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London's Funkiest Hour: The Sound Stylistics

Frederick Bernas By

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The Sound Sylistics
Jazz Café, London
Thursday, August 30, 2007
After witnessing the Australian deep funk outfit The Bamboos tear up a small Bristol wine bar some months ago, it was hard to imagine how any other band could ever match such a boisterous performance. However, the funk gods up above clearly had other ideas when they gifted us The Sound Stylistics.

This 11-piece group, essentially operating as a loose collective of some of London's finest session players, stormed the packed Camden venue with an awe-inspiringly vibrant display. The tight 6-man horn section was flawless in its delivery of clever arrangements of songs ranging from the James Brown vintage to original compositions and the occasional groove-infused blues.

The opening number featured an extensive solo from Jim Watson, whose simmering organ lines were a foundation of the band along with Al Cherry (guitar), Neil Robinson (drums) and Gary Crockett (bass). A highlight of the evening was when the horn section dropped out entirely, leaving these four to play one song as a quartet. Robinson produced one of the night's most inspired solos, going it alone on the kit for at least five minutes and coming up with many highly challenging rhythmic ideas at blistering speed.

"Party People was an eminently danceable composition featuring a vivacious fanfare chorus underpinned by deep booming saxophones and a catchy bass line. "Shake and Hip Drop," released on 7-inch in February this year, is another melody to remember, with sharp stabs of brass reminiscent of the great JB's classic ensemble sound. Other notable tunes included "Soul Dynamite and "Get Ya Some," which began with a Brown-esque group chant and spotlighted the considerable powers of The Herbaliser's Andy Ross on flute.

The best thing about this gig was the obvious fact that all members of the band simply loved the experience of playing together for a full house of responsive punters. This enjoyment translated into heightened levels of verve and creativity in improvisation, and palpable energy was bouncing around between the audience and the musicians on stage.

The Sound Stylistics have a 17-track CD, Play Deep Funk, currently out on Adrian Gibson's Freestyle Records, and several vinyl releases. Live performances, on the other hand, occur somewhat infrequently—so next time you hear of a show in the offing make sure you get down there. This explosive jam band needs to be seen live for the complete experience.

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