For those who haven’t heard of jazz-funk music, it is a sub genre of jazz but it is enhanced with prevalence of analog synthesizers, electrified sounds and strong back beat. The integration of other music genres has created jazz funk which then resulted to a stronger improvisation of the genre.
Jazz-funk is very popular during the 1970’s up until the early 1980’s and is primarily an American genre but it also had an appeal to England’s club circuit as well. Jazz fusion and soul jazz were among other genres that have a similar tone to it but it doesn’t exceed quite like jazz-funk. One thing that listeners will note about jazz-funk is that it has little vocals and has a strong feel of mixtures from other musical genres.
The characteristics of jazz-funk include a departure of near-triplet rhythm to something that can be moved together with dancing and grooving. Another characteristic which you can distinguish the jazz-funk music is that it uses electric instruments like the electric bass guitar or Rhodes piano. The last characteristic of the genre is the shifting proportions of the improvisation and composition of the song. Everything that composes this genre such as the melody, arrangements and overall writing were greatly emphasized.
The Feel of the Genre
There are some loyal jazz musicians who often considered jazz-funk to not be of significance to the genre whatsoever. It was considered being not intellectual enough and is often surrounded by controversies because it’s like stomping over on the jazz genre. However, the emergence of jazz-funk made jazz even more popular and a mainstream to the public.
The funk rhythm was absorbed in jazz-funk thus giving the genre a rhythm that is danceable. So 1970s really is the year of original and stylistic music creations and jazz-funk is a big contributor of the movement.
The distaste of jazz-junk by some area of the jazz community and being unable to land on the top spot of hit charts gave the genre a difficult time to fully establish itself. But somewhere in the 1970s, there are UK nightclubs that popularized the genre thus slowly giving it recognition.
The whole era of jazz-funk might have ended around 1975 when disco took over and drove funk towards another direction. But funk’s musical edge eventually got replaced with slicker effects.
After a decade when jazz experiences some suffering under the current post-fusion tradition of “the new young lions” and Wynton Marsalis, several young DJs in London started to rediscover the old funk records found in thrift shops and eventually reintroduced it to the crowd in the hippest clubs. From that point forward, “acid jazz” was born. The Americans only found it a decade later to realize the legacy it brought upon funk and by the late 1990s, several funk artists got a paying work and a hero title was given to them while a new breed of funksters were being born.
Focus of Jazz-Funk in the UK
Somewhere in between 1970 and 1980, there were British jazz-funk artists who have emerged and started spreading the genre. These artists took a break from the commercial and disco scene and they were encouraged by famous club DJs like Robbie Vincent, Greg Edwards and Chris Hill. Jazz-funk also began being played famously on the first soul station of Europe which is called Radio Invivcta. Also, there were several bands/artists in the UK who have made a name for themselves in jazz-funk and they were Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick, Light of the World, Kenny Wellington, Peter Hinds, David Baptiste and Paul ‘Tubbs’ Williams.
Role of Producers
Several jazz artists as well as few producers who specialized in the genre were able to generate great commercial success. The Mizell Brothers (Fonce and Larry) also organized and generated a lot of jazz-funk craze with their production alone for several jazz-funk artists. The era that occurred during the 1970s gave these producers an opportunity to popularize the genre and eventually paved the way for future producers such as Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers in the early 1980s.
There were also some producers such as Kaidi Tatham, who took some quality elements of the jazz-funk music and eventually used them in the era of computer technology. This paved way to movements that are called nu jazz and they were mostly dominated by DJs rather than musicians.
These producers are becoming well-recognized and well-achieved in their art which was fully influenced by the jazz-funk genre. But despite the success gained by this genre, there were still some jazz loyalists who will complain about the movement that rely mostly on computers to produce the music rather than the musicians themselves.
Famous Jazz-Funk Artists to Date
1. Miles Davis – The definition of cool and a progressive trumpeter who helped in altering the course of jazz throughout the 1950s and 90s.
2. Herbie Hancock – An innovative and talented pianist whose career mostly focuses on hip-hop, fusion, modern jazz and dance.
3. Stanley Clarke – This gifted musician is a bassist who helped established multiple techniques with his rapid patterns, dazzling and influential slapping moves.
4. Medeski, Martin & Wood – These progressive jazz fusionists helped bridged the gap between accessible groove-based jazz and avant-garde improvisation.
5. Jimmy Smith – He is a soul jazz pioneer who popularized the use of the Hammond organ and made it into one of the most dynamic and widely used jazz instruments during that time.
6. Donald Byrd – He became a champion of R&B/Jazz crossover in the 1970s and is a leading bop trumpet stylist who is able to create dynamic and cracking sounds.
7. Christian McBride – During the 1990s, he was one of the highly demanded bassists and is well-known for his work being a sideman and a leader.
8. Freddie Hubbard – He is a trumpet player who made a breakthrough with the Jazz Messengers before being hailed with his great records between the 1960s and 1970s.
9. Marcus Miller – He is a jazz fusion bassist who became famous along with Miles Davis in the 1980s and eventually pursued a solo career with great success.
10. John Scofield – This captivating electric guitarist plays with mesmerizing tones that goes together with fluid lines which is his trademark in delivering post-bop style.