You can find out about this 5-piece, Ohio-based ‘funky jazz collective’ on their website. I can tell you that ‘A Beautiful Bang’ is fo/mo/deep’s second album (after ‘Eclecticism’) and, well, let’s get right into it…

I’m a fan of funky jazz collectives, such as Incognito and Down to the Bone and I’m already placing FMD squarely in that bracket when I hear the bass-driven groove of the opener ‘Jawjacka’ (love that title). This instrumental focuses on the funk and has some nice key changes. Keith Newton’s tenor sax is well up in the mix and sounds really strong. The whole song reminds me of Paz at their best. That same sax tone pervades on the sexy ‘Martini Blues’, which slows the pace right down and allows you to enjoy the flavour of Kevin Jones’ old-school electric piano. I’m drawn in already.

FMD’s take on Bobby Hutcherson’s ‘Montara’ has that deeply urban jazzy vibe that I’ve loved for so long in Incognito’s music. From the first few bars, I know I’ll be playing this for years. Ron Holmes’ sinewy bassline teams perfectly with André Scott’s crisp snare and underpins this gorgeous mid-tempo instrumental all the way. Over headphones especially, Kevin Pouncey’s percussion really adds a layer of style to this song. Fatkat’s fretless bass solo sure does it for me! On ‘Mama Said, Mama Said’ the only word you need to remember is funk. Some nice rhythm guitar gets poured over the already tight rhythm section. The organ solo on here is straight out of the 1970’s – where I live that’s a great thing!

The fretless bass solo that starts ‘Da Ba Di Do (Sonrisa de Zoe)’ took me by surprise but I was pleased to hear it build into a nicely offbeat, almost Latin instrumental with some nicely zany background vocals and percussion. Makes me smile each time I play it. The title track has, in contrast, almost an African feel to it, with some great backbeats and lively percussion touches. The horn arrangement is particularly worth mention, as is the funky breakdown which must work great live!

Let your hips move to the slinky reggae wiggle that is ‘Red Clay’. It’s a Freddie Hubbard composition and I’ve never heard the original – I don’t care because this has flavour, then more flavour, and then just a little more… Where is the album’s big ballad? It’s right here in ‘The Wanting’, which brings a complete change of tempo from all that’s gone before and allows soprano sax acoustic piano to weave a melody together that will really stick in your head. This is modern instrumental soul on a par with Brian Culbertson, Marcus Johnson or Marion Meadows. Fabulous!

Keith Newton’s hits – and holds – an impossibly high note on soprano sax to kick off a slippery version of Fela Kuti’s ‘Gentleman’. It it weren’t for the cleanliness of the production, you’d swear this had been recorded back in the day. The groove is repetitive and hypnotic and really gets under your skin. As you’d expect from Fela Kuti, the song has a message – and it comes across loud and clear! Holmes goes nice and low – ah yes, a 6-string bass gives away the fact that this funk is now!! This band can write – and play – the blues and they let you hear it to great effect on the sax-led ‘My Baby Gots’ the Blues, Blues’. It’s a classic – well, it’s going to be.

Talking of classics, John Coltrane’s lovely ‘Naima’ has been interpreted by many artists and this grand treatment is my favourite from the versions I’ve heard – and they include those by Gene Harris and Tom Browne. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: we have piano and tenor sax and that’s all we need for a gorgeous piece of real jazz. This isn’t a cover version – it’s a homage. When you read a title like ‘A Plethora of Pleasant Thoughts’ you expect the musical equivalent of your favourite comfort food – well I do. And here it is, with its Latin sway and soothing percussion. Fans of Mongo Santamaria and Dave Valentin, you won’t be disappointed with this one. ¡Sabroso! The sombre closer ‘The Road’ has a lovely ‘live’ feel, coming mostly from the way the drum track is recorded. The sax, piano and background vocals all share a 70’s, almost Blue Note-style, soulfulness. Hard to describe that I mean by that – you really need to hear this record anyway.

In the years that I’ve been writing about music, it’s always been a pleasure to hear the latest release from my favourite artists. It’s a real joy though to hear music this good from a band I just discovered. The writing, performing and producing talent on display here is really dazzling, but what I like most is the honest, funky nature of a band that knows where its roots lay, what it does well and what its audiences are going to love.



RH Media 002. Producer – Ron ‘Fatkat’ Holmes

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