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George Clinton Funks Up WCBE's Jazz Sunday

The Mothership landed atop 90.5-FM WCBE's studios around 3pm, December 14, 2008. On that Sunday afternoon, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend and founder of Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton, took control of the Columbus area public radio station, turning it into Station We-FuNK. Jazz Sunday host, K.C. Jones, and his co-host, Jack Marchbanks, were happy to oblige.

George Clinton had his tour drummer, Foley, in tow. Foley is a Columbus Mifflin High

School alumnus and is best known as bassist for the Miles Davis Band for the last several years of Mile's life. Clinton and Foley were on a mission to showcase "the jazzier side of Parliament-Funkadelic", to quote "Sir George," as K.C. Jones knighted him.

Of course, Clinton was also there to promote his 2008 CD release, George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love. Gangsters of Love is mostly a set of lovingly covered R&B classics, including Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" , Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions' "Gypsy Woman" and Ruby and The Romantics' "Our Day Will Come." The widespread esteem in which Clinton is held by music industry superstars is reflected in the A-listers who agreed to be his "gangsters" for the album. Sly Stone, Carlos Santana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, El DeBarge and Kim Burrell can all be heard on Clinton's latest effort.

When Marchbanks asked Sir George what inspired him to do what is basically a "cover album," Clinton responded in an eyeblink that it was his love of "doo wop" that motivated him.

"Parliament-Funkadelic was simply LOUD doo-wop, man. I grew up singing doo-wop (in Newark, NJ). When I moved to Detroit, Motown was just the new doo-wop to me," Clinton said.

Still, the most arresting track on Gangsters of Love is not a cover, but a new Clinton composition entitled "Mathematics of Love." Gospel star Kim Burrell delivers an impassioned vocal performance of Clinton's witty but romance-wise lyric.

Sir George hasn't lost any of his shaman-like aura. Clinton exudes a mirth born of keen observation, but you get the distinct feeling that you better not cross him. In person, he's a bigger man than he seems onstage. He's about 5-11 and has the barrel chested physique of a past-his-prime pro running back.

What shocked both Jones and Marchbanks was that Sir George and Foley decided to stay for the ENTIRE three hour program. Usually, artists show up, plug their latest release and leave. Foley had brought several compilation CDs of their favorite r&b and jazz tunes. That Clinton directed K.C. Jones to play James Brown's "There Was A Time" was to be expected. But, Clinton's fondness for Sam Cooke was surprising. "I'll Come Running Back To You" was the Cooke number Sir George recommended. He commented that Sam was the coolest cat he'd ever seen and that Cooke could send a crowd into paroxysms simply by snapping his fingers and crooning.

Clinton was eager to play "In A Mellow Mood" by Duke Ellington, "Cottontail" by Ella Fitzgerald and "Butterfly" by Herbie Hancock for the listeners. The "funkier side of jazz" was evident in the songs they selected, too. Clinton turned out to be a big fan of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and was pleased when Marchbanks suggested they play "Volunteered Slavery." When Sir George was running his barber shop in Newark, NJ and just starting out with his doo-wop group, The Parliaments, he got to know Kirk, who had lived in Newark since the mid-1960s. Clinton was surprised to learn that Rahsaan was born and raised in Columbus.

Around 6pm, a husband-wife catering team, who had been listening to Sir George hold forth on Jazz Sunday, showed up with a soul food banquet worthy of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross's "Home Cooking." This church-going couple confessed they were rabid Funkadelic fans "back in da day." Clinton welcomed them into the station and thanked them for their generosity. He even drew a cartoon version of the "Atomic Dog" character and autographed it for them. Sir George then led the feast on their mouth-watering fare.

It's good to be king , LeBron. But, it's more fun to be the pharaoh of funk.

"We have returned to claim the pyramids. . ." from the song, "Mothership Connection (Star Child)."

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic are scheduled to perform January 16, 2009 at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in the Arena District in downtown Columbus.

©2008 Jack Marchbanks

Check this website for more public radio specials from "Jak and Sid."

Local subscribers can listen to WCBE on 90.5-FM. Far away friends can listen on the web at www.wcbe.org.

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