Not only are The New Mastersounds the very best at what they do, there’s nobody else even in their league. If you are looking for four men who can interpret and deliver the very best of ‘60s and ‘70s funk, soul and R’n’B with a jazz bass, then Eddie Roberts, Joe Tatton, Pete Shand and Simon Allen are your A++ team.
If you imagined, just for a nanosecond, that maybe NMS would be tired after debarking from Jam Cruise and phone in a performance, you would have been all the way wrong. This was a simply spectacular set, best I’ve ever seen from them over the years.
Which brings me, however briefly, to a rant. Because I was in the zone, hearing one of the best performances of my life, and yet there were times when it was difficult to concentrate with so many people paying zero attention to the music and having LOUD conversations throughout the Skipperdome (Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, January 12).
I’m preaching to the choir, by and large, because those people are not interested in the stuff I write. But this behavior is hugely disrespectful to the bands on stage and the people trying to LISTEN.
Perhaps you’ve seen my shirt. You know, the one with this printed on the back:
PLEASE TALK LOUDER!
I CAN STILL HEAR THE BAND!
I’m thinking of switching to a new shirt with a huge STFU on the back. But it wouldn’t do any good. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a free show or whether tickets cost $20 or $50. I don’t get it, and I never will.
Back to your regularly scheduled review.
The evening started promptly at 8 with Tom welcoming us to the chilly Skipperdome (they properly pride themselves on running like clockwork). And then he welcomed Come Back Alice to the stage. CBA is a brilliant quartet which has recently migrated from Sarasota to St. Petersburg (the heart of the bay area music scene). They have toured up and down the East coast and are festival favorites (including Hulaween), and they just threw down two amazing sets at Home Team New Year’s Rally.
So it was appropriate that they start with “I Can’t Stand the Cold.” Just as Tom predicted, however, things rapidly heated up musically. Kenny “Bonesaw” Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) was filling in for Big Bad John Werner, since turnabout is fair play: CBA drummer Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris has been filling in with HMM for months. And Jimmy Jams Rector filled out the sound on percussion.
The twin attractions of CBA, beyond its fine rhythm section, are the musically and romantically engaged Dani Jaye (violin, guitar, vocals) and Tony Tyler (guitar, Hammond B3, keyboards and vocals). Dani, renowned for her violin playing, has been doing more guitar-slinging of late as well (including the Jimmy Page role when the band covered The Song Remains the Same). And Tony has added a keyboard capable of ranging from electric piano to clavinet, giving him even more dimensions; his B3 work is exceptional.
Second tune up was “Ugly Rumors,” a nasty, wicked tune set for the band’s next album, due out in the near future. We got favorites such as “The Ride” and “Coraline,” and perhaps that is when Matt Hillman took the Come Back Alice family photo, a nightly tradition. For the blues tune (“Sweet Talk”) that followed, Tony invited Mark Mayea of Ajeva on stage. Mayea played the entire Led Zep set with the band at Hometeam. It was perfectly appropriate that the tune would rock its way into David Bowie’s “Fame.”
An Allman Brothers-type vamp was next (“Oz”), then “Live It Up,” another bouncy romp. During “Angelina,” Dani took a superb guitar solo, with Tony next on B3. Then Tony said, “This one’s for Ed Greene of The Freak Show” (WMNF 88.5). You didn’t need a program to figure out that “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” was about to erupt. Yral and Jimmy Jams kicked it hard on the drum segment. Mayea returned to help propel “Fast Train.” Another superb set in the books.
As mentioned, like clockwork, Tom was on stage at 10 to introduce the headliners. The Skipperdome was nearly full on a cool Tuesday night.Over the course of the next two hours, the Leeds quartet played songs from eight of their dozen studio releases plus four dandy covers. It was a joyride from start to finish.
“Hole in the Bag” came from 2008’s Plug & Play, and there was no doubt about how the rest of the evening would unfold. On “Way Out West,” one of three tunes pulled from Out on the Faultline (2012), Joe Tatton took a tremendous Hammond B3 solo, switched to electric piano, then moved back to B3 (they used Come Back Alice’s keyboards and drum kit).
“Cigar Time” was one of three songs in a row from the band’s October release, Made for Pleasure, with a great solo from Eddie Roberts. That was followed by the title track and then a fine Dave Pike Set cover of “Sitting On My Knees.” Roberts unleashed an outrageous jazzy solo on this one.
“Yo Momma” is one of the NMS songs that clearly channels The Meters, one of the band’s biggest influences since its inception in 2000 (and why Roberts has moved to New Orleans). “San Frantico” was one of three songs from the 2009 album Ten Years On, and “The Vandenberg Suite” was next.
It is tempting to look at a band such as The New Mastersounds to try to pick out the ‘star,’ but that is impossible with this group. You might notice Roberts and Tatton in terms of solos, but the brilliant drive from the rhythm section is simply tour de force. Pete Shand (bass) and Simon Allen (drums) provide the jet fuel every time.
And then, according to my notes: “Pure genius. Deepest groove yet. Another outrageous guitar solo.” I should have recognized instantly that this was a cover of Grant Green’s “In the Middle.” Green is my all-time favorite jazz guitarist, and it is pretty clear Roberts shares that opinion. Roberts’ style is so similar, each note distinct, ringing like a bell. Shand and Allen were so over the top on this one, and Tatton soloed on B3 and electric piano. I really enjoyed as he transitioned, left hand on the piano, right hand on the organ (or was it the other way around???).
Allen and Roberts are very witty men who could do stand-up comedy. Allen explained that the next tune, “Whistle Song,” had been used in a commercial, making sure we received the humorous commercial plug. After “Take What You Need,” they called up Orlando’s reggae funk king, Savi Fernandez, to sit in on “Surfin’,” an Ernest Ranglin original. Savi had a great guitar solo, and his vocals were even better.
Next up was “Burnt Back,” the flip side of a 2001 single, and then the funk rocker “You Mess Me Up.” And it was Allen’s turn again. Approximately:
“We just got off Jam Cruise. It’s a cold Tuesday night. We didn’t know what to expect. We’re a British band playing American funk! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!?” Laughs all around.
How about “Cars, Trucks, Buses,” the Phish tune? Absolutely. Then Eddie (or Simon?) talked about the demise of our beloved Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival and the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, hinting that they might be heading to Wanee in April. (I about melted in a puddle.) After “Make Me Proud!” they closed with “Baby Bouncer” (which is a child’s ball, thanks to my keen attention to The Avengers). He gave the keyboard’s clavinet setting a real workout.
Encore? Positively! “MRG” from Ten Years On led immediately to “One Note Brown” from the very first 2001 album, Ken Darge Presents The New Mastersounds.
You’ll have to excuse me. I’m already dreaming about Wanee.
[CBA: I Can’t Stand the Cold, Ugly Rumors, Take It As It Comes, The Ride, Coraline, Sweet Talk > Fame, Oz, Live It Up, Angelina, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Fast Train]
[NMS: Hole in the Bag, Way Out West, Cigar Time, Made for Pleasure, Sitting on my Knees*, Yo Momma, San Frantico, The Vandenburg Suite, In The Middle**, Whistle Song, Take What You Need, Surfin’ ***, Burnt Back, You Mess Me Up, Cars, Trucks, Buses****, Make Me Proud!, Baby Bouncer; E: MRG, One Note Brown]
* Dave Pike Set cover
** Grant Green cover
*** Ernest Ranglin cover
**** Phish cover
Photographs courtesy of Matt Hillman Photography / jamgoodshot.com