(Black Cream Records 2017)
Iwao Ochi 越智巌—guitar
Speaker Sgt. Homepage
Funk is so hard and so rarely done right, but Speaker Sgt. has nailed it on “Bad Baby City.” They strike the right balance between pure neck-bouncing fun and serious jamming. Every tune is jazz-funk and if you’re a guitarist, you’ll be reaching for the fret to figure out the riffs, and if you’re a bassist or drummer, your hands will be popping to the beat as well. If you’re everyone else, you’ll be glad you have this CD.
The CD starts off with “Bad Baby Strut,” a fast, bouncy number that really cooks hard with a melody that sticks like molasses. Hard not to shout out “bad baby city” along with the band. “Outfield” is taken slower, but still-funky, tempo and a start-stop rhythm that is as catchy as it is clever. Sato and Umezawa lock things down tight and Ochi has endless guitar cool to slather over the beats. He calls it “otona-funk” or “adult funk,” and that’s just what it is.
“Digital Destruction” pops in rapping over a clean acoustic guitar. The digital grooves face off against the guitar with more creation all around than destruction. “Troit” also kicks into a slow-riding groove and adds a lot of great tone to the guitar, with some gorgeous keyboard overlays.
“Chestnut Head” is one of those nimble, burning tunes that keeps opening up into cooler riffs and heading on up to higher ground, while “Green Drive” kicks back into a more laid-back rhythm. It’s the small things, though, that really make it: small breaks, twists of melody, a moment of silence that drags you in before the trio starts cooking again. Plenty of club beats are tucked in with spacy keyboards on the cool little interludes, spiced with samples, and late-night urban vocals. Eddie Landsberg offers some great organ on several tracks.
Japanese bands are not known for the funky rhythms, but Speaker Sgt. has learned not just the form, but taken on the whole heart of jazz-funk. This is the kind of intense funkiness that makes you burst out with “Whoa!” and “Yeah” listening all alone in your room! For fans of funky music of any genre, this CD is a winner.