Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Screening Weds. Nov. 17th
Wheedle’s Groove is a feature documentary about Seattle’s long-lost soul and funk music scene of the 1960s and 70s. With commentary by Seattle notable music figures like Quincy Jones, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Mark Arm (Mudhoney), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden), Kim Warnick (The Fastbacks) and Kenny G, and using interview footage, archival materials, original music, and live performances, the film paints a picture of a thriving and vibrant music scene centered around the city’s small African-American population.
Due to a century of housing discrimination in Seattle, 1972 saw 80% of the city’s black population living in a four square mile neighborhood called the Central District, or the C.D. Despite the neighborhood being a product of racism, black-owned businesses, black culture, and black music thrived in the C.D. Groups like Black on White Affair, The Soul Swingers, and Cold, Bold & Together played on the local black radio station KYAC and packed clubs every night of the week. Many of the groups started to receive widespread attention with invitations to perform on national television and to collaborate with mainstream acts. Many were given breaks by Seattle native Quincy Jones, who had become almost a messiah-like figure to local musicians. But just as many of the groups were on the verge of breaking out, the fickle public turned its ear from funk to disco, and Seattle’s soul and funk scene slipped into obscurity.
By 2001, Seattle was known for grunge music, Microsoft, and coffee. There seemed to be nothing left of a Seattle soul music scene until local record collector DJ Mr. Supreme found a dusty Black on White Affair 45 called ‘Bold Soul Sister’ in a 99 cent bin at a Seattle Center record show. By 2003 he had a rough impression of a once-thriving scene and a hefty collection of Seattle soul and funk 45s, some of which were beginning to fetch upwards of $2000. Supreme approached local record label Light In The Attic with the idea of releasing a Seattle soul and funk compilation. Light In The Attic spent twelve months tracking down the artists and fleshing out the story of Seattle’s funky past, and the result was a CD compilation entitled Wheedle’s Groove. At the Wheedle’s Groove CD release party in August of 2004, a line of nostalgic 60-year-olds and funk-hungry 20-year-olds wrapped around the building as the musicians inside, now janitors and graphic designers and truck drivers, prepared to perform together for the first time in 30 years.
The players paint a vivid scene of an incredible cultural explosion inside a community transformed by the black power movement. But as one musician after another had to turn away from music as a career, only a young Kenny G, after leaving the primarily black funk band that gave him his start, was able to rise to the level of success that everyone in the scene had dreamt of. Most had to radically alter their vision of how they would live their lives.
Looking back, each player sees the one painful place where a decision or an event started them down a path away from music. A disagreement with a more well-known singing band that they were backing, a fight over a woman, a decision to pass up an opportunity to leave the band and tour with Curtis Mayfield all remain frozen in memory to be analyzed and rewound and analyzed again. That moment for one band was a misunderstanding-turned falling-out with Quincy Jones, who had been helping them out in Los Angeles. When asked to recall his part in the story, Quincy Jones remembered nothing.
With the rediscovery of the music came write-ups in national magazines, world-wide distribution, and finally a sense of redemption.
WEDNESDAY November 17th Doors 7:30 Showtime @ 8pm
Ninth St. Independent Film Center
145 9th St. SF, CA 94103