MusicMarauders Presents: The New Mastersounds 11.16.12

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel

Cervantes was overflowing with funk as the New Mastersounds brought their international groove-making machine to Denver. Before the show, my friend Newman told me to bring ice for my feet... He said they'd be on fire from the dance party. Since this was my first time seeing the band, I took his advice and put on some running shoes before the show. I wasn't about to let my feet give up on me during the show.

I was standing in the bathroom when the drums of Simon Allen boomed to life with a beat tighter than jeggings. His piccolo snare drum had that super-taut snapping sound distinctive of nice clean funk and his high-hat sizzled in staccato syncopation. Throughout the night, his beats were infectious, inspired, lively and precise. Crisper than a PBR from the bottom of a hipster's cooler. I was reminded of Adam Deitch and that began a night of music that continuously brought me back to comparisons to Lettuce. While we are on that subject, Eric Krasno (Lettuce, Soulive) and Eddie Roberts, guitarist of the New Mastersounds seem like they have to be cousins, right? Aside from the jazz-funk guitar virtuosity, they seem to bear a slight resemblance in appearance as well. Maybe it is just because they both have style. Roberts' suit and tie set a sort of tone that matched the music… sly, sophisticated, hip and daring in a conservative sort of way. He looked like he may have been the Master of Ceremonies for a burlesque jazz cafe with his exaggerated English facial hair and snappy dressing and it all added to the flair.

Roberts' playing was sublime. It had a spotless tone with crisp effects and his advanced command of jazz fusion scales and rapid finger-work were truly remarkable. His speed was on pace with fast bluegrass at times and with the exception of a small reggae breakdown or two, the rest was pure reckless funk abandon. The smooth, full sounds that they created together were like the background music at a trendy restaurant, yet had such exquisite timing, musicality and creativity, that demanded our attention and became foreground music. It was entertaining music and it was also great music for entertaining.

Pete Shand, the bassist, hails from Majorca, Spain and brought a certain flavor to the funk that wasn't Latin in style, yet exhibited a free, fun, suave flare that jives with the Spanish lifestyle of afternoon naps, sangria sunsets and all night parties. He was fun to listen to and appeared to enjoy practicing his craft. His tone was round, thick and punchy with a svelte side that made it aerodynamic and swift. He glided beneath the guitar and organ like a stingray of stealthy, smooth motion you could hear. Breezy, fluid, casual, yet ambitious, energetic and vibrant. Work well done.

Joe Tatton, the group's key player had confidence and seamlessly alternated supportive rhythms and searing lead lines on organ. His work with Roberts showed a keen understanding between the two, and often lead to lofty musical peaks during the show. Tatton's playing conjured recollections of Galactic, Greyboy Allstars, and Nigel Hall. The aggressive tempo of the group's pieces were demanding musically and Tatton, Roberts, Shand and Allen were flawless throughout.

With such talent on display, it was easy to understand the wall to wall movement. Girls were shaking their asses, dudes, just trying to keep up. The stairs to the balcony were guarded as a VIP area. When I asked the bouncer what the VIP area was for, he said that the owners sometimes have a VIP area for when their favorite bands come to town... And NMS was apparently one of their favorites. The number of extended VIP wristbands continued to grow throughout the evening. As more and more cousins, homies, clients, associates and drinking buddies were brought to the gatekeeper, he graciously admitted almost all of them. Vouching was the word of the day, and I saw those who were vouched for return to vouch for others. It was a charade of exclusivity, but everyone was having a great time as the colorful crowd become a writhing organism of bobbing heads and swiveling hips.

Since I relocated to Denver, I have had a growing love for funk and this show was no exception. While I have been listening to funk regularly, my rotation has been dominated by Lettuce. Well Lettuce finally has some competition in my book and you can expect to hear some NMS if you go anywhere with me anytime soon. They played from 10:30 until 2:45am with a short set break and threw down intense dance party music with relentless authority the entire time. Simon Allen credited Roberts as musical director and you could tell that Roberts was the focus of the sound. If boogying down isn't your bag, you might want to leave the New Mastersounds to those who enjoy shaking their moneymakers. I left Cervantes with a giddiness and excitement about the future of funk. I was glad to hear exploratory, progressive, innovative and authentic grooves are not a thing of the past. They are a thing of the present and the future. They are a thing of the New Mastersounds. Now, back to icing my feet.

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