Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Fred Wesley & The New JB's, The Impelllers, Funkshone: 229 The Venue 2/7/12

Fred Wesley - 22 The Venue, London 2/7/12
Fred Wesley - 22 The Venue, London 2/7/12 The Impellers' Clair Witcher in action - 22 The Venue, London 2/7/12 funkshone's Jaelee on song - 22 The Venue, London 2/7/12 funkshone's Sasha hitting the funky notes - 22 The Venue, London 2/7/12

It's rarer than hen's teeth to catch the indubitable Mr Fred Wesley, trombonist, composer/arranger/bandleader and author known worldwide as one of the architects of funk music. His sterling work with James Brown is well documented and he ranks high in The Godfather's affections. But before I wax lyrical about his performance, it's certainly worth mentioning the two support acts who contributed to this special evening too.

Although it was early and people were trickling in The Impelllers, clearly thrilled to be on the bill, delivered their own particular brand of funk with confidence and panache, led with style and sass by Lady Clair Witcher, whose gutsy vocals just make you sit up and listen from the start. The band sounded crisp and plucky too, playing tunes from their impressive new album "This Is Not A Drill" - "Politiks Kills People" is a real stonker and the latin tinged "Pon Lo Afuera" my personal fave. Things are on the up for these bubbly brighton boppers and their own full two set show at Floridita's recently rammed home their imperious identity!

Another fave of mine were up next, the mighty Funkshone led by the irrepressible Mike Bandoni who wasted no time at all breaking into some heavy breakbeat grooves and hence, taking the evening up another gear. The band were honed and heavy in no doubt due also to Danny Huckridge's fluid basslines, deep and resonate perfectly complementing The Beat Brigadier (my new name for Bandoni!) Guest vocalist from Bambus City Strut, Sasha Patterson (another one to watch) took it down to a head-nodding tempo and comparisons to Chaka Khan and Alicia Keys are not unfounded.

Likewise Miss Jaelee Small's contribution left its mark too in the guise of the wonderful 7 inch 45 "It Ain't Never Gonna Work," and this is a gem in anybody's book. Bold bright and breezy, a right old funk bomb exploding right in front of your very face! A rather subdued audience began to stir now and Funkshone had done their job admirably in paving the way for Fred and his new JB'S!

Linechecking with Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" proved to be a winner every funkhead knows that bassline! Executed to perfection by bassist Dwayne Dolphin - A perfect vehicle to allow the band to settle and get a feel of the room and a rocking lead guitar solo from the ever cool Reggie Ward (these funkateers love their rock too!) got the band off to a flying start.

"Funk For Your Ass" sounded super dope too! Dolphin's popping bass and ward's classic funk picking set it up sweetly for it's magic head and then Fred's solo! So musical, rhythmical, waffle free and sweetly in sync, this master was at work and when he goes it ain't nothin' but a house party y'all! If administered twice daily on an empty stomach, this could be a reliable cure for back pain. The funk was moving and "Bop To The Boogie" with it's tongue twisting refrain, started to impact on this reverential and curiously quiet yet goosenecking crowd but Fred and his boys were playing the long game holding off the classics until the bitter end. Fred was in no rush and even when he went all cocktail hour on us with a rather soppy instrumental called "Love Song" a kind of middle of the road Dionne Warwick vibe that frankly we could have done without, he can be forgiven. Fred loves to spread his jazz chops too and I ain't gonna dis him for that!

Fortunately the evening ramped up pretty soon after that with the seminal "Four Play" and Fred definitely got his horny horn on! Who can forget this classic from "A Blow For Me, A Toot To You" with George Clinton's involvement as producer. Both these guys were in the engine room making musical revolutions especially in black music and their influence is still felt today.

Finally the levee had broken and all the funk faves poured forth. Riproaring applause deafening us in it's wake for "Pass The Peas" which morphed seamlessly into the majestic 12/8 stomper "Funky Good Time" bolstered by a muscular sax solo courtesy of Ernie Fields Jnr who tore it up when the tune modulated down a minor third adding tension and excitement beyond belief. This band was smoking and rolling and "Give Me Some More" was the icing on the cake in this magical medley. That one long solitary trombone note rising through the register sent a shiver down my spine as it cued in the thunderous drumming of Bruce Cox. The funk had become greasy in large doses and many of us were now satiated with the original horn of plenty. "House Party" topped off a truly remarkable gig and a remarkable man two days short of his 69th birthday, FW showed no signs of letting up. He is the true definition of sound. Truly amazing!

Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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