Saturday, February 21, 2015

AUDITIONS: Dancers Wanted for TV Show 3/18

AUDITION!!!

Dancers Wanted for tapping of Live From Center Stage featuring The GROOVALOTTOS. Dancers of all ages wanted for a live studio filming of a soul-funk band. Looking for dancers in the style of Soul Train and American Bandstand.

Dress in your funkiest outfit!!! Be at the Cape Cod Community Media Center by 7:30 pm (17 Shad Hole Road, Dennis Port, MA) and party with New England's Phunkiest Band!!!

A guaranteed PHUNKY Good Time!!!

Check the Series, "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

For The Love of SOUL at the Brewster VFW 2/28




















Check the Series "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

Friday, February 20, 2015

The GROOVALOTTOS @ Gilda's Stone Rooster - Feb 21




















Check the Series, "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt. 5

When bass players rock the drums...
With any favorite dish, it's the seasonings that make the flavors of the main ingredients stand out. Seasoning and spice is that fine detail in a recipe that can make it or break it. For a funk and soul recording, the percussion tracks are the seasoning. You can change the entire feel and mood of a song based on what percussion you use and how it's played. Something as simple as a tambourine, cowbell or conga drum can become the difference between a classic hit records and a dud.

In these days of electronica, percussion tracks are usually samples and loops that can be cut and paste into the song. Percussion provides the framing and While not a soul records, but a definite homage to blues, "My Generation" by The Who would have been lost as a dance record completely if they had not used hand claps to frame the wild style drumming of Keith Moon, who characteristically played inside, outside, under, over and next to the pocket of the tune, as one would more so expect from a jazz drummer.

Eddie getting funky on the bongos
However, for me it was the rich funk and soul of the 1970's with Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Babatunde Olatunji, Fela Kuti, Earth Wind &Fire, and Hamilton Bohannon that are at influential play here. A lot of these artists you'll find in the loop of many classic hip-hop records, as the percussion that fattens out the drum machine base that they are building off of. In producing this album, I recognize a blend of the musicianship of the old school combined with the technology of the new school. For most of the classic albums, 8 and 16 track recording systems were the innovation and by the time the hip-hop producers were doing their thing we were up to 48 tracks and digital. Each item on a drum kit has it's own track as do the percussion tracks and loops as opposed to using four mics for a whole kit as they did back in the day. As a result, the old school records had a warmer, blended feeling while the new technology makes it rather stark and crisp.

This is also where your engineer makes a big difference, as Bob Yen has old school training, sensibilities and know how from engineering, producing and mixing countless albums as well as being a sound man for numerous live shows for a myriad of rock bands like Journey, Areosmith and the like. Most of your r&b and hip-hop engineers now are lost if the instruments are not plugged directly into the boards or are not software patches. To produce a descent, human soul record outside of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, you need to find a good rock and roll engineer.

These rich percussion tracks that the hip-hop producers loved sampling and looping in the late 1980's and 1990's also gave me an appreciation for the texture and dimension of layered percussion. The old school process of sampling and looping required a degree of skill in manipulating and placing the sample that has been largely replaced by the use of software like Pro tools and so forth. One of the most impressive examples in hip-hop history actually didn't use sampling, but pure DJing skills. On the album "Straight Out The Jungle" by The Jungle Brothers, for example, their DJ Sammy B actually mixed and cut from his turntables directly onto the recording, using a drum machine as the metronome/ percussion link. Likewise, Gangstarr alum, DJ Premiere used to use a 4-track and the pause button feature to build his loops, feeding in the breaks from his turn table every two or four bars.

A djembe player that went to Goddard? Impossible...
The hip-hop producers of the golden era also intuitively did what you would find more sophisticated musicians doing when it came to blending elements. For example, for a jazz player, the notion of three instruments in the same song playing three different time signatures against each other is what you might find in James Brown's recordings, or the drumming records of Babatunde Olatunji. The largely jazz trained session men of Motown also were known for doing this. For example, in the cut, "Donlt Sweat The Technique" by Eric B and Rakim, you find a heavy swing jazz bass and horn loop, over a straight 4/4  drum machine groove.

Armed with bongos, djembe, tambourines, cow bells, a drum kit, broom shank, riser, four pairs of hands, and shaker, we went about building the percussion tracks of the album, giving each song it's own recipe. When we play out live, especially restaurant and jazz bar gigs, we often love to play with time signatures -super imposing 4/4 over 6/8, 5/4 and under 7/8 or 12/8- we found ourselves recising this habit with bongo and shaker patterns over the grooves of the song.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 4

Bob Yen engineering as Redbone thumps the groove
Albums always take me a long time to produce. That is to say, I take my time producing them. I'm big on letting tracks season before I go back and adjust or overdub. Once I had the basic tracks on a CD, the CD lives in my car and I'll listen to it throughout the production process. First, I like to get a great take and build from there. As the production evolves the sound and feel might shift slightly, but the basic tracks are always the foundation.

Eddie Ray's drum tracks are about as funky as you can get. After redoing my keyboards from the original scratch track, it was time to bring in Redbone and do the bass lines. Redbone and Eddie Ray have been playing together for years, having been in the legendary band, West Side Soul together in the 1990's, they are a bass an drum unit. Listening to the basic tracks and then listening to other records with great, funky bass and drums I began to get ideas that would lift our sound into a new paradigm rhythmically.

My sensibilities had been colored with the work of great jazz musicians playing on soul and funk records as well as the 1990's era of hip-hop where producers like Pete Rock, Ali Shahid Muhammad, DJ Mark the 45 King, and DJ Premiere created some remarkable sounds from their sampling and looping work, juxtaposing swing beats against straight time beats. Ironically, virtuoso jazz players and untrained DJs turned producers have similar ears and concepts that escape conventional concepts of how music should be performed.

Producers notes on playback. As usual, Redbone nailed it.
Listening, for example, to the bass and drum work of James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin of the Funk Brothers/ Motown studio band of the 1960's. On several records, like "Hitch-Hike" "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Baby I Need Your Loving", you can hear the bass and drums are rocking two different time signatures against each other; giving the songs their edge. In the movie "Get On Up" we see a depiction of James Brown brow beating his musicians when they question his mixing of time signatures on the song "Cold Sweat". In this scene, we see Brown encouraging his musicians to the ink of their instruments as drums, similar to the philosophy that Eddie Ray brings to The Groovalottos, grooving is a counting game.

Redbone is a natural born talent and genius of the bass; being self taught on the instrument and growing up singing doo-wop on the street corner as a kid. From the first time that he came to a band rehearsal, it was clear that he understood and felt the groove and could make us feel it too. You see, a soul-funk record is about feeling, and the ability to convey that feeling to the listener. I would put him up against most conservatory trained jazz or rock bass players any day, as he comes with the kind of soul in his playing that they aspire towards. As a band, one thing that we often do in rehearsal and at gigs is play around with time signatures on tunes. One night, while playing a tune in 4/4, Eddie Ray decided to go into 6/8 while I went into 2/4 and Redbone stayed in 4/4. It's a math problem along the lines of solving equations and looking for the common denominator.

With the use of technology and 'industry standards' the differential between a band's live show and their record has grown wider and wider. The standard for recording is that the music is turned into a matrix of time corrected loops sewn together. Steely Dan used to do a version of this pre-looping. For the studio version of the album, they'd record in California, with California studio musicians who are in the pocket and predictable. For the tour, they'd put together a band of east coast guys who are wild and unpredictable. James Brown had bands that could do both. The same can be said for Sly and the Family Stone.


Also taking a page from Motown's studio band, they were all active jazz players who would record in the studio all day and play out at the clubs at night. The jazz clubs provided them with an opportunity to experiment with grooves, feels, and chord voicing. Elements of these experiments would often find their way into the arrangements of the songs they'd record the next day. In gathering footage for our documentary, "The Song Keepers" we ended up collecting hours of footage of our live performances and audience reactions. Pin-pointing elements that made particular performances stand out and translating them to the studio was how we created our basic tracks.

For any organic player, the studio can be a very restrictive environment. Most of my work as a producer has been trying to find ways to be organic in the studio, even when dealing with the electronica approaches of my last couple of albums. The production challenge here was getting Redbone to play like Redbone at a gig who can play in, out, next to, under, over, in front and behind the pocket naturally. Today, he was making the mistake of trying to lock himself to Eddie's kick drum. What I needed him to do was respond to it.

Since we were recording the bass DI, Redbone was able to sit in the control booth and record to the playback on the monitors instead of through headphones. I was able to sit behind him and be the annoying voice in his ear, coaching him through the bass parts. The end result: 12 of the best bass track recordings that I've heard in quite some time. "Ask Yo' Mama" is on it's way to being an instant classic album.