P-Funk horns revisit birth in Baltimore

August 05, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Any act that has been around as long as Parliament/Funkadelic has will over time generally develop special relationships with certain cities. But few ties are as ongoing and ever-present as P-Funk's Baltimore Connection -- because in this case, the Baltimore Connection is the band's horn section.

Trombonist Greg Boyer, trumpeter Benny Cowan and saxophonist Greg Thomas have been blowing their horns for George Clinton and company for more than 16 years now. "Actually, since March 9, 1978," says Boyer, over the phone from a tour stop in Pittsburgh.

How did the trio make that connection? "Basically, it was a matter of knowing the right people, and being in the right place at the right time," says Boyer.

"At the time, George used Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker -- a k a the Horny Horns -- plus Rick Gardner and Richard 'Kush' Griffith as well. They were the horn sections with both bands. But they had a little shake-down in personnel at the time, and P-Funk was left without a horn section to call their own."

Fortunately, P-Funk bass man Rodney "Skeet" Curtis knew Greg Thomas and decided to give him a call.

"Benny and I just dropped out of college about two months prior to this, and the three of us were working on a project that fell through," says Boyer. "So there we were, a horn section without a band. And I think about a week later, Skeet called us and asked if we were willing to do the audition for P-Funk, because they were in need of a horn section.

"So we auditioned, and a month later they sent us plane tickets to fly to Nashville and said, 'You guys are in the band.' "

They've been there ever since, too. "We've managed to fuse our sound into what George's concept of funk is, while retaining our individuality," says Boyer. It's worked for George, and it's worked for us. We are at the point now where we're pretty much a marriage, if you want to call it that."

That's not to say the P-Funk Horns don't play around occasionally. They played on Crystal Waters' "Storyteller" album that's Thomas soloing on "Is It For Me" -- as well as on albums by Ultra Nate, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers ("That includes the theme music to 'Sinbad,' " says Boyer) and dancehall diva Patra.

"Anywhere they need a horn section, we try to be there, first in line," laughs Boyer.

But what the trio really looks forward to is making its own album. Clinton has agreed to be their producer, but with all the touring the group is doing, finding time to work in the studio has been hard.

"Right now, our project is second on the list behind his 'Dope Dog' album, which could take as long as a year, a year and a half," says Boyer. "But we are on our own budget, cutting a few tracks now. So it will probably be a year before we'll have something to present to George."

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