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The Brooklyn Funk Essentials: In the Buzz Bag

Brooklyn Funk Essentials remembers the days when you could say “acid jazz” without snickering. The dozen-member collective’s 1995 RCA release, “Cool Steady and Easy”, placed them in the thick of the jazz-funk big band race.Their follow up, In the Buzzbag (Shanachie 5050, 61:05) doesn’t tinker with the basic formula that much-you’ll hear plenty of retro funk and smooth soul, with some occasional island flavors thrown in for good measure. And there is acknowledgement of current flavors; the disc kicks off with the drum-n-bass flavored “Bye and Bye”. The most noted addition, however, is Laco Tafya, a group of Turkish/Romanian gypsy musicians (the collaboration was inspired by a spot on the World Music Festival in Istanbul in 1996). The title track – a six plus minute workout shares its name with an inexpensive brand of Turkish wine. The troupe adds flavoring throughout (“Zuma Preserve” “Istanbul Twilight”), working best on the infectious “Ska Ka-Bop “. It may not turn anyone’s head around, true, but “Buzzbag” has enough bite to keep from completely blending into the scenery.

As groove jazz moves into the hip-hop era, it’s tougher and tougher to get attention with an old-school funk flavor. For evidence of this, look no further than the legions of corny converted rockers devoted to “getting down and funky”; often coming off like those goofy cover outfits playing through the commercial breaks on “Jenny Jones”. Bottom line: If you are doing funk nowadays, you better be tighter than a clam with lockjaw. Few outfits are tighter than New Orleans’ Galactic, whose sophomore album, Crazyhorse Mongoose (Capricorn, 314 558 842-2).

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