Butcher Brown – All Purpose Music (2014)

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Earlier this year the esteemed trumpeter Nicholas Payton made a nice little diversion into “chill” jazz with his self-released digital album Numbers. That low-key album was rather hard to shake, it just has the right feel to it even though Payton only took his horn out of the case for one track. It wasn’t just about Payton and his jams, however; his backing band played a major role in making it work, too. He brought in a two-year-old quartet out of Richmond, Virginia called Butcher Brown, and it’s a young, tight little combo that Payton just loves because they’re funky and soulful as shit.

Butcher Brown had just put out an album on their own, giving me and everyone else a chance to find out why Payton went ass over teakettle on them. Well, now I know why: All Purpose Music (from Jellowstone Records) is deliciously good funk-jazz because they eschew fads just by writing good jams and playing them with lots of conviction and little modern technology. Says Payton, “they cause you to question exactly how a group of relatively ‘young’ men possess such ‘old’ souls.”

This record revels in its muddy ‘n’ warm analog haze, living rent-free between 1973 and 1979, and keeping things to the point by not over-soloing. It’s all about feel, funk and soulful textures with these guys, a four man group made up of Devonne Harris (keys, guitar, percussion), Keith Askey (guitar), Andrew Randazzo (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums, percussion).

It became clear that Payton was onto something early on, upon my first encounter with “Forest Green.” It’s got one of those rhythmically complex Mike Clark Headhunters beats mated to crunchy keys and a bubbling bass lines; it’s practically a lost track from Thrust.

The band could have done nothing but numbers like that and it could have remained a pretty good record, but the buzz on Butcher Brown didn’t come from them being a one-trick pony. “Country Boys” is folky kind of funk, with a sweet sax from Marcus Tenney that’s so similar to early Grover Washington. And then there’s the sultry nocturnal slow jam “Philly Roll,” featuring a glowing Moog solo; Fonville’s drums pick up steam during Tenney’s sax ruminations, followed by then a tasty, stinging guitar solo from Askey.

“Sticky July” blends a jazzy chord progression with a hand-clapping, vintage synth groove and a fonky electric sax solo; all it needs is for Frankie Beverly to sing over it. There is singing — from Jon Bibbs — on “Faith,” a quiet storm in the Isley Bros babymaking music style. And Payton himself shows up to add a velvety, articulate flugelhorn to the bright melody and tight grooves of “Jellowstone Room.”

If the goal is to get happy from funky, soul-jazz jams done up in the classic way, All Purpose Music will serve your purpose quite well. Find out why Nicholas Payton is so fired up about this band.

Visit Butcher Brown’s website and get even more of their music.

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
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