The end of the year is a great time for reflection, and 2020 has been a challenging year for many people. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one or a job, and I can relate to anyone who has lost faith in our institutions.
As I reflect, I am filled with the hope that we can make 2021 a GREAT year worldwide. That hope is what led me to the sizzling horn lick that kicks off Move On Up, by Curtis Mayfield.
Born in the Chicago housing projects in 1942, Curtis Mayfield was shaped by his Grandmother’s Gospel music and Chicago’s rich electric blues scene. Sometime around six years old he learned to play a boogie woogie groove on the piano using all of the black keys (key of F#). He found a guitar in the closet at age 7, and decided to tune it to match the piano groove he knew. This decision rippled through his entire musical career, as his tuning setup gave him a unique sound that nobody else had.
His musical career started at 16 years old with a Chicago Soul band called The Impressions. He grew to be the main producer, singer, and writer for the band as they went on to make 14 top-10 hits in the 60s.
The Impressions wrote love songs and dance songs like everyone else, but they also wrote songs that spoke about the challenges facing Black America. What made the songs special, was the way they could speak about these issues with love and encouragement instead of anger. Their message was so uplifting, Martin Luther King Jr. made People Get Ready and Keep On Pushing unofficial anthems for the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1968, Mayfield started Curtom Records. Two years later he released his first solo album, Curtis, which continued his songwriting trend of addressing the political and social concern rising in Black America.
Although the message was the same, the sound was new. Instead of the soothing soul songs with high harmonies, Mayfield moved towards a psychedelic funk sound with a new edge. This new sound was a more pure reflection of Mayfield, or as he would say, “As much of me as possible.”
This sequence is based on the horn lick that starts Move On Up. It has been sampled by some modern artists including Kanye West in his song Touch the Sky.
The line is mostly trumpet, with a little shade of trombone sound thrown in. I love the high energy of the drum groove that features awesome auxiliary percussion like bongos or congas.
Fill your sound with the excitement you feel for the coming year. Keep your rhythms tight and your articulations sharp as you groove through this funky line. Listen to the original to dial in the style and HAPPY PRACTICING.
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