"Jesus has done nothing but good for me. I have changed a lot of my ways. I
am human, but I am trying to focus on the good things and I am trying to do
right. I feel that I have gotten blessings that would never have come to me.
It doesn't mean that I am going to be a guy who is always going to have a
smile on my face. Even in times of trial and tribulation, I know that this
too shall pass. Just knowing who I am and where I am, with Jesus Christ as
my savior I am blessed," said funk saxophonist?--oh, we are not allowed to
call him that--jazz sax man j.dee. The L.A. based artist just released his
heavily grooved Tippin' On the Edge of Funk.
If you notice, even on my project (Tippin' On the Edge of Funk),
there is nothing that has negative connotations. To me music doesn't have to
be that way," he said, making the point that he does not understand why so
many other artists feel the necessity to write about themes that include
violence, drugs or other undesirable behaviors.
"I am the guy who is trying to promote the opposite of that. I don't want to
be the guy who has anything to do with the negative vibe. There are so many
negative things going on in the world today that music should be an outlet
for people to escape into a whole other world of peace. I am trying to
project that. When somebody comes to one of my concerts, they are going to
forget about everything else they have going on in their lives, because I am
going to be there to entertain them.
So what's all this talk about not being able to refer to you as smooth jazz
"What I wanted to try and do is to be a little funkier than the mainstream
smooth jazz artists are, but still be smooth jazz. I thought I would come up
with a track that sounds kind of funky, with a funky melody, but still has
the jazz overtones to it, that underline the little nuances that keep it in
the jazz idiom," says j.dee in talking about the title track, "Tippin' On
The Edge of Funk."
The affable j.dee came up with six or seven melodies for the song, "Tippin'
On The Edge Of Funk," before settling on the one that appears on his CD. He
said, "This one that is on the record, came the closest to tippin' on the
edge of funk. It was like, I am right here on the edge of funk, but I am not
all the way into funk. That is what I wanted to call the record."
"There are a couple of other songs that are tippin' on the edge of funk
(including) "Yah Dah," which is funky, and "Jah Jah Can," which has its own
funkiness going on. Definitely "Slo Yo Roll" has a funky kind of ride to
it," he concluded.
The CD has much more, however, to offer the listener than just music tippin'
on the edge of funk. "Once you start listening to the project, there are a
variety of styles and moods that you are placed into during the course of
the project. It has something for everybody. There is a song on the record
called, "A Black Tie Affair," which is more of an orchestral production. It
has strings and French horns. That is for the person who is more into
classical, but it still has a jazz kind of thing to it. It (the CD) has the
Jamaican thing in "Jah Jah Can," "Esta Noche" is a sultry smooth Spanish
song, (with) a more urban type thing. The CD even has "Wednesday On The West
Side," that I didn't want to do at first (he laughed). It is more of an old
school disco song," said j.dee.
Still laughing about the inclusion of "Wednesday On The West Side," j.dee
explained how the song made its way onto Tippin' On the Edge of Funk,
"I was putting together four or five tracks for a workout tape to be used
around the house, when some friends heard it. They told me I needed to put a
melody on it."
"The song, "Smooth Mellow Nights" is there for people who want to have a
romantic candle light dinner. It was two or three in the morning, when I
put that track together, and it was just so quiet and peaceful. I didn't
want to have a full drum section in this. I didn't want a kick drum or
snare, I just wanted the high-hats from the drum set. I have some strings
and a bass going on," he said, in discussing the project that took two years
to create and was temporarily derailed when he developed carpel tunnel
syndrome, which eventually resulted in surgery.
One is left with the feeling that j.dee had fun working on Tippin' On the
Edge of Funk, and that is what he wants the listener to experience while
the Latin beats of "Esta Noche" unfold. The song sounds like how you might
imagine Carlos Santana would approach the music if his instrument of choice
were the saxophone instead of the guitar.
A cover of Michael Franks' "Rainy Night In Tokyo" also appears on the CD. "I
wanted to put an urban rhythm to it and still keep it smooth. It was a
little tricky getting it done, but we did accomplish that. It turned out to
be a really good song. I really like Michael Franks. He has the ability to
put people out of their everyday hustle and bustle, and into a tranquil
state. It is really amazing," said j.dee.
j.dee also reached back to Motown to do a cover of the Smokey Robinson tune
Instead of hand played percussion j.dee opted for programmed beats for the
project and that decision was not motivated by finances. He explained, "I
felt these songs needed to be programmed to capture more of a radio ear, not
just in the jazz idiom, but in the R&B (genre) as well, because they hear
what is out there now, which is programmed material. I could have called up
several guys to come and play live tracks for me. For the next record, I do
have some songs that are going to require live players."
Tippin' On The Edge Of Funk, also features some very good vocal
performances, Claude J. Woods Jr. provides background vocals on several of
the songs. The real treat however is reserved for "Love's Gonna Getcha,"
which features vocalists Dionne Knighton and Latesha Thierry. The three
singers were part of a group known as Fourever (the fourth being
Richard Figueroa) that j.dee had previously worked with while wearing his
producer's hat. Woods Jr. is now singing with the Earth, Wind & Fire All
Stars. Fourever also appeared on a Grover Washington Jr. record that j.dee
The production of Tippin' On the Edge of Funk and the songwriting
afforded j.dee an opportunity to work with his brother teddy b. "Once you
get a brother who is your best friend, it is a piece of cake working with
him. You never have arguments. I focus more towards the creative aspects,
and he focuses more towards the business aspects, but we (stay involved in)
the creative, and we both (stay involved in) the business. I think that is
what makes our team work (so well), it is always give and take. It is never,
'We are not going to do this, or you stay over there.' It's not going to
happen. First and foremost, we weren't brought up that way. There were six
of us that started out in a small house in south central (Los Angeles), and
we were forced to all live in one bedroom, so you become bonded," said j.dee.
Two people in the record industry were instrumental in fanning the creative
flames for j.dee and his brother, the first was George Butler of Columbia
Records, who introduced the brothers to Grover Washington Jr. They worked
with Washington Jr. on a couple of projects including the CD Next Exit.
Next j.dee hooked up with David Chackler the president of Avenue Records.
"We did some work for War ("Why Can't We Be Friends"). Chackler also
arranged for j.dee and teddy b. to write some music for the Orion film
"Consequently I bought myself another horn, and started making noise on it.
Next thing that I knew I had a project on my hands. I looked for a place to
put it. David (Chackler) said, 'Bring it on over, I have a smooth jazz
label, let's do it."
He may describe himself as only having one toe in the funkier waters, but
j.dee is one cat who knows how to lay down a good groove.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer and
the publisher of Riveting Riffs,
. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David
Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution
rights remain the property of Joe Montague.