Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Afrobeat Orchestra Chopteeth Makes an Amazing Live Album

More bands should make live albums. They sound better than protools bedroom recordings, it’s infinitely cheaper to make one onstage than in the studio, and for the kinds of bands whose energy level jumps when they hit the stage, it’s ideal. That’s what Washington DC-based 14-piece Afrofunk orchestra Chopteeth did, and they couldn’t have made a better choice. They’re huge in their hometown, having won a Wammie (Washington Music Award) for the last two years; this should suss the rest of the world to the head-bopping power of their dancefloor grooves. What makes their sound unique is that they spice their hypnotic Afrobeat vamps with  latin sounds along with the occasional detour into soca or hip-hop.

The opening track, JJD (meaning Johnny Just Dropped – worn out from dancing maybe?) is typical. Basically, it’s a bracing, minor-key two-chord jam that builds up with catchy baritone sax, some wild trombone and then a mind-warping acid-rock guitar solo, drenched in reverb, kicking in the dance vibe with the wah-wah until the vocals finally come in about five minutes in. They keep the bounce going with another long vamp, Festival, with breaks for intense alto sax, thoughtful trumpet and a hypnotically echoing, blippy guitar solo. Didjeridoo does not include that particular instrument: it’s a slinky, swaying Afrobeat take on early 70s stoner funk with an absolutely delicious, psychedelic distorted reverb organ solo followed by sultry bari sax.

With its snaky guaguanco beat and salsa-jazz vibe, Jiin Ma Jiin Ma goes straight to the roots of Afro-Cuban music. There’s also what’s essentially a warm, upbeat reggae tune set to an Afrobeat rhythm; a long funk vamp that reminds of the Doors’ Peace Frog, of all things (it’s great!); a tasty Puerto Rican plena dance; a fiery Fela cover with crazed blustery trumpet matched to growling sax; and the closing number, Traitors of Africa, which hits a peak with a wildly distorted electric piano solo that some bands might have edited out, but these guys kept because the energy is so high. If you can’t dance to this then you need to check your pulse. Chopteeth are on tour later this year, hopefully coming to a town near you.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment