Funky Soul-Jazz Guitar & Steel

Guitar gets little more daily respect in the jazz world than Bob Dylan's historic first appearance with an electric. Fortunately funk has fewer of the taste and anti-commercial hang-ups of jazz and even soul jazz. Wild, psychedelic, "waka-waka" guitar riffs are everywhere in the funk period, particularly once the soundtracks from hard action films changed things. Guitar (rhythm or lead) had always been a key element in funky singles and the early instrumentals of acts like the Meters, James Brown, etc. Guitar, a natural instrument in blues music, was right at home in funk, which was entirely dependant on blues rhythm. Jazz was a little more complicated.

Jazz guitarists have long tried to sound unlike blues, pop, and especially rock guitarists. The early greats of jazz guitar may have been stylistic pioneers, but few guitarists of the funk period made great records as leaders. There were some surprises, such as Bo Diddley. The accepted jazz master, Grant Green, seemed to have burned out during a prolific but overrated spurt throughout the early 1960s. Melvin Sparks more than filled his shoes. Dennis Coffey's great "Scorpio" was not even guitar so much as a percussion smash. Many of the best funky-guitar records are one-offs by fairly obscure artists. The great Funk, Inc. was not particularly a guitar band, yet it had some of the most memorable tunes and licks.

The 1960s arguably was the decade of the guitar, and hip LPs occassionally spilled out of the rock world and other places. Sandy Bull, John Berberian, Pat Martino, and others explored exoticism with use of the oud, tabla, and sitar. Sly Stone knew how effective the guitar could be in making funk more broadly appealing. Blues guitarists such as Freddie King and Mel Brown found fresh ground in funk. But the name of Dennis Coffey's "Detroit Guitar Band," guitars never took over the stage as they did with rock. Funky guitar never really had a full-on grunge period, perhaps because of the solo nature and stigma of the blues guitarist. But licks abound.

Buying: As with the more ubiquitous drum break, a "psychedelic" guitar solo can save a basic, funky single from utter tedium. On the other hand, Grant Green vamping Isley Brothers and Steppenwolf hits for eleven minutes is about as ponderous as it gets. Look for wild, funky guitar in short, sharp bursts.

Funky-Guitar LPs

7Mel Brown: Chicken Fat; ABC/Impulse A-9152; 1967
8Mel Brown: The Wizard; ABC/Impulse A-9169; 1968
Mel Brown: I'd Rather Suck My Thumb; ABC/Impulse; 1969
7Mel Brown: Blues for We; ABC/Impulse A-9180; 1969
8Mel Brown's Fifth; ABC/Impulse AS-9209; 1971/1970
6Mel Brown: Big Foot Country Girl; ABC/Impulse AS-9249; 1973/1972
9Mel Brown: Eighteen Pounds of Unclean Chitlins & Other Greasy Blues Specialties; ABC/Bluesway BLS-6064; 1973 (compilation)
7Sandy Bull: Fantasias; Vanguard VSD-79119; 1963 (exotic)
7Sandy Bull: Inventions; Vanguard VSD-79191; 1965 (exotic)
8Sandy Bull: No Deposit, No Return Blues; Vanguard VSD-6513; 1969 (exotic)
8Billy Butler: This is Billy Butler!; Prestige PRST-7622; 1969/1968
8Billy Butler: Guitar Soul!; Prestige PRST-7734; 1969
7Billy Butler: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow; Prestige PRST-7797; 1970
7Billy Butler: Night Life; Prestige PRST-7854; 1971
Billy Cobham: Moon Germs; Atlantic LP 18121; 1974
8Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band: Evolution; Buddah/Sussex SXBS-7004; 1971
6Dennis Coffey: Goin' for Myself; Buddah/Sussex SXBS-7010; 1972
7Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band: Electric Coffey; Buddah/Sussex SXBS-7021; 1972
7Dennis Coffey: Instant Coffey; Buddah/Sussex SRA-8031; 1974
6Dennis Coffey: Finger Lickin' Good; Westbound W-212; 1975 (mainly disco)
6Dennis Coffey: Hair & Thangs; Maverick MAS-7002
-Dennis Coffey -- see also Funky Soundtracks
6Electro-Harmonix Work Band; Electro-Harmonix ER-711; 1977 (funky guitar w/effects similar to synthesizer)
8Cal Green: Trippin with Cal Green; Mutt & Jeff MJ-001; 1969 (w/Charles Kynard)
7Grant Green: His Majesty King Funk; Verve V6-8627; 1965 (w/Larry Young, Candido Camero, Harold Vick, Ben Dixon)
Grant Green: Grant's First Stand; Blue Note BST-84064
Grant Green: Green Street; Blue Note BST-84071
Grant Green: Grantstand; Blue Note BST-84086
Grant Green: Sunday Mornin'; Blue Note BST-84099
Grant Green: The Latin Bit; Blue Note BST-84111 (w/Willie Bobo & Patato Valdez)
7Grant Green: Street of Dreams; Blue Note BST-84253 (w/Larry Young, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvin Jones)
Grant Green: Feelin' the Spirit; Blue Note
Grant Green: Goin' West; Blue Note
7Grant Green: Carryin' On; Blue Note BST-84327; 1970
8Grant Green: Alive!; Blue Note BST-84360; 1971/1970
7Grant Green: Visions; Blue Note BST-84373; 1971
7Grant Green: Shades of Green; Blue Note BST-84413; 1972/1971
Grant Green: Born to Be Blue; Blue Note BST-84432; 1972
7Grant Green: The Final Come-Down ST; Blue Note BST-84415; 1972
5Grant Green: The Main Attraction; Kudu KU-29; 1976
Grant Green: Easy; Versatile P-798; 1978
6Grant Green: Street Funk & Jazz Grooves (The Best of Grant Green); Blue Note B1-89622; 1993/1963-72 (2-LP compilation; only Record 2 is funky)
7Earl Hooker: Sweet Black Angel; Blue Thumb BST-8812 (soul-jazz guitar/country funk; covers JB's "I Got You--I Feel Good"; arranged & co-produced by Ike Turner)
7Earl Hooker: Do You Remember the Great Earl Hooker; ABC/Bluesway BLS-6072; 1973/1963 (10-year-old blues guitar session updated w/funky drums)
6Joey Jefferson Band; Mutt & Jeff MJS-5002; 1975 (very brief)
6The Joey Jefferson Band: Crenshaw Boulevard; Mutt & Jeff MJS-5003; 1980 (w/Cal Green)
8Boogaloo Joe Jones: Boogaloo Joe; Prestige PRST-7697; 1969
7Boogaloo Joe Jones: Right On Brother; Prestige PRST-7766; 1970
8Boogaloo Joe Jones: No Way!; Prestige PRST-10004; 1971
7Boogaloo Joe Jones: What It Is; Prestige PRST-10035; 1971
8Ivan "Boogaloo Joe" Jones: Snake Rhythm Rock; Prestige PRST-10056; 1973
7Ivan "Boogaloo Joe" Jones: Black Whip; Prestige PRST-10072; 1973
7Ivan Boogaloo Joe Jones: Sweetback; Joka; 1975 (Ubiquity/Luv N' Haight LHLP-020; 1995)
6Barney Kessel: On Fire; Emerald EST-2401 (live, not funky)
7Volker Kriegel: Spectrum; MPS 21-20874-5; 1971
7Volker Kriegel & Mild Maniac Orchestra: Octember Variations; MPS 68.147; 1977/1976?
8O'Donel Levy: Simba; Groove Merchant GM-526; 1973 (arr. MAnny Albam)
7O'Donel Levy: Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky; Groove Merchant GM-535; 1974
Little Beaver [1st LP]; Cat 1601 (Willie Hale Beaver; funk/guitar)
7Little Beaver: Black Rhapsody; Cat 1602; 1974
Little Beaver: Party Down; Cat 2604 (with Timmy Thomas)
Willie Hale Beaver: Beaver Fever; Cat 2615
7Harvey Mandel: Games Guitars Play; Philips
7Pat Martino: El Hombre; Prestige 7513; 1967 (with Trudy Pitts)
6Pat Martino: East!; Prestige 7562; 1968
7Pat Martino: Baiyina (The Clear EPHS-600-325vidence); Prestige 7589; 1968
7Shuggie Otis: Here Comes Shuggie Otis; Epic BN-26511
8Johnny Pate: Outrageous; MGM SE-4701 (w/Cornel Dupree & Joe Beck)
Chuck Rainey: The Chuck Rainey Coalition; Buddah/Cobblestone CST-9008; 1972
7Wally Richardson: Soul Guru; Fantasy/Prestige PRST-7569; 1968 (Ace/BGPD-1113)
7Howard Roberts: Spinning Wheel; Capitol ST-336 (prod. David Axelrod w/notes by Leonard Feather; for DJs, his only good record)
6Freddy Robinson: The Coming Atlantis; World Pacific ST-20162 (reissued as Black Fox; arr. & cond. Monk Higgins)
7Freddy Robinson: At the Drive-In; Stax/Enterprise ENS-1025; 1972 (with Monk Higgins; side 1 vocal blues, side 2 soul-jazz instrumentals)
6Freddy Robinson: Off the Cuff; Stax/Enterprise ENS-1035; 1973
8Eddy Senay: Hot Thang; Sussex SXBS-7013; 1972
8Eddy Senay: Step by Step; Sussex SXBS-7018; 1972
7Melvin Sparks: Sparks!; Fantasy/Prestige PRST-10001; 1970 (Ace/BGPD-1065)
8Melvin Sparks: Spark Plug; Fantasy/Prestige PRST-10016
8Melvin Sparks: Akilah!; Fantasy/Prestige PRST-10039; 1972
Melvin Sparks: Texas Twister; Eastbound; 1973
7Melvin Sparks: Melvin Sparks '75; Westbound W-204; 1975
7Gabor Szabo/Bobby Womack: High Contrast' Blue Thumb BTS-28; 1971 (w/Phil UpChurch)
9Phil Upchurch: The Big Hit Dances; United Artists UAS-6175 (mod-soul dance rock (twist, watusi, etc.)/guitar)
8Phil Upchurch: Upchurch; GRT/Cadet LPS-826; 1969 (arr. Charles Stepney)
7Phil Upchurch: The Way I Feel; GRT/Cadet LPS-840; 1969 (arr. Charles Stepney)
7Phil Upchurch: Darkness, Darkness; Blue Thumb BTS-6005; 1972 (2-LP)
8Phil Upchurch: Lovin' Feeling; Blue Thumb BTS-59; 1973
5Phil Upchurch; T.K./Marlin 2209; 1978
6David T. Walker: Going Up!; MCA/Revue RS-7211
6David T. Walker; A&M/Ode SP-77011
7David T. Walker: Press On; A&M/Ode SP-77020; 1973 (with Harvey Mason, Bobbye Hall, Carole King, etc.)

Partly Funky-Guitar LPs

7Clifford Coulter: East Side San Jose; ABC/Impulse AS-9197; 1970
8Clifford Coulter: Do it Now, Worry About it Later; ABC/Impulse AS-9216; 1971
9Johnny Frigo: Collected Works; Luv n' Haight LHLP-036; 2003 (2-LP compilation)
8Carl "Sherlock" Holmes Investigation: Investigation No. 1; CRS-01 ("Black Bag")
-Willie Hutch [The Mack ST] -- see Funky Soundtracks
5Dr. John: Anytime, Anyplace; Scepter Barometer BRM-67001; 1974 ("One Night Late")
8Preston Love's Omaha Bar-B-Q; Kent KST-540 (w/Shuggie Otis)
8Nino Nardini & Pop Riviera Group: No. 7-- Pop, Soul, & Rock Psychadelique; Rotunde Musique RM-7 (production)
7Louis Prima w/Sam Butera & the Witnesses: The Prima Generation '72; Prima ST-0072; 1972 ("What You Hear is What You've Got"--psyche funk/guitar; Brunswick BL-754183)
8Lyle Ritz: How About Uke?; Verve MGV-2087 (jazz ukulele; not at all funky but rare/old in a nearly singular idiom; Don Shelton flute, Gene Estes drums, Red Mitchell bass)
8Lyle Ritz & his Jazz Ukulele: 50th State Jazz; Verve MG-V-8333
8Johnny Scott/Westway Studio Orchestra: Jazz-Beat-Bossa Nova; Southern SLLP-25 (production; soul jazz: vibes, bass, organ, guitar, mod)
8Jack Sheldon: Out!; Capitol [Dimensions in Jazz] ST-1851; 1962 ("Funky Jones"--Howard Roberts/Billy Strange; soul-jazz horns/beatnik/guitar)
8The Surf City Kickers: Surfin' '77; King SKD(S)441 (Japan); 1977 (surf/breakbeats/funky guitar)
7The Ventures: Only Hits; United Artists UA-LA147-G2; 1973 (2-LP; guitar/funk/Afro-Beat)
7Various: The Best of Luv N' Haight Volume One; Ubiquity/Luv N' Haight LHLP-011; 1993/?-'77 (soul jazz/funk/Moog/flute/guitar; George Freeman: "The Bump")
8Various: De Wolfe Music Library--Sound Book Part One; Irma la Douce 812-LP; 1998 (2-LP compilation)
8Down and Wired 4; PTR PTR0462; 2014 (funk/psyche/soul-jazz guitar "Suffering Soul Pt. 1"/rock guitar/soul-jazz organ; German compilation)
8Various: Look Who's Surfing Now; King 882; 1964 (rare!; super-rare James Brown instrumental & others w/R&B guitar)
7Various: The Lost Grooves; Blue Note B1-7243-8-31883-14; 1995 (2-LP compilation of 1967-70 alternates/outtakes/rarities; includes Grant Green)
9Various: Trippin'--The Groove Merchant Compilation; Ubiquity/Luv N' Haight LHLP-027; 1996

Funky-Guitar 45s

8The Ambassadors of Soul: Cool Sticks Parts 1 & 2; Ovide 236 (guitar-led funk)
7Billy Cobham: Moon Germs/mono; Atlantic 45-3250; 1974
8The Dapps featuring Alfred Ellis: Bringing Up the Guitar/Gittin' a Little Hipper; King 6147; 1968 (James Brown production; instrumental)
7Dennis Coffey: Love Theme from Black Belt Jones; Buddah/Sussex 7769
9The Earthworms: Fishtail/Mo' Taters; Bobbin 136 (mod-soul-twist-guitar)
7The Family: Family Affair/Nation Time; North Bay NB-302
6The Family: Do the Robot Parts 1 & 2; North Bay NB-304
6Larry Frazier: Before Six/After Six; Impulse 205
8Cal Green: Trippin/Johnny's Gone to Vietnam; Mutt & Jeff 22 (stereo; from Trippin)
7J.C. & the Soul Angels: Angel's Theme/Nightmare Strut; Tammy T-1777 (instrumental guitar funk)
8Freddie King: Surf Monkey/Monkey Donkey; Federal 45-12509 (mod soul/guitar)
7Larry Lawrence & ths Hub Caps: Blue Guitar/Dorky; King 45-5183 (R&B guitar, not funk)
6Little Beaver: Wish I Had a Girl Like You/Six Foot Hole; Cat 1991; 1973 (Willie Hale Beaver; funk/guitar)
8Little Beaver: Party Down Parts 1 & 2; Cat 1993; 1974 (a bit George Benson/This Masquerade-ish but cooler)
7Little Beaver: Little Girl Blue/Ain't No Time; T.K./Cat 1602; 1976
8Little Beaver: Joey/Funkadelic Sound; T.K./Cat 1977
7Mighty Groove Makers: Let's Dance Some Mo' Parts 1 & 2; Laurie/Peanut County PC-1003 (waka-guitar instrumental)
7Pancho Villa: As Is/Bobby's Guitar; Arliss 1010 (older r&b/twist guitar)
7Chuck Rainey: It's Gonna Rain/mono; Buddah/Cobblestone CB-752; 1972 (from The Chuck Rainey Coalition)
6Freddy Robinson: The Creeper/Go-Go Girl; Checker 1143
7Maurice Rock: Gimme Your Love/Knock on the Door; Fight Communism 15; 1981 (a.k.a. Marlin Wallace; extremely rare blue-eyed soul)
8Sight Unseen: I'm On My Way/One More Thing; Real Records R-5001
8Joe Simon Band: Oon-Guela Parts 1 & 2 (High Life); Sound Stage 7 SS7-2637 (guitar)
6Little Sister: Stanga/Somebody's Watching You; Atlantic/Stone Flower S-9001 (prod. Sly Stone)
7The South Street Soul Guitars: Poppin Popcorn/Soul Fire; Silver Fox SF-10 (funk/guitar; Shelby Singleton)
7The Triumphs: Turn Out the Light/Walkin' the Duck; MGM/Verve VK-10422 (mod soul/guitar)
8Travis Wammack: Fire Fly/Scratchy; Atlantic/ARA 204 (funky rock w/fuzzy guitar)
8Uncredited: Scorpio/Steam Heat; Statler/Avant 2112 (funk/guitar; dance-class cover of the Dennis Coffey hit)

[Partly] Funky Steel Guitar LPs

7Zane Beck & Julian Tharpe: 12+14=Country Jazz; Cat CAT-001 (steel guitar; disco-funk cover of KC & Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty")
7Curly Chalker: More Ways to Play; Midland MD-1003; 1974 (steel-guitar; partly steel-guitar funk & jazz)
7The Electratones: Guitar Bossa Nova; Tico/Gone SLP-7005 (steel guitar with one steel-guitar jazz cut)
7Buddie Emmons: Steel Guitar Jazz; Mercury SR-60843/MG-20843; 1963 (as "Buddie" Emmons here but "Buddy" later)
Buddy Emmons: Mid-Land Records International Steel Guitar Convention Presents Buddy Emmons, Volume 1; ISGC-1; 1977 (live steel-guitar jazz)
8Buddy Emmons: Mid-Land Records International Steel Guitar Convention Presents Buddy Emmons, Volume 2; ISGC-2; 1977
7Doug Jernigan; Diggin' Doug Jernigan Uptown to Country; Emmons ELP-1002 (steel guitar/steel-guitar jazz)
8Neil Livingston: Pedal Steel Guitar Excellence; Excel EX-1 (steel guitar with one funky steel-guitar cut, "Ode to Billy Joe")
8Lani McIntire & his Hawaiians: The Heart of the Islands in Song; Royale 1433 (Hawaiian/steel-guitar jazz; reissues 78s fallen into public domain; notable for "Little Menehunes" & early steel-guitar jazz "Steel Guitar")
8Freddie Roulette: Sweet Funky Steel; GRT/Janus JLS-3053; 1973
7Julian Tharpe: The Jet Age; Midland ML-JT-1001 ("Sack-O-Woe")

Funky Steel Guitar 45s

9Jackie & Tut: 10-2 Double Plus/Hawaiian Punch; Chess 2008

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