Thursday, November 12, 2015

How To Dance The PHUNK! Get Up On The Latest Line Dance!!!

As we prepare for the New Year release of The GroovaLottos new single, here is your chance to learn the line dance The PHUNK in seven easy steps.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 7

As a GroovaLotto, playing and singing are intertwined.
As a producer, I've come to recognize that on all of my projects, the lead vocal comes in three phases: Scratch, the vocal sung while doing the basic tracks; Reference, two takes the the lead that we build the back-up tracks from; Final, which 80% of the time are taken from one of the reference takes, but occasionally I've been inspired to catch a whole new take.

Recording the lead vocals for a project can be stressful and for many years it was the most difficult part of recording for me. My last several albums were the result of tons of discussions and consultations with studio singers, producers, and my own trials and errors in the studio. I understand from a few friends who worked with him that Prince prefers to record his vocals with no one else in the studio. He gets his engineer to set up a microphone for him and they leave him to his work. Since I used my own studios for my solo projects, it was easy to use the Prince method, but going back into a third-party studio, I had to revisit my old consultations for the vocals on this project. For some reason, after a few passes and re-passes, the vocals were okay, but just not rising to the occasion of the songs.

With my previous solo projects, the studio versions and the live version varied greatly because of the differences in personnel. With The GroovaLottos, the project dictated that the album is an 'enhanced' version of what we do live as a trio. So the vocal was a matter of recreating some of the best performances of these songs at our shows. Luckily, I have a habit of filming our shows for archival and evaluation purposes and found  several old shows where the versions of the vocal were particularly inspired. The other key factor that I observed with these performances was that I played while I sang. THAT WAS IT!!! The next time in the studio, we set up my keyboard and did a keyboard pass along with the vocals. Not only did the vocals make the leap, but were spot on in one or two takes and the keyboard part ended up becoming the new main keyboard part as it was also more in the groove with the tracks.

Dan, our extremely patient engineer, dumped the leads and basic onto CD for us to listen to over the week. According to my notes, the backing vocals were going to be a combination of horn parts and street-corner doo-wop harmonies, layered under the Sam & Dave, two voice call-and-response stuff that we do live. Eddie Ray and I ended up having a lot of fun crafting the backing vocals for these songs as we gave each voice a character and a name. For example, "Do You Mind.?" has a shared lead by Medium- sized Jimmy and Handsome Al. Then we have The Tennessee Choir Boy and Mel Tourmé, with the Cookie Monster on the low part. When we did a test market on this song, we let the vocal harmonies ride and found that people thought we were a much bigger band until they saw the video. In about three sessions, we have great reference leads and back-ups for all 13 songs.

Now on to one of the hardest parts about being in a band, that's like family, and a business.

NEXT: Replace The Bass... or not...

Monday, August 3, 2015

The GroovaLottos Bring "The Phunk" to Mashpee Community Park on 8/11

MASHPEE - The GroovaLottos makes a stop in Mashpee Community Park on Tuesday, August 11 at 6PM as part of the Summer Concert Series sponsored by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and TD Bank. The concert is free and open to the public, who is encouraged to bring a picnic supper and enjoy the evening.

Winners of the 2015 Silver Arrow Award for the Soul Music category, and finishing their first album at MDI Studios, the band has had an active summer of regional touring, with shows throughout the cape, as well as Boston, the South Coast, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Recently headlining the Onset Beach Jazz Festival and touring with the Cultural Survival Arts Festival, The GroovaLottos will be headlining the Boston Jazz Fest on August 29th along with jazz singers Pat Braxton and Rebbeca Parris.

Their July 4th alcohol-free concert and dance drew a diverse audience of people who danced all night to the soul-funk-blues grooves of the band. They are now looking into making the dances a monthly Song Keepers event.

For more information, visit

Thursday, June 4, 2015

WellFleet Catches A Case of 'DaPhunk' on July 8th @ Prez Hall

WELLFLEET - July 8th, The GroovaLottos bring their soul-funk-blues party to Wellfleet Preservation Hall, 335 Main St, Wellfleet, MA 02667 (508) 349-1800. 

Tickets are $12.00 and can be purchased on-line through the Prez Hall website:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

JULY 4th Alcohol - Free Concert & Dance in Cotuit

COTUIT - Song Keepers, Ltd., presents the first of their series of Alcohol - Free concerts and dances at Freedom Hall in Cotuit, on Saturday, July 4th at 8PM. The July 4th celebration will feature dance music by The GroovaLottos. Freedom Hall is located at 976 Main Street in Cotuit and the donation for the event is $10. The first 30 admissions will receive free CDs and there will be a 50/50 raffle as well as refreshments available.

The Concert & Dance will follow the Cotuit 4th of July parade as well as the 94th Annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow. There are many people on the cape currently in recovery and/or trying to lead clean and sober lives, with little opportunities for adult entertainment outside of bars and nightclubs. The Song Keepers' events provide a way to party and celebrate a healthy lifestyle.

Song Keepers, Ltd. is a newly formed non-profit arts and education organization, dedicated to preserving and continuing the musical traditions of soul, funk and the blues, while providing high quality social and educational experiences for the community at large.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ending May with a Boom in Plymouth & Mashpee

Friday, May 29th, the party is in Plymouth with The GroovaLottos making their monthly visit to the Cabby Shack!!!

Cabby Shack
30 Town Warf
Plymouth, MA
(508) 747-0653

Showtime 9:30 pm

The party continues Saturday evening at Dino's on Deck in Mashpee!!!

Dino's On Deck
401 Nathan Ellis Hwy (Rte 151)
Mashpee, MA
(774) 238-7062

Friday, May 15, 2015

R.I.P. to Mr Riley "B.B." King

Riley B. King, known to the world as B.B. (Blues Boy) King transitioned to the ancestors last night at the age of 89. Said to be of Choctaw and African heritage, Mr King was born to a share-cropper family in Berclair, Mississippi. Raised by his maternal grandmother, King took up the guitar at age 12 and went on to be the King of The Blues as well as one of the Three Kings of Blues Guitar (Albert King and Freddie King).

The GroovaLottos are saddened by Mr King's passing and thank him for his legacy. Wishing Mr Riley BB King a peaceful journey.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The GroovaLottos PACK 'The Onset VFW

ONSET, MA - Last Saturday night, according to Wareham Week, The GroovaLottos packed the to capacity for their first appearance at the popular weekend spot. The evening started off light enough, with about 30 or 40 people in the room. By the second set, management had to turn hopeful patrons away, as every seat and the dance floor was filled with existing and new fans of the regional soul-funk band. Onset VFW dancers flocked to the floor to join the band's keyboardist as he introduced a new line dance to the crowd.

A short distance away, at Gilda's Stone Rooster, the band appears on the 2nd Saturday of every month. They also appear monthly at the Cabby Shack in Plymouth. The band also has upcoming shows in Mashpee, Hyannis, Boston, Hartford, and Falmouth.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 6

A little more flavor in the pot from Eddie
An element in the novel MUMBO JUMBO, by Ishmael Reed is a virus called Jes Grew that causes white people to become obsessed with Black culture. According to the text, it's the cause of the roaring 20's and the jazz age. America, being a segregated nation at it's roots, has a curious habit of categorizing music to the extent that they segregate music from itself. Also having a cultural addiction to exploitation, musical forms can be co-opted from their originators and the history re-written. Much of American music is rooted in the African and Native American musical traditions and culture. The differences between blues, funk, jazz, gospel and subsequent soul/ r&b are more about stylistic nuance then actual differences. A lot of what was called Hillbilly music (modern term, Country) was a composite of Scottish folk music mixed with blues and termed "blue-grass" to disguise the forms Black roots, the same way that Alan Freedman would call R&B "Rock & Roll" to disguise it from white parents who didn't want their kids listening to Black music.

A floor tom with a broken kick petal makes quite the boom
When you produce a soul-funk record and start to pay attention to each element and track, the American imposed lines of delineation quickly disappear, especially when the only industry standard that you adhere to is production quality. The percussion tracks are like the ancestral voices blessing your song, the patterns and grooves of various African styles, with Caribbean interpretations opens you up to new musical possibilities in the song. This you can experience when creating House music, but working on an album like this definitely takes you on that path.

As I listen to the playbacks on some of our cuts, like "The Storm" and "Make It Look Easy" I find the exploration here must be what Berry Gordy felt when he went to New York to hear Jackie Wilson record one of his songs, and the producer added some Afro-Caribbean back-beat percussion, and how it gave his song a whole new feel and groove. Likewise, when you have the basic trio rhythm section lay down one pocket, and the djembe and bongos come back with a counter groove; all tied together by 'the one', especially when we decided to lay in the western, big drum on the songs. Here, in the percussion tracks we have several examples of call and response between African (West and east) and 'Pan NDN' percussion.
My Djembe brought some ancestors into the mix

Building an album, to an extent, is like creating audio imagery, where the sound becomes a mood-based landscape if you will.  As music critic, Howard Dukes once observed of my work as a producer, I tend to be a fan of the classic 'concept album' approach to a project. With this project the concept is simple, a band of grown and funky musicians grooving through a set list at a concert. The final sound needs to be organic, ambient and exciting, while groovy, warm and funky... a dichotomy of sounds and textures... an audio rice and beans dish.

In building these tracks, what I've done is taken the recipe of funk albums produced in the 1960's and 70's, combined it with elements found in 1980s and '90's hip-hop and creating an album of the raw, funky, boom and bap free of samples, drum machines, time correction, and left as a pure work of musicianship.

bongos and cowbells... funky...
The nature of funk The 'jes grew' of Ishmael Reed's classic novel is a virus of primal, and ancestral spirits, taking possession of all who it encounters.

Missed any of the parts? Follow the Whole Producer Notes series here

A view from the control room...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

AUDITIONS: Dancers Wanted for TV Show 3/18


Dancers Wanted for tapping of Live From Center Stage featuring The GROOVALOTTOS. Dancers of all ages wanted for a live studio filming of a soul-funk band. Looking for dancers in the style of Soul Train and American Bandstand.

Dress in your funkiest outfit!!! Be at the Cape Cod Community Media Center by 7:30 pm (17 Shad Hole Road, Dennis Port, MA) and party with New England's Phunkiest Band!!!

A guaranteed PHUNKY Good Time!!!

Check the Series, "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

For The Love of SOUL at the Brewster VFW 2/28

Check the Series "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

Friday, February 20, 2015

The GROOVALOTTOS @ Gilda's Stone Rooster - Feb 21

Check the Series, "Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album"

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt. 5

When bass players rock the drums...
With any favorite dish, it's the seasonings that make the flavors of the main ingredients stand out. Seasoning and spice is that fine detail in a recipe that can make it or break it. For a funk and soul recording, the percussion tracks are the seasoning. You can change the entire feel and mood of a song based on what percussion you use and how it's played. Something as simple as a tambourine, cowbell or conga drum can become the difference between a classic hit records and a dud.

In these days of electronica, percussion tracks are usually samples and loops that can be cut and paste into the song. Percussion provides the framing and While not a soul records, but a definite homage to blues, "My Generation" by The Who would have been lost as a dance record completely if they had not used hand claps to frame the wild style drumming of Keith Moon, who characteristically played inside, outside, under, over and next to the pocket of the tune, as one would more so expect from a jazz drummer.

Eddie getting funky on the bongos
However, for me it was the rich funk and soul of the 1970's with Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Babatunde Olatunji, Fela Kuti, Earth Wind &Fire, and Hamilton Bohannon that are at influential play here. A lot of these artists you'll find in the loop of many classic hip-hop records, as the percussion that fattens out the drum machine base that they are building off of. In producing this album, I recognize a blend of the musicianship of the old school combined with the technology of the new school. For most of the classic albums, 8 and 16 track recording systems were the innovation and by the time the hip-hop producers were doing their thing we were up to 48 tracks and digital. Each item on a drum kit has it's own track as do the percussion tracks and loops as opposed to using four mics for a whole kit as they did back in the day. As a result, the old school records had a warmer, blended feeling while the new technology makes it rather stark and crisp.

This is also where your engineer makes a big difference, as Bob Yen has old school training, sensibilities and know how from engineering, producing and mixing countless albums as well as being a sound man for numerous live shows for a myriad of rock bands like Journey, Areosmith and the like. Most of your r&b and hip-hop engineers now are lost if the instruments are not plugged directly into the boards or are not software patches. To produce a descent, human soul record outside of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, you need to find a good rock and roll engineer.

These rich percussion tracks that the hip-hop producers loved sampling and looping in the late 1980's and 1990's also gave me an appreciation for the texture and dimension of layered percussion. The old school process of sampling and looping required a degree of skill in manipulating and placing the sample that has been largely replaced by the use of software like Pro tools and so forth. One of the most impressive examples in hip-hop history actually didn't use sampling, but pure DJing skills. On the album "Straight Out The Jungle" by The Jungle Brothers, for example, their DJ Sammy B actually mixed and cut from his turntables directly onto the recording, using a drum machine as the metronome/ percussion link. Likewise, Gangstarr alum, DJ Premiere used to use a 4-track and the pause button feature to build his loops, feeding in the breaks from his turn table every two or four bars.

A djembe player that went to Goddard? Impossible...
The hip-hop producers of the golden era also intuitively did what you would find more sophisticated musicians doing when it came to blending elements. For example, for a jazz player, the notion of three instruments in the same song playing three different time signatures against each other is what you might find in James Brown's recordings, or the drumming records of Babatunde Olatunji. The largely jazz trained session men of Motown also were known for doing this. For example, in the cut, "Donlt Sweat The Technique" by Eric B and Rakim, you find a heavy swing jazz bass and horn loop, over a straight 4/4  drum machine groove.

Armed with bongos, djembe, tambourines, cow bells, a drum kit, broom shank, riser, four pairs of hands, and shaker, we went about building the percussion tracks of the album, giving each song it's own recipe. When we play out live, especially restaurant and jazz bar gigs, we often love to play with time signatures -super imposing 4/4 over 6/8, 5/4 and under 7/8 or 12/8- we found ourselves recising this habit with bongo and shaker patterns over the grooves of the song.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Producer's Notes: Building The Groovalottos Album Pt 4

Bob Yen engineering as Redbone thumps the groove
Albums always take me a long time to produce. That is to say, I take my time producing them. I'm big on letting tracks season before I go back and adjust or overdub. Once I had the basic tracks on a CD, the CD lives in my car and I'll listen to it throughout the production process. First, I like to get a great take and build from there. As the production evolves the sound and feel might shift slightly, but the basic tracks are always the foundation.

Eddie Ray's drum tracks are about as funky as you can get. After redoing my keyboards from the original scratch track, it was time to bring in Redbone and do the bass lines. Redbone and Eddie Ray have been playing together for years, having been in the legendary band, West Side Soul together in the 1990's, they are a bass an drum unit. Listening to the basic tracks and then listening to other records with great, funky bass and drums I began to get ideas that would lift our sound into a new paradigm rhythmically.

My sensibilities had been colored with the work of great jazz musicians playing on soul and funk records as well as the 1990's era of hip-hop where producers like Pete Rock, Ali Shahid Muhammad, DJ Mark the 45 King, and DJ Premiere created some remarkable sounds from their sampling and looping work, juxtaposing swing beats against straight time beats. Ironically, virtuoso jazz players and untrained DJs turned producers have similar ears and concepts that escape conventional concepts of how music should be performed.

Producers notes on playback. As usual, Redbone nailed it.
Listening, for example, to the bass and drum work of James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin of the Funk Brothers/ Motown studio band of the 1960's. On several records, like "Hitch-Hike" "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Baby I Need Your Loving", you can hear the bass and drums are rocking two different time signatures against each other; giving the songs their edge. In the movie "Get On Up" we see a depiction of James Brown brow beating his musicians when they question his mixing of time signatures on the song "Cold Sweat". In this scene, we see Brown encouraging his musicians to the ink of their instruments as drums, similar to the philosophy that Eddie Ray brings to The Groovalottos, grooving is a counting game.

Redbone is a natural born talent and genius of the bass; being self taught on the instrument and growing up singing doo-wop on the street corner as a kid. From the first time that he came to a band rehearsal, it was clear that he understood and felt the groove and could make us feel it too. You see, a soul-funk record is about feeling, and the ability to convey that feeling to the listener. I would put him up against most conservatory trained jazz or rock bass players any day, as he comes with the kind of soul in his playing that they aspire towards. As a band, one thing that we often do in rehearsal and at gigs is play around with time signatures on tunes. One night, while playing a tune in 4/4, Eddie Ray decided to go into 6/8 while I went into 2/4 and Redbone stayed in 4/4. It's a math problem along the lines of solving equations and looking for the common denominator.

With the use of technology and 'industry standards' the differential between a band's live show and their record has grown wider and wider. The standard for recording is that the music is turned into a matrix of time corrected loops sewn together. Steely Dan used to do a version of this pre-looping. For the studio version of the album, they'd record in California, with California studio musicians who are in the pocket and predictable. For the tour, they'd put together a band of east coast guys who are wild and unpredictable. James Brown had bands that could do both. The same can be said for Sly and the Family Stone.

Also taking a page from Motown's studio band, they were all active jazz players who would record in the studio all day and play out at the clubs at night. The jazz clubs provided them with an opportunity to experiment with grooves, feels, and chord voicing. Elements of these experiments would often find their way into the arrangements of the songs they'd record the next day. In gathering footage for our documentary, "The Song Keepers" we ended up collecting hours of footage of our live performances and audience reactions. Pin-pointing elements that made particular performances stand out and translating them to the studio was how we created our basic tracks.

For any organic player, the studio can be a very restrictive environment. Most of my work as a producer has been trying to find ways to be organic in the studio, even when dealing with the electronica approaches of my last couple of albums. The production challenge here was getting Redbone to play like Redbone at a gig who can play in, out, next to, under, over, in front and behind the pocket naturally. Today, he was making the mistake of trying to lock himself to Eddie's kick drum. What I needed him to do was respond to it.

Since we were recording the bass DI, Redbone was able to sit in the control booth and record to the playback on the monitors instead of through headphones. I was able to sit behind him and be the annoying voice in his ear, coaching him through the bass parts. The end result: 12 of the best bass track recordings that I've heard in quite some time. "Ask Yo' Mama" is on it's way to being an instant classic album.

Missed any of the parts? Follow the Whole Producer Notes series here

Blog Archive