ROCK CANDY FUNK PARTY – GROOVE IS KING
This was the theme behind Rock Candy Funk Party’s (RCFP) studio album Groove Is King, an aural kaleidoscope that mashes up funk, rock, dance, electronica, jazz and R&B into 14 original tracks and 2 covers full of space, texture, and virtuoso musicianship.
Powered by a lineup of world-renowned players, the group came together for the sheer fun of making music—and a mutual love of genre-blurring grooves. With collective credits including Joe Zawinul, Hugh Masekela, Prince, Ruth Brown, Chaka Khan, Simple Minds, Billy Idol, Tito Puente, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Levon Helm, Conan O’Brien, Sheila E. and many more, they are: album producer Tal Bergman (drums), Joe Bonamassa (guitar), Ron DeJesus (guitar), and Mike Merritt (bass).
Groove Is King —due out July 31, 2015 on Bonamassa’s label, J&R Adventures— was recorded at Tal Bergman Studios in Los Angeles, California. Unlike RCFP’s debut album We Want Groove (2013), a reboot of classic ‘70s /’80s jazz-funk that tipped its hat to Miles Davis’ classic 1982 live instrumental LP We Want Miles, Groove Is King pulls away from the jazz funk sounds of the first album into a modern sound, with focused compositions and arrangements and a slick production. “This time around, the concept was less jazz and more modern dance with layered grooves. The rhythm section laid the foundation and then we’d add in strings, synths and an incredible horn section, all while keeping it funky,” says DeJesus.
Also new to this album are horn arrangements by Grammy-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker, and contributions from Daniel Sadownick (percussion), James Campagnola (saxophone), Ada Rovatti (saxophone), and Fred Kron (keys). Renato Neto, who played on RCFP’s debut album, joins the lineup again on keys while ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons lends his trademark growl to the album is as the master of ceremonies aka “Mr. Funkadamus.” Together, these players weave into the mix heavier dance beats, rock, and pure unadulterated funk, citing influences such as Daft Punk, the Brecker Brothers, Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars, Massive Attack, Sade, Prince, and Led Zeppelin.
These influences can be heard in many of the tracks, including the more rock-driven “Don’t Funk With Me” and “Uber Station,” a couple of tight, funky tunes punctuated with horns that recapture some of that classic Brecker Brothers sound, while “Low Tide” and “Groove Is King” feature a more stripped down, guitar-driven funk. “There was a definite intention of making tracks that are danceable,” said Merritt about “Don’t Be Stingy With The SMPTE,” “C You On The Flip Side,” and the EDM mash-up “The Fabulous Tales Of Two Bands,” which has traces of Prodigy’s 1997 hit “Firestarter.” “East Village” and “The 6 Train To The Bronx” both feature a cool, relaxed jazz feel while “Cube’s Brick” has a world music groove reminiscent of Weather Report; a funky yet ethereal treatment can be found on a re-imagining of Peter Gabriel’s “Diggin’ In The Dirt.”
RCFP grew out of Bergman and DeJesus’ 2007 instrumental album Grooove Vol. 1, and subsequent live dates at L.A.’s storied jazz spot The Baked Potato. They encouraged other musicians to jam with them, including Merritt and Neto, who joined the line-up early on. Bonamassa made his RCFP debut in early 2012 during one of his rare breaks from the road when Bergman—who has toured with the guitarist—invited him to sit in on a pair of gigs.
Ultimately, the defining influence on Groove Is King’s instrumental soundscape is the interplay between RCFP’s members – which serves as a riveting conversation all its own – and the energy in the studio.
Groove is everywhere.