As the new year begins there is a musical thought that immediately came into my mind. Usually whenever I hear someone try to define R&B/funk music of any variety, inevitably two factors come into play: they usually either define it as a “retro” style or music for teenagers. Music of the rock era is often defined this way. However there was an experience once that made up my own mind for me. I was driving back from a visit to the city of Portland one day with the parents during my mid teens. They’d been playing some relatively abstract jazz-Sun Ra’s Arkestra maybe. Than I asked to hear the Quincy Jones album The Dude. While most of it seemed likable to my family,a couple of the songs,notably “Turn On The Action” were dismissed by a member of my family as sounding like bad disco to them at first.
At the time I was very disappointed. Year later my friend Henrique gave me high praise,which I don’t think I particularly deserved for having an interest in what he called “adult funk”. It wasn’t urban ballads he was talking about either. A good example would be the spare,jazz-funk groove of “Somethin’ Special”, also from The Dude and featuring the singing of Patti Austin. While romantic in nature,the song reflects an outlook from the point of view of someone who has loved and lost. Who realizes what they are looking for and is seeking companionship as opposed to the fulfillment of physical desire. Even in adolescence this outlook more accurately reflected my own personal outlook on romance. So I’ve always gravitated towards it.
Years later when I began doing water color paintings,usually listening to music while I did this (mostly funk,jazz and soul),it became clear that this adult groove and sense of soulful lyricism began to find itself expressed in some of this work. For example,the comic type painting you see above. Soul,jazz,funk and R&B are all very much links in a chain in how they interpret romanticism and sensuality,both lyrically and instrumentally. A musical impulse can reflect and sensuous movement with no words quite easily. And words can often allow the romanticism in the music to gain another level of maturity. Definitely “something special” in my life.