Formed in 2007, the Swedish based Beat Funktion - after a temporary stint as a five-piece ensemble for a number of club gigs for the young gen crowd who wanted to dance, began to shape its repertoire of jazz standards, pianist Daniel Lantz took the liberty of borrowing inspiration from musicians and bands within groove-based genres in the 70s and late 60s, such as James Brown, Bob James, Eumir Deodato, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, Lonnie Liston Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, along with film music by composers like Lalo Schifrin and Bill Conti. This was where the “sound” began to take shape. The formula was an equal dose of originally arranged jazz standards, underpinned with a dance-friendly framework of disco beats, funk and R&B combined with the jazz rhythmic and harmonic language. Beat Funktion is six-piece-band consisting of Karl Olandersson on the trumpet, Olle Thunström on the tenor sax, Johan Öijen on the electric guitar, Daniel Lantz on the Fender Rhodes, Pal Johnson on the electric bass and Jon Eriksson on the drums.
Beat Funktion takes you back to the thriving 70s with their second offering, filled with funk grooves, thumping bass and burning jazz solos. Moontown is a concept album; each track takes the listener through a telling dark tale of a fictitious sci-fi city oozing with criminality, suspenseful action, drizzling rain and surreal inhabitants. Seven original compositions and two covers adorn fresh performances with penetrating percussion, vocal choruses and orchestral strings for a truly trademark sound.
The opener “Kareem” (a tribute Kareem Abdul Jabbar) with a funky call and response melody and a driving rhythmic guitar would get the Godfather’s funk seal of approval, certainly a good way to stay on the good foot. Oliver Nelson’s “125th Street and 7th Street” is a blues gem, it is always great when a group uncovers a not so overly covered tune and makes it their own. Thunstrom develops each phrase of his solo with strong expansion of motif’s, juxtaposed with flowing jazz lines which paves the way for a welcomed contribution by Lantz on Hammond B3.
An original by Lantz is the title track of the CD; “Moon Town” sporting a TV series music mode of the 60s and 70s, with soaring and stabbing tight lines, and a talkbox guitar adding to the esthetic of the vintage sound. The listener is instantly propelled; Lantz takes this cut to the stratosphere with Moog snyth, giving it a sci-fi vibe. Taking it back into the jazz lane a tenor sax and trumpet duel elevates the track into an energetic vigor that conveys a frenetic energy and proves that “Moon Town” is on the edge.
The final track “Driver’s Seat” kicks off with a car crash, signifying to the listener that this is a high speed pursuit into the funklane. A thumping bass line, coupled with a traveling drum rhythm propels this cut into high speed thrills. The melody is presented by Rhodes, brass and choral voices, while Oijen boosts the guitar solo into overdrive just before Olandersson delivers a turbo charged trumpet solo, as the song nears the end of the track it shifts gears and slowly fades away as if turning back to take one last look at Moon Town before speedy down the highway to its next destination.
Though Beat Funktion is calling upon the 60’s and 70’s funk concepts for a foundation, this group has taken the concept much further and created their own unique take with a modern day sound, while still maintaining an authenticity of raw, funky grooves and danceable rhythms which will appeal to all generations who enjoy the gritty grooves of funk and the complexities of jazz melodies. Take a trip through Moon Town, and catch the vibe.
H. Allen Williams
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