New York Music Daily

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Tag: funk

Drop Party Bring Their Wildly Original Horn-Fueled Mashups to Alphabet City This Friday

Otto’s Shrunken Head is best known as a relic of a long-gone, gritty East Village punk rock scene – and one of the most notorious tourist traps in town on the weekend. Be that as it may, Otto’s was one of the first New York venues to reopen after live music had been criminalized in 2020. Vestiges of its second-gen claim to punk rock fame remain, and these days there are still punk and punk-adjacent sounds like ska and surf rock in the little back room on the off weekend. This Friday night, Jan 20 there’s a ska bill that looks pretty awesome, starting at 8 with Skappository – who are anything but anal – followed at 9 by Drop Party, one of the most original and unpredictable bands who sprang from the ska scene in the zeros. The mystery headline act call themselves Cenzo: good luck finding them on the web.

The centerpiece of the show is Drop Party. They play a wildly multistylistic blend of Crescent City brass band music, oldschool soul, ska, funk, classic disco and psychedelia, typically in the same song. Their musicianship is as tight as their jams are unpredictable. They put out a debut album, Lean Into the Wave, in 2018, which is still up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. Even better, they managed to regroup and put out a handful of singles last year, all of which you can snag for whatever you feel like paying, or not.

The first is Disco Ranger, which starts out as a straight-up wah-wah disco tune. But then the band turn it into a ferocious mashup, part New Orleans second-line march, hard funk and a wistful cinematic theme. New York used to abound with imaginative, outside-the-box horn-driven bands like this: the Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Mamarazzi, Super Hi-Fi, to name a few.

The second single is Mental Health, which is more of a straight-up New Orleans tune, with blazing horns from trumpeter Dan Raccuia and tenor sax player Jacob Raccuia over the slinky swing of bassist Jake Krasniewicz and drummer Zach Rader. Guitarist Jeff Wickun contributes a couple of jagged, tantalizingly brief solos.

Likewise, the band rise from an undulating groove to a sprint and then a dubwise LA lowrider interlude in the third single, Horns Up. Wickun takes over the mic briefly on the last one, What Can I Say, a sly disco strut.

The album is also worth grabbing. It’s a lot harder and more solo-centric. The opening track is a darkly blazing ska tune that’s skittish bordering on frantic, with a smoky sax solo midway through. The Mountain is a cinematic gem, veering from roadhouse funk to getaway theme to icepick skank.

The first of the big epics is On the Up & Up, part classy 70s soul-jazz, part sunny roots reggae and eventually a hard-driving minor-key ska theme. In First Contact, the band veer from Booker T soul, to a second-line march, some oldschool disco and noir ska, with a goofy joke that’s too good to give away.

The band do the same in Big Harry, switching on a dime between noir ska, dub and bluesy, psychedelic soul. One Small Favour is twelve minutes of eerily lingering psychedelia, Lynchian soul, twisted circus rock and an irresistible trick ending.

The final cut Captain’s Orders, a wild mix of oldschool soul, action film score and smoky reggae. Grab this while it lasts.

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In Memoriam: Freddie White

Drummer Freddie White, who propelled his brothers Maurice and Verdine to worldwide success in Earth Wind & Fire, died December 31 at 67.

By the time Freddie took over behind the EWF kit in 1974, he had established himself as a highly sought after player for touring and recording, with artists including Donnie Hathaway, the Emotions, Little Feat and Linda Ronstadt. He reached the band just as they were beginning a shift from their hard funk roots to a more majestic sound that some critics called “black ELO.”

Freddie seamlessly helped direct that transition to a more straight-ahead approach without losing sight of the group’s earlier, more relaxed latin-inflected rhythms. He also lent his own signature no-nonsense attack to the band’s many disco hits, reinforced by a tight bond with his bassist brother Verdine. Their work together in many ways pioneered the direction urban pop music would take, from funk to rock and then a more techy, new wave-influenced esthetic.

Earth Wind & Fire broke up in 1984 while Maurice and co-leader Philip Bailey pursued solo projects. Freddie did not rejoin the new version of the band which Maurice assembled in 1987.

Trippy, Texturally Luscious Oldschool Soul Jams From the Ghost Funk Orchestra

When the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation engineered the fascist takeover of New York in March of 2020, Ghost Funk Orchestra bandleader Seth Applebaum bunkered down, wrote and got a new album out of it. He began the project as a one-man band, more or less, but by the summer of 2019, when the group got a rave review here for a midtown Manhattan show, they’d grown into a beast of an oldschool instrumental soul band.

Their latest album A New Kind Of Love – streaming at Bandcamp – is their most psychedelic and eclectic yet. The instrumentation and production is totally classic 60s: reverb on the guitar and drums, snappy trebly bass, plus layers of organ or vintage electric piano and horns in places.

The first cut, Your Man’s No Good is an artful mashup of Isaac Hayes vintage soul sprawl, Menahan Street Band crime-soul and a little Hugh Masekela. Track two, Scatter comes across as dub Isaac Hayes: hypnotic, spare bass riffage, chicken-scratch guitar beneath lingering chords, a tantalizingly snarling Applebaum guitar solo and a trick ending.

The loopy, dubwise vibe continues in Prism, a twinkling Hollywood Hills boudoir soul jam. Quiet Places is actually anything but quiet, a swaying, brassy study in lo/hi contrasts, grim fuzztone versus starry gleam.

The album’s title track is a two-parter: Applebaum shifts between slow, slinky Quincy Jones soundtrack noir and dub-infused funk in the first, then closes the album with the second, a hazy early 60s summer-house theme with a gritty psych-soul coda.

Megan Mancini sings Why?, a hypnotically catchy slow jam, then sticks around for Blockhead, a steady, vampy groove where Applebaum flexes some judicious jazz chops in tandem with flutist Brian Plautz.

Baritone saxophonist Stephen Chen floats and bobs over the latin soul shuffle of bassist Jeremy Stoddard Carroll and drummer Mario Gutierrez in A Song For Pearl. Then the band go back to a drifting milieu with Bluebell, a pensively swaying love ballad with Mancini on mic again. The closest thing to straight-up psychedelic rock here is the Doorsy next-to-last track, Rooted. So far 2022 has been a relatively slow year for psychedelia in general, but this is one of the most enjoyably immersive records of the year.

The Zoo Berries Bring Their Slinky, Imaginative Funk and Soul Grooves to Long Island City

Have you noticed how suspiciously much the word “lab” is trending, not just when connected with things that escape or are released from labs, but in everything from rehearsal studios, to bands, to music venues? Especially the places with free shows? What’s that all about?

One of those venues, surprise surprise, is a new one, Culture Lab in Long Island City. Even so, there have been a ton of good acts playing on the back of the flatbed trailer in the parking lot there this summer. One of them is the Zoo Berries, who are there on August 26 at 8 PM.

Back in 2018, their bandleader and bassist Ayal Tsubery – also of sizzling Balkan band Tipsy Oxcart – sent over some files. Since everybody in the band had plenty of other projects going on, this group didn’t play that many shows, so those files just sat, and sat, and sat on the hard drive here. But the band’s lone studio release is good!. If imaginative soul and funk sounds are your thing, give it a spin at Bandcamp.

The first number is Back In Time, which the band build from a spare intro, to an easygoing slow jam, then guitarist Nadav Peled (also of ferocious Ethiopiques band Anbessa Orchestra) takes a machinegunning solo, and the energy goes through the roof. Soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger’s solo after that is just about as incendiary.

The second track is Brother, a warmly swaying 6/8 oldschool soul groove, Niswanger harmonizing exuberantly with tenor player Arnan Raz before the two diverge and go blasting through the stratosphere as pianist Daniel Meron and drummer Peter Kronrief kick in harder. They follow the same trajectory in Final Decision, an update on a classic, slinky Booker T sound, Peled’s icepick guitar anchoring the groove to where Meron unexpectedly takes it into hard-hitting jazz.

He pulls back to a moody ripple in Shir LeShabbat, a traditional Jewish melody: finally, the bandleader takes a serpentine solo, climbing and then taking the long way down from the top of the fretboard with his nimble hammer-on riffs. The final tune is Acceptance, a real change of pace with its rainy-day intro. But then spoken-word artist Kéren Or Tayar gets on the mic, and Niswanger plays gentle, sustained lines and a few curlicues, and the sun bursts from behind the clouds.

Underground System Bring Their Playful Jams to a Dance Party on the Hudson

Over the last few years, Underground System have built a reputation as a ferocious party band. Singer/flutist Domenica Fossati is every bit as tirelessly entertaining to watch dancing out in front of the band as she is on the mic. The group are bringing their distinctive, psychedelic mix of Afrobeat, hard funk and other eclectic dancefloor sounds to an outdoor show on August 12 at 7 PM at Pier 45 on the water in Chelsea. Take West 10th St. to the river.

The band’s latest vinyl album is an ep, Into the Fire, streaming at Bandcamp. The title track is a coy mashup of early 80s tech-funk – think Midnight Starr or Jah Wobble’s collaborations with Holger Czukay – with harder chicken-scratch guitar textures and spicy horns as the jam goes on. Fossati finally goes spiraling upward into the Milky Way with her flute.

Track two, He Said She Said, is harder-edged, fueled by guitarist Peter Matson and drummer Yoshio Kobayashi. Singing in Spanish, Fossati needles a dude who’s just a party-pooper: like the first track, there’s a very 80s feel to this. After that, the band get swirly and ethereal but keep the groove going just as steady in Desnuda. The ep also includes interestingly organic-flavored remixes of the first and last songs. If you have the space at your place or on your rooftop to throw a dance party this summer, this will keep everybody on their feet.

The Budos Band Bring Their Undulating Menace Back Home to Staten Island

Most bands tend to mellow out as they get older, but Staten Island’s Budos Band went in the opposite direction. They started out playing a psychedelic blend of Afrobeat with frequent Ethiopiques tinges and then brought a macabre Black Sabbath influence into the mix. They’re got a free outdoor concert coming up on August 4 at 7 PM on their home turf at Corporal Thompson Park, which is close to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. If you’re not a Shaolin resident, be aware that it’s a good half-hour on foot: hang a right, for starters, after you exit the ferry terminal.

Their latest album Long in the Tooth, arguably their most concise, catchiest release yet, came out during the dead of the 2020 lockdown and is streaming at Bandcamp. This time out the ghosts seem to be dancing in the courtyards of haunted castles on the Ethiopian coast rather than in gloomy Albion. The group open with the title track, guitarist Tom Brenneck building an ominous surf tune way down at the bottom as organist Mike Deller’s keening Farfisa lines float overhead, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel the smoke peeling off the fire from Andrew Greene’s trumpet.

Track two, Sixth Hammer perfectly capsulizes the direction the band’s taken in the last few years: menacingly looping Sabbath chromatics over a cantering Ethiopian rhythm fueled by the funereal funk of the percussion section: Brian Profilio on drums, John Carbonella Jr. on congas, Rob Lombardo on bongos and Dame Rodriguez on everything else.

They slink their way through the tantalizingly brief Snake Hawk, which could be Beninghove’s Hangmen playing Mulatu Astatke. Then bassist Daniel Foder spaces out his boomy chords to punctuate Dusterado, a slower, organ-fueled oldschool noir soul groove.

The horns take over with otherworldly Ethiopian chromatic riffage over a go-go flavored pulse in Silver Stallion. Haunted Sea could be what an Ethiopian horn band might have done with a dark Dick Dale theme a half-century ago. Then the band shift from dark vintage soul to a brassy Afrobeat blaze in The Wrangler.

Brenneck – who sticks with a vintage, gritty tube-amp reverb sound here for the most part – kicks off Gun Metal Grey with his distortion turned up to breaking point, the horns swooping in with a brooding resonance. To what extent is there bullshit in the next track, Mierda De Toro? The joke seems to be the resemblance to a famous surf song, reinvented as a cantering groove built around a catchy descending bassline.

The most straightforwardly trad Ethiopian themes here are Budonian Knight and the closing cut, Renegade, Deller’s funeral-parlor organ and Brenneck’s icepick wah guitar building to a surreal dubwise break and then back. How great is it to have these amazing, darkly individualistic instrumentalists playing live shows again!

Slinky, Sophisticated Organ Jazz That Might Have Slipped Under the Radar

Dr. Pam Popper, who has emerged as one of the brightest lights  since the 2020 lockdown, has made a big deal of the fact that no matter how disturbing the current situation becomes, we can’t afford to let our joie de vivre be stolen from us. And what’s better to lift our spirits than funky organ jazz? Jared Gold, one of the most sophisticated organists in that demimonde, is leading a trio tomorrow night, June 22 at Smalls, with sets at 7:30 and a little after 9; cover is $25 cash at the door.

Gold has put out plenty of good albums of his own: his 2012 release Golden Child is the most distinctive and in its own defiantly thorny way, maybe the best of the bunch. A record that’s probably closer to what he’s likely to deliver in a venue like Smalls is guitarist Dave Stryker‘s slinky but urbane Baker’s Circle, streaming at Bandcamp (Gold has been Stryker’s main man on organ for quite awhile). Like a lot of albums that came out during the dead zone of the winter of 2021, it’s flown under the radar, which is too bad because it’s a great party record.

The first of Stryker’s originals here is the opening track, Tough – a briskly shuffling, catchy, soul-infused Styker original full of precise, warmly bending guitar lines, bright tenor sax from Walter Smith III and subtle flashes from across drummer McClenty Hunter’s kit. Gold stays on track with the band in his solo, with his steady blues riffage.

There’s lithely tumbling latin flair in the second track, El Camino, matched by Smith’s precise, chromatic downward cascades, Stryker’s drive toward a spiraling attack and a tantalizingly brief Gold solo.

Smith and Gold harmonize tersely over the tricky syncopation of Dreamsong, the bandleader channeling a late 50s soul-jazz vibe over lurking, resonant organ. They make tightly strutting swing out of Cole Porter’s Everything I Love, with carefree yet judicious lines from both the bandleader and then Gold. The lone Gold tune here is the aptly titled, scampering Rush Hour, with rambunctious solos from Smith and then Stryker.

The quartet rescue Leon Russell’s early 70s tune Superstar from the circle of hell occupied by groups like the Carpenters, then launch into the title track, the last of the Stryker originals. No spoilers about what jazz classic that one nicks: percussionist Mayra Casales adds subtle boom to the low end.

Likewise, they play Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues as a tightly straight-up clave tune with Stryker’s spikiest work here, Gold’s edge in contrast with Smith’s balmy approach. Stryker finally goes for Wes Montgomery homage in Love Dance, by Ivan Lins. They close the record with Trouble (No. 2), a reworking of the old Lloyd Price hit that while short of feverish, owes a lot to Peggy Lee.

If you’re wondering what the album title refers to, it’s a shout-out to Stryker’s mentor and guitar teacher David Baker.

Summery Sounds From Guitarist Yuval Amihai and Pianist David Kikoski

Go to pianist David Kikoski’s discography page, and as you would expect there are plenty of albums where he’s the bandleader. Scroll down to his sideman projects and you’ll find that the very first album listed is the Mingus Big Band’s sizzling Live at the Jazz Standard album from 2010. Big surprise: Kikoski is a big reason why that album is one of the most exhilarating of the past dozen years. He’s lyrical, he has an edge and he gets a ton of gigs, which is why he doesn’t often get a chance to lead his own projects here. He’s doing that this June 11 with a trio at 10:30 PM at Mezzrow. Cover is $25 cash at the door; he’s back in that intimate space on June 25.

Kikoski is also very versatile. One new album that gives him a chance to go in a direction he hasn’t gone in much lately is Israeli guitarist Yuval Amihai‘s My 90s Summer, streaming at Soundcloud. Kikoski plays Rhodes electric piano on this one, which in general is closer to soul and downtempo music than it is jazz.

Amihai opens with the title track, a swaying, summery soul theme with a balmy horn chart: Julieta Eugenio on tenor sax, Wayne Tucker and Itai Kriss on flute giving way to carefree solos by Amihai and Kikorski and a big cheery crescendo. It sets the stage for much of the rest of the record.

The band prowl like a lynx, sleek on its feet but lethal in MEDB (Middle Eastern Desert Blues), with deliciously simmering harmonies from the bandleader and Kikoski’s Rhodes. It doesn’t sound the least bit Malian and it doesn’t sound particularly Middle Eastern either. as Kikoski winds his way through a twinkling, nocturnal solo.

Gwen’s Groove is a vampy trip-hop launching pad for bright, matter-of-fact solos from guitar and Rhodes. The band reach for a balmy, summery lullaby soul sound in Song For Sasha. They follow that with the aptly titled Smiles, Kikoski switching to acoustic piano for a typically glistening, rather impetuous interlude over the tiptoeing syncopation of bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Jeremy Dutton. It’s the best and most traditional jazz number on the record.

Amihai revisits the furtive nocturnal slink of the album’s second number, if less ominously, in Yitgaber. The album’s big epic is Coming Through, which sounds like a late 70s/early 80s Steely Dan song without words, Kikoski back on piano for an emphatically strolling, blues-infused solo. Amihai gives the record a warmly swaying coda with Saturday Afternoon.

Most of this is not heavy music, but Amihai really knows how to create a mood and keep it going. Clearly, the 90s were a happy time for him. How little those of us who were there knew how much we would eventually miss those days.

Drummer Kresten Osgood Airs Out His Funky Chops on Hammond Organ

Here in the west we emphasize musical specialization to the point of absurdity. In the Middle East and Africa, pretty much everybody is expected to be a competent drummer: after that. you find your own axe or axes. In that context, it’s less surprising that Kresten Osgood, the popular Danish drummer, would also turn out to be a very inspired organist. His new album, Kresten Osgood Plays the Organ for You is due to hit his Bandcamp page on June 3.

After playing behind the kit for organists including Dr. Lonnie Smith and Billy Preston, Osgood decided to take matters into his own hands and leave the organ envy behind. The result is a purposeful, thoughtful party record.

The opening number. Play it Back features Osgood’s steady, catchy, vampy riffage over a loose-limbed groove with Fridolin Nordsø on chicken-scratch wah-wah guitar, Ludomir Dietl on drums and Arto Eriksen on percussion. Exactly what you would expect from a drummer: everybody is in on the beats!

Osgood really chooses his spots from there, spacing his clusters, spirals and a logical, playful counterpoint in the second track, Poinciana. The group make their way through the slowly swaying thicket of percussion in Wildfire, a catchy Booker T-style theme with an incisive, psychedelic wah solo from Nordsø

Når lyset Bryder Frem – “when the lights go on,” roughly translated – is a warmly major-key retro 60s soul-funk tune. Osgood wraps his hands around some big chords in his longest, most undulating tune here, Baby Let Me Take You in My Arms, Nordsø taking off into space and spinning back down to earth before the jungle of beats takes centerstage.

The band pick up with a harder edge in Onsaya Joy, then Osgood launches into the catchiest, but also most complex number on the album, Dansevise, with its shifts between major and minor, jazz and 60s psychedelic soul.

The quartet wind up the record with a bouncy midtempo funk cover of By The Time I Get to Phoenix Osgood artfully edging his way into the melody. His next New York gig is behind the kit on May 28 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery, in an interesting improvisational trio with trumpeter Herb Robertson and tuba player Marcus Rojas.

Pianist Rachel Z Brings a Great Lineup to Smalls Tonight

We are in the most bizarre time for live music in New York history. At this point, a small handful of jazz clubs are leading the way back to normalcy, catering to all New Yorkers without apartheid restrictions. Among the herd of elephants in the room is the brain drain out of town, where all but the most obstinate or destitute among us got the hell out within weeks of the March 2020 totalitarian takeover. So there are all kinds of unexpected faces popping up where they might not have before the lockdown.

One intriguing show that might not have taken place at Smalls in 2019 is happening there tonight, April 2, where pianist Rachel Z and her band Orbits 4 wrap up their two-night stand with sets at 7:30 and around 9 PM. It’s a great lineup, with Steve Wilson on alto sax, Jonathan Toscano on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums; cover is $25 cash at the door

The last time anybody from this blog was in the house at a Rachel Z show was eons ago, at a Winter Jazzfest afternoon in the Carnegie Hill area, where despite the early hour she and her Trio of Oz treated the crowd to a thoughtfully energetic set whose high point was a biting instrumental cover of the Police’s King of Pain.

If you’re thinking of checking out the Smalls gig, one album that might offer a hint of what they’ll be up to is bassist Scott Petito’s 2018 release Rainbow Gravity – streaming at Bandcamp – which features Rachel Z along with a rotating cast of talent, mostly from the jazz world.

Petito tends to favor a a dry, blippy, slightly oscillating tone, plays with a lot of guitar voicings and has a flair for the cinematic. A lot of this material looks straight to about forty years ago. Case in point: the album’s opening track, Sly-Fi. which has an easygoing, period-perfect early 80s Crusaders soul/funk vibe. David Spinozza’s guitar flares in sync with Bob Mintzer’s tenor sax over David Sancious’ alternately light-fingered and atmospheric keys, with a cheery sax solo at the center.

That template sets the stage for much of the rest of the record. On The Sequence of Events, Rachel Z adds welcome gravitas with her spare, thoughtfully incisive piano, as the bandleader takes a snappy solo way up the fretboard. Balsamic Reduction is an echoey Fender Rhodes soul song without words set to a straight-up clave beat, livened with• Mike Mainieri’s vibraphone and Spinozza’s chipper flamenco/blues solo. The group revisit a similar vibe – pun intended – a little later, in the album’s title track

The Sanguine Penguin is a brisk postbop swing jazz tune, Petito doubling the bright riffage from Mintzer and trumpeter Chris Pasin over Peter Erskine’s subtle drum accents, a cleverly leapfrogging piano solo at the center. Masika is both poignant and funny, Petito playing guitar lines through a flange and a sitar pedal over an otherwise unexpectedly brooding, west African tinged theme.

He and drummer Jack DeJohnette team up to build suspense in Dark Pools, an ominous soundscape. The group go back to a rather dark take on Hollywood Hills boudoir funk with Helicon, then work a pleasantly sleepy, twinkling groove in Lawns. Petito winds up the record with a gamelanesque duo with DeJohnette.

Fun fact: the album title is a concept from quantum physics which posits that the universe is more the result of a big drift rather than a big bang. The corollary is that its ever-increasing expanse may be more hospitable to life than we previously thought.