By John Murph | Published January 2019
Butcher Brown, a Richmond, Virginia-based quintet, wears its ’70s jazz-funk fusion throwback jersey proudly on Camden Session, especially on the barreling “Fiat,” which could have served any Blaxploitation film’s car-chase scene.
The group’s chemistry is apparent throughout this laissez-faire-sounding session, captured at DJ and producer Mark Ronson’s Zelig Sound studio in London. With no edits or overdubs, the tantalizing “Street Pharmacy” and prowling “Camden Square” reveal that Butcher Brown is indeed a combo that can deliver the goods without the reliance of studio trickery.
On all of the tunes, the group’s de facto leader, Devonne Harris, lays down sticky clavinet and Fender Rhodes chords that stretch like butterscotch taffy while bassist Andrew Randazzo buttresses the percolating grooves with big-boned melodic counterpoints. Guitarist Morgan Burrs lends the group an enticing Southern soul aesthetic that recalls Larry Carlton’s work with the Crusaders while Marcus Tenney navigates between tenor saxophone and trumpet, demonstrating remarkable command of both. But it’s Corey Fonville’s hard-hitting drumming—often incorporates Soulaquarian hip-hop pulses—that pushes Butcher Brown beyond its ’70s influences.
Of the six cuts on the disc, only four are substantial. And even with those, some listeners might wish more intriguing left turns or heightened compositional aspirations would have been thrown in. But as teaser to something hopefully more conceptually involved, Camden Session serves as an agreeable entry point into Butcher Brown’s emerging discography.
Camden Session: Pre-Cut Interlude #1; Fiat; Street Pharmacy; Pre-Cut Interlude #2, Camden Square; 918. (28:38)
Personnel: Devonne Harris, keyboards; Corey Fonville, drums; Marcus Tenney, trumpet, tenor saxophone; Morgan Burrs, guitar; Andrew Randazzo, bass.