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A LA CARTE BRASS & PERCUSSION:
Go-Go and Gumbo, Satchmo 'N Soul
For their second CD, A la Carte adds a little extra spice to their savory recipe. They do hits by P-Funk, Ray Charles, J.J. Johnson, the Meters and Dizzy. Singer Chuck Brown returns, and is joined by Little Feats Shaun Murphy. They front 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, saxes, sousaphone, didgeridoo, Hammond B3 organ, timbales, bongos, congas, timbales, claves and drums. The sound is enormous, with the warm ambience of a Havana dance hall. Mix up a strong batch of sangria and kick your heels up to Alligator Boogaloo, St. James Infirmary Blues or Little Sunflower. (#04752)
For A La Carte performance dates, photos, sound bytes and more - check out their site at www.alacartebrass.com
The Washington Post-Weekend:
Turns out second helpings from A La Carte Brass and Percussion band are as tasty as the first. No small accomplishment, that. The local ensemble's debut release offered an intoxicating brew of heady spirits and foot-slapping grooves, yet a similarly potent blend of jazz, funk, gospel and Caribbean flavors accents the band's latest concoction.
Whether you like your brass to rumble or soar, A La Carte delivers, juxtaposing a deep and sometimes boisterous bottom end with piercing and sometimes stratospheric trumpet flights. That much is obvious from the opening cut, pianist Larry Willis's fulgent arrangement of Ezekiel Saw the Wheel. Percussionists are everywhere, merrily and mightily pushing the music into ethnic pockets or across genre lines, and Go-Go King Chuck Brown and Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy persuasively play duet partners on a gospel-charged, beat-thumping version of A Woman, a Love, and a Man. It isn't long before Brown is singing St. James Infirmary Blues over a mambo rhythm, the brass and rhythm sections colorfully framing his mellow baritone and intermittent soul shouts.
There's no shortage of fine musicianship on display here, thanks to Willis, trumpeters Vaughn Nark and Jimmie Howard, trombonist John Jensen, and percussionists Gali Sanchez and Nelson Rodriguez, among others. As striking as some of the individual contributions are, though, this is truly a collaborative effort a frequently joyous and contagious one.
January 16, 1998
Ezekiel Saw The Wheel/ A Woman, A Love, and A Man/ Too Many Lovers/ Little Sunflower/ Hey Pocky Way/ Standing On The Verge/ St. James Infirmary Blues/ San Pedro/ Me Too/ Alligator Boogaloo/ Lucky Old Sun (53:04)
A La Carte Brass & Percussion features Chuck Brown, king of DC go-go and Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy in Go-Go and Gumbo Satchmo 'N Soul (Wildchild!/Mapleshade 04752) that promises "Raw music, no additives" in a program described as "Big fun: jammin' street brass and hot salsa drums...from P-Funk spiced with congas to J. J. Johnson in a mambo bag." It's an exciting merger of a N'Orleans marching band with the percussion section from a salsa big band. Their mambo version of a venerable blues like St. James Infirmary is a treat. There's a refreshing sense of revamping popular traditions a knack Louis Jordan had decades ago, and comparable inspiration animates this entertaining hybrid. The funky R&B of A Woman, A Love and A Man and Too Many Lovers features the compelling vocals of Chuck Brown and Shaun Murphy. For party music with a difference, look no further.
This is the ultimate jazz crossover CD: a New Orleans brass band with the percussion of a salsa big band. And a few guest singers to boot! The A La Carte Brass & Percussion unit does conventional tunes but in an, uh, unconventional way. From the traditional opener, Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, through Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflower (5:58), the band does its instrumental best; on A Woman, A Love, and A Man (4:00), the band gets a leg up with vocals by Chuck Brown, (D.C.'s king of Go-Go), Shaun Murphy of Little Feat and a four-singer chorus. But far and away the best tune is J.J. Johnson's Me Too (6:42), a modal arrangement in rumba time, on which Karl Kalbaugh plays a didgeridoo, "a seven-foot PVC pipe with totemic symbols painted all over it." Kolbaugh plays the one-noted didgeridoo but the best part comes when the band's trombonist, John Jensen, begins imitating it. Led by tuba player Pete Ostle, this project will provide a lot of fun for its listeners.
December 1, 1997
A La Carte Brass & Percussion: Go-Go and Gumbo Satchmo 'N Soul
The premise of the A La Carte Brass & Percussion is a unique one: to combine the sound of a swaggering brass band with the extra percussion power of a Latin big band, and that's exactly what this DC-area group has been doing. The A La Carte's second CD is a joyful romp all over the musical map from brass to funk to go-go to boogaloo. Like the band's first outing, it features phenomenal vocal cameos from go-go legend Chuck Brown, slipping out of his go-go threads into the melismatic persona of a soul man circa 1968. The album also has a guest shot from Shaun Murphy (lead singer of Little Feat) on several cuts. To insure extra soulfulness, Go-Go And Gumbo was recorded in an actual Union Hall (yes, as in Little Richard's "Shag on down to the Union Hall"). It's one of the year's most intriguing albums.
December 1, 1997
Take one big brass band, a full-blown Afro-Cuban percussion section, wailing vocalists like D.C. go-go king Chuck Brown and Shaun Murphy of Little Feat, mambo, rumba, second-line, P-Funk, kickin' blues, bebop and a didgeridoo put 'em together and you've got an incredibly hot, soulful amalgam of music. There simply aren't enough superlatives in Roget's to describe adequately what this group does. Soaring horn solos, tight bass grooves, and fantastic charts make everything rock, from New Orleans classics like "Hey Pocky Way" to "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" and the beautifully-realized ballad, "Lucky Old Sun." If those cuts don't grab you, the mambo version of "Saint James Infirmary Blues" surely will.