March 6th, 2007
New York is the setting of Funky Delicacies latest offering of regional early funk. The compilation calls to mind a myriad of images that comprise the general romantic idealism of the “Big Apple”—a mecca of hard hustling, bustling streets that draws millions to a city that touts “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Dreams of opportunity enticed many of the artists featured on FFNY, who left the south for a taste of the big city. FFNY is full of funky grooves, bombastic horns and sophisticated break beats that infuse the urban landscape with a touch of southern flavor.
One of the primary artists on FFNY is the Beaufort Express, featuring the southern stylings of the Pazant brothers and named after their hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina. Eddie (sax/woodwinds/vocals) and Al (trumpet/vocals) Pazant began their professional partnership in the NY-based group Puncho & His Latin Soul Brothers. Later branching off into their own group, the Beaufort Express, they incorporated a mixture of rhythm and blues, soul, Latin and jazz into their country funk roots. The brothers released several albums on independent labels and a slew of singles during this era and went on to work with artists such as Kool and the Gang, Della Reese, and James Brown. Today the Pazant brothers lead a thirteen piece ensemble that plays at the Cotton Club in Harlem every Monday night whenever they’re in town. Notable selections in this collection are “Mboga-Chakula” (Swahili for greasy greens) and “Chick-A-Boom.” The former track, written by legendary Stax composer Ed Bland, is a barrage of African and Latin influenced percussion with a breeze of funky horns interlaced within the beats that remains part of their live performance. The latter track, “Chick-A-Boom,” is bass and break-beat heavy with an undeniably catchy melody that has resurfaced (uncompensated) in several hip hop songs.
Another major contribution to this collection comes from the southern song writing duo Len and Linelle Williams. Settling in Harlem, Len operated a bar near the famed Apollo Theater where he would shop his songs. The duo would hire musicians to record their songs as de-facto publishing demos; however, limited distribution kept these singles underground until now. Some of the groups that gave life to the Williams’ collaborations are Family Portrait, King Solomon’s Advisor’s, John-El, and Frankie Freeman. Notable selections on FFNY are “Takin’ Inventory” by Family Portrait and “You Took Me Off and It Was Boss” by Jon-El. “Inventory” features a sophisticated arrangement of funky break beats and a smooth blend of group vocals that rival Sly & the Family Stone. Jon-El’s track is a bass-driven high energy selection that includes jazz-funk piano work with a splash of flute.
FFNY is a superb collection of regional funk that encapsulates a period of time when funk was super fly. Released on the Funky Delicacies label, a division Tuff City, FFNY puts New York on the proverbial funk map. Tuff City was founded in 1981 by Aaron Fuchs who saw the potential in the newly established genre hip hop. Since then Tuff City has worked with the Cold Crush Brother’s, Spoonie Gee, and many more. As Hip Hop became more mainstream Fuchs switched gears and begun a reissue campaign that given new life to obscure and previously unreleased blues, soul, funk, and R&B. For more information about this amazing catalog check out the Tuff City website.
Posted by Heather O’Sullivan
Editor’s note: The Pazant Brothers are featured in the Feb./March 2007 issue of Waxpoetics, an essential magazine for collectors of hip hop, jazz, funk, and soul.
Review Genre(s): Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk