Soul, Man! Meet Memphis’ City Champs

 

 

New record en route to show all
you soul/jazz headz how it’s REALLY done. Guests include cats from the Funk
Brothers and the Bo-Keys as well as percussionist Felix Hernandez.

 

By Blurt
Staff

 

Memphis soul/jazz organ trio The City Champs
drop the follow up to their acclaimed debut album, The Safecracker on
Nov. 2 via Electrophonic. Titled The Set-Up, it finds the group stretching out,
adding Latin jazz, psychedelia and 60’s film score influences to their
established Booker T. and the MGs meets Blue Note/Prestige Records sound.

 

The City Champs feature three of Memphis’ top musicians:
Guitarist Joe Restivo, organist Al Gamble and drummer George
Sluppick.   Their resumes include studio recordings and live dates
with artists such as Rufus Thomas, Alex Chilton, JJ Grey and MOFRO, William
Bell, Syl Johnson and the Memphis Horns. Augmenting the City Champs trio sound on The Set-Up is renowned Motown Funk Brother  Jack Ashford on tambourine, The Bo-Keys
horn men (Marc Franklin, Jim Spake and Kirk Smothers), Latin percussionist
Felix Hernandez and Bo-Keys bassist and The Set-Up’s producer, Scott Bomar.

 

The album’s highlights include the
title track, “The Set-Up” which features nice call and response musical interplay
between guitarist Restivo, organist Gamble and the propulsive solid, funky
drumming which is drummer Sluppick’s trademark.  The overall result
encapsulates the Champs sound: Think The Meters and Booker T. playing a 60s
film theme on a session at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio for a Blue Note or Prestige
Records release. “Ricky’s Rant” features a strong, haunting melodic theme and a
razor sharp performance from the group, best demonstrating how the group has
evolved in the instrumental idiom, building upon classic influences and
creating music which is contemporary, modern and fresh. The tracks “Crump
St.” and “Local Jones” play like classic Stax/Hi Records/American Studios sides
and showcase their Memphis roots, adding a tasteful dash of horns arranged by
The Bo-Keys horn section leader, Marc Franklin. The Champs take on RJD2’s track “A Beautiful Mine”,
(well known as the theme song Mad Men), bringing a 60s Latin
Jazz/Boogaloo arrangement to the tune that represents its most dance floor
worthy interpretation yet. “Drippy”, “Rigamarole” and “Break It Up” are
snapshots of the group’s early career, playing after hours in the Memphis nautical-themed
nightclub, The Buccaneer.   These tracks come from a 60s Soul/Jazz,
Jack McDuff, Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson,
Jimmy McGriff bag and will feel very familiar with fans of their first album, The
Safecracker
.

 

Since the
release of their first album, the group has toured the US with The
North Mississippi Allstars and performed shows with bassist Robert Mecurio from
Galactic.   The group has also had their music featured in the Emmy
Award winning documentary, I Am a Man: From Memphis a Lesson in Life and
the MTV series, $5 Cover. They’re
doing a string of pre-release southeastern dates this week and next so don’t
miss ‘em now, or later on this year when they mount a full U.S. tour.

 

 

Oct. 21 – Five Spot, Atlanta

Oct. 22 – Mellow Mushroom, Asheville

Oct. 23 – The Basement, Nashville

Oct. 29 – The Buccaneer, Memphis

 

 

 

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