Tag Archives: funk

Snarky Puppy, Unrivaled Masters of Funk and Fusion

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance (GroundUp Music, 2019)

Snarky Puppy, the finest funk jazz band in the current scene is back with a superb album titled Immigrance. Band leader Michael League clarifies the title of the album: “The idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we’re all in a constant state of immigration. Obviously the album’s title is not without political undertones.”

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance

The opening track, “Chonks” couldn’t be more spectacular; it starts with fabulous funk keyboards and progresses into outstanding jazz-rock fusion topped by Mark Lettieri’s brilliant guitar solo.

Michael League brings in some of the best young keyboardists to Snarky Puppy’s sessions and that’s what makes the band such a delight. Instead of the tired saxophone solos that other bands utilize, Snarky Puppy has a much modern, edgy sound with the use of electronic keyboards, guitars and a solid brass section.

“Bigly Strictness” is a seductive composition with a wonderful, creative global percussion section, smoky trumpet solo , Shaun Martin’s and Justin Stanton’s fantastic synths solos and mesmerizing gliding guitars. Pure beauty.  

“Coven” begins laid back with intricate bass lines, brass arrangements and forward-thinking trip hop feel. Shaun Martin delivers another masterful synth solo that leads into Chris Queen’s electric guitar solo. Progressive fusion at its best.

The trip hop returns on “Blig Blingi,” a bass-heavy funk piece, where chilled, futuristic keyboards and funk synth solos, dubbed drums, and brass, and complex, but accessible drum beats continue to impress. 

Track 5, “Xavi,” the longest piece on the album is more jazz-fusion oriented, featuring a breathtaking electric violin solo by Zach Brock; and an equally good Minimoog solo by Bobby Sparks. Percussionist Keita Ogawa also gets an opportunity to showcase his talent with an ocean drum solo. The track concludes with a great piano solo by Bill Laurance.

“While We’re Young” features steady funk drum beat, funk synth solo, majestic mellotron and reverb-rich brass.

“Bad Kids to the Back” is perhaps the least striking piece, featuring funk beats and predictable saxophone solo.

The final track, “Even Us” takes the music in a totally different direction, into the realm of contemporary world music, with Michael League picking up the ud. There are references to modern tango, Middle Eastern modes and western chamber music. It’s beautifully-orchestrated and deeply satisfying.

Buy Immigrance

Seductive Progressive Funk Fusion from Shob

Shob – Solide (La Route productions, 2019)

Bassist Shob brings together the best of seductive funk, spirited jazz-rock fusion and masterfully crafted progressive rock.

As you would expect, the superb bass plays a leading role throughout the album although there are generous contributions by all the other equally skilled musicians.  

Shob – Solide

Solide is mostly instrumental and features Shob on bass, guitar and percussion. His colleagues include Morgan Berthet on drums; Johary Rakotondramasy, Jean Loup Siaut, and Christophe Maroye on guitars; Tony Lavaud on keyboards; Célia Marissal, Scratch, and Hugo Senbei; PJ Ley on trumpet; FM Moreau on saxophone; Jumbe on percussion; and Ludovic Lesage on congas.

Buy Solide

Peter Bank’s Remarkable Guitar and Experimentation

Peter Banks – The Self-Contained Trilogy (The Peter Banks Musical Estate/Cherry Red Records, 2018)

This 3CD boxed includes remastered versions of all three of Peter Banks’s solo studio albums from the 1990s in a single package.

Disc one features Instinct, a great instrumental album that showcases Peter Bank’s talent as a guitarist. Banks played practically all instruments, bringing together progressive rock, blues, funk and world music influences.

The second CD includes Self-Contained. Again, Banks played all instruments except keyboards on one track. Self-Contained is a little more exploratory, with numerous short vignettes that range from beautiful solo guitar pieces to excursions into rock, electronica, sound experimentation and ambience.

The third disc is Reduction. Banks continued his sound experimentation, combining guitars with electronic beats and sound effects, incorporating rock, funk and electronica along with exquisite acoustic guitar melodies.

Peter Banks was a remarkable guitarist and one of the original members of progressive rock band Yes. He passed away in 2013.

Buy The Self-Contained Trilogy

Ghosts Don’t Dance with Shoes

Tree Tops – Ghosts Don’t Dance with Shoes (indie release, 2017)

Ghosts Don’t Dance with Shoes is the debut album by a very promising rock band from Knoxville, Tennessee called Tree Tops. Their sound is an exciting mix of guitar-led jam rock, progressive jazz-rock, funk and even some occasional Frank Zappaesque humor and zaniness.

The band’s line includes Jon Mann on drums and percussion; Cory Smith on guitar and vocals; David Webb on guitar and vocals. Additional musicians: Chris Pope on keyboards and Jack Willard on bass.

 

 

Buy the digital download edition of Ghosts Don’t Dance with Shoes. The CD is available from treetopsmusic.bandcamp.com.

Exceptionally Good Jazz Funk Bass

Nathan East – Reverence (Yamaha Entertainment Group, 2017)

Nathan East is one of the finest American bass players. Reverence is his second album and he showcases his talent by delivering an outstanding set of pieces covering a wide-range of styles.

The album opens with Earth Wind and Fire’s classic song “Love’s Holiday.” The track features Philip Bailey on vocals. Bailey was one of the original singers of Earth Wind and Fire. He provides wordless and background vocals, while the lead melody is carried forward by the bass.

The next track is “Lifecycle,” which is an excellent up-tempo piece that mixes bass-fueled funk jazz with Earth Wind and Fire-style brass, wah wah, strings and Latin jazz vocals.

 

 

“Elevenate” is a laid back piece with East’s colleague Chuck Loeb (Steps Ahead and Fourplay) delivering exquisite guitar interplay with Nathan East’s bass.

The Earth Wind and Fire theme continues on track 4, with “Serpentine Fire,” another classic song by the famed funk band. This cover was recorded with East’s brother Marcel in 1991 along with Eric Clapton on guitar and Phil Collins on drums. It was digitally remastered and three Earth, Wind & Fire members added parts: Philip Bailey on vocals, Verdine White on additional bass, and Ralph Johnson on percussion.

Track 5 is a gospel song titled “Feels like Home” featuring vocals by Yolanda Adams.

Stevie Wonder gets the next tribute with a cover of his hit “Higher Ground,” turned into an instrumental song with Nathan East’s fabulous bass replacing the vocals.

From funk to traditional jazz swing on “The Mood I’m In” with Nikki Yanofsky on vocals.

Track 8 is Nathan East’s version of one of the most recorded songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Here, Nathan’s 16-year-old son Noah takes the lead on piano.

One of the highlights of the album is the fantastic fusion track titled “Shadow”, featuring the great maestro Chick Corea on keyboards, including his signature synth solos. Even though this track is longer than the rest, it gets faded away and leaves you wanting much more.

Track 10, titled “Pasan” heads towards smooth jazz, with a mix of bass, backing vocals and woodwinds.

Another favorite is the decidedly enjoyable, feel good funk jazz song “Why Not This Sunday” featuring Ruben Studdard on lead vocals, interacting with East’s bass.

The album ends with a short and beautiful solo bass piece.

Nathan East is an experienced and highly reputable bass player who has recorded with well-known rock, R&B, pop and jazz acts. As a solo artist, his career started in 2014 with the self-titled recording Nathan East (Yamaha Entertainment Group), followed by a remarkable collaboration with Bob James titled The New Cool (Yamaha Entertainment Group, 2015).

He is a founding member of acclaimed contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay and has more than 2,000 album credits to his name and several GRAMMY-winning songs including “Get Lucky,” “Footloose” and “Change the World.”

Buy Reverence in the Americas

Buy Reverence in Europe

Extraordinary Guitar Fusion from Canada

Sputnik – Parallax, Vol. I (2016)

Sputnik is a Canadian band heavily influenced by progressive jazz-rock and funk. The instrumental quartet features two electric guitarists, a bass player and drummer. Having two virtuoso guitar players, Barry G. Player and Tristan Rivers, allows the band to showcase a series of impressive solos and memorable instrumental interplay.

Bass player Leigh Fischer and drummer Doug Northcott also get various opportunities to demonstrate their talent.

The guitarists use various guitar-playing techniques that range from Alan Holdsworth-style soloing to rhythm guitar and spectacular shredding. The band’s name, album artwork and the titles of the musical pieces clearly indicate that the band’s music is inspired by the cosmos.

Parallax, Vol. I is an extraordinary fusion album featuring stellar jazz-rock instrumental performances supported by muscular interstellar funk.

Buy the digital version of Parallax, Vol. I

Buy the Parallax, Vol. I CD