Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jimmy Nolen with James Brown Live

00:00 Band intro
02:30 Star Time
02:57 Rapp Payback
08:07 It's Too Funky In Here
12:57 It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World
23:52 Cold Sweat
24:48 I Can't Stand Myself
26:21 Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
28:58 I Got You (I Feel Good)
29:51 Sex Machine

Jimmy Nolen with James Brown live at Beat-Club 1981
The "chicken scratch" sound

Nolen developed a style of picking known as "chicken scratch," in which the guitar strings are pressed lightly against the fingerboard and then quickly released just enough to get a muted “scratching” sound that is produced by rapid rhythmic strumming of the opposite hand near the bridge. This new guitar style was affected not only by Nolen’s choice of two and three note chord voicings of augmented 7th and 9th chords, but also by his strumming straight 16th note patterns, as in James Brown’s "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Nolen’s choices of guitars and amplifiers also affected the sound for which he would be nicknamed. In his first recordings with James Brown, Nolen used a Gibson ES-175 and an ES-5 switchmaster, both hollow body jazz guitars equipped with single coil P-90s. He also relied on a Gibson Les Paul Recording model with single coil pickups, an Acoustic Black Widow, and a Fresher Straighter, which were also single coil instruments. The single coil pickups on these guitars produced a thin "chanky" sound; Nolen ran these guitars through a Fender Twin Reverb with the treble set at 8 out of 10. The result of these factors was a rhythm guitar sound that seemed to float somewhere between the low-end thump of the electric bass and the cutting tone of the snare and hi-hats, with a rhythmically melodic feel that fell deep in the pocket. A good example of such tone would be in James Brown’s "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "I’ve Got The Feeling." Nolen had been experimenting with the sound prior to his joining James Brown: it can be heard on the Johnny Otis song "Willie And The Hand Jive" (1958) and an obscure 45 RPM single called "Swinging Peter Gunn Theme (Parts 1&2), released in 1960 on the Fidelity label, a subsidiary of Art Rupe's Specialty Records. Nolen’s most pronounced chicken scratching was done in straight, unerring patterns of sixteenth notes, like on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”