LA Funk Brass Band – Bootleg, Vol. 1 (2009)

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NICK DERISO: A crazy collision between the brassy sound of Rebirth and the great grooves of Parliament Funkadelic, LA Funk Brass Band is a party actually taking place on the bandstand.

That makes sense, considering this funky roadhouse choir features a rotating set of 50-or-so performers with roots from northeastern Louisiana down to the Crescent City.

Past associations provide a roadmap to the soul-stirring amalgamation of influences they boast on this independent debut: Members have played with or opened for the Neville Brothers, Stax Records backing group The Bar-Kays, Morris Day, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the North Mississippi Allstars, Ike Turner, the Derek Trucks Band, Taj Mahal and chitlin-circuit soul blues legend Marvin Sease, among many others. Several of its principal musical voices hail from two of the Bayou State’s most popular club acts too, Howard Shaft and LC Smoove.

So there is this honking swing and sway, a bone-deep thumping bass, the boozy call-and-response vocalizing, and a keen eye for the saw-toothed riff throughout “Bootleg, Vol. 1.” It’s got a dash of Dr. John, tosses in a bit of Bobby “Blue” Bland, sounds sometimes like a late-night Jerry Lee Lewis curtain call, and then adds a pinch of the P-Funk All-Stars — four other groups that they’ve shared a stage with.

Even on an obvious groover like the James Brown-Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis tune “Cold Sweat,” arguably the very first funk tune, the LA Funk Brass Band makes room for some straight-ahead jazz blowing. “Just The Two Of Us,” familiar as an early-1980s hit tune by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr., becomes a second-line stomper. “Chameleon,” with a Latin tinge, closes out “Bootleg Vol. 1,” available for streaming at www.myspace.com/lafunkbrassband.

Working within a tasty nexus of funk, soul, pop and international music, this band brilliantly lives up to its name — finding a roof-raising sense of purpose in every visceral hook, in each brightly blasting solo turn, and they do it with this friendly, unhurried style. The LA Funk Brass Band is, appropriately, both funky and relaxed, smooth and sexy, fiery and smooth.

A terrific find.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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