Stepping Into Tomorrow: The Exploration and Global Impact of Jazz Funk
In the late 1960′s/early 1970′s, an experiment in sound and rhythm was taking place in popular music culture. This sonic experimentation was inextricably connected to the sophisticated tonal nuances of jazz, the pulsating earthy backbeat of funk, the heady feeling of rock and the life-affirming vibrations of soul music. This test in time would not only prove to have massive success with the record buying public but it’s influence would also be felt through successive generations, therefore making its relevance imperishable. It united the world and many of its citizens through the concept of fusing disparate elements and making the union seamless. It embraced the organic and electronic, the arranged and the disjointed, the mainstream and the underground; and with one foot respectfully planted in the past and the other stepping into tomorrow, it would ultimately change music forever. This is the story of jazz-funk.
The concept of fusion is quite prevalent in music today, with country artist singing over rock riffs and rock artist playing on top of hip-hop breaks. The mere notion of fusion has played a major part in keeping popular music fresh, relevant and innovative in a 21st century music culture that has been lying on its death bed for several generations. But when did this idea of fusing different genres of pop music began to take shape? One can say that the genre of jazz-funk is the impetus for this new aural consciousness that eventually made its way into all existing genres.
In this second film installment, Jason Orr and Jamal Ahmad, hone in on this ideal and also addresses the nuanced subtleties of jazz-funk; which many music historians have rarely devoted much time and energy towards. How did this music influence global cultures and societies? Who were the major players? What were the seminal tracks and albums? How did this music impact other musicians? Why was it so popular with the public? The viewer is taken on a journey that spans the course of 50 plus years and literally tells the story of this genre; directly linking it to many familiar points in pop history. People like Larry Rosen, head of GRP Records (which was the first label to release music on CD and as a digital download), legendary jazz icon George Duke, Grammy Award winning pianist/producer, Robert Glasper, Ramsey Lewis, Roy Ayers, Incognito, Billy Cobham, Snarky Puppy, Foreign Exchange, Bilal, Pete Rock, KING, Jazzy Jeff, Mark deClive Lowe, Liv Warfield, Pharoahe Monch, Lil Louis, Miguel Atwood Fergison and many others, tell the story of this music’s impact on the world. The documentary is ostensibly a learning tool that can be utilized by educators, and the like, to connect the dots of a genre that is intrinsically connected to the development of contemporary pop music.
This story is quite fascinating because it’s really a tale that everyone knows. Who doesn’t know about Run D.M.C. sampling Aerosmith or Prince’s heavy rock ‘n’ roll guitar riffs over his unique brand of funk? Or how about The Police’s use of reggae rhythms and production technique’s, Norah Jones’ melding of country and jazz or Michael Jackson’s infamous collaborations with jazz icon, Quincy Jones that took MJ into super stardom and global domination? These are fine examples of the fusion concept and are mere extensions of a sonic belief system that was born out of jazz-funk. This story focuses in on when it came about in the 1960’s, how it experienced a golden age in the 1970’s and continued to push along in the 1980’s and 1990’s and how it is still lending inspiration to the world in this new millennium.