Defunkt’s recent ESP-Disk’ release, Live at Channel Zero, comes mostly from a 2015 gig at the Slovenian club named in the title. One track in particular, “Make Them Dance,” not incidentally the first cut on the punk-funk unit’s eponymous 1980 debut, embodies the band’s m.o. perfectly. Drummer Kenny Martin and bassist Kim Clarke lay down the thickest groove this side of Bootsy Collins, at a tempo typically reserved for workouts rather than boogieing. Guitarists Bill Bickford and Ronald “Head” Drayton add extra color. The decree is furthered by trumpeter John Mulkerin and Joseph Bowie, the ensemble’s leader, trombonist, vocalist and percussionist, when the pair delivers unison lines at the speed of bebop.
Once the audience is presumably following its lead, Defunkt chases the end-of-a-chorus breakdown to its logical conclusion, turning into a free-jazz group in the final minutes. The same energy that fueled the funk produces wild brass wails and rhythmic chaos. Not that the audience, roaring at the song’s end, seems to mind.