April 2008

Chris Bottomley's Brainfudge | Souljazz Orchestra
part of the 2nd annual Small World Jazz Series
April 3, 2008 Lula Lounge Toronto
A Little Fudge For The Soul
by Laila Boulos with photos by Roger Humbert
This Thursday night jazz series, presented by Small World Music, was a hit when it debuted in 2007 and has returned this year with still more diverse offerings for very appreciative audiences at Lula Lounge.

As the doors opened, the gently hugging grooves skillfully selected by DJ medicineman wafted warmly through the air and Lula Lounge began to fill with a crowd who seemed to have floated up from the Gladstone neighbourhood of Queen West.

As Chris Bottomley's Brainfudge appeared on stage, the sudden burst of fiery energy blasted the crowd from their reverie and the musical strongman strains of "We Can Be Better" blindsided the now hanging from the ceiling crowd. As the electric guitar licks from the hands of Donné Roberts spun mesmerizingly into oblivion, the instrument's screams for mercy became inaudible among appreciative hoots and hollers from the audience.

Mr. Bottomley, well known to many fans from his Tulpa days with his brother John Bottomley, has always surrounded himself with stellar players such as Rich Underhill and Perry White from the Shuffle Demons. Tonight's version of Brainfudge included: James Gray, most notably of Blue Rodeo; Rich House ('I-Sax') from the renowned local reggae band Friendlyness and the Human Rights and previously from Bass is Base; Donné Roberts of African Guitar Summit who has recently been touring with his own (Donné Roberts) band; and, Great Bob Scott whose endless credentials include work with The Look People and Kevin Hearn of The Barenaked Ladies.

Although Brainfudge usually let loose on stage coating whatever locale they play in (The Silver Dollar Room, Supermarket, Kensington Market) with a street party feel, tonight, they were leaning towards an understated and sophisticated theme allowing the aim-for-the-eardrum and drop-to-the-hips pieces to take over the room.

Their short, six-piece set ranged in style from funk, Latin and jazz to reggae and included original pieces plus a fabulous cover of "I Got Time" by the Meters. James Gray's fabulous keywork on this and successive pieces piled the now ready, willing and able crowd onto a rocket that transported them into the '70s with a style that reincarnated the era of funk.

"Belize City Bakin'" with its 'where's Marley' reggae grooves began with Great Bob Scott's powerplay on drums leaving no doubt that he hailed from a country adept at working sticks, either on or off the ice! For this song, Bottomley won 2nd place in the UNISONG International Songwriting Contest in the World/Reggae Category!

"World of Dreams" showcased Mr. Bottomley's vocals that swiftly turn like the pages of a book from voice-from-above authority to David Wilcox rambling-just-because storytelling talents. While pieces such as "Hit Me With Music" and "Get to this Get to that" highlighted Rich House's deft timing on saxophone.

Chris continued thanking Small World and Lula for their work with this series and for inviting their band to play as the crowd tried unsuccessfully to entice them to play one more song.

The funkiness continued with Souljazz taking to the stage with their piercing brass section and varied keyboards wrapped up in heady polyrhythmic beats. Contrasting with the head spinning instrumentation are their socially and politically conscious lyrics in the vein of Fela Kuti — to whom their inspiration is often attributed.

Fresh off a European tour and having previously performed at venues such as the Beaches Jazz Festival, Yonge and Dundas Square and Hamilton's The Pepper Jack Cafe, The Souljazz Orchestra has a great following evidenced by the enthusiasm when they took over the stage.

The members of Souljazz Orchestra are: Pierre Chrétien, electric piano, clavinet, organ, vocals; Zakari Frantz, alto sax, soprano sax, flute, vocals; Philippe Lafrenière, drums, vocals; Ray Murray, alto sax, baritone sax, vocals; Steve Patterson, tenor sax, vocals; and, Marielle Rivard, shekere, vocals.

It was definitely a night for inspired music as Souljazz Orchestra continued the musical avalanche blasting the room with Afrobeat, funk, boogaloo and Afrofunk with minimal interruption to a very appreciative audience.

Ms. Rivard's cat growl vocals on many pieces provided a rippling background for the magician-like sleight-of-hand saxophone, keys and drum solos that deftly soared across the stage.

Their precision-heavy repertoire included trademarks such as "Mista President" and "Insurrection" and a number of fun call and response pieces layered with a playfulness reminiscent of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. The playlist included a variety from their current album, Freedom No Go Die and their upcoming Manifesto. The infectious percussion-clap introduction to "Use It Before You Lose It" along with its rollicking rhythm convinced a few more people to find themselves a place on the dance floor.

The audience was low key with those wanting to dance taking over the floor space and grooving while the less movement-inclined watched with everyone giving rousing applause, whistles and whatever they could muster to show their sincere appreciation for the talents on stage.

Once again, Lula Lounge was proudly hosting a musically-invigorating evening showcasing great Canadian talents such as this evening's Chris Bottomley's Brainfudge and Souljazz Orchestra with stellar sound at the expert hands of Howard Laurie.

Chris Bottomley

Rich House (I-Sax)

Steve Patterson

Marielle Rivard


We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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