Posts Tagged Sly Stone
Driving down the night, thinking in broken rhymes, the city sings out in a soulful falsetto that does not match up to its darker ambitions. Not all appetites are the same nor is the way in which we seek to satiate them but there is a commonality in that we all want. There are bound to be similarities, many facets of what we all have or want that is the same. Two things which transcend cultural differences of language and social mores are food and music. It can serve as a sort of shorthand to convey one’s intentions or overall identity. Offering up a sweet to someone who does not speak your language; humming “Ode to Joy” or “Take the A Train” shows that when all the subtle differences are stripped away, humanity as a whole is all in the same boat. Connected to this phenomenon of commonality is dancing, if not outright then at least moving to the groove. Dancing can encompass a sort of communal celebration or when reduced down to an individual, a ritual of and for one. Either way it is a narrative told by bodies all in motion to a beat but proclaiming themselves individually by the nature of their movement, the Saturday night dichotomy of being together yet apart.
Global Noize is a collaboration of turnbulist/composer DJ Logic and Keyboard/Composer Jason Miles. Both artists have never limited themselves in regards to who they will collaborate with, the diversity transcends not just genre but style (jazz/electronic/pop/world). DJ Logic’s music impresses because no matter who he has performed with, he keeps his voice while simultaneously making it mesh with that of his collaborators regardless of their genre. YouTube is loaded with videos of DJ Logic jamming with artists that when listed on paper seem it would not work but always do so in a compelling way.
One of the powers of traditional jazz was that it was ever in flux, new genres shooting Juno like up out of the head of established ones. Traditional jazz has stagnated, there is still plenty of joy to be had from seeing some of the surviving masters do their thing or a young up and comer adeptly serve up an offering from jazz’s lexicon but the effect is not dissimilar to seeing one of the great paintings by the masters in a museum. This album is their third together and like the previous works utilizes a cast of musicians from wide ranging backgrounds. Both Jason and DJ Logic have helped the downtown sound further evolve in the way traditional jazz used to. The downtown sound for the longest while was a sort of off branching of free jazz sometimes encompassing aspects of modern Western classical component (Varese, Lighetti, Webern et al). Organically, through their efforts both together and separately, new elements have entered into the downtown sound. DJ Logic has cross pollinated with the jam band crowd, hip-hop and rockers while Jason has brought in later day fusion, the aural perfections of pop productions and electronica. Further added to this mix are elements of world music.
There is a whole new generation of musicians and composers of world music who grew up practicing the traditional works of their culture while also embracing what was au current elsewhere. This has allowed for the creation of work which rather than forsaking what came before it, builds off of it combined with outside elements to create something new. These musicians’ attitude of freedom from the restrictions of rigid tradition fits in perfectly with Global Noize’s artistic mission which is to serve as a sort of all-embracing cultural ambassadors, creating works and performances which draw upon whatever turns them on regardless of its source.
The music of Sly Stone offers the perfect template for this project. In attitude his was among one of the first multi-racial groups in rock for which he took much heat. Among the messages in his music was a strength through unity. Stylistically, Sly’s music was highly original and encompassed several genres, from the doo-wop he sang in his youth (Start of “Dance to the Music”) to the Fender Rhodes drenched funk and straight out guitar solo crescendo of rock and roll. Sly has remained a steady influence on current music, more so than a lot of his peers whose work is pleasurable and important to the canon of what came out of his era. With Sly, some of each generation of artists continues drawing directly from if not aspects of what he did then possibilities which he freed up.
This album is highly listenable and gives a surprisingly straight ahead read on the source material. The program is made up of all Sly penned songs except the last piece “Dreams’ written in homage by Jason. The sound is pristine as is to be expected given Jason’s pedigree. The album eschews the luminescent from sheens of sweat funk for the more laid back soul groove parts of Sly’s work.
“In Time” starts with some beat boxing and an infectious world music version of scat singing by Malika Zarra which is sexy and fun. Along with Jason Miles and DJ Logic there is a rotating cast of musicians that vary from track to track including original Sly drummer Greg Errico. The musicians all come from different backgrounds but their enmeshment is perfectly organic which is fittingly appropriate given Global Noize’s mission statement and the scope of Sly’s music too. Throughout the album different guest vocalists are brought in, Nona Hendryx taking lead on this song. With each song the spirit of the original is maintained without ever sounding like mere parroting. The different vocalists do not fracture the overall cohesiveness of the project but underscore how some aspects of works of art effect people the same regardless of whatever other totems we make of them.
There is such a full sound on this track where every instrument is clearly heard, deftly layered but never overly busy nor muddied. It also underscores how this part of Sly’s oeuvre was as compelling in its intricacies as some of his more dramatic harder edged funk which is probably better known to the more casual listener. While new sonic elements such as scratching/beat boxing are introduced into this track it does not forgo the traditional brass section as Sly would have used which sonically adds a warmth and further layers that would be missing had it all been midi(d).
The album has two different versions (mixes) of “It’s a Family Affair” and “The Same Thing” on it. “It’s a Family Affair-Falu Mumbai Mix”is named after the singer Falu whose chant-like vocalese entwines itself around the songs traditional vocals as done by Roberta Flack. The song has a bubbling bass whose mood is mirrored by the occasional wah-wah of guitar. The song is all subtle contrasts coming together, from the two different style vocals to the old soul declamations of saxophone and late night organ mixing with slow electro washes of synth. In some ways this piece is emblematic if not of the ensemble itself then this current project.
The album facilitates the urge to dance, whether just with friends, a potential romance or just by one’s self. We are all just the creature of Prometheus and must occasionally honor that gift by getting out on the dance floor to shake our asses.
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