By: Tim Dwenger
Inspired by the 70's funk and groove of Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes and The Meters, jazz guitarist Eddie Roberts and drummer Simon Allen have been striving for nearly ten years to hone their sound into something that moves dance floors in a way that few other instrumental bands can.
| The New Mastersounds|
They began life as the guitar-centric Mastersounds before quickly realizing that the sultry churn of a Hammond B3 was essential to the sound they were seeking. Though the band only lasted a couple of years and recorded only one single, it laid the foundation for a longstanding musical relationship between the pair. Roberts and Allen struck out on their own and soon crossed paths with Hammond player Bob Birch and bassist Pete Shand, and The New Mastersounds were born.
Their sound is a tight mix of jazz and funk that comes to life in the hands of these talented players. While their fondness for jazz is obvious, it's the groove Shand and Allen lay down that holds the whole thing together and keeps the wheels on when Roberts stretches out.
Though they are based in Leeds, England, Roberts says the U.S. and Europe are the most promising market for the band. They've been playing club nights and gigs around the U.K. since their inception in 2000 and though things have always gone relatively well, the scene can't support them playing more than three or four times a year in the major cities. As a result, they were forced to hop the channel early on and expose music fans in Europe to their sound. It was touch and go for a while but recently things seem to be picking up a bit for The New Mastersounds.
"We are having more records released in Europe these days. There are more labels taking an interest and actually starting to license our albums for the individual countries rather than before when we were releasing them on a U.K. label and selling them on import into the different European countries, which is harder because there is nobody on the ground selling it for you," says Roberts.
| Eddie Roberts by Yusuke Kitamura|
The increased exposure around Europe has paid off with Italian label Record Kicks taking some serious interest in the band. Record Kicks knew that The New Mastersounds' tight funk-based sound would be perfect for the clubs if it were remixed by some of the scene's best DJs.
"They approached us saying, 'We'd like to release a remix album. How 'bout it?' We were like, 'Yeah, great.' Then they asked us if we could sort it out and we kinda turned it back on them," Roberts says. "We've tried to get remixes done in the past and it is difficult because everyone is so busy, and to pull a project like that together takes so much time and effort. It's just not our thing. We were busy making a new album and touring and everything, so we told them they could run with it and we would be happy to provide all the tracks and send them out to who ever wants to do what. They ended up pulling it together and it was relatively easy for us. I just had to dig out all the separates for every track and get them out."
It wasn't until the project was finished that Roberts got to hear the results. As chance would have it, he heard it for the first time in exactly the right setting.
"We were in France. I [had] stayed at the bar late night having a few drinks after our set and Simon had given a copy of the album to the DJ who ended up just putting it on. I was talking and all of a sudden I was like, 'I know this tune.' I didn't realize he had put the album on, so back-to-back there were all these tunes I knew and I was getting so confused," laughs Roberts. "It was really nice to hear it in the club environment, which is what it is made for, as opposed to hearing it at home for the first time. The dance floor was full and people were just going for it. They weren't batting an eyelid, and they were dancing like it was all different music. It was only really me that knew what was going on."
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