GET ON UP
Let the Boogie Do the Rest: Making the Music
The concert sequences in Get on Up offer a thrilling taste
of sizzling moments from James Brown's legendary stage
career. As Brown himself says in the film: "You may not know
me, but every record you got has got a piece of me in it."
Get on Up audiences will hear Brown's own voice and
the instrumental performances of his band members-
including such key players as Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis,
brothers Maceo and Melvin Parker, Fred Wesley, Clyde
Stubblefield, John "Jabo" Starks, Jimmy Nolen, Bernard
Odum, brothers Bootsy and Phelps "Catfish" Collins and,
of course, Bobby Byrd-via original multitrack recordings
from the James Brown archive at Universal Music.
They will also see every actor and musician on
screen singing or playing every note in real time. A team
of music editors and supervisors worked with Taylor,
Jones and the performers to keep the audio and visual aspects
of these sequences in harmony.
Music production co-ordinator and supervising music
editor CURT SOBEL offered a thumbnail description of the
process. "First, of course, songs
were chosen," he says. "James
Brown had an enormous catalog
with many massive hits, but they
had to be right for the time frame,
as well as the energy of the scene.
We cut medleys together for some
scenes. After working them out
with Tate, and then Aakomon, we
handed the music over to Chad to
learn in advance of performance.
"He had to sing and dance in
time with the recordings, and cue
with the musicians on stage. It's a
tough job when you combine all
that with dialogue, but he's been terrific."
Boseman's own singing voice is heard several times
during the film, in non-gig moments. The concert sequences
depict numerous phases of Brown's career, and various
incarnations of The Famous Flames and the backing band.
Actors portraying band members include Craig Robinson
as saxophonist Maceo Parker; TARIQ TROTTER as sax
player Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis; Aloe Blacc as original Flame
Nafloyd Scott; and KEITH ROBINSON as Baby Roy Scott,
also an original Famous Flame.
Jenkins, Sobel, music supervisors BUDD CARR and
MARGARET YEN, and other members of the music
team worked to help the actors get comfortable with their
instruments. "We made sure everyone playing in a particular
scene was as close to accurate as possible," says Jenkins.
"The actors came a long way in a short period of time."
Several of those actors had a head start. Trotter, Blacc
and Craig Robinson are already musicians, although not
necessarily known for playing their characters' instrument.
Robinson, for one, enjoyed expanding his musical resume.
The actor-comedian notes: "Maceo may be the most fun
character I've portrayed because in learning his sax solos...I
became a little bit funkier."
More than 80 real musicians performed alongside
Boseman and the other actors in the course of filming Get
on Up. Darren Glenn worked with extras casting to find
these players. "They had to be able to play and dance at the
same time. That was the biggest issue," says Glenn. "We
also wanted to use local musicians as much as possible and
give them an opportunity they wouldn't ordinarily have. We
were fortunate to find very good talent in this area."
The guiding principle was to make everything
seamlessly real, and give the audience an experience
worthy of Brown's legacy. "My goal," says Taylor, "is to
have people dancing when these scenes hit the screen."
With access to James Brown's original multitrack
recordings, the Get on Up team was able to remix those
tracks to create state-of-the-art surround sound for the
film's audience-and tailor any given musical performance
to the film's dramatic needs.
"They can make something a cappella, or make an
instrumental solo louder," Yen explains. "With the multitracks,
we could do whatever Tate wanted for the scene."
Afterman, who promoted a couple of James Brown
gigs back in the day-including one at San Quentin-spoke
with the fervor of a seasoned impresario. "This music is
going to be booming. I promise you'll think they're live!"
Released on July 29 by Polydor/UMe, "Get on Up: The
James Brown Story (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)"
has studio and stand-out live versions of Brown's top soul/
funk hits-from his first, 1956's "Please, Please, Please," to
"Out of Sight," "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Try Me," "Papa's
Got a Brand New Bag," "It's a Man's Man's Man's World"
and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine."
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