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Remember “So What”—the cool, shuffling opener from Miles Davis’ famed 1959 album, Kind of Blue? The electrified funk of “Up What” is almost nothing like that tune, but the title made me think of it, and as I listened I did find similarities: a bass intro, and patient, spontaneous growth, as if the music is finding its way as it goes.
The two intros come not only from two different eras, but seemingly from two different planets. The muted standup bass of Paul Chambers is far removed from the growling synth-bass of Ty Showers. The former is a kind of under-the-breath murmur; the latter is a sharp remark.
“Up What” grabs you at the outset with that bass wearing a hi-hat—the sound of pure funk, really—and a surprising percussive timbre on the fourth beat of the bar. That sets up the launch into an even funkier theme, with wah-wah guitar effects and the bass taking an even sharper, slappier tone, way up in the mix.
Instead of the nine-note call and two-chord response that any Jazz fan would instantly recognize as “So What,” variations on a five-note motif run through a synth-spin cycle of melodic voices, including a screaming guitar solo. As if anticipating that the repetition could wear thin, a bridge nearly a minute long kicks the funk into fusion territory, with long precision runs of 16th-notes delivering us at last back to the original theme.
By the end fade, you may still wonder about the meaning of that enigmatic title. I can’t solve that mystery for you, but I can recommend listening while you wonder.