Ask Michael 'D'Angelo' Archer how Spanish Joint, the irresistible, funkalicious, horn-laden jam on Voodoo, his long-awaited sophomore CD, came about, and he's at a loss for words.
In fact, ask the wunderkind how he assembled any of the joints on this killer disc -- out Tuesday -- and he'll tell you they "just came to me."
"(The Roots" drummer) Ahmir ('?uestlove' Thompson), (guitarist) Charlie (Hunter) and I were just jamming in the studio and we brought Spanish Joint together," D'Angelo said from L.A. "And, basically, that's how this album came about."
Modest man that he is, the Virginia-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist will defer praise for cutting one of the most daring R&B discs in years to the musicians who lent him a hand.
"I worked with some incredibly gifted people -- (bassist) Pino Palladino, ?uestlove, (trumpeter) Roy Hargrove, Raphael Siddiq, Charlie ... You couldn't ask to work with better musicians," he raves. "You get in a room with those guys and, you know, the sky's the limit, man."
Hunter, who plays lead and bass simultaneously on his eight-street ax, sounds as wicked as ever on Spanish Joint.
Like D'Angelo, he can't explain how the jam materialized.
"I went to the studio and D'Angelo said, 'Here's this tune,' and he taught it to me and we just ran it down live," Hunter explains from his New York pad. "I didn't overdub anything -- it's just me doing my thing with him and Ahmir. Those guys kill!"
Adds Hunter: "D'Angelo understands music, he understands the deeper, more real aspects of what music is about."
Collaborating with like-minded musicians wasn't the only highlight of the recording process for D'Angelo.
He recorded Voodoo at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan.
"It was beautiful, man," he sighs. "It was a wonderful experience. There's a vibe and an energy there."
And, like his songs, the chance to record at the famed studio just happened.
"We were supposed to record at some other place for a few weeks, but something came up and we ended up at Electric Lady," says D'Angelo, who became a dad for the second time last October. "It was amazing because before I came to New York, I was listening to Jimi Hendrix and going in this (musical) direction."
If recording at Electric Lady wasn't thrilling enough, D'Angelo used amps, microphones and the recording board Hendrix used. He also utilized Stevie Wonder's Fender Rhodes keyboards and organ that happened to be sitting around.
'I felt blessed'
"I felt blessed to record there, and all the musicians felt that Jimi's spirit and force were in the house and were assisting us," he says. "I've begun to see his genius and exactly what he was doing. I knew he was the father of psychedelic rock and the greatest guitarist who ever lived, but I didn't know he was a pioneer of the funk.
"A lot of people don't look at Jimi in that respect," he adds. "He really started a lot of what funk is all about ... it came from Jimi Hendrix."
It'll be interesting to see how R&B fans weaned on processed dreck will greet the innovation on this splendid disc.
"(Contemporary R&B)'s a joke, and the funny thing about it is that the people making this s--- are dead serious about the stuff they're making," he says, laughing. "It's sad -- they've turned black music into a club thing."