The flute is a very versatile instrument. There are many different styles, many different ways of playing it. To prove that, I decided to put together a selection of funky, soul, jazz and disco tunes with the flute (mostly transverse flute) as the main ingredient. I hope you like it as I did.
Nowadays, it seems like the flute is disappearing from arrangements, you have guitars and keyboards playin the starring role in most tunes, and this is valid for reggae, disco and electronic music (an exception here : listen this gorgeous mix by Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, pay attention to track 16).
Once upon a time, the flute was the king. I’m sure this great instrument will have its revenge. Let’s prepare for the great comeback. Meanwhile, let the funky flute fighters fight their battle…they’re fighting for flute survival.
Here’s the tracklist:
01 – Rashaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine.
This tune is (in my opinion) simply the best Ain’t No Sunshine interpretation ever (even if the Jose Feliciano version i discovered thanks to Soulman’s blog comes very close in terms of emotional impact). Kirk was a true virtuoso, he played three instruments together, look at the picture. How this could be possible, I still can’t imagine. In this tune, he plays the flute by singing into it while blowing. This is such a difficult technique, this man was blessed by a rare talent. Read a detailed review by the king of funky bloggers, mr. Funky 16 Corners here. You can also find more Kirk stuff on this excellent blog.
02 – Donald Byrd – Where Are We Going
This is one of the most famous tunes by Donald Byrd, from his massive-selling album BlackByrd on Blue Note Records, feat.the Mizell Brothers on production. If you love 90′s Hip Hop, then you love the Mizell sound. Period.
03 – The Crystalites – Concentration
The Crystalites were Derrick Harriott’s (see photo) band. This tune is magic, its sound is distinctive and modern, despite being from the sixty’s. I loved this tune since the first time I heard it and I was surprised to see Trentemoller, one of the most influential new producers in electronic music, putting this song into his Essential Mix. Funny note: in the BBC Essential Mix official tracklist the song is labeled as “unkonwn dub”: thus, we’re revealing a big secret right here! Anyway, check it out, a very modern track indeed.
04 – George Freeman – The Bump
From DustyGroove: “A legendary bit of funk, from one of the most overlooked guitarists ever! George Freeman’s got a sound and a style unlike any other player we can think of — an approach to funky guitar that’s often got a really hard touch on the strings, and which gets nice and noisy at the best funky moments.”
05 – S.O.U.L. – Burning Spear
Here you can find the while story about the original version by Richard Evans. Give props to Mr. Larry Grogan for this.
06 – Norwich Street Extension _ Can’t Fight the Feeling
I really dont’ know anything about this obscure band. Keb Darge (photo) discovered this tune, which was included in one of the LPs of the Legendary Deep Funk series. The only thing I can say about it is that it rocks!
07 – Sir Mack Rice – Dark Skin Woman (Part 1)
Sir Mack Rice, AKA The Ol’Gangsta, is still touring and we have been so lucky to see him in Italy last summer. He represents STAX Records, where it all began.
08 -Harris & Orr – Spread Love
This is an elegant disco tune from the late 70′s. The flute in the background is so smooth, perfectly fit for the dancin mood of the song. The vocals sounds a little bit like Gill Scott Heron, and it’s fun to imagine the ghetto poet singin this one at a party in Mancuso’s Loft in NY. Naah, couldn’t be…
09 -Kool and the gang – Electric frog part 1
Kool & The Gang need no presentation and no comments. We love them because they were so dope, and of course because their groove became one of hip hop’s most tasty ingredients.
10 -Joyce Williams _ The First Thing I Do in the Morning
What a lovely tune. I like it a lot when the voice engages a duet with the flute, alternating each other over a funky wah wah and a power bassline. This track was part of a Keb Darge selection too.
11 -The Fabulous Mark III _ Psycho part 1
A chase scene in a blaxploitation movie, that’s what this song is fit for. I don’t know if it has ever been used in a soundtrack, but that’s what it sounds like. The flute comes in when the guy being chased gets off the car and starts runnin, while the policeman begins to blast shots towards him. At least, that’s how I imagine that scene. Will he manage to escape?
12 – Joe Thomas – Thank You (Fall Etin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)
13 – Frank Strazzeri – Cloudburst
The track is from 1976 (what a great year), Strazzeri was a Jazz master who played with Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Maynard Ferguson. These names sound familiar if you are into breaks, in fact Frank‘s sounds are more hip hop than your average hip hop record. Starts slow, then raises the speed, till the flute comes in…
14 -The Chosen Few – Do Your Thing
I don’t know much about this band, but I know for sure they are present in each and every compilation of jamaican soul covers. They played Isaac hayes, they played all the classics. Studio One musicians, they took soul hits from the USA and played them in a jamaican way. That’s all.
15 – Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers – Chitterlings Con Carne
The selection ends with the most amazing flute tune I’ve ever heard. You got to give props to the flute player in Pucho‘s orcherstra because he got mad skills, no doubt. Listen how he screams through the instrument, with the same technique used in the selection opening track.
Hope you like it!