Taken from Financial Times (July 21, 2018)
Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Jazz Cafe, London - funk stripped down and rebuilt
The band delivered stubby riffs, tight rhythms and strong vocal harmonies
by Mike Hobart
Iwan Van Hetten, left, and Lati Kronlund of the Brooklyn Funk Essentials at the Jazz Cafe PhotoRight: Roger Thomas
The first bittersweet vamp established the mood, fatback bass and punchy brass set the scene and the Chic-like opening chorus confirmed that the 1970s were in play. The chorus - "Remember, back in the day, we would dance and the band would play" - had a wistful edge.
Yet this was no nostalgia fest. Brooklyn Funk Essentials strip 1970s funk down to its core and rebuild it with original songs and moves of their own. The opener added grit to the gloss by featuring longstanding guitarist Desmond Foster's hoarse dancehall rap. "Bakabana", a new song, had echoes of dub and "Istanbul Twilight" the distinct inflections of Turkish folk.
The band formed in 1993, jamming in the clubs of New York, and their core aesthetic builds on a wide range of funk references. Over the years, the line-up has changed, and at this gig only bassist Lati Kronlund remained from those early days. But the sound is remarkably intact. The rhythm section is tight, the two horns have a limitless supply of riffs, and the vocal harmonies are strong, subtle and sweet.
This gig was fronted by the London-based vocalist Alison Limerick, whose long career extends from The Style Council to Courtney Pine. She has a gorgeous tone, a wide vocal range and, bobbing and swaying, lives every line she sings.
When Limerick took a break, the horns stepped in. The instrumental "Brooklyn Recycles" delivered stubby riffs, close harmonies, and a smouldering slow burn from saxophonist Anna Brooks that whipped up the crowd. The song ended with a burst of free jazz.
The band have released five albums over the years; this gig referenced them all, added new numbers from an upcoming CD and rejigged Limerick's "Where Love Lives". Some were recognised from the outset when a riff raised a cheer, while others established their grip with slick brass moves, Limerick's presence or the sheer strength of the groove.
The evening closed with the aptly titled "Funk Ain't Ova", the title track of the band's last CD, and "Big Apple Boogaloo", a hot brew of funk and Latin jazz from their first CD which climaxed here with a full-rumble drum solo. The encore was "Brooklyn Love", a ballad; then "You Don't Know Nothing" blasted the evening to a high.
3 / 5 Stars