By Michael J. West | Published September 2021
We cannot doubt that funk is indeed a religion to trombonist Nils Landgren and his sextet — because they proselytize about it ceaselessly on Funk Is My Religion. Like all proselytizing, it is obnoxious; by album’s end, you may never want to hear the word “funk” again.
Yes, braggadocio is a tradition in funk, from James Brown to Prince. Yet those giants don’t do it every time they open their mouths. Here, however, the Funk Unit tells us over and over again that they are “gonna keep it funky tonight.” Even “Anyway You Want It,” which doesn’t mention funk, seems to suggest that “it” has less to do with love than with groove.
If this complaint seems disproportionate, it’s only because the Unit is so good at letting its grooves speak for themselves. The sexy instrumental strut of “Amanda” is compounded with a sinuous bass clarinet line from Jonas Wall. Landgren’s trombone and Andy Pfeiler’s guitar devour “See Ya in Court” and “Es In Memoriam” (also instrumentals), and the rhythm section of Price, keyboardist Peter Bergander and drummer Robert Ikiz couldn’t be tighter. When vocals enter, all one wants is for them to get out of the way.
Funk Is My Religion: The Reimagination Of Miriam Makeba: Umhome; House Of The Rising Sun; Milele; Hapo Zamani; Love Tastes Like Strawberries; Khuluma; Pata Pata; A Piece Of Ground; Kwedini; Lakutshon’ilanga; Olili; Mbombela; Jike’lemaweni; Nonqonqo; Malaika; Ring Bell, Ring Bell; Mabhongo. [TIME?]
Personnel: Somi, vocals; Herve Samb, guitars; Nate Smith, drums; Michael Olatuja, bass; Keith Witty, bass, percussion; Toru Dodo, piano; Mino Cinelu, percussion; Cobhams Asuquo, organ, piano, percussion; Phindi Wilson, Bongi Duma, Nhalanhla Ngobeni, Vuyo Sotashe, vocal chorus; Lakecia Benjamin, alto saxophone; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Myron Walden, soprano and tenor saxophones; Mazz Swift, Juliette Jones, violin; Jessica Troy, viola; Marika Hughes, cello; Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Gregory Porter, Angelique Kidjo, Seun Kuti, Thandsiwa Mazwai, Msaki, Nduduzo Makhathini, vocals.
Ordering Info: salonafricana.com