Bizarre Bazaar – Graceful Degradation

Music produced between December 2023 to January 2024. Special thanks to Mino Fukushima for his contributions of guitars and keys on Reflections & Nothing 4U.

Credits:

  • Ernie Gray – voices, bass, guitars, drums, percussion, drum programming, synthesizers and engineering.
  • Mino Fukushima – guitars, keys & treatments on Reflections & Nothing 4U

Mp3 encoded @320kbps.
Music, sound recording & cover art collage © 2024 Ernie Gray. All rights reserved.
For promotional use only.

The story of my musical career has basically been: local rock band needs a singer, bassist or guitarist. I join up and do my best to serve as a proficient player in the style of the ensemble. I’ve often said to collaborators, “I’m an R&B guy who fakes rock and Nashville country rock reasonably well.” Or, to quote a good friend and collaborator, Nick Lucassian, “Ernie is a well-read neck with soul.” It’s not to say that I don’t love the music my bands perform, I definitely went through deep Sabbath, Dylan, progressive rock, and EDM phases. This is not unusual among musicians, who are often aficionados of a wide range of styles even if their work is primarily in a particular genre. If anything, success in a particular style often becomes a constraint that leads an artist to explore alternatives.

But I inevitably come back home to the groove. The funky bass lines. The breaks. Beyond the copies of Sly Stone, funk and disco records that my mother played in my early childhood, a K-Tel tape I bought in 1983 contained The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel, which any fan of hip-hop knows was a tour-de-force of grooves jammed into seven minutes. I had no idea what it was sampling, all I knew was I couldn’t stop listening to it. That track changed my life.

I grew up on a steady diet of pop, R&B and hip hop, and that’s what I’ve always listened to privately. My formative years were spent eagerly awaiting Friday nights at the local teen dance club. My mother worked there as a director and even in my young adulthood, I would fill in as DJ, playing the latest dance tracks that kids wanted to hear. I think anyone who’s worked as a club or party DJ will tell you that it teaches you a lot about arrangement, flow and what makes a crowd move. My heart has always been in jazz, funk and & groove music and personal productions have been a vehicle to do the things I like and otherwise have limited opportunities to pursue in local ensembles. If anything, this was a typical hallmark of the music of my generation: the widespread cross-pollination of rock, funk, pop, new wave, electronica, house, drum & bass, R&B and hip-hop into new forms.

As I recently noted, at some point as an independent producer you just stop caring about sociological expectations and just make the art you enjoy. I like catchy pop music that you can dance to.

Lately, I’ve been digging back into a lot of those “classic” records I used to spin from production legends like Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Baby Face, Rodney Jerkins, Salaam Remi as well as their influences like Quincy Jones, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and the lesser known and underrated guys like Roger Troutman & Leon Sylvers.

Graceful degradation is a term used in computer science describing the design of a system, program or network to maintain essential or mission-critical functionality even when a large portion of it has been destroyed or rendered inoperative. I like the phrase and the concept is easily applied across domains.