Endurance by SounDoctrine – reviewed by Chris Mann



Elsewhere on this site you can read my review of the first album Perseverance by purveyors of “alternative Christian funk” SounDoctrine.  Since I wrote that review, the band, now built around the core of bandleader/drummer Jere B, bassist Phil the Beat and keys man Jim Couchenour has been touring, writing, recording and promoting itself very actively.  I heard mixes of some of these songs last year and was very keen to hear the finished article…


Once Upon a Groove delivers what its title suggests: a heavy groove that meanders into great tenor sax solos and piano. Rimshots keep it ticking.  The piano solo has a Tom Schuman-type intensity.  There’s some pretty fierce rock guitar in there too.  Kickin’ Stick Opens with sound effects, rimshots and Phil the Beat’s funky, tight bass. The keyboard solo on this song is pure jazz-rock and then the song opens out to a reggae-fied groove with a double-tracked sax that sounds great.  The jazz-rock guitar blazes in and it’s all over DeWayne McKnight and the Headhunters.


Small Mouth Bass (I love that title) is very catchy and is really the “money song” with the soprano sax of Keith McKelly carrying the pretty melody.  In all, the arrangement of this song is superb with bass following the keyboard lines and sax lines alternately.  Jere B’s drumming is rock-solid as ever.  Though the song would be complete without it, the rock guitar sound reappears.  The sax is to the fore again on the crisp and funky Really Cool. Jere B is on the beat and off the beat in just the way I like a jazz-funk drummer to be. Seems like Billy Cobham must have a fan in this corner of Ohio.  I’d love to hear Phil the beat pull off a live bass solo, because the one here is nice ‘n’ crazy.


Hermeneutics is a blazing jazz-rock workout with lots of cross-rhythms.  There’s some heavy vamping at the end of the song and the rock guitar gets even heavier.  The epic 13-minute Soul Song opens with a very new-agey synth backdrop.  It benefits from really nice horn lines and a lovely piano solo.  The rock guitar cranks up the intensity halfway through the song à la Isley Brothers.  The whole song just washes over me and it’s hard to pick out my favourite section.


Blues Crossing has much of the attitude of a good David Sanborn tune.  Phil’s bass is funky and that tenor sax growls on the intro.  This one has some swinging piano and it really stomps along.  I love it when Paul Douds goes all “Larry Carlton” on us.  This song goes through several changes and you’ll have to work hard to keep up.  The Legend of Phil the Beat lets Phil show his chops on this frenetic samba number.  Mind you, the horns are turned loose too – remember how the Brecker Brothers sounded on Billy Cobham’s “Funky Thide of Sings”?  In fact, this jam gives everyone the chance to fly.  There’s Santana-like fire on guitar and the whole song is driven by Jere B’s powerhouse drumming.  It’s joyous and it will leave you breathless.  Check the percussion breakdown.


The gentle keyboards and alto sax on Sacrifice make a nice contrast to the previous number and this song is, to my mind, strong enough melodically to get lots of airplay.  It’s very classy with a strong funky break in the middle.  Keith McKelly is blowing with a spiritual intensity that immediately makes me think of Kirk Whalum.  Doud’s acoustic sound is very appealing and I’d be happy to hear more of this.  There’s a great bounce in Chi Tea.  Jere’s rimshot and kickdrum back ‘n forth has a cool, jazzy, hip-hop feel and the soprano sax doubles sweetly with a muted trumpet sample on this funky dancer.  Douds brings yet another guitar sound to the party – this time it’s a warm semi-acoustic sound that deserves to be heard more as a lead voice.  This would make a great opener to a live show: enough groove to get your head nodding but it leaves you with enough energy for the funk that follows.


I get my wish on Five After Six because I hear that mellow guitar again.  It winds around some smooth alto sax, cool keyboard fills and Jere’s trademark crisp rimshots.  There are a couple of changes of tempo in the song and in a way that’s a pity because once the ‘blowing’ section gets going, this is one hypnotic tune.  How grand is the intro to Boyz in the Wood?  That piano is very expressive and it overlays the strutting rhythm in a Joe Sample style.  The alto sax and piano really divide the melody beautifully on this lovely song.  There’s an elegant false ending and then these boys vamp out.


Two things strike me immediately when I compare Endurance to Perseverance: firstly the way that SounDoctrine has moved away from vocal numbers and secondly the presence of a very prominent guitar sound from guest Paul Douds.  Both factors tend to reduce the gospel feel on the new set as the band casts its net wider to embrace the jazz and funk crowds.  So, while the music on this CD is highly enjoyable, it’s not as thought-provoking as some of the songs on Perseverance.


What’s also obvious to me, because I’m lucky enough to be able to compare the earlier takes of some songs with the finished versions here, is the way that SounDoctrine have sussed how to combine the energy of their live performances with strong production values and great musicianship.


I’m hoping that the next release will keep the classy horn, keyboard and guitar sounds we’ve heard here, combine them with some songs that people can sing/hum (like the wonderful “Bloodline” from their first CD) and relate to – and, oh guys, don’t forget to bring the FUNK!


I’m writing this in the week following Washington DC’s Capital JazzFest 2006 where, by all accounts, Jere and the boys gave some Washingtonians their first taste of alternative Christian funk.  Wish I’d been there…







Niayana Recordings – CD7001a   Producer – Jere B, Associate Producers – Jim Couchenour and Phil the Beat