"SEATTLE WAS THE SCENE." It sure as hell was. But this statement isn't addressing the unlikely ascension of Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, the concrete tomb that houses Jimi Hendrix, or the tattered flannel of the early-'90s grunge revolt. This quote stems from the opening moments of the exceptional 2009 documentary Wheedle's Groove, a film that does for the Seattle underground soul and funk movement what Buena Vista Social Club did for the sounds of Havana.
For a solid decade, from 1965-1975, Seattle dolled out simmering helpings of soul from acts like Black on White Affair, Soul Swingers, Patrinell Staten, and Cold, Bold, and Together. This sound was harvested from Seattle's openly segregated Central District and signaled an impeccable period of quality music that mostly fell upon deaf ears beyond the Puget Sound. Wheedle's Groove shines a spotlight on this intricate, fertile, and wildly influential period of music that was overlooked, wrongly ignored, and soon forgotten about. (Even a young Kenny G makes an appearance in the film as the scene's token white musical ringer, with a tight nest of dangling curls and hardly any indication of the smooth-jazz war criminal he would soon became.)
But this isn't a story of what could have been. Wheedle's Groove shares the same ethos as the recent Oregon Rocks exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society; a music history primer that reveals the well-trod soil that lies beneath every fresh-faced act of today. While it never quite bubbled to the surface of the mainstream, the simmering sounds in Wheedle's Groove made a lasting impact not just in Seattle, but also in the entirety of the Pacific Northwest.
As part of MusicfestNW, the documentary will hit the big screen at the Mission Theater with director Jennifer Maas and producer George Drakoulias moderating the screening. But what's a soul movie without a little soul music? Following the film, the real show begins, as the entirety of the collaborative Wheedle's Groove band (a 15- to 20-member all-star team of various acts featured onscreen) will take to the stage and unleash their raw soul sounds in the flesh. Never has a history lesson sounded this good.