November 11, 2009

Mod-A-Day: The New Mastersounds

The New Mastersounds are exactly that. The band actually started out in the late 90s as a trio, calling themselves Mastersounds. The New Mastersounds solidified their original line-up, and the new name, in 2000 with a 7" recording of one of their rehearsals that caught the attention of Northern Soul champion Keb Darge. (Of course, we might speculate too that these New Mastersounds are a tribute to the original Mastersounds of the sixties -- Wes Montgomery and his brothers' group. No doubt that Wes had some influence on The New Mastersounds.)

While they are hailed as a funk group, and leaders of the 'new funk' scene, they really are more of a soul jazz band to my (tin) ear. Yes it's funky, it's definitely soulful, but there's also a heapin' helpin' of down and dirty jazz roiling along just under the surface. From their first full length release in 2001, Keb Darge Presents The New Mastersounds, to their brand new record (sixth studio release) just now available on iTunes and coming soon on vinyl, Ten Years On, I hear as much jazz as soul, funk or anything else.

Still, the soul is always present, especially on greasy tracks that could even put wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith to shame like "Return to Gijon". Or the funky soul of King Comfort with Dionne Charles handling vocals. And the funk is never far away as was obvious from the gitgo with "Stay on the Groove" or "The Rooster". And it is still very present, if less raw and more polished, on smoove tracks like "Limsy" and "Chocolate Chip".

I have to say I really appreciate the band's approach to their live shows. Much like the Grateful Dead, they get it that live music makes fans bigger fans. Audience audio recordings of New Mastersounds live performances are allowed for non-commercial purposes ONLY. Audience tapers, please be respectful of other showgoers by being as unobtrusive as reasonably possible.When I hear how great a band sounds from a live recording I can only imagine how great they must sound in person. That's what drives me to want to see them live, to make the extra effort to go to a show, and to spend more time and money on them. That being said, I sure as hell hope they come back to Seattle sometime soon, since I was out of town and missed their Bumbershoot appearance earlier this year.

Be sure to check out this hi-def video of the studio session for "San Frantico", the lead track on the new album.

The New Mastersounds -- Chocolate Chip feat. Chip Wickham

The New Mastersounds -- Drop It Down