Beat Funktion – Mandy’s Secret (2014)

Swedish groove-jazz horn band Beat Funktion is the brainchild of its keyboardist, composer and arranger Daniel Lantz, an outlet for the jazz musician’s funkier side. It’s his adroit way of combining instantly enticing RnB electrified funk with the unrestrictive improv spirit of jazz that’s garnered Beat Funktion a lot of airplay on jazz stations in the USA as well as extended residencies at the high end of jazz charts there and abroad.

Coming off the chart topping success of Voodooland released stateside just last spring, Beat Funktion quickly reloads for their fourth album Mandy’s Secret. It’s another bundle of jazzed-up bell-bottomed dance floor come-ons for this sextet headed by Lantz and also including Johan Öijen (guitar), Olle Thunström (tenor sax), Pal Johnson (electric bass), Jon Eriksson (drums) and Karl Olandersson (trumpet).

Its 70s-styled vibe owes its inspiration in varying degrees from Isaac Hayes, Fela Kuti, The Crusaders, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, James Brown and Earth, Wind and Fire. These days, that’s called ‘acid jazz’ and listening to Mandy’s Secret brings more than a passing reminder of the James Taylor Quartet’s brass-laden gem from 1989, Get Organized.

Thunström and Olandersson carry the responsibility of carrying the melody where you’d normally hear sung lyrics but get plenty of chances to blow solos, and Öijen can wah-wah, talk-box or rock it with the best of the Starsky & Hutch era guitarists, while Lantz will use an organ, Fender Rhodes, and Moog to set the mood clock back forty years. Although they stick to this script faithfully throughout, Lantz & Co. find different ways to dish it out on each tune.

From the tight rhythms of “I Am The Summer” (featuring that throwback talk-box guitar) to the strident, clavinet-graced groove of “Rundfunk,” the band is relentless with its mission, only slowing down for the ballad “Are We Done?”, a sweet succession of soul chords highlighted by Olandersson playing a muted trumpet like Miles during his Prestige days.

All over this record, clever touches make the songs pop. Imaginative horn charts jazz up “Port Arthur”, and the bass and organ play a snaky line contrapuntal to the rim rhythm on “Kandahari Airport.” Later in the same song, Thunström’s effects-laden sax makes it appear that two or three saxophones are playing together. “Mandy’s Secret” is a secret if you don’t know French, as the sensual sound of a woman speaking that language permeates over a mysterious, ascending figure. Lantz gets into the improvising act, too, such as the cool, spacey Moog solo he performs during “On The Tiles.”

Mandy’s Secret went on sale September 29, 2104 from Do Music Records. Here’s a fine entry point into this fundamentally solid, funky jazz ensemble.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron