Butcher Brown: Solar Music

Virginia band cooks up a funky stew of hip-hop, fusion and 70s retro with jazzy interludes from guests including Charlie Hunter


The best part of a Kurt Elling-Charlie Hunter show last summer for me was their backup band: Butcher Brown drummer Corey Fonville and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist DJ Harrison. The Virginia quintet’s ninth album is a satisfying party mixtape featuring something old, new, borrowed and blue.

Jazz is just one of the flavours in this funky stew, along with hip-hop, fusion and retro sounds like 70s blaxploitation soundtracks that crate-diggers dream of finding in charity-shop bins. If you don’t like something, you don’t have long to wait for a change, as the tunes average under three minutes.

The album opens with Cozumel, a cinematic intro that suggests Bond sipping something fruitier than usual in the Caribbean, suitably sliding into Espionage with its crisp drum pattern and juicy Hammond organ. Things get menacing when Hunter’s scorching fuzz guitar kicks in, like an old guitar-heavy Funkadelic or Sly Stone track.

Next up is the repetitious single I Can Say To You, which could be a Thundercat B-side but has an inane chorus and raps by saxophonist Marcus Tenney. More appealing is East London singer and rapper Jay Prince, who guests on Move (Ride).

Eye Never Knew gets jazzy with a tasty solo by trumpeter Keyon Harrold, segueing into the party slab No Way Around It, its irresistible bass line echoing DC’s go-go funk sound.

DYKWYD features a tantalising alto sax solo by Braxton Cook, backed by Fonville’s effortlessly tight drumming. Happy Hourrr is a pure-jazz interlude, with Tenney’s tenor conjuring up a 60s gambling-den atmosphere. Run It Up will appeal to fans of Anderson .Paak and Frank Ocean with its seedy Vegas feel, while almost anyone will dig their laidback, playful cover of Roy Ayers’s This Side Of Sunshine, complete with 70s Juno synth and Rhodes sounds.

Word to the squeamish, though: don’t look up the band’s medical namesake.

Cozumel; Espionage; I Can Say To You; Move (Ride); Turismo; Eye Never Knew; No Way Around It; Half Of It; DYKWYD; Happy Hourrr; Run It Up; Pink Fur; This Side Of Sunshine; BubbleBath; Touring Pains; It Was Me (Car Chase); Around For A While (46.22)
DJ Harrison (kyb, pgm, vb, g, v, b); Corey Fonville (d, pc); Andrew Randazzo (b, g, syn, pc); Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney (p, ts, t, pc, v, pr); Morgan Burrs (g, syn); Charlie Hunter (g, 2, 7, 16); Braxton Cook (s, 9); Vanisha Gould, Julia Shuren, Akeema Zane, Pink Siifu, Jay Prince, Nappy Nina, Michael Millions (v). Richmond, Brooklyn, Los Angeles.
Concord Jazz CJA00760