As a bass player, I absolutely love it if I have a drummer behind me who can hold down a groove solidly but explore a little by himself. As most (legitimate) musicians will tell you, the rhythm section of a band, that is, bass and drums, is absolutely essential for a focused, smart sound. This is especially true of funk, my preferred genre and one that requires tight, on- point playing from the rhythm section to make people break into those involuntary jives that it is so famous for. For listeners, a tight drum-and-bass combo in a funk band is what makes the sound tick. For musicians, there’s this inexplicable “oh, damn” feeling that hits when drummers and bass players do coordinated, tight, but simple and rhythmically accurate fills. Hitting the upbeat perfectly is an amazing feeling, something non- musicians can’t quite grasp immediately. Here are my two favourite drum-and-bass funk duos.
1. Flea and Chad Smith, The Red Hot Chili Peppers: one of the tightest, most syncopated drum-and-bass duos around, Chad and Flea have a rhythmic connection that is almost telepathic. The secret to achieving a driving, taut rhythm is having the ability to know exactly where to leave and fill spaces. Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison and sessions legend Dennis Chambers are famous for this sort of restricted, flowing, playing, but Flea and Chad Smith have, between the two of them, achieved a partnership that is as independent as it is interdependent. Songs like Charlie or Turn It Again, my personal favourites, exhibit this perfectly. Flea’s aggressive, mute-heavy playing pushes through a driving, mid-range heavy bass tone. Combine this with Chad Smith’s supreme hi- hat control and you have a rhythmic innovation every time the two play together. Chad smith’s up-tempo, syncopated grooves are accentuated by his fantastic hi- hat accents, and his ability to find a crisp, mid-length hi-hat hit somewhere between an open and closed position lends a grooviness to his playing that is difficult to find elsewhere. Even when Flea plays more open slap-based bass grooves, Chad knows exactly where to fill up the spaces, making songs like Aeroplane sound full and tight.
2. David Garibaldi and Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia, Tower of Power: The legendary soul band that’s been around since the 60’s is driven by one of the most unmistakably soulful duos around. Prestia’s tightly syncopated rhythms use muted, understated grooves consistently, but his fingers work like a machine, constantly churning out a consistent yet varying bass line. Evidence of this is clear in TOP’s famous track “What is Hip”. Garibaldi, on the other hand, is well versed in Carribean and Latin rhythms and is also acutely aware of every beat within the groove that he’s playing. Often, he plays standard grooves displaced by a quarter-note or so every once in a while to remain on-point with Prestia. Check out his drumming on “Down to the Nightclub”, a track in which a standard 4/4 groove is given a shuffle that makes it infinitely more groovy. Garibaldi’s metronome- like swing also assists him while playing more soulful tunes such as “You’re Still a Young Man”, where a basic rhythm with minor displacements and ghost notes adds, almost subconsciously, an added layer to the song. Together, Prestia and his sidekick have churned out hits such as “Diggn’ on James Brown” while also putting out more diminutive, smooth rhythms such as “You’re So Wonderful So Beautiful”.
There’s much more to music than just funk, but for me, these two duos are undisputed kings. I’d love to hear your opinion!
Image Source: The Viewspaper