I miss the Clavinet. There was a time when if you said Funk, someone would have replied: “Clavinet!” Unfortunately today it’s a somewhat forgotten sound. Sadly, it could be because if you want a really funky Clavinet part, you can’t buy a loop: you have to play it, or program it, yourself – and it’s not easy at all. It took me months to program my first acceptable Clavinet.
There are many examples of amazing Clavinet parts. Stevie Wonder’ Superstition is built on a Clavinet riff, and so is Use Me by Bill Withers. Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell was a master, as you can hear in A Joyful Process. Herbie Hancock could play it too: check out Hang Up Your Hang Ups (not the initial riff, but the Clavinet part throughout). Not bad, for an instrument that was intended to be an electrified version of the Clavichord.
I’ve had my little Clavinet phase too, circa 2000. Two examples of parts I programmed and still like. The first is on Youtube:
There’s a funny story about this part. Sugar, the band’s label, asked me to do a remix of this song by Piccola Orchestra Avion Travel, and they were covering production costs (which is rare). So I rented a studio, run by my mixer man Paolo Gozzetti (who is mixing my album right now) and hired a violin player (whose name unfortunately I cannot remember, it should be on the cover, but it isn’t online), to perform an unspecified “Hungarian Violin part” I had in mind. Everything goes smooth, including the Magyar extravaganza (which you can hear in the song) and a studio visit by the label’s supreme boss, former singer, one of the icons of the italian 1960s, and today an acute businesswoman – known to be picky. A few days later I went to their office to play them the final mix, and at the end the label manager joked: “Two minutes in, Avion Travel become Trouble Funk“. That’s because at 2:06 the Clavinet comes in, and everything goes south (I’m told the band disliked this remix).
The second example comes from a little experiment I made, also back then: an Electro/Reggae version of the Bolero (my first), with fake Orchestra and tenor Clavinet. This was produced and mixed in Bologna with Maurizio Liguori of Technogod, who is a hell of a programmer (most of the drum parts are his, as well the overall mix), sound man and music maker (I haven’t seen him in ages, he should be in Berlin, if you see him say hi). This is an edit of the very long coda, the (very low but vicious) Clavinet comes in at 0:37.