Tag: Eric Benny Bloom

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In 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. And as the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local blues legend Omar Coleman, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. Interestingly, almost two decades later, Roberts would wind up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and love, essentially paying Keb Darge’s support forward to a worthy act.

Earlier this year, I wrote about album title track “Strange Times,” a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues featuring a looping bluesy guitar line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about the bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

“Chicago,” Strange Times‘ latest single is a fiery song that hews to Chicago’s beloved blues tradition while brashly refusing to be pigeonholed. Much like its predecessor, it’s a bit of synthesis of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf-like blues and James Brown-era soul featuring an enormous horn line, a blazing harmonica solo and a strutting grove paired with Coleman’s soulful wailing. Starting with Coleman proudly announcing that he’s from Chicago’s West Side, the song talks about the things I love about that city: its a town inhabited by tough, hardworking people, who like countless people across the world are struggling to survive to keep their dignity intact, despite the despair, shittiness and inequity and inequality thrown in their path.

For the album, Roberts recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul Sounds‘ Chris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.

Back in 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. As the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local bluesman Omar Coleman, a local blues legend, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. 17 years later, Roberts wound up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and loved.

Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times‘ latest single, album title track is a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues within a classic 12 bar blues structure featuring a looping bluesy guitar line reminiscent of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, an enormous horn line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would make Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

Roberts’ recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’s Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul SoundsChris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.”

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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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.