These first-rate Whitefish musicians recently released a debut album, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Founder and guitarist Jamie Simpson, who wrote most of the material, hails from New Orleans and brings the group its southern funk sensibility. Other members are Vincent Rannazzisi, drums; Rebecca Nelson, tenor sax; Eric Gates, baritone sax; Nick Simko, trumpet; and Toby Ferguson, percussion. Hip-hop performer Eric Kanter belts out rap on many tunes, and Dan Brua plays bass on the CD but has since left the band. They all met through different bands and projects over the years, and share ample songwriting credits.
Eric Gates’s “Dump Truck” spotlights bluesy wah-wah guitar and the twitching dissonance of burping horns, giving way to a burbling baritone sax riff. Slurred notes on the trumpet chime in, the guitar lays down oodles of flat notes, the tenor sax dishes up smooth funk, and before you know it, you’re out on the dance floor.
“Camel Toe” has wicked off-kilter horn lines over a steady beat. Whiffs of stutter-step guitar co-mingle with jazzy blips and blats and slurred trumpet notes a la Dizzy Gillespie, creating a well-coordinated whole.
Atlanta Rhythm Section nuances populate “Randall Ashdown,” with its chuggin’ beat and a horn motif that sounds like a belly laugh. That is so cool!
Sax-player Nelson’s “Black Marshmellow” has a lush palm-tree feel, wherein a quiet rim tap, the sish of a hi-hat, and slithering guitar licks establish the mood. The arrangement builds on the interplay of warbly, honkin’ saxes and wild sci-fi chords, then the players take turns struttin’ their stuff while Kanter raps. Fun!
The band live-tracked and recorded the album in two days in analog format. The production is crisp and clean, and all the pieces come together in exuberant, controlled chaos. You can tell this gang enjoys making the instruments talk. As Kanter chants in “Bushwick” : “We came here to rock the jam, everybody throw your hands.” And we do!
Visit the band at www.20grand.com.
– Mariss McTucker