Leisure Chief is a quintet — sometimes — who play funk, jazz, hip-hop, instrumental music, and soul — and more. The band recently released their first full-length album — and promptly announced a personnel change. Fortunately for all, the change was a mutual proposition, and the new member has fit right in.
This review is about the superb new recording King of Nothing. The band at the time of the recording was Nick Bogdon, guitar, vocals; Derek Engstrom, drums, vocals; Keegan Matthews, Fender Rhodes piano, organ, synthesizer; Chris McMullen, bass; and Christian Ryan, alto, baritone saxophones. For this recording and for performances such as Orange Blossom Jamboree, the quintet expanded to include Gabe Carson, tenor saxophone; Paul Chong-You, trumpet; and Ito Colon, percussion.
King of Nothing was recorded and mixed by Dan Hanson, and it was mastered by Matthew Mill at Peregrine House in Melbourne.
A couple of remarks before we examine track by track. Sonically, this album soars, the production perfect. Every musician is heard to best advantage. The horn section is primarily used as accent, punctuation to the sound, and they sound great on every song. Attempting to label this album is a challenge: this is funk jazz, of the Steely Dan variety, and every time through the album the listener is rewarded with more layers of sound.
Bogdon and Engstrom have sublime voices, just right for the Leisure Chief sound. Each has lead vocal on the four of eight tracks that he wrote. Let’s get started!
“Three Months” begins with a bass and drums intro, then Matthews’ Rhodes underneath Engstrom’s soft vocal. Engstrom’s drums on every track stand out. As the horns chime in, Chong-You’s trumpet is featured. During Matthews’ solo, Bogdon’s great rhythm guitar shines through, and Carson solos on tenor at the end.
The first of Bogdon’s songs is “Lil Norm,” a jazz delight. Guitar, bass, drums and muted trumpet launch the tune, drums and muted trumpet standing out. The horns accent the chorus. In the background, the Rhodes sounds like a glockenspiel. Bogdon takes a great long solo with lots of space; the notes have time to breathe. The horns are dynamite.
The kid gloves come off as “Like Brian Said” (Bogdon) rushes at you, guitar, drums and horns. McMullen is all over this song and the entire disk. The tune settles down a bit during the stanza but roars back during the chorus, with a nice alto solo from Ryan closing the song.
“Tell It Twice” is introduced by Rhodes, bass and drums. Horns give way to Engstrom’s tender lyrics:
“My mother used to say,
Wiping the tears away,
Laugh when you feel like crying.”
Matthews’ Rhodes solo is highlighted with horn accents. Just when it seems to be over, a second part kicks in, this time with organ for the instrumental portion, then Engstrom’s vocal on top of Rhodes and guitar.
The funk is strong with “Dreamin’,” a chunky funky tune by Bogdon. Matthews does this amusing piano figure throughout, and Chong-You, Carson, and Ryan (baritone) all take nice solos.
“Weekend” leaps out with strong guitar, cymbals crashing. Engstrom’s lyrics are on point:
“Might not make it through the weekend.
All we are… people trying to have a good time,
Kings of nothing in our own minds,
Funky music for the people.”
The ensemble roar gives way to a wickedly raucous rock guitar solo from Bogdon, and Ryan has a feature on alto.
Guitar, bass and drums introduce “Annie,” a laid-back ode from Engstrom:
“Annie, I want to be here when you laugh, when you cry,
When you need someone to talk to,
Because I don’t want to be the fool that breaks your heart,
Because I’ve been there.”
The horns are once again perfect in unison. Ryan adds alto accents during the stanzas, and Bogdon takes a great solo.
And then “Lottery.” Snarky Puppy fans will appreciate this homage. The horns are absolutely spot-on in propelling this Bogdon tune, Matthews on synthesizer, McMullen pushing Engstrom’s drums. Matthews has a splendid Rhodes solo that send the song in a very Latin direction. It is the perfect finale on this outstanding record.
After the release of the album, Christian Ryan posted this online:
“First of all, we debuted our newest member as we would like to virtually welcome Mr. Jordan Garno on guitar! With one rehearsal, he absolutely knocked the set out of the park, and we are very excited to have him on board. If you aren’t familiar, he is a phenomenal musician out of Tampa who plays with our brothers from Serotonic. You can also follow his own page at Jordan Garno Music. His unannounced debut was at the Mother Earth Music and Art Festival in April.
For those concerned, this was an amicable move for the entire band, and we wish the absolute best for Nick Bodgon, who was not only a founding member of the band back in the Buster Keaton days but is still a close friend to us all and a tremendous musician. By no means easy shoes to fill, but we couldn’t think of anyone better than Jordan for the job. This being said, expect some fresh material in the near future and a new direction of the sound. We are motivated as we’ve ever been to make new music for you all!”
Recently, Ryan shared this:
Much has happened after the milestone of opening Hulaween last October. Obviously this album, lineup changes and a new approach to the sound of our music. We have reached a point in our development as a band that we’d rather focus our collective energies on truly solidifying Jordan into the group, polishing our current material, and writing new music and exploring new territory. We want each show to be a new experience and when you play every single week at the same venue, it’s difficult to keep that momentum. There are also business aspects that are necessary to enact in order to be a successful touring entity that we desire to be, and overall the ‘less is more’ approach is how we are going to take our shows.
This Thursday night is the band’s last time in their Thursday residency at Tanqueray’s in Orlando:
To quote Derek, ‘Let’s have a truly last great show at Tanqueray’s and make it a point to let people know that we do not intend to stop playing, but this is a fond departure from a place we love in order to strengthen our sound and keep things fresh for those who wish to see Leisure Chief.’
We’d like to thank Dan from Tanqueray’s for taking a chance on us and giving us the opportunity to grow and develop our sound, build a fan base, and have a listening audience. We would not be the same group without it. We collectively grew into the music scene venturing to Tanq’s on Thursdays with Shak Nasti, and we were honored to continue the tradition.
It’s simply time for the next phase. We’ll still very much be around and will have more time to support our friends and community as well. I know I’ve missed some big shows on Thursdays over the years I wish I could have seen.
Tonight’s show at the Blueberry Patch in Gulfport and then Thursday at Tanqueray’s will be the last for Leisure Chief until August, with more shows on the horizon. Check them out, and be sure to pick up a copy of King of Nothing. You will be richly rewarded!
LEISURE CHIEF SHOWS
06/22 The Blueberry Patch | Gulfport
06/23 Tanqueray’s | Orlando
08/02 Skipper’s Smokehouse | Tampa w/ Wild Root
08/03 Dunedin Brewery | Dunedin @ Players’ Jam
08/04 Ringside Cafe | St. Petersburg w/ Holey Miss Moley
08/05 Red Lion Pub | Winter Park
08/06 Planet Sarbez | St. Augustine w/ Holey Miss Moley
08/12 Lagniappe House | Miami w/ Electric Kif
08/13 Bougainvillea’S Old Florida Tavern | South Miami w/ Electric Kif and ArtOfficial