Turkuaz (photo: Joshua Huver)
The last decade has seen an incredible growth in quality and quantity of properly revitalized funk bands coming out of Boston and Brooklyn.
Turkuaz, a nine-piece, self-proclaimed “powerfunk” outfit from Brooklyn has been releasing music since late 2011. Their latest, Digitonium, is a nonstop 24 track masterpiece clinic in funk that would make George Clinton and Bootsy Collins proud.
Born as a side project by co-founders Dave Brandwein on guitar and Taylor Shell on bass, Turkuaz was formed in Boston in February 2008. Unbeknownst to the duo, a demo of theirs had been submitted to Berklee College of Music’s Heavy Rotation Records by a friend. Heavy Rotation immediately added Turkuaz to their annual showcase at the Berklee Performance Center, and the spark was lit. After eight months in the Boston music scene, the band migrated as a whole to Brooklyn, with the intention of bringing their brand of funk to New York.
The Nth Power is a little more widespread; a collective of musicians whose fortunate and fruitful convening at New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2012 (as well as future band additions being made following Jazz Fest collaborations) speaks volumes about the message and the ferocity of their music. The backbone of the group is unquestionably cemented in drummer Nikki Glaspie. Her previous accolades include Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and providing the heartbeat for Beyonce’s tours for five years, just to name-drop a few.
It’s only fitting that two bands, made up of lifelong improvisational and collaborative musicians with an absolutely crushing knowledge of funk, soul, and disco inferno should sound so good. Despite the majority of the band calling the east coast and southern United States home, the unifying power of funk makes every show feel like a true family affair. For The Nth Power’s vibrant frontman Nick Cassarino and the Turkuaz Horn section of Chris Brouwers (trumpet), Greg Sanderson (tenor sax), and Josh Schwartz (baritone sax), that included former band mates, friends and parents who have relocated or simply took an opportunity to celebrate the tour closer proper.
The Nth Power took the stage at 9:25pm and delivered the track “Right Now” with the force and energy one might expect from an encore performance. The vibes were only lifted up from there as they moved quickly into “Only Love,” the lead single from the late 2015 release Abundance, followed by “Only You,” with a downright groovy lead bass line from Nate Edgar and atmospheric synths from keyboardist Courtney Smith.
They continued pulling tracks from the new record, moving into “Soul Survivor.” “Soul Survivor” eventually broke down to a bare-bones djembe clinic from Weedie Braimah, a descendant of master drummers on his father’s Ghanian lineage. For 20 minutes, Braimah and Glaspie traded rolls and dropped jaws in their interpretation of the traditional African style of drumming known as”Wolosodon.” Even Cassarino and Edgar dropped to the floor, in genuine awe of Braimah’s absolute command of the drum.
“Home,” a song about finding your way back home after being lost, was dedicated to anyone (read: everyone) dealing with an internal struggle, because as Cassarino said in the dedication, “life gets hard sometimes.” The band closed their set by inviting the Turkuaz horn section on stage to join in a 10-plus minute rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic “Serpentine Fire” in memory of the late Maurice White.
Turkuaz went onstage at 11:00pm sharp and played their asses off for 90 straight minutes, playing 13 songs and spanning every genre imaginable between psychedelic jazz funk to soul-searing disco dance beats. Opening with “Chatte Lunatiqu” off of their debut album Zerbert, released in 2011. A handy segue into one of the bands’ staples, “Future 86” before Brandwine introduced the funkin’ good time of a track, “Percy Thrills the Moon Dog” off of the new Digitonium record.
At one point or another during the show, Turkuaz enlisted the help of The Nth Power. On Sly and The Family Stone’s 1973 disco-funk get down “Babies Making Babies,” Cassarino was invited back on stage to lend some lead guitar. Check out the fan-captured video of the whole song above.
From there, Shell took the reigns on the bass heavy intro to “Coast To Coast” from the self titled Turkuaz album, but by the next song, the band had reached a group consensus to return Nate Edgar to the stage for a double bass guitar assault in the song “Everyone’s a Winner”, a B-side of influential British funk-soul band Hot Chocolate.
Another new track off of Digitonium, “Murder Face,” preceded Nikki Glaspie joining the stage for a turn at the drum kit on the Turkuaz original “The Mountain” from their self titled release. A 10-minute play-through of “The Generator” gave nearly every member of the ensemble a showing in the spotlight that left the crowd begging for more. Turkuaz happily obliged, continuing the new album love with the track “Digital Love,” a track that combines their feverish old-school funk vibe Turkuaz nails so well with contemporary synths, phasers and talk box effects.
Turkuaz coninued to fan the flames of funk by moving into the Zerbert track “Lookin’ Tough, Feelin’ Good.” Opening with a super-sloppy funk-bass intro, a high energy ’70s jam materialized. Halfway through the tune, Braimah was welcomed back to the stage and absolutely dominated, stealing the spotlight with a four minute hand drum solo before the 15 minute jam moved in the closing sections of the song.
The final track of the set saw the final untapped member of The Nth Power, keyboardist Courtney Smith, joining the stage. Vocalist Shira Elias knocked the room out cold with her vocal performance of Bob Dylan and the Band’s “I Shall Be Released.” For the final encore of the tour, Turkuaz pulled out all of the stops and unleashed a powerful, 11-minute ass-shaking anthem of their original tune “Monkey Fingers.”
Following the end of the show, The Nth Power and more than half of Turkuaz relocated to the intimate stage of The Boom Boom Room for a late night set that raged until after 3:30am on Sunday morning. Don’t miss your chance to catch the high-energy acts next time around — both bands are slated to appear at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA over 4th of July Weekend.