Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Yesterday, driving home from work, "Jimmie Mack" by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, mid-'60s Motown in its sublimest "Sound of Young America" factory-mode; Supremes-style rhythm section of pounding quarter notes from the drums & piano & bass, touched with whole-note vibraphone chords; and Martha's robust vocal a powerhouse where Diana Ross would be a sinuous flirtation. And it struck me, the Funk Brothers were the All-American Rhythm Section of the 1960s -- they echoed & updated the coiled, swift, muscular lightness of Count Basie's classic '30s rhythm section, famously called the All-American Rhythm Section. And, more deeply (in a few senses), the 1960s' Sound of Young America and the 1930s' All-American Rhythm Section each boasted the most influential bassists of their times: Walter Page in Count Basie's orchestra institutionalized the even 4-to-the-bar walking bass (others, such as Pops Foster, had done it earlier, but only intermittently and occasionally); and James Jamerson of the Funk Brothers made the electric bass a new and individual instrument where before it had mostly been a louder stand-up bass -- Jamerson made it a funky instrument, a highly syncopated riffing instrument with its own sound and timbre and attack and decay. Without the influence of jazz (and Page), bass might never have become central in country and bluegrass (it hadn't been before). From Egyptian disco to country to funk to rock to gospel to polka, bass and its electronic keyboard duplicator is everywhere. We can thank Page and Jamerson. And mostly, thank them for their beautiful music.


This morning, getting ready for work, no time to play piano with the toddling dude in my lap, so he sat down and plonked tone clusters and sang, "ah ah ah ah ah." It was very pretty, and it made me very happy.

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