Category: funk

New Audio: Funk Legend Steve Arrington Gives Us Advice on Getting Through These Dark Times

Steve Arrington is a Dayton, OH-born and-based singer/songwriter and drummer, who got his start with the acclaimed Dayton-based funk and soul act Slave in the 70s, eventually becoming best known for being the lead singer on the act’s smash hits “Watching You,” and “Just a Touch of Love.” Continuing an incredible run of success, Arrington went solo, releasing a handful of albums before leaving the secular music world in 1991 to focus on spiritual and ministerial work. 

An impressive and eclectic array of artists have drawn influence from Arrington’s with artists like Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharrell, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, N.W.A. and a lengthy list of others sampling his work in Slave and as a solo artist. 

Arrington returned to secular music in 2009 with the release of that year’s Pure Thang, which he followed up with 2013’s collaborative album with Dam-Funk, Higher, released through Stones Throw Records. Additionally during the past decade, the Dayton-born and-based has had a number of attention-grabbing  guest spots with the aforementioned Snoop Dogg, Kool Moe Dee, George Clinton, and Thundercat. 

Slated for a September 18, 2020 release through Stones Throw Records, Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions is the funk legend’s first solo album in 11 years — and the album reportedly sees Arrington finding peace with himself and God while casting an easygoing but still razor-sharp critical eye on the world around him. The album’s second and latest single “Soulful I Need That In My Life” is a slow-burning, Quiet Storm-like pimp strut centered around twinkling and gurgling synths, a sinuous bass line, plucked bursts of guitar, and Arrington’s imitable crooning. While bearing a resemblance to Arrington’s famous work in Slave, the song offers prescriptive advice for listeners in at time of uncertainty, stress and despair — “downshift,” and slow it down. “Some nice, soulful music is going to bring some peace to this time of trouble and stress,” the funk legend says in press notes. And you know what? I suspect he’s right. 

Created by Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf and Jamma D, “Soulful I Need That In My Life” the song can trace its origins to when the song’s producer Jamma D ran into Wolf at the label’s Gold Line Bar during the early states of the album. Wolf invited Jamma D to share some beats. And after sending a bunch of beats over, Jamma was surprised to hear that the funk legend wanted to use a beat for the album.“A few months after that I was behind the board in a studio watching Steve in the booth write, record, and ad-lib the entire jam in about 3 hours.” Jamma D says. “It was the pleasure of a lifetime to bear witness to the funk in its purest undiluted form, the INVADE is upon you!”

Tomode is an emerging Swedish funk act founded by Carl Leanderson and Viktor Westerberg. Interestingly, the act can trace its origins to Leanderson’s and Westerberg’s mutual love of funk and disco. After spending a couple of years developing and honing their sound, the Swedish duo’s debut single “Destiny, No. 20” firmly establishes their sound and approach: featuring Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, shimmering synths, a sinuous bass line and shuffling four-on-the-floor, and an enormous hook, “Destiny, No. 20” will command comparisons to Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky,” and Chic’s “Good Times.” And much like those songs, the song is centered around a wistful and aching desire to escape — in nostalgia, as much as it is to escape to the dance floor.

“We want to make music that can act as a remedy to the slight despair we all feel, living
through the 2020’s,” the members of the emerging Swedish funk pop act say in press notes. ” Destiny No. 20 opens the door to everything we love – it’s got vibrant
drums, pulsating arpeggios, disco guitars and a funky bassline. It’s as much ‘Good Times’ with Chic as it is ‘Dancing On My Own‘ with Robyn. Hopefully it ignites a spark somewhere out there in the darkness.”

The band plans to release material throughout the summer — with their debut EP slated for release during the fall.

DJ Williams is a Plainfield, NJ-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, composer. producer, guitarist and bandleader, who grew up in Richmond, VA. Throughout his nearly two decade career, Williams has developed and maintained a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for being a highly sought-after collaborator: the Plainfield-born, Los Angeles-based artist is the founder of the Richmond-based band DJ Williams Projekt; the hip-hop/R&B act The Breaks; the acoustic duo Williams & Jones; and he’s probably best known for playing in the critically acclaimed, San Diego-based funk/jam-band act Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.

Unsurprisingly, as a result of his various creative projects, Williams has toured around the planet, playing in clubs of all sizes, as well as the international festival circuit, playing some of the largest and most prestigious festivals across the US, Canada and Europe — and he’s shared stages with the likes of John Legend, Dave Matthews Band, John Oates, Warren Haynes, Ivan Neville, Big Daddy Kane, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Soulive, Levon Helm, Slightly Stoopid, Robert Randolph, Slick Rick and a growing list of others.

As a singer/songwriter, composer and bandleader, Williams’ work is generally centered around compelling melody, an eclectic musical palette and deliberate and careful songwriting, revealing his desire to push new sonic and stylistic boundaries. Williams’ latest project, DJ Williams Shots Fired features members of Dave Matthews Band, Lenny Kravitz‘s backing band, Slightly Stooped, Trey Anastasio Band,Lyrics Born, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars and others — including Dan Africano (bass), Kowan Turner (drums), Joe Tatton (electric organ), Scott Flynn (trombone), Nick Gerlach (sax) and André Mali (trumpet) and a rotating cast of collaborators and associates.

DJ Williams’ Shots Fired’s debut single “She’s No Good” quickly earned regular airplay on SiriusXM during the spring of 2018 and as a result, the band was named as a “heat-seeker” and “an artist to watch.” Building upon a growing profile, the act’s forthcoming effort is a concept effort conceived as a four-part soundtrack for an imaginary movie is slated for a Fall 2020 release through Color Red Records. Last month, I wrote about EP single “Iron Fist.” The track, which features elements of psych rock, jam band rock, arena rock and funk depicts a character known as “The Samurai,” represented through Williams’ slashing guitar work. The EP’s second and latest single “Sunset Trails” is a homage to the black and white Westerns a young Williams used to watch with his father. Centered around shimmering guitar lines, four-on-the-floor drumming, soaring organ chords, an enormous and expressive horn line, the end result is a strutting, hip-hop inspired take on Ennio Morricone/Spaghetti Western soundtracks.

 

 

 

Alan Evans is a songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for being the co-founder of acclaimed jazz fusion trio and JOVM mainstays Soulive. Back in 2008, while Soulive was on a break from touring, Evans spent his time producing, recording and mixing bands from around the world in his Western Massachusetts-based recording studio. On his days off, he would go into the studio and play guitar, recording a collection of material that he didn’t feel fit Soulive but wanted to release under his own name — Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers wound up becoming Evans’ guitar playing alter ego.

Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers’ latest single, the strutting “Good Thang” features an All-Star cast of funk and jazz musicians that includes DJ Williams’ Shots Fired‘s and Rubblebucket’s Darby Wolf (organ), The Curtis Mayflower’s Pete Aleski (guitar), Akashic Record‘s and BT ALC Big Band’s Brian “BT” Thomas” (trombone), ALC Funktet’s and BT ALC Big Band’s Alex Lee-Clark (trumpet), BT ALC Big Band’s Tucker Antell (alto and tenor saxophone) BT ALC Big Band’s Jared Sims (baritone sax) and Kim Dawson (vocals), who contributes sultry vocals to a Daptone meets Muscle Shoals-like anthem, complete with an enormous horn section and an even bigger hook.

“Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers is all about spontaneous creation for me and the very creative friends I get to call on to be a part of it. ‘Good Thang’ is a perfect example,” Evans says in press notes. “Initially I went into the studio, picked up the guitar and let whatever I was feeling come out without worrying about what kind of song it was.” He continues, “Before I knew it, I had a really great feeling bed of bass, drums and guitar laid down. From there, I asked my great friends Darby, Pete, Brian, Alex, Tucker, Jarad and Kim to take what I started and record exactly what inspired them to play. That is the best part of making music for me, creating something that will inspire people.”

Since their formation back in 2011 by founding members Alex “ALC” Lee-Clark and Brian “BT” Thomas, the Boston-based funk collective BT ALC Big Band, which also features a rotation cast of some of the Boston area’s best funk and jazz players, has developed a reputation for crafting compositions that are heavily indebted to the big bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and The Meters  —  but with a decidedly modern take, in what the band has dubbed Big Band Funk.

Recently, the Boston-based funk act signed to Alan Evans‘ label Vintage League Music — and their first release with their new label home,  “Bring Forth Change” features a collection of 18 credited artists, including Lettuce‘s Nigel Hall (vocals) and Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet) and Soulive’s Alan Evans (drums) was recorded remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The idea to record ‘Bring Forth Change’ was put in motion after Brian Thomas, Alex Lee-Clark and I were chatting about the possibilities of remotely tracking for a 18-piece band under the current social distancing protocol we are all following,”  Alan Evans told Relix Magazine about the single’s recording project. “They agreed that enough band members had the technological capabilities to get the job done. It’s always amazing being able to work with these amazing musicians and the addition of Nigel Hall and Eric Bloom from Lettuce was the icing on the cake!”

“Bring Forth Change” is a strutting bit of funk centered around an enormous horn line,  wah wah pedaled guitar, jazz-like drumming and a much-needed, uplifting message that brings James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud,” Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power and others to mind. As the song reminds us, now is our moment to go out there and collectively  change the world in a way that’s been long overdue.

“What I’m witnessing in this moment, with these protests, is unlike anything else I have ever seen before,” Alan Evans explains in press notes. “I’m 46, I’ve lived through many moments of protest in the face of police brutality—I remember when Rodney King was beat brutally by police. But what’s different today is that I see people from all walks of life out there, coming together collectively protesting that they’ve had enough, not just Black folks.

The cats on ‘Bring Forth Change’ are representative of this America I see today out in the streets—there’s Black cats, White cats, Latino cats playing together, singing this message. I’m not sure we’ll see the change we want to see without collective solidarity.”

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New Audio: Montpelier France’s JayJayBrass Band Releases a Party Friendly New Single

Formed in 2018 and  led by its founding member and bandleader JayJay (trumpet), the Montpellier, France-based brass act JayJayBrass Band specializes in a modern take on the classic brass band sound — one that features elements of hip-hop and funk. Last year, the band went into the studio to record their debut effort, which was released earlier this year and  features 9 original compositions and a cover of an Anderson .Paak song, as well as guest vocals from local emcee Loïs Hammel. 

The album’s “Radio Funk” is a swaggering and strutting bit of New Orleans-styled brass centered around some Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, swinging saxophone and trumpet lines, some muscular low end from the sousaphone within a dance floor friendly composition with big hooks. Loïs Hammel contributes a few party friendly rhymes on an already party friendly track. Considering how bleak things in our world are at the moment, a few moments of levity seem necessary. 

Color Red · Brothers of Brass – “Legal State” | Color Red Music

Tracing their origins back to their formation in Atlanta back in 2014, the Denver-based brass band act Brothers of Brass — Khalil Simon (sousaphone), Armando Lopez (soprano and tenor sax), Jake Herman (snare drum), K.R. Azad (bass drum), Christopher Henry (trumpet), Sean Bocinksy (trumpet), Matthew Rossman (trumpet), Ethan Harris (trombone) and Scott Flynn (trombone) — features a diverse array of musicians, who have roots in Louisiana, California, Kansas and Florida.

Since relocating to Denver, the brass octet have quickly become “arguably the most popular street [music] in Denver,” according to Westword Magazine while developing and honing their own take on traditional New Orleans brass, one that also finds the band infusing funk, pop and hip-hop influences.

Drawing from their shared backgrounds in New Orleans-styled brass bands and HBCU marching bands, with nods to New Orleans brass, bounce and hip-hop, Brothers of Brass’ swaggering debut single “Legal State” is centered around a strutting sousaphone line, energetic brass lines and a dexterous and expressive sax solos to create a decidedly upbeat, party anthem. But at its core is a sobering yet fiery reflection on the inequities of cannabis remaining illegal across the South while it’s legal and enjoyed recreationally in their home state of Colorado.

 

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DJ Williams is a Plainfield, NJ-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, composer. producer, guitarist and bandleader, who grew up in Richmond, VA. Throughout his nearly two decade career, Williams has developed and maintained a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for being a highly sought-after collaborator: the Plainfield-born, Los Angeles-based artist is the founder of the Richmond-based and DJ Williams Projekt; the hip-hop/R&B act The Breaks; the acoustic duo Williams & Jones; and he’s probably best known for playing in the critically acclaimed, San Diego-based funk/jam-band act Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.

Unsurprisingly, as a result of his various creative projects. Williams has toured around the planet, playing in clubs of all sizes, as well as the international festival circuit, playing the largest and most prestigious festivals across the US, Canada and Europe — and he’s shared stages with the likes of John Legend, Dave Matthews Band, John Oates, Warren Haynes, Ivan Neville, Big Daddy Kane, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Soulive, Levon Helm, Slightly Stoopid, Robert Randolph, Slick Rick and a growing list of others.

As a singer/songwriter, composer and bandleader, Williams’ work  boasts compelling melody, an eclectic musical palette and deliberate and careful songwriting, revealing his desire to push new sonic and stylistic boundaries. His latest project, DJ Williams’ Shots Fired features members of Dave Matthews Band, Lenny Kravitz‘s backing band, Slightly Stooped, Trey Anastasio Band, Lyrics Born, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars and others — including the likes of Dan Africano (bass), Kowan Turner (drums), Joe Tatton (electric organ), Scott Flynn (trombone), Nick Gerlach (sax) and André Mali (trumpet) and a rotating cast of collaborators and associates.

DJ Williams’ Shots Fired’s debut single “She’s No Good” quickly earned regular airplay on SiriusXM during the spring of 2018 and as a result, the band was named as a “heat-seeker” and “an artist to watch.” Building upon a growing profile, the act’s newest album, a concept album conceived as the four-part soundtrack for an imaginary movie is slated for an August 2020 release through Color Red Records. Interestingly, the album’s first single “Iron Fist” depicts a character known as “The Samurai,” represented through Williams’ slashing guitar work. Centered around a looping 12 bar blues like structure, the song features a chugging two-step inducing groove, twinkling and arpeggiated organ blasts, shuffling drumming and an enormous horn line, the track is as swaggering and expansive composition that meshes elements of psych rock, jam band rock, arena rock and funk that feels as though it captures the band’s live show and energy with an uncanny and unerring accuracy.

 

 

 

 

Crowd Company is a rising, London-based acid jazz/jazz fusion/funk octet featuring core members Rob Fleming (vocals, guitar), Emil Engstrom (bass), Claudio Corona (keys), Esther Dee (vocals), Jo Marshall (vocals) and Robin Lowrey (drums) with a horn section including a rotating cast of top local players like Piers Green and Ed Benstea that specializes in sound that draws from and features elements of 1960s soul, 70s jazz fusion, contemporary funk, the blues and jam band rock: their material is centered around arrangements that feature Hammond organ, a virtuous horn section, soulful vocals and three part harmonies and funky grooves paired with razor sharp hooks.

The British octet has also built up a reputation for a powerhouse live show, while opening for an impressive list of acclaimed and legendary artists including The MetersGeorge Porter, Jr., JOVM mainstays Soulive, The New Mastersounds, Saun & Starr, James Taylor Quartet and Monophonics among others.

Earlier this year, the band released their most recent album, the Alan Evans-produced and mixed Lowdown, which The Big Takeover lauded as an album “that bursts at the sonic seams with rich, vibrant and varied compositions.”  The rising British act’s latest single “Orbital” was recorded during the Lowdown sessions at Evans’ Iron Wax Studios. And although the track sees the members of Crowd Company continuing their collaboration with Lettuce’s Ryan Zoidis and Eric “Benny” Bloom, it wasn’t included as one of Lowdown‘s album tracks. Clocking in at a little under 5:30, the funky and intergalactic composition sees the act bridging acid jazz, jazz fusion, retro-futuristic funk and psychedelia in a way that reminds me of Switzerland’s merchants of jazzy grooves L’Eclair— but with an enormous Parliament Funkadelic-like horn section.