If you’re a serious soul fan/collector you’ll be well aware of the BRIT FUNK ASSOCIATION. Marshalled by horn man Kenny Wellington and saxophonist Patrick McClean, the collective (made up of battle-hardened veterans from iconic bands Beggar and Co, Hi Tension, Central Line and Light of the World) came together back in 2018. Encouraged by UK man about soul, Fitzroy Facey, they delivered a wonderful debut album, ‘Full Circle’ which was followed in 2020 by the equally classy ‘Lifted’ LP.
Three years down the line the funksters are releasing a new collection – ‘Ancestral Voices’. That intriguing title, we’re told, stems from the fact that the music on the concise 10 tracker is a reflection of what has driven and inspired Brit jazz/funk over the years. In other words, voices from the past informing the present!
The LP’s release was flagged up by the release of a single, ‘Freedom Dancin’’. Penned by Kenny Wellington and multi-instrumentalist Frank Felix, it was/is a tight and energetic confection. The track featured deep bass lines, bouncy brass fills, wild horn soloing and ensemble vocals. In many ways it summed up what British jazz/funk was back in the day – an aural definition of that special sound, if you would! Yes, hints of the Crusaders, the Blackbyrds even Kool and the Gang but uniquely Brit Jazz funk!
And ‘Ancestral Voices’ delivers plenty more of the same. There’s the foot-tapping opener ‘Let It Flow’, the smooth but never bland ‘Take It In Stages With These Pages’, and the gentler ‘Driftin’’. For variety the album’s title track is moody and atmospheric (as befits that title) while the instrumental ‘Angel Eyes’ veers towards smooth jazz (not that smooth though!) On this one Breeze McKreith’s jazzy guitar is a delight. ‘Snowfall’ is another instrumental. Here Toby Baker’s crystalline keys evoke the falling snow of the title.
To add intrigue to this album, there are two covers. First up there’s a take on the AWB’s ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ . Our Brit Funksters stick close to the original template; they just deliver the minimal vocal (essentially the title) a little differently. The fun they had cutting the track is self-evident. Ditto on the album’s second cover – a version of Ronnie Laws’ ‘Always There’ . They take this one a little faster and add a little vocal towards the end though not a full on treatment in the manner of Side Effect. The trumpet here (Kenny Wellington?) is the star of the show but by singling him out (and the players named above) we don’t mean disrespect to the rest of the band. This ‘Ancestral Voices’ is a real team effort throughout. Each and everyone involved has brought something to the party… and it’s some party! Out very soon via good ‘ole Expansion Records.