Soul Music. For people like me, it's food for the spirit.
This past Thursday night at the Bowery Ballroom in downtown Manhattan, Lee Fields and The Expressions had their sold out record release party for Emma Jean (which you can listen to right here on Zumic). It was a excellent hometown show, getting the band ready for their European tour which kicks off tonight in London. Check out the Zumic review of the evening, below.
Opening Band: Ikebe Shakedown
The opening band, Ikebe Shakedown, set the tone for a fantastic night of music. Like Lee Fields and The Expressions, Ikebe Shakedown is a New York City-based band that brings their own brand of soulful music to the table. More specifically, they play funky afro-beat jazz - with rock sensibilities.
What strikes me about Ikebe Shakedown is that all 7 members of the band come together with such effortless precision. Rhythmically, they are completely on point. Drummer Barnaby Alter and percussionist Dave Bourla know exactly how to play off one another, setting a solid rhythmic foundation that leaves room for the other band members. Bassist Vince Chiarito is a master of the style, laying down fat bass lines that give the tunes movement without overplaying.
Guitarist Robin Schmidt could be called the wild card of the group, as he showed incredible versatility floating between rhythmic and melodic playing. The horn section of Mike Buckley, Jason Colby, and Nadav Nirenberg bring jazz chops to the table, playing lead after lead without ever sounding boring or self-indulgent. Personally, I loved how each band member had room to move around with freedom yet they all came together into such a singular and cohesive sound.
Through the set, the guys in the band were shuffling their feet back and forth. The music is irresistibly danceable, and the crowd was loving it. Listen to Ikebe Shakedown's 2014 album Stone By Stone right here on Zumic.
Headliners: Lee Fields and The Expressions
As you can tell from my choice to use black-and-white pictures here, this was an evening of classic music. Some people might say that old school rhythm-and-blues and soul music are old-fashioned. To me, real soul music is timeless and should never go out of style. There's a reason that songs by James Brown, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye are played on the radio and still sound fresh decades after they were first released.
Lee Fields and The Expressions use that formula, but have a style of their own. Their songs are delicate and intricate, but also muscular. It's this duality between the sensitive and the powerful that make the band so special. Another thing that makes the band special is the vocal harmonies that call all the way back to the days of doo-wop.
The new Emma Jean songs made up the bulk of the set, as you'd expect of a record release party. The Expressions were grooving hard, and the crowd was fully immersed in the music. Layers of instrumentation locked in beautifully and organically. People were swaying back and forth, shuffling their feet, and strangers were even holding each other dancing to the sublime sounds coming from the stage. Lee Fields has become expert at knowing when to bust out his dance moves to push the energy to another level. He patrolled the stage like the veteran he is, keeping everyone involved and captivated.
Toward the end of the show, Lee busted out fan favorites like "You're The Kind Of Girl," "Faithful Man," and "Money I$ King" (that seemed to tease James Brown's "Licking Stick"). Before the encore, Lee told the crowd, "This is my mamma's night," in tribute to his mother Emma Jean, before doing a gorgeous version of "Honey Dove" complete with a call-and-response from the crowd. It was soul satisfaction of the highest order.
For more on Lee Fields, including his latest music, news, and tour dates, check out his Zumic artist page.
All photos by Brad Bershad