P-Funk crusaders reunite for new journey: ‘Detroit Rising’

The psychedelic-funk spirit that’s fueled the Motor City since the place first blasted into space with George Clinton, P-Funk and The Holy Mothership is alive and well on the brand new release “Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure.”

George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic have had an enormous impact on music, funk in particular, since the release of the group’s eponymous first album in 1970. The outfit was an atomic explosion of psychedelic funk, galactic rock and grimey jazz that seeped into the culture and consciousness of music in the 1970s, mutating into surreal R&B funkscapes through the 1980s and 1990s. Without their kaleidoscopic view of music, you wouldn’t have Dr. Dre’s G-Funk sound, the funk-punk of The Red Hot Chili Peppers or Childish Gambino’s Grammy-nominated “Awaken, My Love.”

Clinton has always been the fuzzed and buzzed patriarch of the crazed P-Funk family and from him comes the inspiration and vision to lead the group to the edge of the space-funk continuum. But the power behind the Holy Mothership has always been in the ever-expanding cast of space crusaders and astronomical cats who have given their love to the family, including Eddie Hazel, Bootsy Collins, Tiki Fulwood and Beanie Worrell, among others. It is from this familial synergy that “Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure” gets its power.

The project unites a number of current and former P-Funk members with musicians from famed United Sound Systems studio for an adventurous ride into the funk-jazz cosmos. P-Funkers Gabe Gonzalez (drums), Danny Bedrosian (piano/keyboards/moog), DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight (guitar), Lige Curry (bass), Greg Thomas (saxophone), Benjamin “Benzel” Cowan (drums), Tonysha Nelson (vocals) and Steve Boyd (vocals) are joined by United Sound musicians guitarist Duminie Deporres (guitar) and Kern Brantley (bass) for an all-inclusive jam session.

Tahoe Onstage caught up with musical family member Gabe Gonzalez while he was in Detroit prepping for the

I was amazed at how everything came out because we were just jamming and having fun.”

subsequent album release and tour. Gonzalez played with Clinton and P-Funk in the 1990s before turning to personal projects and producing opportunities.

“I’m not touring with George at the moment. I was the touring member with P-Funk for a while, but I had a couple other record projects and had to produce a couple albums myself, I had to leave the tour for a while and focus on my own career. That’s all good, though, because once you’re in P-Funk, you’re in the family. I just hung out with them last night, with the band. We had a blast in Detroit and they’re all excited about the record as well,” Gonzalez said.

For good reason, too. Fans of Clinton and the band will have plenty to dive into on “Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure.” It’s a dense, jam-centric record that is a boiling cauldron of funk, R&B, jazz, hip-hop and soul, with everything from synths and pianos tag-teaming the lead jams on “What’s That You Heard?” to face-melting guitar solos over relaxed soul grooves on “Little Bit.”

“The album is really awesome and has a lot of flavor on there, from hard-edged funk to real smooth and laid back jazz and a lot of other elements. Just groovin’ funk, that’s the main thing, we’re just trying to keep that alive and create that live. Having that, I think what we are going to bring to the table is endless because there is room to improvise and add nuance live on stage,” Gonzalez said.

Even on record there is a lot of room to improvise. The songs on the album routinely reach the seven- to nine-minute range and are squeezed of every last bit of funkiness as the members all ride the groove together. The strength of these songs is every bit a testament to the talent of the musicians and the understanding that comes from being in the same musical family. As Gonzalez pointed out, there was very little discussion, if any, as to what songs would be like.

“Sometimes I make music and I just cut the click track on and whatever comes out. That’s the magic I can honestly say about this project, which most people may not know, that’s what we did. The process was so magical— as far as for the ones I was a part of, I can’t speak for the others— but we just put the click track on, I counted it off and that’s what we came up with. Nobody had an idea like, ‘I’ll play this and you play that.’ We just played whatever we felt like playing and that’s what came out. I was amazed at how everything came out because we were just jamming and having fun,” Gonzalez said.

Producer David Schwartz then took those instinctual grooves and spliced vocals over them, creating a practically seamless product. If you wouldn’t have known, you would think it all came from the same creative process. The result is nothing but solid songs that know when to bump, when to groove and when to let it all hang out.

“He just called us to jam for him and we jammed, he wanted Detroit musicians to do what we do and we did it. The rest is history,”  Gonzalez said.

The musicians on “Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure” certainly will have their own place in history as purveyors of the psychedelic consciousness of funk and the notion that we are all one nation under a groove. Now all there is left to do is to step into the spaceship, strap into the seat and blast off into a new adventure.

– Garrett Bethmann

About Garrett Bethmann

Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. He moved to Lake Tahoe in summer 2012.

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