Get On Up




ca. 5:07

Grade Level


Commissioned By

the Texas Community College Band Director Association in Honor of their 45th Anniversary.


full set $125; score $35

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Get On Up. I like to dance when I’m working. I’m not talking about salsa or swing or tango; my moves are circa 1970s-1990s, meaning I’ll regularly do the robot and the running man as I listen to what I’m composing. And I credit my father with initiating my love of groove. His taste leaned more to Tower of Power, Chicago, and Paul Simon, but his whole-hearted enjoyment of music became ingrained in me at a young age. Additionally, he not only listened, but he also performed, playing electric bass in various bands around El Paso, including with Sonny Powell and The Night Dreamers (a band that accompanied James Brown on Steve Crosno’s television show).

In August 2018 my father passed away, having fought a life-altering battle with Parkinson’s Disease, and I was faced with fulfilling a commission and no desire to write music. I forced myself to start the sketching stage for this new work, and as I delved into the creative process, I found inspiration in the music my dad loved. That is when I decided to write this piece not just in memory of my father but FOR my father, meaning I wanted to craft something my dad would have listened to and enjoyed; something that would have reminded him of playing in a band with James Brown; and something that would have made him smile, be happy, and, yes, want to dance.

Channeling the spirit of my dad, I created Get On Up with the music and theatrical performance style of James Brown in mind. The work is in three large sections plus a coda. The A section is comprised of fragmented motives from the licks and riffs in Brown’s music. To me, it sounds like a deconstructed melody, like when someone is trying to pick out music by ear. The music gradually builds to the presentation of the main theme, which is not a direct quotation from Brown but definitely in his style. The B section is a twelve-bar blues and more of a “song” in the vein of Brown’s fast-paced pop/r&b/soul music but with interruptions and climaxes. The C section slows down and gets funky, 70s style. There is a direct quotation of (arguably) the most famous drum set groove of all time, the Clyde Stubblefield lick in “Funky Drummer.” The C section is followed by a partial recapitulation of A, now transposed, and a short coda in which I combine a number of Brown’s musical “isms,” leading to a conclusion that is basically the same as the opening bar.

Get On Up is commissioned for the 45th Anniversary of the Texas Community College Band Director Association. It is also written in honor of my dad for being a wonderful father, a great teacher, and a constant supporter of my musicianship. And to all those who play it, please: “Make It Funky!”

Suggested Listening

  • All Aboard the Soul Funky Train – The J.B.’s
  • Funky Drummer – James Brown
  • Get On the Good Foot – James Brown
  • Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved – James Brown
  • Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine – James Brown
  • Get Up Offa that Thing – James Brown
  • Give It Up or Turnit A Loose – The J.B.’s
  • I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown & The Famous Flames
  • The Little Groove Maker Me – James Brown
  • Mother Popcorn – James Brown
  • My Thang (Single Version)
  • Night Train – James Brown
  • Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
  • The Payback – James Brown
  • Soul Power – The J.B.’s
  • Super Bad – The J.B.’s