– Get On Up (2014)
In an early scene, James Brown explains to bewildered reporters what his new style of music is all about. Instead of being built on a melody, it’s built on a groove – a rhythmic environment that brings the mind and body to a state of readiness for feeling good. Later, Brown has to re-explain the principle to his musicians in the studio. Their training tells them, “It doesn’t work musically.” Brown insists: “Now we all got our drums.” Some may be guitars, some may be keyboards, but all should be doing the same work as drums: adding to the groove. “And when you’re playing a drum,” he says, addressing issues of music theory, “it don’t matter what key you in, what bar you in, what planet you on…” All that matters is: “Does it feel good?”
The metaphors for what music is and does are many. A traditional melody is a progression (travel) through notes and chords beginning at a root. The melody grows from the root like a plant.
In jazz, groove is said to trace back to phonograph records, on which a phonograph needle follows a track that keeps coming back around. If the needle is the band, the groove is their shared sense of direction.
Photo: Karl Stull