was filmed before Hurricane Katrina. It is now one year since Katrina and New Orleans is still in turmoil. A major report lays a lot of blame on the federal government's lack of maintenance of the levees as a big reason for the flooding, which caused the greatest amount of damage to The Big Easy. Now the backbiters and syndicators are trying to make New Orleans into a generic white bread Disneyland with no poor people of color. If the powers that be are allowed to sanitize New Orleans, part of our musical and cultural heritage will die.

“Make it Funky” helps explain the importance of New Orleans and I think will act as a great history lesson. Do yourself a favor and check out this fine film. I hope you dig it as much as I do.

September Blues Birthdays

B.B. King - September 16, 1925
KoKo Taylor - September 28, 1935
Freddie King - September 3, 1934 (died-1976)
Jimmy Reed - September 6, 1925 (died-1976)
Barbeque Bob - September 11, 1902 (died- 1931)
Gus Cannon - September 12, 1883 (died- 1979)
Roy Buchanan - September 23, 1939 (died- 1988)
Z.Z. Hill - September 30, 1935 (died- 1984)

Electric bassist John "Mr. Solid" Lee was born in Alaska and has been active in the Seattle blues scene for about 30 years. He currently plays with the Crossroads Band. Photo by Mike Coyote.


Mike Lynch said...

Yeah, what John Lee said about the backbiters and syndicators! Hey, didn't John Lee Hooker do a song by that name?

Mike Lynch said...

I finally watched this movie tonight, and really enjoyed it - until Captain Jack, Keith Richards showed up on stage. Jeeze, what a low point!