BREAKESTRA at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, September 8). $18.50. 416-532-1598.
In the four years since Breakestra released their Live Mix (Part 2) disc, the Los Angeles deep funk crew haven't been overly prolific in writing or recording. So the fact that they've finally got a new album finished and ready for release on October 25 is a pleasant surprise in itself.
But the real shocker for fans of the group - who've made a career out of recreating the classic rare groove, soul jazz and instrumental R&B joints that are the sample source of modern hiphop - is that Breakestra's forthcoming Hit The Floor (Ubiquity) contains only original material, and many of the tracks have vocals.
The good news is that their songs are solid enough to stand alongside the Roy Ayers and Blackbyrds tunes they cover, and Breakestra's rhythmic core is tight enough to make up for any compositional shortcomings.
"We've been planning to put out a recording of original material for a long time now," says founding member Miles Tackett from his Los Angeles home, "but something always came up - from playing shows to living life - so it took us a minute to get it done.
"The initial plan was simply to do some music of my own and see what would happen. With Breakestra, I knew whatever we did was going to be funk-related, but within that idiom I think we've come up with a really broad range of stuff. I really didn't expect we'd be doing real song songs with lyrics, bridges and the whole bit."
Even with tracks like Family Rap, on which Jurassic 5's Chali 2na, Soup and Double K rhyme nostalgically about the old days of the early 90s on the L.A. scene when DJs, MCs, jazz and funk musicians would all hang out together at Peace Pipe every Tuesday night, the groove-heavy Hit The Floor still sounds very much like a Breakestra record.
Slow-burn ballads like Hiding and Recognize sung by Tackett are obviously a departure from the usual program, but they work in an album context where following one hard-pounding funk track after another can make for a boring listen.
"We definitely didn't want to do a whole album of Meters-style funk instrumentals. At first I thought we might be pushing it with the ballads. The lyrics are a little more personal than what people are used to hearing from Breakestra, but we decided to leave those songs on for better or worse. I'm glad we did. Hey, I like old-school soul and R&B just as much as the heavy funk stuff."
Since Hit The Floor won't be out until the end of October, Breakestra preview the disc with just a three- or four-song sampling at Lee's Palace tonight (Thursday, September 8). The rest of the evening offers the usual selection of rare groove and funk from the likes of James Brown and Dizzy Gillespie to Roy Ayers and Robert Moore, with a few timely selections thrown in.
"We're going to be adding the Honey Drippers' Impeach The President to the set," notes Tacket. "It seems just as relevant today as ever."