The seventies brought many things: bell-bottoms, Lee Majors, Farrah Fawcett, Disco, Nixon and Carter, The Godfather, the Ramones; Billie Jean King and Phyllis Schlafly to NOW and the ERA; from the Energy Crisis to Roe v. Wade. The Seventies is an incisively provocative and commonly misunderstood era. Is it an eminently forgettable period in our American culture? Well, that is for another article, but one positive note that has grown from that time period is that danceable beat that finds its roots in disco. Yes, that sound with sky-high vocals over a firm "four-on-the-floor" beat, a hip sixteenth note undercurrent that is commonly played on the hi-hat with an open hi-hat on the off-beat, and a prominent, syncopated electric bass line. Also, disco allowed our ears to accept electronic instruments and instruments commonly associated with orchestral music such as: strings, horns, electric pianos and synthesizers, and electric guitars as the instruments that created the lush background sound. Beat Funktion has for years been building their international success with their danceable combination of instrumental 70s disco, melodic funk, jazz improvisation, pop, rock, reggae and psychedelia, reaching out from the 70s to today and embracing us all in a hip get your money maker shaking sound that is certainly contagious.
Daniel Lantz is not only the master mind behind the concept and sound, but the keyboardist, composer and artistic leader too. Lantz has combined a cast of supreme expert Swedish jazz crossover musicians consisting of: trumpeter Karl Olandersson, saxophonist Olle Thunström, guitarist Johan Öijen, bassist Pal Johnson and drummer Jon Eriksson. Beak Funktion's 2015 creation is bringing that disco/jazz/fusion hybrid beat to the Gods and there is no doubt that Eros and Apollo will find this beat pleasing. Olympus is the title and Lantz wanted to capture some of the magic of the Greek Gods, the mythology, time and place into music. Choosing the flute (Pan) and the lyre (Orpheus) to join the band's sound, Lantz chose to invite folk flautist Charlotte Magnusson to grace the songs with her arsenal of exotic flutes. Secondly, classical harpist Stina Hellberg Agback, provided the lyre, which evokes the majestic sound of ancient Greece, coupled with the strings and the band, it made everything emanate that grandeur befitting of the Olympic empire. Beat Funktion is in essence an instrumental jazz-funk band, but the subject matter of mythology called for lyrics to be sung. So, to fulfill that, Lantz acquired two singers, Sani Gamedze and Rebecca Laakso. Also, no story is complete without Diegesis, so Lantz used Ralph Erle as the narrator for the Prologue and Epilogue. Always a visionary, Lantz brings narration to the modern era with a rap on the song about King Minos by Damon Elliott, Dionne Warwick's son and famed producer of: Beyoncé, Pink, Gwen Stefani and beyond.
The music relies on a driving hypnotic rhythm, which is the bands cornerstone. Melodies are very singable and have boppish overtones with a heavy dose of the blues coloring. The fifteen tracks are all well composed and orchestrated and keep a steady backbeat with glossy production values.
Olandersson, Öijen and Lantz consistently spin out incisive solos with hip jazz interpolations and energy filled with fire. The groove based nature of the music could get repetitive, but Lantz's keen ear for orchestration and building a compositional arch always keeps each track moving forward. High points include: "Game of the Gods," "It's About Time," "Viper Lady," "Swords and Sandals," and "Mount Olympus." This album sounds fresh even though it builds upon a particular sound from the past. While it gives a strong representation of the 70s fusion sound, it certainly does not sound dated. Great compositions, solid playing and slick production make this a fantastic album. While the presence of slick production sometimes has the potential to ruin a band's sound, that is not the case here. The production is such that the group is shown to be the incredibly tight ensemble that they are, while adding interest and concept to the overall sound.
The album hits off with a great groove with "Game of the Gods," a song that along with "Viper Lady" really gives a straight out definition of what the Beat Funktion sound is. Öijen's powerhouse bluesy guitar playing really gives the album a kick both in his driving rhythmic accompaniment role and as a soloist. His ability is really shown as a soloist on "Viper Lady." Olandersson driving trumpet soloing is full of jazz chromaticism and phrasing and adds to the sophistication of the sound. Lantz's keyboard playing is just seamless, giving a full sound to this album that is always supportive and filled with essence. Johnson's funky bass playing is chockful of syncopated figures and is locked with Eriksson's kit, in an almost symbiosis feel, the two always create an environment for the piece that grooves, no matter the tempo.
While admittedly influenced by the commercial 70s is unique and laden with jazz overtones (which is rather a unique combination). It is the virtuosity of each soloist at its highest caliber that is one of the reasons why each track sounds so exciting and fresh. Personally, I think that this music is a far more accessible form of jazz, one that I hope will be the cornerstone to bridging a new generation of listeners to the high art form of jazz in all its many forms, which will keep the genre alive and well for generations to come. Lantz has a sincere fondness for the history of jazz that is clearly heard in the be- boppish lines he pens within each cut, but it is the next step that he creates with those lines, and the addition of modern grooves, that gives this outing a very broad base appeal.
Prologue; Game Of The Gods; King Minos; Chimera; It’s About Time; Waters Of
Thessaly; Viper Lady; Don’t Look Back; 9. The Hydra; Fallen Hero; Where’s The
Sunshine?; Siren Song; Swords And Sandals; Epilogue; Mount Olympus.
Daniel Lantz: keyboards (rhodes on #1-6 and #8-15, organ on #4, #12 and #13,
acoustic piano on #1, #14 and #15, clavinet on #13, rmi piano on #7, accordion
on #12, synthesizer on #2, #8, #12, sfx on #4 and #7, nylon string guitar on #12);
Karl Olandersson: trumpet; Olle Thunström: tenor sax (w sfx on #9); Johan Öijen:
electric guitar (w talkbox on #10), steel string guitar on #15); Pal Johnson:
electric bass (w wah-wah on #7); Jon Eriksson: drums; Ola Bothzen: conga on
#2, #5 and #12, bongos on #9, darbouka on #11 and #15, ibo on #15, cabasa on
#3, triangle on #3, tambourine on #12, shekere on #9, #13 and #15, karkabou on
#13, Bells on #2, Gongs on #1, #2 and #14, cowbell on #5; Damon Elliott: rap
vocals on #3; Sani Gamedze: vocals on #5 and #15; Rebecca Laakso: vocals on
#11 and #15; Charlotte Magnusson: flute on #1, #11, #12 and #15, alto flute on
#6, bass flute on #3 and #11; Stina Hellberg Agback: concert harp on #1, #3, #6,
#11, #14 and #15; Ralph Erle: narration on #1 and #14; Lina Soderholtz Floren:
violin I; Malin Thuren: violin ii; Katarina Bengtson Dennis: viola; Emeli Jeremias:
violoncello; Folke Lantz: shaker on #11, vibraslap on #2.