There are a number of reasons why I love funk, but to boil it down: funk is all about the groove - a highly rhythmic experience where each musician needs to think about their specific part and most importantly, how it fits within the broader context of the song. The guitarist may be doing something different from what the keyboardist and bassist is playing. The kick drum might be locked in with the bass while the overall rhythm is different from the guitar strumming. Each musician has a role - they need to find and stay in their lane or “pocket” - so that they properly fit with what the rest of the band is doing. Finally, adding a hooky melody and horn section over the rhythmic section requires a deep understanding of finding your place in a band.
Ironically, while the rhythmic interplay and the need to find the pocket make funk incredibly complex to play, funk is often just a one-chord song. The experience is about listening to what the other band members are doing as opposed to focusing on your own playing. In my early years playing in various rock bands, it seemed that the experience was often about increasingly playing louder and louder to make sure your part was “heard.” Eventually it just led to a cacophonous, head-banging, ear-splitting experience - which, can be awesome in its own right, but just different from what funk is about. When I started to focus on playing jazz, I learned the importance of actually listening instead of playing. Miles Davis always emphasized that music isn’t about the notes you play, it’s about the notes you don’t play. I was recently asked what exactly funk is and the origins of funk. Let’s turn back the clocks and learn a bit more where this great style of music began.