One of both my blogging partner Andre Grindle and myself’s favorite subgenre’s of funk has to be jazz-funk, instrumentals in particular. The sophisticated funk flavors of George Duke, The Headhunters, Herbie Hancock, Roy Ayers, Weather Report, Grover Washington Jr, The Crusaders and many other bands were a key point in my musical development, usually coming from the turntable of my mom and dad. If pops were still living, I know he’d dig “Forest Green” by Butcher Brown. Butcher Brown is a furiously funky quartet from Virginia. They first came to my attention on Mult Instrumentalist Nicholas Paytons 2013 release, “Numbers”, itself one of the funkiest and best musical releases of last year. The members are DJ Harrison on keys, Keith Askey on guitar, Andrew Randazzo on bass, and Corey Fonville on drums. “Forest Green” is the type of intense, kaeladescopic, frantically funky song that hasn’t been heard in quite some time. It was most def at the top of my personal funk charts for last year!
The song begins with a unison lick, played by the bass, and several keyboard sounds, including one with a wah wah. The opening lick is both brighter in tone than the rest of the song and also lands mostly on the upbeats. The instruments sustain their last note for a few bars and the drummer Corey Fonville, introduces the intricate fills he laces the whole track with. Then the main riff starts, which is also played in unison by several instruments, including the bass, guitars and keys. The main riff is agressive, very sharp and on top of the beat. The lead keyboard has a somewhat harsh, quacking filter tone to it. After that main riff is played, the band plays chords, with the bass playing the root of the chord and the keyboards and guitar playing sustained suspended chords. The clavinet sound has a wah wah attached to it, which makes the suspended chord come at you another kind of way. The melody goes through that cycle and when it reaches the end of it, Andrew Randazzo plays a fleet fingered bass line that leads you right back to the top of the cyle. DJ Harrison plays a melody type line on what sounds like a processed Rhodes, but gives you the feeling of machines or computers talking in an old science fiction movie.
The band soon switches to another intense section, lead by Randazzo’s bass playing a simple two sixteenth note line and leaving a lot of space.The whole band kills it on those two notes, jamming away furiosly, with Fonville’s drums leading the way with fills, leading you back up to the beginning of the pattern, and the band hitting a chord sequence before the new pattern begins. In between this there is plenty of room for DJ Harrison to jam on clavinet as well as playing his repetitive computer style melodic lines on top of that. After this the song comes back to the melody used at the beginning of the song, with Fonville going totally free on the drums, playing funky linear lines like Mike Clark of The Headhunters. The song basically repeats this two section pattern, with Fonville’s drummings becoming more powerful and noticeable as the song progresses, Harrison adding all kinds of beautiful texture on keys, Randazzo making you think about Paul Jackson on bass, and room for Keith Askey to solo over the top on guitar.
“Forest Green” is a terrific achievement and statement. The band sustains a high level of intensity and virtuosity over the course of an over six minute jazz funk piece. The song both grooves and takes you different places at the same time, with texture as well as punch. And its a great introduction to the tunes on their album “All Purpose Music.” Butcher Brown is most definitely one of those independent groups to watch. I’m looking for more great music from them and their label Jellostone!