Any Other Way to Go?

Brown, Chuck and the Soul Searchers

album cover

Go-Go Gets Real Gone

To hear why the Washington, D.C.–based guitarist and bandleader Chuck Brown calls his music go-go, check out this live performance, which catches Brown and his band the Soul Searchers at a zinging peak. Honed in sweaty and inhospitably crowded D.C. nightclubs, this hybrid style is all about forward motion. Its simple bass-and-drums backbeat has hypnotic power—often the same groove cruises for hours, serving as the foundation for a highspeed chase through unlikely musical worlds. On an average night, Brown weaves bits of Star Wars music or TV cartoon themes (check out the version of "Woody Woodpecker" here) between jazz, torch songs, and funk chants.

This set begins with an update of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," which serves as a clue about what follows: This rubbery, high-intensity groove swings like the proverbial barnyard gate. The tunes flow together as a medley; they're often connected only by Brown's chicken-scratching rhythm guitar, which resembles Ike Turner's wickedly terse approach. Soloists from the horn section claim the spotlight briefly and then disappear, and every now and then the groove stops abruptly, only to roar back with greater force. It's impossible to remain still when the Soul Searchers are playing: If you're not dancing, you're at least nodding your head.

The so-called "Godfather of Go-Go," Brown taught his groove to several generations of musicians—among his disciples were E.U. (which had a hit with "Da'Butt" from the School Daze soundtrack), and the more progressive Trouble Funk. When those bands began to attract national attention in the late 1980s, Brown seemed destined to break big. Things didn't quite work out—his studio sides could be erratic—but Brown, undaunted, never stopped performing. As the live Any Other Way To Go? makes clear, he continued to expand the go-go horizons—check out the way he and the Soul Searchers twist a jazz standard like "Moody's Mood for Love" into a risqué booty call.

Genre: R&B
Released: 1998, Verve
Key Tracks: "Moody's Mood for Love," "Family Affair," "Harlem Nocturne."
Catalog Choice: This Is a Journey . . . Into Time
Next Stop: Trouble Funk: Live
After That: The Soul Rebels: Rebelution
Book Pages: 118–119

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