By: Trevor Pour
Movement is an intrinsic component of the musical experience, an inseparable element from all but the most discordant compositions. But occasionally, a band hijacks that mysterious foot-tapping cortical connection and bolsters it beyond belief. The funk jazz gurus of Lettuce do just that. By building an eight-lane autobahn between your ears and your toes, Lettuce's Rage! (out April 22 on Velour) has you nodding and shuffling within just a few seconds of their first beat. I honestly can't listen to this album in public. I put on my headphones and start bobbing around like a fool.
Lettuce was formed 16 years ago in 1992, but its seven members have made significant musical waves through a host of other outlets. For instance, Eric Krasno (guitar) and Neal Evans (keys) founded the funk powerhouse Soulive, while Ryan Zoidis (sax) toured with the Rustic Overtones and Sam Kininger (sax) has fronted his own jazz band. Drummer Adam Deitch has collaborated with John Scofield, Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff (guitar) played with Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Erick "E.D." Coomes (bass) provided the low end for artists as diverse as Britney Spears and The Game. Rage! is Lettuce's third release, but their first studio effort in seven years and the very first album that was preceded by a serious rehearsal. "We wanted the record to sound like the old stuff we were paying tribute to," says Coomes. "So, we recorded with an old board, old mikes, old tube compressors."
And pay tribute they do, as Rage! tips their collective hat to all of funk music history. "Blast Off" is a fitting title for the opening track as the septet wastes no time cutting a deep groove and setting a marvelous atmosphere. "Blast Off" is a fast, full, straight-driving, horn-dominated piece, and is followed by the equally groovy "Sam Huff's Flying Rage Machine." Lettuce slows things down a bit for a solid cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up," which features R&B vocalist Dwele. Of the remainder of the album, the four closing tracks are exceptionally catchy and high energy, especially "Mr. Yancey," a hard-hitting nod to J Dilla. This last cut would fit equally well at a funky jazz bar or a packed nightclub. It reminds the listener that three members of Lettuce (Krasno, Coomes and Deitch) have spent considerable time working on the music behind the biggest money-making artists in the country: 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and Redman, to name just a few.
Long story short, Rage! is just plain fun. It could use a few extra minutes of music (total running time of 53 minutes), but overall it was easy to enjoy this album.
JamBase | Funkytown
Go See Live Music!