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The idea for the ‘Big Funk Band’ record was to augment the Funkestra rhythm section with a massive horn section and the sound of a classic Big Band horn section of 13 horns (4 trumpets, 5 saxophones, 4 trombones) .
Over the years ensembles from the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and the US have performed some of the Funkestra Big Band arrangements. We also performed the music with large ensembles with the Royal Northern College of Music Session Orchestra and the Upper Austrian Funkestra – always fantastically good fun!
The Big Band or large ensemble arrangements (Big Band horn section, string section and rhythm section) have been created from existing tunes from records like ‘The Cooker’ or ‘The Time Thief’ – generally with a five piece horn section (2 trumpets, 2 saxes, 1 trombone).
I thought it would be fun to embark on a project which integrates a classic Big Band horn section from the start.
An additional idea came from Mike Sturgis, long time standing Funkestra drummer and ally – after we’ve featured several fantastic saxophone players on ‘The Time Thief’ (some of them were Mike’s student pals at the University of Miami) – the idea was to feature a few guest drummers in addition of the Big Band horns approach. These are Stanton Moore (Galactic), Keith Carlock (Steely Dan), Benny Greb, Francesco Mendiola (Incognito) and of course Mike Sturgis himself. This leads me to one other drummer – on ‘Funkberater’ I thought it would be fantastic to feature two drummers (yes, really!) and it was an obvious choice to ask Josef Hinterhoelzl (AKA Joe Backwood) from our Austrian joint band Backwood Five to do us the honor!
It was great fun to conceptualize two drum parts which complement each other rather than ‘bashing away’ on the same part – I think this really worked thanks to Mike’s and Jo’s performance – recording together at Masterlink Studios – my go-to studio.
In a way the two parts complement each other so well that it is almost hard to hear that there are two drummers. Would love to perform this live – what a spectacle it would be! Let me know if you’d like to see the drum scores, or indeed, the whole arrangement (full score and individual parts).
At this point I also would like to thank Richard Brook who has contributed some of his fabulous drums to the session – top man and thank you!
Keeping on the idea of the ‘Big Funk Band’ I continued to record the rhythm section with two guitars and two keyboards – again it was an obvious choice to pick both guitarists and keyboarders from Backwood Five. We mostly play as a five piece but as all involved have busy schedules both the keyboard and guitar chair have more or less rotating members. These are original BW5 guitarist Paul Slaviczek (very busy with his band Folkshilfe) and Johnny Sommerer (also great pop producer), Oliver Kerschbaumer (original member, big Funk lover, Hammond organ player and producer) as well as Martin Gasselsberger (a man with monstrous ears, Rhodes and piano player with a penchant for the jazzier side of things) – all brilliant and all agreeable to play on ‘Funkberater’. #grateful
Paul, Johnny and myself also have a long-standing ‘argument’ of their use of the Kemper modelling guitar amps. Being willing to give them a try – I can see their merit but would say I still prefer a Fender Princeton or Blues Champ with a mic in front of it:-) Nonetheless – their performances are great and complement each other well.
Oliver and Martin complement each other equally well and whilst Ollie laid down the Hammond and some mono-synth parts, Martin was playing Rhodes. A lush combination of instruments/sounds and players in my book.
When it came to record the 13 horn parts Andi See was certainly the ringleader of helping me to put the players together. Andi also played the short tenor sax solo after the first chorus which I absolutely love. This is actually an ongoing topic of amusement between the two of us. The solo is a first take and Andi always considered it to be a ‘scratch pad’ or ‘brain storming idea’ type solo. Me on the other hand totally enjoyed the subconscious mastery of it – he just laid it down without thinking of it – and it totally works for me! Would be interesting to get your thoughts too!
We recorded Josef, Gerd, Andi and Andi in his studio in Upper Austria and I – to my surprise – ended up running Logic for the session – oh dear! I had to unravel the mess I created in my studio – their playing was brilliant as you can hear.
Over the years I’ve concluded that two trumpet player and one trombonist can go a far way to make the parts of a Big Band horn arrangement sound complete. However, the five ‘traditional’ saxophone parts (2 altos, 2 tenors, 1 bari) are, to my ears, less forgiving. Andi did the best job in changing reeds, saxophones, microphones and even mic positions. Ultimately I’ve missed the richness of a section of five players who all have a different sound, overtones, etc. However, it is pretty hard to get that many players together so I thought a total of two saxophones will already make a big change. Piers Green, regular sax player of the Funkestra agreed to play one alto and one tenor saxophone part and it worked like a dream – this is what you hear on the record, i.e. a five piece horn section. A thing of beauty!
The icing on the cake was to record our long-standing friend, musical ally and master percussionist Karl Vanden Bossche who added yet another rhythmic dimension to the double drum session. Always a pleasure to record Karl and a good hang.
All the basses – electric bass guitar, bass synths and other strange sounds (like the ‘fake’ vocoder) were thrown in the mix by myself and it amused me greatly to sing ‘Fragen Sie Ihren Funkberater’. In Austria this used to be a slogan for company which sold television and radios as far as I remember.
‘Funk’ in Austria is short for ‘Rundfunk’ – basically ‘radio’ or ‘broadcast’. So a ‘Funk Haus’ is not a house in which there is Funk (music) but simply a radio station. However my ‘Funkhaus’ in England is indeed a house in which ‘Funk’ music is recorded. A little linguistic joke which keeps me amused:-)
All in all I’m very pleased how ‘Funkberater’ turned out – although it has a Big Band angle, it doesn’t sound anything like traditional Big Band music and also doesn’t follow the ‘head – solos – head’ structure. Instead it is based on the idea of a ‘chorus’ riff and verse with some additional sections. Also, there is only one short solo over the verse, rather than a long ‘blowing’ section. Not sure if I have become to technical with this explanation, however, I do hope that you will enjoy this piece of music which I’m really happy about. Thank you all and of course in particular my Austrian friends from Backwood Five, being the featured artists.
Josef ‘Pepi’ Burchartz (trumpet)
Gerd Rahsdorfer (trumpet)
Andreas See (alto, tenor & bari saxophone)
Piers Green (alto, tenor saxophone)
Herman Mayr (tenor & bass trombone)
Johnny Sommerer (guitar)
Paul Slaviczek (guitar)
Oliver Kerschbaumer (Hammond, synth)
Martin Gasselsberger (Rhodes)
Karl Vanden Bossche (percussion)
Mike Sturgis (drums)
Josef ‘Joe Backwood’ Hinterhoelzl (drums)
Stefan Redtenbacher (bass)
Written, arranged and produced by Stefan Redtenbacher
Published by Hypenstein Publishing (ASCAP)
Released on RSB Records (RSB 73708)
Drums recorded by James Welch at Masterlink Productions
Mixed and mastered by Rupert Christie
Graphic Illustration by Stefan Redtenbacher