Wednesday, May 11, 2011

RIP Cornell Dupree

Cornell Dupree (December 19, 1942 - May 8, 2011)

R 'n B guitar legend and studio veteran Cornell Dupree had the uncanny knack of being able to make a mistake, a note slighty flubbed once in a while, and make it sound cool and funky. 

And it was this earthy quality in his playing that led me through a phase where I started to cop a bunch of Cornell's slick R 'n B licks and tasty chordal fills.  This guy could take the simple chords of a song and really start to dress them up to create a harmonic tapestry that gelled perfectly with the drums and bass, while staying well out of the keyboard player's way.  

And when Cornell did play a melody, I could immediately hear the soulful phrasing of a Roberta Flack or Donnie Hathaway.  It was human; like he was singing through his guitar -- perfection be damned!

Because at the the heart of it all, Cornell had a pocket feel so laid back it seemed like he controlled time and space from where he sat.  That was the secret sauce right there.

In memory of him, here are some nuggets of wisdom from Cornell Dupree, gleaned from an interview from 1976:

"There is no right way to play the guitar.  I found whichever way is the easiest is the way to do it."

"You can't only be a great musician, somebody in the business has to know you... You've got to hustle."

"Whenever Jimi, Chuck Rainey and I would play together, Jimi always stole the show."

"There's no telling what producers will have you do. It goes from noise to notes, and you've got to make it happen."

"Eight out of ten times I don't play the chart straight. Very seldom do I read every note, unless it's a special thing the arranger wants/"

"I learned a lot from King Curtis. He taught me when to build a solo, and when to let it roll down."

"It gets boring in the studio after a while. You only get four or five bars, and then it's back to the music."

"You've got to be a quick thinker and drop a hot lick where it's needed."

"It starts out for the love of music, but after getting into the technicalities and red tape, it gets to be business."

"I'll push my groove button and groove."

"I'm probably like the majority of musicians who are poor businessmen."

"It takes knowledge and skill to get you there, and luck to take it somewhere."

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