Music Feature

Album Review: Lettuce Keep Funk Alive

by Ryan O'Connell
The New York funk collective return with "Fly."

Good funk music is like good cereal- it will always have a place in my life. I’m a sucker for beefed up break beats, twisting and tumbling horn lines, vocal call and responses and bottom thumping bass. Whether it’s Parliament, early Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone or Galactic- I hear some funk coming through some speakers and I want to dance. I know I’m not alone in this. Funk is authentic. Funk is real. Funk is no frills, no fluff, no condiments. Funk picks you up when you’re bumming and let’s you cut loose when you need it the most.

Funk is an enabler- in the best possible way.

While I love reggae just as much as funk, the difference between funk and reggae is that funk has been able to grow. There hasn’t been a reggae song written in the last twenty years that wasn’t written before that. It’s just how reggae works. Reggae is simple and easy, which is why it’s A) so timeless and B) unable to move forward. Funk however is able to move forward because in the end, jazz musicians get bored. Not every jazz head, but enough of them. Whereas reggae is rooted in limitations, which are fiercely defended and presided over by it’s purists and players, funk has no limits. It’s all good provided the groove is there. Sure there is the danger that someone trying to get into the funk can easily veer off into Cheese-ville, but funk in the right hands is never a bad thing.

Lettuce, the twenty year old groove-creating collective from New York, have some of the best hands in the business and in those hands- all fourteen of them, we can rest easy. Funk is not only safe with them, it’s alive and well.

Formed long ago in the halls and practice rooms of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Lettuce released their fourth album, Fly, earlier this month and much like their previous works, it’s a raucous compilation of funk wizardry and bravely, fresh instrumental jams. Comprised of studio and touring vets, as well as members of Soulive and Rustic Overtones, Lettuce is akin to an urban myth in the neo funk circles in and around New York. The majority of the band’s members have grown beyond the band they started all those years ago, but like moths to a flame, they keep coming back to where it all started and we’re all better for it.

Adam Deitch, the band’s drummer and main songwriter, has sketched together a perfect musical playground for his uber-talent band mates to run wild on. Joined by up and coming soul singer Nigel Hall and extra horns and percussionists, Lettuce aren’t re-inventing the funk wheel, only make it turn that much smoother. Stand out tracks on Fly are “Crusher,” “Do It Like You Do,” “Ziggowatt,” and “Jack Flask.”

Wicked horn lines, solid rhythms, wild beats- Fly has the potential to be the perfect soundtrack to the upcoming summer of 2012.

You can learn more about Lettuce here.

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