Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Eddie Roberts: Master sound maker

The New Mastersounds - Eddie Roberts
The New Mastersounds - Eddie Roberts Eddie Roberts - The New Mastersounds

The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts brings his other USA based band "Eddie Roberts' West Coast Sounds" to London on July 4th for their highly anticipated debut UK gig at The 100 Club…hot on the heels of an acclaimed album ("It's About Time") and a string of prestigious USA based dates. Blues & Soul caught up with Eddie:

Although you and The New Mastersounds have been active for many years, it currently feels like there is an explosion of new interest and activity with The New Mastersounds and your other project Eddie Roberts’ West Coast Sounds. I see lots of new interest in the latest albums here in the UK and your last 100 Club gig with NMS was packed out. Does it feel that way to you?

No, not really. The New Mastersounds have been around for 14 years and the interest has felt pretty consistent. Over those years we played Jazz Café twice a year to a similar size audience as 100 Club and have consistently sold around the same amount of albums in UK and worldwide of each title. It seems that it's the media's perception that changes - sometimes our scene is 'in' and sometimes 'out' of fashion. I'm happy to hear that there's a good response to the new album. If there is indeed a growing interest, then I wonder how much that has to do with our success in USA. As far as West Coast Sounds is concerned, it is a brand new project consisting of all US musicians and the first time I'll be bringing them to Europe.

Whilst lots of people around the Funk/SoulJazz scene are familiar with The New Mastersounds, they may be less familiar with West Coast Sounds. How would you describe that music? Tell us about that band.

West Coast Sounds is essentially an Organ trio with the addition of a horn section. It's not a million miles away from NMS in musical origin or writing source, but by using different players and a different instrument line-up the sound is naturally different.

I see you have some A list players in West Coast Sounds, all USA based, how did you hook up with them?

Having moved to SF 2 years ago, one of the things I wanted to do was find the musicians that excited and inspired me. The first 2 were easy – Joe Cohen (sax) & Mike Olmos (trumpet) - they were already regarded as the best horn section in SF and I brought them in for a track on the last NMS album. Secondly, while running the jam room on the crazy Caribbean cruise ship festival 'Jam Cruise' - Jermal Watson, who was at the time playing with New Orleans' Dirty Dozen Brass Band, jumped up on stage and I realised there and then that I'd found my drummer...the last addition was in February this year.

Although on the album I used Bay Area based B3 Hammond player Wil Blades who I'd known for years from touring through SF, as he'd become very busy with his own duo, I was on the look out for a new permanent member of the band. Jermal suggested that I tried out Joe Ashlar, also residing in New Orleans. During a weekend in NOLA for Mardi Gras we played a trio show that simply blew me away – I'd found my missing part! I'm incredibly proud and honoured to be sharing the stage with such incredible players – individually and as a whole sound. I'm excited to show them off in the UK!

You have a reputation as a guitar maestro...who were your early influences and who do you like to listen to these days?

Early influences were Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, George Benson (before he started singing!) and Jimi Hendrix. Right now I would say that I steer away from listening to guitar-led music and am more interested in the overall sound and production of music, than individuals. I loved the lush orchestration and arrangements on the new Laura Mvula album I heard last time I was in the UK.

You have sat in with (or had others sit in with you) a who’s who of the funk/soul/jazz world. Which are some of your stand out moments ?

Stand outs for me are most definitely Earnest Ranglin, Art Neville & Idris Muhammed. A day after I moved in to an apartment in SF, Earnest was playing a venue a block away to celebrate his 80th birthday - I was invited to come play and had the pleasure of playing "Surfin'" with him – quite a moment! Art has become a good friend over the years – which is simply crazy in itself! I got to play with Idris, my favourite drummer of all time, 5 years ago in New Orleans, but unfortunately he is not playing anymore due to health, as I would have loved to do more with him. Funnily enough Art and Idris went to school together...

What are some of the new projects you are working on?

Aside from the WCS, I have a new collaboration with DJ producer and keyboard wiz Borahm Lee called "Dopamine". Borahm is based in NYC and part of the duo Break Science. The broad direction is NuJazz and breakbeat, which is genre I've dabbled in over the years. Borahm brings the electronic side of things that I feel I've always been missing. This is in very early stages, although we did play one show at NOLA JazzFest recently that I was really excited about.

You have been touring a lot in the USA but when and where can people see West Coast Sounds in the UK?

West Coast Sounds will be at the 100 Club to celebrate US independence day on July 4th! Then a quick stop at Sela Bar, Leeds on the 5th before we head out to France for the Saint Paul Soul Jazz Festival that weekend, a few club shows in Spain and finishing at the Imagine Funk festival in Jaen, Spain July 13th.

And is a return trip to the UK for the New Mastersounds in the works? NMS will be back at the 100 club on Nov 6th. Check websites for full listings!

More info on the band here:

and The New Mastersounds here:
Words Robert Fleming

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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