Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Prince Paul

Double Vision

Paul Humphrey and his Cool Aid Chemists - "Funky L.A." (mp3)
(purchase here)

Frank Zappa - "The Gumbo Variations" (mp3)
(purchase here)

As I mentioned yesterday, I want to talk up Sunday's Brasilintime for a minute. For those not familiar, here is a rundown of Brian "B+" Coleman's Keepintime/Brasilintime project. I won't get into a full event spiel, so I'll focus on the man of the night for me: Paul Humphrey.

Humphrey is widely known as a jazz session drummer, but I love this soul for being a consumate musician. Peep his moves to see how deep his sticks roll: from Root Down! to Body Heat, Let's Get It On to Aja, this man plays the field like Carol Kaye. Because of his combination of credentials and versatility, I thought he worked perfectly for this event.

What was essentially a a two hour jam between four dj/producers, two other percussion/wind players/vocalists, and an MC, Humphrey provided the heartbeat and direction. The MC mentioned that the performance was unrehearsed and it certainly showed as the music wound through riffs and themes that arose spontaneously. But as records, instruments and samples whirled in constant, and occasionally erratic, flux, Humphrey was the steady eye in the center.

The pull for me was Humphrey's understanding of group performance. He takes initiative when needed, yet always allows room for others to lead. At the Getty Keepintime show, he played with a heavily percussive group of DJs and another kit drummer. With everyone else focusing on hard accents, he played up his fluid style and reserved his punctuated points like sucker punches. At this Brasilintime show, there was more melody and atmosphere (Cut Chemist juggling; Madlib on the sampler and keys; Derf Reklaw has his flute, alto and keys), so he stepped up and took the lead. I felt it worked because he gave each player space to work out their ideas, always feeling them out to see when the group was ready to move on to the next idea. Even when the relatively inexperienced MC tried an offbeat idea, Humphrey was all smiles and love, just lookin' at him like, "Do your thing, young blood!" and getting the assist credit for dropping the tempo to match dood's flow. Man, as much as I enjoy rock cats cheesin' out, I pledge eternal love to 'support players' cos they're on some real humble and mature level.

Today's songs feature Humphrey in both a lead and support role. Paul Humphrey and his Cool Aid Chemists was a group he recorded an album with and they had a minor hit in 1971, "Cool Aid." The album has a clean sheen that ain't really my thing, but the playing (and players) is all top notch. "Funky L.A." has this '70s Sunset sound meets Crenshaw aesthetic which I can dig. I also threw in "The Gumbo Variations" because I had my first connect-the-PH-dots moment with Hot Rats, "This is the same guy??" The extended jam factor on record is hardly ever my thing, but captures the fluid solidity of his ...intime playing.

I'm bumping Kool Keith again, cos I want to refocus on his interviews and not so much his rhythm tracks (which would've been the tie in to today).

Oh, and speaking of teamwork...


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