BEAT FUNKTION-GREEN MAN.

BEAT FUNKTION-GREEN MAN.

Originally, Beat Funktion were formed in 2007 to play a one-off concert at a Swedish nightclub. For the six musicians involved, they were looking no further than that one concert. Little did the members of the Beat Funktion realise, that they would still be together ten years later. A lot has happened during that period. This includes topping the jazz charts in America and Canada and releasing five critically acclaimed albums. Soon, five will become six when Beat Funktion release their much-anticipated sixth album, Green Man on Do Music Records on 27th January 2017. It’s the latest chapter in the story of Beat Funktion.

Their story began back in 2007. That was when six of Sweden’s top jazz musicians joined together to play what was meant to be a one-off gig in a nightclub. However, when Beat Funktion took to the stage, the improvisational sextet seemed to click.

Although they were ostensibly a jazz-funk group, Beat Funktion seamlessly combined elements of disparate musical genres. It was a potent and heady musical brew. Especially amongst the appreciative audience who had no idea that they were watching history being made. This was the debut by one of Swedish music’s most successful exports. Later, as Beat Funktion left the stage, they realised just how popular their heady musical brew had proven amongst the audience. Surely this wasn’t going to be a one-off?

It wasn’t. Realising the potential of Beat Funktion, the group continued. Pianist Daniel Lantz became Beat Funktion’s songwriter-in-chief, arranger and artistic leader. He has played an important part in the sound and success of Beat Funktion. This includes recruiting the creme de la creme of Swedish jazz. 

Joining Daniel Lantz in Beat Funktion were a rhythm section of drummer Jon Eriksson, bassist Pal Johnson and guitarist Johan Öijen. They were joined by trumpeter Karl Olandersson and saxophonist Olle Thunström. This all-star band would spend the next three years establishing a reputation as one of rising stars of the jazz-funk scene.

By 2010, Beat Funktion’s star was already in the ascendancy. They had spent the last three years honing their sound and playing the live circuit. Beat Funktion had come a long way, and had already established a loyal fan-base. It had been won over Beat Funktion’s unique, but commercial sound. 

Although Beat Funktion were ostensibly a jazz-funk band, they seamlessly incorporated elements of disparate musical genres. This included everything from Afro-beat, disco and fusion to pop, seventies funk and soul. Later, Beat Funktion’s music would move away from their core sound, they brought onboard percussionists and vocalists. In doing so, this showed different sides to Beat Funktion. This appealed to a much wider audience, and one that spanned the generations. That was still to come.

Given their popularity was rising, this seemed the perfect time for Beat Funktion to record and release their debut album. They had honed what was a slick, polished and commercial sound that appealed to music lovers of all ages. There was no better time to record their debut album. So Beat Funktion decided to take the plunge, and recorded their debut album The Plunge.

The Plunge.

Later in 2010, The Plunge was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics in the jazz, funk and soul community heaped praise on Beat Funktion and forecast a big future for the Swedish sextet. This proved prescient.

Soon, Beat Funktion signed a management deal with Kansas based Musication Incorporated. They would later put the plans in place for Beat Funktion’s American tour. Beat Funktion had come a long way from when they made their debut in 2007.

Moon Town.

Still, the rise and rise of Beat Funktion continued. Three years after the release of The Plunge, Beat Funktion returned with their long-awaited sophomore album, Moon Town in 2013. It garnered praise and plaudits from critics and cultural commentators. That was just part of the story of Moon Town.

When Moon Town was released, the album proved hugely popular. The albums spent fifteen weeks in top ten of the US jazz radio charts during the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, Moon Town charted in the US Billboard 200 and the JazzWeek charts. Across the border in Canada, Moon Town reached the top five in the Canadian charts. Beat Funktion were going places.

Voodooland.

Watching the progress of Beat Funktion were executives at the Japanese funk label P-Vine. They had spotted the potential in Beat Funktion, and had been following their progress with interest. Following the success of Moon Town, P-Vine signed  Beat Funktion and commissioned them to make their third album.

Just prior to the release of Voodooland, Beat Funktion signed to a new management company, the Las Vegas based Eggman Global Artists. Their latest signing were about to reach new heights.

In the spring of 2014, the much-anticipated Voodooland was released as a limited edition. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. Things were looking good for Beat Funktion. When Voodooland was released, it spent a total of sixteen weeks in the US jazz charts and spent three weeks at number one. Meanwhile, Voodooland spent eight weeks in Canadian charts. Voodooland was a game-changer for Beat Funktion.

Buoyed by the success of Voodooland, Beat Funktion’s thoughts turned to the release of their fourth album Mandy’s Secret. It featured ten new tracks were penned by songwriter-in-chief Daniel Lantz. He co-produced Mandy’s Secret with Mats Björke, the pianist in Swedish rock band Mando Diao. This resulted in one of the most polished albums of Beat Funktion’s career.

Mandy’s Secret was scheduled for release towards the end of September 2014. The album release was scheduled to coincide with Beat Funktion’s first ever American tour. They were going coast-to-coast in attempt to introduce Beat Funktion’s music, and especially Mandy’s Secret to a much wider audience. 

This paid off, when Mandy’s Secret was released to plaudits and praise. Critics called Mandy’s Secret one of Beat Funktion’s best albums to date. Record buyers agreed. Beat Funktion watched as Mandy’s Secret began to climb the charts. Eventually, it reached number three on the American CMJ jazz charts. Across the border in Canada, Mandy’s Secret reached number one in the Canadian Earshot charts, and spent a total of twenty-one weeks in the charts. The rise and rise of Beat Funktion continued. 

After the release of Mandy’s Secret, Beat Funktion’s American tour continued in in November. When the tour arrived in Los Angeles, Beat Funktion were due to play at the legendary Baked Potato. This was a venue that the great and good of fusion had once played. For Beat Funktion this showed just how far they had come.

So did their showcase session in Las Vegas. This was where they met rapper Damon Elliott, the son of Dionne Warwick. He had also produced Gwen Stefani, Pink and Beyoncé. Soon, Beat Funktion and Damon Elliott had formed a friendship with the rapper and producer. This lead to him agreeing to feature on Beat Funktion’s fifth album, Olympus.

Olympus.

Just like previous albums, Daniel Lantz wrote the fifteen songs that would eventually become Olympus. He would also arrange and co-produce Olympus with Mats Björke. This was a quite different from previous Beat Funktion albums.

It was the first time that Beat Funktion had been joined by guest artists. Rapper Damon Elliott was true to his word and features on King Minos. His rap compliments mid-tempo jazz-funk groove. Then South African soul singer delivers a soulful vocal tour de force on It’s About Time.  Meanwhile, Beat Funktion fuse funk, soul and jazz combine seamlessly. The third and final guest artist is Swedish pop singer Rebecca Laakso. She plays a starring role on Where’s The Sunshine? It’s a glorious fusion of disco, funk, jazz and soul. Without doubt it’s one of the highlights of Olympus. However, there’s more to the album than three tracks.

Game Of The Gods features Beat Funktion doing what they do best…jazz funk. This smoking slice of jazz-funk brings back memories of the genre’s glory days. Chimera sees the tempo drop and the horns play a starring role. Very different is Waters of Thessaly which is a quite beautiful, pastoral sounding track. It shows a very different side to Beat Funktion.

They return to their jazz-funk sound on Viper Lady and deliver a musical masterclass. Fallen Hero finds Beat Funktion head in the direction of fusion, as they continue to showcases their considerable talent and versatility. Then on Swords and Sandals jazz-funk and fusion combine head on. It proves a potent combination. Closing Olympus is Mount Olympus, an eleven minute epic. Elements of disco, funk, jazz and soul combine. Disco strings, keyboards and a soulful, diva-esque vocal combine to create a dance-floor friendly track. It ensures Olympus ends on a high.

When critics heard Olympus, they called the album Beat Funktion’s finest hour. They had reached new heights on what was a truly eclectic album where Beat Funktion showcase their talent and versatility. There was something that would appeal to all musical tastes on Olympus.

It was no surprise that when Olympus was released in the summer of 2015, the album entered US jazz charts at number two. In Canada, Olympus gave Beat Funktion another number one album in the jazz charts. Olympus went on to spend a total of sixteen weeks in the top forty of the Canadian charts. This was a remarkable achievement. So was being nominated for four prestigious awards back home in Sweden.

When the nomination for Scandinavian soul awards were announced, Beat Funktion had been nominated for the Best Album, Best Band and Best Newcomer. This was ironic considering Olympus was Beat Funktion’s fifth album. Daniel Lantz and Mats Björk were also nominated for the Best Producer award. All this was recognition of just how far Beat Funktion had come. They had released five albums in the last five years.

Green Man.

Soon, though, Beat Funktion began work on their sixth album, Green Man. This time, Beat Funktion’s songwriter-in-chief wrote  ten new tracks. They were recorded by Beat Funktion with a total of eight different vocalist.

This included Swedish-Russian jazz singer Viktoria Tolstoy; American jazz vocalist Alicia Olatuj; Swedish-Iranian pop diva  Jasmine Kara and Swedish singer Matilda Gratte. They were joined by Swedish hip hop and soul singer Adée and rapper Damon Elliott, who had featured on Olympus. The other guest artists were Swedish jazz and blues legend Claes Janson and African drummer Deodato Siquir. With eight different vocalists, this was the most ambitious Beat Funktion album that Daniel Lantz and Mats Björk would produce.

They were joined in the studio by Beat Funktion and their ever increasing circle of musical friends. Recording began in January 2016. As usual, Beat Funktion’s rhythm section featured drummer Jon Eriksson, bassist Pal Johnson and guitarist Johan Öijen. Joining them were the usual horn section of trumpeter Karl Olandersson and saxophonist Olle Thunst. Meanwhile, Daniel Lantz played piano and co-produced Green Man with Mats Björk. Once the album was completed in May 2016, it was ready for release.

Green Man was released in Sweden in late 2016. Just like previous albums, critical acclaim accompanied the album. It was without doubt, Beat Funktion’s best and most eclectic album yet.

Opening Green Man is Steampunch. A wah-wah guitar and percussion usher in the rhythm and horn sections. They’re augmented by keyboards as the rhythm section lock down the groove. Meanwhile, the horns take centre-stage and look like playing a starring role. However, Johan Öijen’s wah-wah guitar and Daniel Lantz’s organ are waiting in the wings. Both will enjoy their moment in the sun. In Daniel’s case, he unleashes a fleet fingered organ solo at 1.16. Behind him, the rhythm and horn sections, wah-wah guitar and percussion provide a funky backdrop. Later, guitarist Johan Öijen steps forward and plays a searing, rocky guitar solo. Already it’s apparent that Beat Funktion are a truly talented band on this über funky track.

Tomorrow is a fourteen minute epic, which features the first of the special guests, Viktoria Tolstoy and Afro. Straight away, Beat Funktion drop the tempo, and the rhythm section provide an understated backdrop. They’re joined by a keyboards, sultry saxophone, wah-wah guitar and Viktoria’s heartfelt, soulful vocal. Quivering strings are the perfect addition as the arrangement builds. So are Afro’s gospel tinged harmonies. They answer Viktoria’s call as Beat Funktion fuse elements of jazz and funk. Adding a tougher funky sound is a clavinet. It sits well in the mix. Later, when the vocal drops out, braying horns, harmonies and keyboards are augmented by lush stings as the arrangement flows along. When Viktoria returns, she combines power and passion as she delivers a hopeful, soulful vocal. Afro’s harmonies compliment her vocal on what’s a soulful Magnus Opus that’s reminiscent of Incognito in their prime.

A chiming, funky guitar opens In Love In Vain. Soon, it’s joined by the rhythm section, keyboards and the soulful sound of Alicia Olatuja. Braying horns are added, but take care not to overpower what’s a beautiful, emotive vocal. The horns fill the gaps left by the vocal and blaze above the arrangement. Later, though, the horn section get the opportunity to stretch their legs as Beat Funktion jam. They’re joined by the rhythm section, guitar, keyboards and percussion and seamlessly combine funk and jazz. At one point, the arrangement dissipates, then rebuilds and reintroduces Alicia’s vocal. Harmonies accompany  her vocal. It’s an emotion roller coaster, and is  a mixture of hope, joy and despair. Alicia lays bare her soul before this genre-melting track reaches its crescendo.

Paper Girl features Adee. Keyboards are joined by the percussion, rhythm section and horns. They usher in Addee’s heartfelt vocal. She’s accompanied by lush strings and sashaying horns. Briefly the tempo ebbs and flows and continues to do so. Meanwhile, Adee’s vocal veers between tender and heartfelt to sultry. Later, it seamlessly becomes a sassy rap . When it drops out, a sultry saxophone takes centre-stage. On Adee’s return, the arrangement sashays as she delivers a tender, heartfelt vocal. The addition of strings and funky guitar prove the perfect foil for Adee on this slick, hook-laden, radio friendly track.

Rewind sees the tempo drop as the rhythm section and keyboards combine with lush strings. They’re joined by a braying horn and chiming guitar. Together, they provide the perfect backdrop for jazz and blues legend Claes Janson. His lived-in vocal is perfect for the lyrics. He sounds as if he’s lived and survived them. Behind him, a bubbling bass, subtle braying horn, keyboards and quivering strings are added as funk and jazz combine. Layer, when Claes’ vocal drops out, the sultry saxophone proves a perfect replacement as Beat Funktion provide mid-tempo funky backdrop. Soon, the tempo drops again as the wistful horn sets the scene for Claes’ hopeful vocal. Meanwhile, one of the best arrangement is unfolding. Its late night sound proves the perfect backdrop for Claes’ beautiful, soul-baring vocal.

Beat Funktion showcases their versatility on Over The Ocean. It’s an uptempo track where  they fuse jazz-funk, soul and hip hop. Blazing horns combine with the rhythm section, percussion and keyboards. They’re joined by Swedish singer-songwriter Jasmine Kara and then rapper Damon Elliott. Both make a brief appearance before Jasmine adds a soulful, diva-esque vocal against a funky backdrop. When the tempo drops and the arrangement becomes understated Damon adds his rap. Soon, stabs of horns signal the return of Jasmine as she picks up where she left off. Behind her, Beat Funktion up the ante. Daniel adds a solo on his Hammond organ and Jasmine delivers a soulful vamps. She then answers Daniel Elliot’s call before unleashing a vocal powerhouse. In doing so, diva Jasmine Kara has stolen the show on Over The Ocean. She’s  without doubt, one of the stars of Green Man.

With its weeping, atmospheric introduction, Lorelei briefly sounds like John Martyn’s Solid Air. Even the early part of saxophone solo sounds similar. Where Lorelei differs is there’s no vocal and Beat Funktion use a piano, electric bass and jazz-tinged guitar. However, both tracks have much in common. Just like Sold Air, Lorelei has a beautiful, late night sound that shows yet another side to Beat Funktion.

Shivering strings are joined by Daniel’s piano on We Are You. Suddenly, the tempo increases and the arrangement becomes funky. This is the signal for Matilda Gratte’s vocal to enter. She’s accompanied by stabs of horns, dancing strings and the funky rhythm section. Then as  her vocal drops out, Daniel adds a futuristic synth solo, before Matilda scats. Soon, her vocal  veers between tender and thoughtful to sassy. By then, Beat Funktion have combined  funk, fusion, jazz and Philly Soul. There’s even a brief  symphonic sound. Later,  the guitar solo is reminiscent of Norman Harris of M.F.S.B. Meanwhile, Matilda vamps, the arrangement pauses and then rebuilds. Matilda vamps before unleashing  her vocal while disco strings and braying horns combine with the funky arrangement. They play their part in this impressive, genre-melting, dance-floor friendly track.

Closing Green Man is the title-track. It features Deodato Siquir. His scatted vocal is accompanied by stabs of horns, the rhythm section and the tough, edgy sound of a clavinet. Taking centre-stage is the braying saxophone. It’s accompanied by sooting, soulful harmonies  that soon, take on a  spiritual sound. Then  a stab of blazing horns signal the arrival of Deodato Siquir. His vocal has soulful quality that captivates. Especially when accompanied by the harmonies. Later, the vocal drops out Beat Funktion stretch their legs. As the guitar lays down a solo, harmonies augment it. Again, the horns signal the return of Deodato Siquir’s vocal. He’s joined by Beat Funktion and gospel-tinged harmonies.They prove the perfect foil for his vocal, and they drive each other to greater heights of soulfulness, This ensures that Green Man ends on a high. 

After ten genre-melting tracks Beat Funktion’s much anticipated sixth album is over. It was recorded and mixed between January and May 2016. During that period, Beat Funktion were joined by some of their musical friends. They came from home and abroad to play their part on Green Man. It’s without doubt the best album of Beat Funktion’s ten year career. They’ve come a long way since that first gig in the Swedish nightclub. Nowadays, Beat Funktion are one of Sweden’s most successful musical exports. That’s no surprise.

Seamlessly the multi-talented and versatile sextet switch between and combine musical genres. Although ostensibly a jazz-funk band, Beat Funktion combined elements of Afro-beat, disco, funk, fusion, jazz, pop and rock. Aided and abetted by some of their musical fiends,  Beat Funktion reach new musical heights on Green Man. It will be released by Do Music Records on 27th January 2017.

For newcomers to Beat Funktion,  Olympus and Green Man  are the perfect introduction to Beat Funktion’s irresistible, genre-melting sound. Especially Green Man, which is a career-defining album from Beat Funktion. Green Man is a delicious and moreish dish that once tasted, the listener will want to hear much more of.

BEAT FUNKTION-GREEN MAN.

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.

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