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Kind of Purple: Jazz Musicians On Prince

Kurt Gottschalk By

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When did you first become interested in Prince's music?

It was around the time of Purple Rain. I was pretty young, but my older sisters were into Prince. I bought comic books as a kid, and Prince played a role in my transition to music obsession, between the Batman music and his one-off comic book (with amazing art from Denys Cowan, who also did that great GZA/Genius Liquid Swords cover). Diamonds and Pearls was the album that hit around that time, and many of those songs are among my favorite Prince tracks still.

What is it that stands out most to you about his music?

I tend to have a strong affinity for artists with a strong personality who can combine disparate influences to create art that is at once wholly original and undeniably indebted to their influences. Prince really celebrates the artists who influenced him in a beautiful way. It would seem these guys didn't all get along of course, but Prince was lucky enough to have the longevity to reconcile the complexities of building a brand. And I think that comes from honesty.

Chris McIntyre: "Tambourine"

You picked a song that some people might not know, or at least remember. What is it about "Tambourine" that grabs you?

It just has a really particular sound that I've been attracted to since the first time I heard it. It has an instant presence, jumping in with a crisp snare lick into the crunchy bass synth and drums groove right after the long fade of the "Raspberry Beret." I think it has one Prince's most interesting vocal arrangements, especially moments like the between phrase background lines and all these terraced chords that harmonize the soloistic drum set material. Like other of his "all-Prince" tracks from the mid-to-late 80's ("The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" in particular), he was audibly expanding his conception of pop form and harmony, using weird rhythmic cycles within the groove format. Also, I have very deep personal associations to the time when Around the World in a Day was released and this song always evokes a welcome Proustian moment in me.

When did you first become interested in Prince's music?

Hearing it on the loud-ass sound system at Cheap Skate, the indoor roller arena ("rink" in Minnesota) near where I grew up outside of Minneapolis. 1999 was just out, and the DJ would always spin the extended versions of "DMSR," "Delirious," etc. All of us painfully white kids would go "whoooooooo...," jump up, roll out, and shake our booties.

What is it that stands out most to you about his music?

The specificity of the moment to moment sonics (i.e. precisely modulated guitar and vocal sounds, ostensibly instinctual synth patch and drum machine choices) and the various subtle ways he makes time.

Prince is one of the biggest selling artists of the last 30 years. That would suggest a "lowest common denominator" effect to at least some people. Do you think his music is understood for what it is by most people?

I think it really varies from record to record and song to song. The entirety of Purple Rain has a preternatural ability to communicate with "most people," but much of his output is crazy eclectic which actually limits the number of people who can fully tap into the music. "What it is..." Not even sure there is anywhere close to an "it" with his work.

Do you think Prince is past his prime?

Definitely not as an overall musician but as an envelope pushing creative provocateur, yes. That kind of work is for the young anyway.

What sort of project or direction would you like to see Prince take on that he hasn't?

Revisit some the more psychedelic stuff with expanded instrumental forces for a touring live experience in medium size halls that a room sound (thinking hybrid orchestra with live musique concrete elements, other deliciousness).

Jamie Saft: "C-O-O-L" (by the Time)

You picked a song written and produced by Prince (under the name Jamie Starr) but performed by someone else. Tell me why you picked "C-O-O-L." and what it is that draws you more to the Time than to Prince.

I've always enjoyed the Time just a bit more than Prince. The Time to me were about groove and a particular flow that really resonated for me. It's as if Prince could let go of some of the outer layers of his image and just dig deeper into the grooves and production of the tracks. The Time to me also has a real sense of humor about itself, whether Prince is involved or not. There was a sense of having fun in the music of the Time, whereas Prince had a darker edge to his albums.

When did you first become interested in Prince's music?

I bought 1999 on vinyl when it was released in 1982 at the Trumbull Mall in Trumbull, CT—I've been a fan ever since.

What is it that stands out most to you about his music?

Prince is both a master songwriter and a brilliant musician. Both these elements really shine through even his weakest albums. There's always something interesting in a Prince production.

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