Give Me The One

Here’s another bit of life affirmation that has come my way.

I was down in my basement office (hopefully soon to be studio) and watching a program about James Brown and funk music.

They were doing an interview with Bootsy Collins who was James Brown’s bass player before he was with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

Bootsy was talking about how James Brown would say to him “You got to give me the one. I don’t care what you do with the other notes in between but you got to give me the one.”

It made me stop.  I never heard it said like that.

Yes that’s it! That is what I have always known but was never able to put it quite so succinctly.  It’s about the one with the bass and the kick drum.  Snare and rythym guitar players are about the back beat, the two and the four but the bottom end is about the one.

I watched another online interview with Bootsy Collins where he basically talked about the same subject.  I was then astonished to read in a comment by a reader that said “What is the one he is talking about?”

To me it’s simple stupid.

The one is the first beat of every measure.  It defines your time signature.

When I first bought James Taylor’s Hourglass album I wanted to really listen to the bass and drums.  My friend Barney Lee had told me how much he liked the album and the work done between the bass and drums so I wanted to give it a good listen to help me define where his head is at musically at this point.

The album features Jimmy Johnson on bass and Carlos Vega on drums.

I waited to give the album my first listen until I had time set aside to put on my headphones, relax and take it all in.

The bass playing floored me.  Jimmy Johnson was running the show.

Listening to his playing as a drummer I felt he was directing me through the song.   I knew when changes were coming even though I had never heard any of the songs.  He was taking it up and bringing it down.

And he was laying down the one.  No question about it from me, I knew it was the one and each one was a map to the song.

The one transcends all styles of music from funk to metal to jazz to classical.  You would not know it’s a waltz without the one.

It was cool to hear someone like Bootsy Collins talk about something I had never heard before but instantly knew what he was talking about.

Just another one of those life affirming moments for me.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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