Sun, 06 Mar 2005

The 'Sex Machine' gets on up in Jakarta

Rich Simmons, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

"Everybody's got soul! Everybody doesn't have the same culture to draw from, but everybody's got soul." -- James Brown

The 13-piece band was wicked tight, the dancers were even tighter and the Godfather of Soul was shakin' his moneymaker deep into Saturday morning at the Jakarta Convention Center in a performance befitting of one of his many monikers, the "Hardest Working Man in Show Biz".

James Brown, the septuagenarian superstar -- some say he was born in 1928, others say 1933, but most agree he was born a financially impoverished child in the U.S.' Deep South -- has been making hit records since 1955's Please, Please, Please, when he was with a group called the Famous Flames.

Here is a man who redefined Soul, Gospel and traditional Deep South black music into a brand new Rhythm and Blues style -- Funk. And as the good people at the Montreux Jazz Festival define it: FUNK = Soul + Blues + Rock n' Roll + Jazz (with a little bit of Gospel and Latin thrown in for some spice).

As the late Rolling Stones cofounder and guitarist Brian Jones once explained to a couple of teenage musicians named Mick and Keith, blues and soul was all about SEX.

Brian was a few years older than his future bandmates and had been hanging around beatnik jazz and blues joints. He was turned on by the deep, Deep South style of blues, -- with the likes of Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James and a younger guy at that time -- the early 1960s -- by the name of James Joseph Brown. Jones was correct in his metaphor and nobody embodied both the Sex in his songs and Sex on stage better than "Soul Brother Number One" (aka Brown). Even now, at the ripe old age of 60- something, Sir Mick Jagger still resonates Sex on stage and probably has the "Fatha'" to thank.

Friday night's show at the Java Jazz Festival was typical of Brown's high-energy, deep funk style, but with a distinct Jazz- like flavor. Brown's huge, talented ensemble was at their jazzy best on the epic hit It's A Man's Man's Man's World (1966). They really transformed this classic R&B ballad, into a way cool Jazz remix and everybody was diggin' it.

The crowd was on their feet with Get On Up (Sex Machine) and of course, the one that everyone was waiting for -- I Feel Good (1965) -- really got them rolling. That had the thousands of oh- so-cool, wine-sipping jazz buffs in a state of dancing delirium -- movin' with the groove as "The Minister of the Super Heavy Funk" did the Mashed Potato with his three very well-endowed (vocal cords, that is) backup singers. If cats were not able to let their backbones slip on that one, they might as well get fitted for a toe-tag and a morgue slab right now.

Living in America (1986), the theme song to the movie Rocky IV -- complete with the female dancers emerging from their American flag capes -- was a hit as well, despite the feelings of most people in this part of the world toward George Dubya and his gang back in Washington D.C.

One thing that detracted somewhat from the good vibe, unfortunately, was the weak, even spineless, sound quality in the cavernous Plenary Hall at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC). It was nothing short of embarrassing, especially for this type of "heavy funk", which really requires -- in the words of Sly and the Family Stone -- some serious "bottom". One would hope that the sound cats at the JCC can get that sorted out before the Godfather's second and final gig at the festival on Sunday evening.

Another problem was the camera operator for the two giant screens, who was apparently asleep, as the camera was stuck on the Hammond organ -- whether anyone was playing it or not.

Regardless, there is no doubting that "Mr. Dynamite", even with his WWII-era conk hair style and bright red zoot suit, is still the hippest hepcat this side of Macon, Gee-Ay (Georgia)!





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