Turkuaz’s Galaxy of Funk Hits Higher Ground
By John Mikeska – Photos by Joe Schlee
When the headline act took the stage on 9/25/15 they didn’t ask politely for the attention of the audience. Instead, Turkuaz grabbed the sold-out crowd by the collar and commanded it. A nine-piece (occasionally twelve-piece) collection of musicians that’s more like an artfully designed groove conglomerate than anything that comes to mind when the word “band” gets tossed around nowadays.
They treated the audience to an 18-song set, stacked with original material. The ‘Kuaz came out of the gate with “Gremlins”; a definite party starter from one of their earlier albums, Zerbert. A pair tracks from the more recent Future 86 marked the decent into the funky depths of the first set. After the eclectic grooves and strong vocals of “Bubba Slide”, “Future 86” offered a sultry rendition of this soulful tune. Complete with an eased-back, bluesy inflected instrumental passage punctuated by horn blasts and vocal harmonies.
The first track of the night from their new album, “The Generator”, sounds like it could have come straight from the mind of Quincy Jones during the 80’s, Michael Jackson era. The intriguingly creative music video that supports this track is an entertaining example of something the “decade that must not be named” actually got right.
The first set took off with a couple tunes from their 2013 self-titled release. “Coast To Coast” dug into ragin’ horn solo’s that seemed to push the ever-charging groove to new and unexpected heights. “20 Dollar Bill” kept it going with sax/trumpet interplay that was nothing short of mesmerizing.
A personal favorite, “Tiptoe Through The Crypto” is yet another example of the seemingly endless well of funktastic stylings that Turkuaz draws from. A powerful song with a loose groove that crescendo’s to voracious vocals.
“Lookin’ Tough, Feelin’ Good” featured chewy mu-tron tones in an up-tempo jazz/funk setting as infectious horn blasts cleared the way for deep, expansive improvisation that got more than a little weird before coming back to Earth for the evening’s final selection.
A true brow-furrowing lip curler, “Monkey Fingers” is a throwdown jam that ended the show on a high note.
For the Brooklyn-based funk powerhouse, the de facto bandleader of the group is more of an archetypal role than a singular individual. Different musicians, vocalists, sections, or soloists may rise up and fill this role. The amount of talent on stage is (in a word) overwhelming. A trumpet rips through composed sections and improvised lines while simultaneously laying down accompaniment on organ as the low-end squelches of a baritone sax add a favorable amount of filth to the mix. Tied up nicely with the melodic stylings of a second-sax; the horn-section is a force to be reckoned with in-and-of-itself.
Throughout their rise to power, Turkuaz managed to carve out a comfort-zone sizably comparable to a galaxy within the funk cosmos. There’s simply nowhere they can’t turn, seemingly at astronomical speeds, in any direction with gospel-grade vocals in full searing vibrato…
It all makes up for a unique brand of celebration that teeters on the edge of mayhem.
Their onstage-dynamic is essential to the polarized decent from bombastic breakdowns to greasy groove’s that they pull off so well. This sixth-sense level of communication allows Turkuaz to transcend the boundaries of space and time while they navigate through a universe of precise arrangements and inspired passages.
Turkuaz draws from an immensely deep well of influences. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of their performance is how they manage to bring high-brow, polished material to the stage and make it all so accessible. The sheer infectious nature of their performance yields compulsory “get-down-on-it” reactions (see “Lookin’ Tough Feelin’ Good). The extent of which I haven’t seen at Higher Ground since I-don’t-know-when.
Before setting their sights on S. Burlington’s finest, and ultimately laying waste to the venue and annihilating all of it’s inhabitants; these comrades of carnage have been hard at work in the studio on their latest album Digitonium. “Expected Oct. 2” according to itunes, this album is to sure to provide an absolute triumphant testament to the continued success and audience response that this tried-and-true outfit deserves.
They bring an original brand of authenticity that’s steeped in Crescent City soul and hung-out to dry in it’s Windy counterpart. That is to say, a sense of mileage without the expense of pretension that infects the music scenes surrounding some of the aforementioned source material.Undoubtedly one of the more difficult aspects to round off when addressing the Americana songbook of jazz, funk, blues, rock, r&b, soul. Turkuaz pulls it off with a commanding confidence that allows the audience to connect with deep-rooted material in creative and inspired capacities. Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived at the sublime. The Renaissance of Rage! is upon us and Turkuaz is leading the way.