Category: funk

Throwback: Black History Month: James Brown

JOVM’s William Ruben Helms celebrates Black History Month — and pays tribute to the legendary James Brown.

Formed back in 2019, the Moscow-based instrumental funk outfit The Diasonics — Anton Moskvin (drums), Maxim Brusov (bass guitar), Anton Katyrin (percussions), Daniil Lutsenko (guitar) and Kamil Gzizov (keys) — quickly amassed a cult following, while honing a sound that they’ve dubbed “hussar funk,” a blend of hip-hop rhythms, 60s and 70s psychedelia and Eastern European flavor within cinematic arrangements.

Also in that relatively short period of time, the members of The Diasonics have released ten highly-celebrated singles and various in-demand, 45RPM vinyl records through indie funk labels like Funk Night Records and Mocambo Records. The Russian funk outfit’s full-length debut Origins of Forms is slated for a January 28, 2022 release through Italian funk and soul purveyors Record Kicks

Recorded on an Otari MX-5050 MK III at Moscow’s Magnetone Studio and mixed by The Cactus Channel‘s and Karate Boogaloo‘s Henry Jenkins in Melbourne, the album’s overall aesthetic is firmly rooted in the early 60s and 70s. 

In the lead up to its release later this week. I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s previous singles:

  • Gurami,” a slow-burning, soulful strut, centered around shimmering, wah wah pedaled guitar that’s a mash up of Turkish psych, boom bap breakbeats, organ jazz and trippy grooves that sounds as though it was part of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western or an instrumental soul obscurity found and sampled by the RZA.
  • Andromeda,” a trippy and expansive composition that sees the band meshing elements of prog rock, jazz fusion, Turkish psych and komishce musik in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Mildlife and L’Eclair — with a subtle Western tinge.

“Deviants,” Origins of Forms‘ third and latest single will further cement the act’s penchant for crafting hypnotic grooves — with the new single being centered around hip-hop inspired breakbeats, glistening retro-futuristic sounding Rhodes, strutting bass lines, shuffling wah wah pedaled guitar. The arrangement manages to be roomy enough for some inspired and scorching soling and some reverb drenched “ooh-ahhs.” Much like the aforementioned Mildlife and L’Eclair, “Deviants” is the sort of song perfect for poppin’ and lockin’ — or just chilling out on a Sunday.

Oakland-based funk and soul outfit The Grease Traps can trace their origins back through about two decades and two previous projects: Back in 2000, Aaron Julin (keys) answered a classified ad by Kevin O’Dea (guitar), searching for players who were hip to the grooves laid down by Blue Note Records artists like Grant Green and Lou Donaldson. The duo quickly formed Groovement, an act that covered those artists, along with other jazz-funk staples. 

When Groovement’s rsax player and frontman moved, Julin and O’Dea switched gears and formed Brown Baggin’, an act that got into the harder hitting funk of The JBs, The MetersKool & The GangMickey & the Soul Generation and a lengthy list of others. They increasingly became influenced by the rare funk compilations released by Keb DargeGerald Jazzman Short and labels like HarmlessUbiquitySoul Jazz and Now-Again, as well as contemporary outfits like BreakestraThe Whitefield Brothers and the Daptone and Soul Fire crews. 

Back in 2005 while still with Brown Baggin,’ Julin and O’Dea began to get fed up juggling the schedules of seven band members, who each had their own varying professional and personal obligations. The pair put out a classified ad seeking a bassist and drummer to jam with as a quartet. The first two musicians, who answered the ad and showed up were Goopy Rossi (bass) and Dave Brick (drums). It was clear from those early jam sessions, that the quartet had a great musical and creative chemistry. 

Originally intended as a fun side project, The Grease Traps quickly became a priority as Brown Baggin broke up. Performing as an instrumental quartet for a handful of years, the band expanded their lineup with the addition of a horn section and lead vocalist The Gata. Over the years, the band has shared stages with the likes of Shuggie OtisRobert Walter, Durand Jones and The IndicationsMonophonicsNeal Francis and Jungle Fire

Now, as you might recall, the Oakland-based outfit released their full-length debut Solid Ground through Italian purveyors of funk and soul, Record Kicks. Six years in the making, Solid Ground was recorded at Kelly Finnigan‘s San Francisco-based Transistor Sound by Finnigan and Ian McDonald and at Oakland-based Fifty Filth Studio by Orgone‘s Sergio Rios, live and straight to eight-track tape on a Tascam 388 to recreate that old-school analog sound. The album’s material features guest spots from the Monophonics’ horn section, backing vocals by Bay Area-based vocalists Sally Green and Bryan Dyer, as well as strings arranged by Kansas City-based violist Alyssa Bell

Solid Ground features a mix of covers and originals. The originals draw from the band’s various influences including funk, psych soul and lowrider soul among others. Lyrically and thematically, the album’s originals see The Gata discussing the pressing issues of our moment — racism, finding hope in a world that seems pitted against you and more. The albums’ covers manage to capture the energy of the band’s live set.

In the lead up to the album’s release late last year, I wrote about album single ”Birds of Paradise,” a strutting synthesis of Muscle Shoals-like soul, The Meters and The JB’s featuring shimmering and arpeggios Rhodes, old school breakbeats, a chugging bassline, wah-wah pedaled guitar, a funky horn line and enormous hook paired with The Gata’s soulful crooning, yelps and howls. Fittingly, the song is focuses on affairs of the heart: the song’s narrator brags, struts and attempts to do anything and everything he could to prove that he’s the man for the woman he desires. 

“Roots,” Solid Ground‘s album opener and latest single is a strutting synthesis of Muscle Shoals, Isaac Hayes-like orchestral psych soul and The Payback era James Brown centered around an expansive song structure that includes the song’s underpinning guitar riff, some bluesy harmonica riffs, an alternating verse chorus verse section, featuring a rousingly anthemic hook, a trippy freak out reminiscent of The Isley Brothers‘ “Shout,” as part of the song’s lengthy outro. Lyrically, the song focus on gathering up the strength to face a hateful and brutal world that’s pitted against you at every single turn. But during the outro, the personal struggle becomes universal with the song pointing out that we need to band together and rise up against those who keep us down. Power to the people, indeed!

“‘Roots’ was the last song we recorded for the album in our studio,” The Grease Traps’ Kevin O’Dea says. “It started off with just the basic riff you hear over the verses. While the main rhythm section groove was cool on its own, we knew we wanted to build up the energy over the course of the song. I wrote some horn lines and added fuzz guitar on top which helped, but we still felt like the song needed something uptempo and driving after the darker beginning. After a false ending, we ramp up the tempo with a faster four-on-the-snare soul groove, followed by a breakdown to just guitar and drums, before building up to a feverish pitch on the outro. We decided to convert most of my original horn arrangements to strings which we felt added to the depth of this track. The Gata did a fantastic job with the lyrics, keeping it heavy on the slower verses, but imploring for change and unity during the outro. His harmonica work also lends an earthy poignancy which really suits the overall feeling we were trying to convey. This was the first and only take we did of the song, including the scratch lead vocals the Gata laid down, because the vibe was just right. Sergio Rios of Orgone created a brilliant mix, blending the many elements into one cohesive unit and making it one of the tracks we’re most proud of.”

New Audio: Delvon Lamarr Trio Releases a Strutting and Soulful Bit of Funk

Acclaimed Seattle-based soul jazz outfit Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio formed back in 2015 and currently features:

  • Delvon Lamarr, a self-taught virtuosic musician, with perfect pitch, who taught himself jazz — and can play several different instruments, besides organ
  • Jimmy James, a guitarist, whose style meshes acid rock freak outs with slinky jazz
  • Dan Weiss, the Reno, NV-born drummer, the band’s new full-time drummer, who’s best known for his work with the soul and funk collective The Sextones

Since their formation, the Seattle-based trio has released two albums of what the band dubs “feel good music” that includes 2018’s full-length debut, Close But No Cigar and last year’s critically and commercially successful sophomore effort I Told You So, which debuted on the top of multiple Billboard Charts: #1 on the Contemporary Jazz Album Chart, #3 on the Jazz Album Chart, #4 on the Tastemaker Album Chart, and #12 on the Heatseaker Album Chart.

I Told You So also received praise by Under the Radar, AllMusic, American Songwriter, Popmatters, KEXP, Live For Live Music, Jazziz, Jambase, Glide Magazine and NPR, who named it one of their favorite albums of the first half of last year.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio’s third album Cold As Weiss is slated for a February 11, 2022 release through Colemine Records. Cold As Weiss is the first recorded output with Weiss, the band’s newest member. And while finding the band at its tightest, the album reportedly finds the band continuing to push funky instrumental music to a new generation of fans.

“Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do,” Cold As Weiss‘ second and latest single derives its title from a quote by the band’s Jimmy James. “No matter what you say to this cat, ‘Yo bro, your butt crack is showing,’ he always says the same thing: ‘Man . . . don’t worry ’bout what i do,” the band’s Delvon Lamarr explains. “Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do” is an old-school pimp strut, centered around an expansive arrangement featuring Weiss’ quickly building up a tight, rhythmic swing, Lamarr’s sultry organ lines and James’ psych rock-like guitar lines. The end result is a composition that seems indebted to the likes of The Meters and Booker T and the MGs.

Chris Sherman is a Cincinnati-born and-based bassist, best known as Freekbass. Sherman, who graduated from his hometown’s School for Creative and Performing Arts started his career in earnest, when Bootsy’s Rubber Band vocalist Gary “Mudbone” Cooper recruited Sherman to record a track, which would appear on a Jimi Hendrix tribute compilation.

Sherman was introduced to the legendary Bootsy Collins, who had given him his stage name. In 1992, Sherman along with guitarist Chris Donnelly formed SHAG. Two years, later the band released their debut effort, Bootsy Collins Presents SHAG Live.

In 1998 Freekbass went solo, releasing his full-length debut, 1998’s Ultra-Violet Impact. Since then, the Cincinnati-born and -based bassist has gone to release seven more albums leading his own band, including 2019’s All the Way This. All the Way That.

Freekbass begins 2022 with the Eddie Roberts-produced “Under Krameria,” a swaggering and strutting bit of gritty funk that seems indebted to Funkadelic and Mandrill, centered around Freekbass’ thumping bass playing creating woozy melodies, Sky White’s soaring organ chords and some old school breakbeats. It’s the sort of soundtrack for strutting down the street in your finest threads.

After the session, the band was waiting for a title to come to them and found their van stopping under the Krameria street sign in Denver. As the story goes, the band realized that this odd bit of happenstance worked. It also manages to mirror, the song’s organic nature.