TIR 29: James Mtume Talks Juicy Funk & All That Jazz

Note: James Mtume passed away in January 2022; this plays on in his memory. RIP.


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on the One: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in this two-part series: Jazz, R&B and funk percussionist, composer, producer and activist James Mtume. From 1971-1975, he was a member of Miles Davis’ group that also included bassist Michael Henderson, organist Lonnie Liston Smith and guitarist Reggie Lucas, whom Mtume would work with on numerous future projects. Among his albums with Miles was 1972’s funk-jazz landmark On the Corner, later reissued and expanded as a fantastic six-CD collection. Mtume also worked with many of the jazz giants of the era, including McCoy Tyner, Don Cherry, Art Farmer, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Gato Barbieri, among others, and also released three avant-garde jazz LPs under his own name in the 1970s that included collaborators like Ndugu Chancellor, Gary Bartz, Jean Carne and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

As a transition into more mainstream music, in 1978 Mtume and Lucas teamed up to write the No. 1 R&B duet ballad “The Closer I Get to You” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. That same year, they released Kiss This World Goodbye, the first of what would be five albums credited to Mtume as an R&B-funk band. They scored their biggest hit with the throbbing mid-tempo funker “Juicy Fruit,” which topped the R&B chart in 1983. Fronted by the powerful presence of singer Tawatha Agee, Mtume notched 11 charted singles between 1978-1986, including “Give It on Up (If You Want to),” “You, Me and He” and “Breathless.” Along with that were deeper, funkier tracks like “Just Funnin’,” “Green Light,” “I Simply Like” and “Hip Dip Skipped a Beat.” Concurrently, the Mtume-Lucas combination produced and wrote hits for other artists including Phyllis Hyman and Stephanie Mills, winning a Best R&B Song Grammy for the latter’s 1980 hit “Never Knew Love Like This Before.”

James Mtume subsequently became involved with film and TV music, including “New York Undercover” from 1994-1999, and went on to become a talk radio personality and public speaker. Here he reflects on it all and shares countless unforgettable stories.

Recorded November 2017


Scott Goldfine

As a fervid lifelong music & film enthusiast / student, I grew up in and around the Los Angeles entertainment industry. I have worked and held many positions in various media realms, since 1998 serving as Editor-in-Chief and now Associate Publisher for Security Sales & Integration, a trade publication serving the electronic security industry. I love several genres of music & film. The former includes funk (Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Ohio Players, etc.); blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, etc.); rock (Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, etc.); hard rock (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.); jazz (Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Crusaders, etc.); R&B (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, etc.); and more. I was a club disc jockey and ran a mobile DJ company (Musical Moods) for more than 15 years, which is where the name Dr. GX originates (Doctor Good Times). Fave film genres include horror (Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.); science fiction (Aliens, Terminator, 2001, etc.); action (Warriors, Road Warrior, Die Hard); westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, Showdown at OK Corral; Wild Bunch, etc.); suspense (Jaws, Inception, Silence of the Lambs, etc.); drama (Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, etc.); and comedies (Life of Brian, Superbad, Ruthless People, etc.). I have attended many hundreds of concerts and movies (in theaters or screenings). I may as well also throw in a few favorite TV shows to give an even broader taste of my sensibilities. A handful would be Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Justified, Fargo, Seinfeld, Sopranos, South Park, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Key & Peele, Monty Python, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Man on Earth, Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Office. Fave authors are Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Crichton. I am also a big sports fan and lifelong supporter of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB). Also enjoy my family of course, electronics/computers/AV gear, and animals, nature and outdoor activities. Graduate of Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge (Radio-TV-Film, Psychology minor). Also studied at UCLA for kinesiology/psychology and earned post-grad Certificate in Accounting from Santa Monica College. Present main occupation is as Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration (SSI), which I joined in 1998. I am responsible for overseeing all editorial content in print. online, electronic, in-person and any other media or products for the electronic security industry's leading business-to-business trade publication. SSI is part of Framingham, Mass.-based Emerald Expositions.