Since there’s currently no funk category in the Grammys, it’s time to step up with the ‘Funkys’ – FunkCity’s annual awards for funk in and out of Atlanta.

Funkiest Album – Snarky Puppy Culcha Vulcha

Culcha Vulcha is a continuation in the evolution of Snarky Puppy and a killer album from end to end. Tarova, opens with a drum role and Big Ugly ends with a crescendo.  Not to mention the bonus track Jefe which doesn’t appear on the physical CD.  The pups meld multiple musical styles, as usual, ranging from South American melodies on Semente to down tempo grooves like Gemini.  The addition of Zack Brock on electric violin and the more prevalent flute on a number of tunes captures much of the orchestral sound of the prior album, Sylva, in a more stripped down way.  The album is Grammy nominated for the Best Contemporary Instrumental which I feel is a lock but nevertheless, it’s the first Funky Album of the Year!

 Funkiest Album, Small Combo – The New Mastersounds The Nashville Session

Big sound, small combo almost defines The New Mastersounds.  Straight out of Leeds, England they always bring freshness to their retro funk albums and The Nashville Session is no different.  Check out FunkCity’s full album review here for the breakdown of this collection. Congrats to NMS!

Funkiest Venue – Terminal West

This venue is frequently heralded as one of the best music venues in Atlanta and continues to bring top notch funk to the city throughout the year.  Some of the highlights include Moe. (January), The Werks + Consider the Source (March), Siser Sparrow and the Dirty Birds (March). The Motet + Rubblebucket + Super Yamba Band(Outerspace Project in June), Earphunk (one of their final shows in September), The New Mastersounds + Turkuaz (December), Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe with Jimmy Herring (December), Dopapod + Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (December).  And this is only a partial list of the shows that I attended!  Amazing and can’t wait to continue the adventure this year.  Hats off to TW for Funky Venue of the year!

Funkiest Small Venue – Aisle 5

Aisle 5 has firmly established itself as TW’s little brother (or sister).  It was the first place I saw Kamasi Washington (in 2015) and to this day that was literally the hottest show I’ve seen there.  In 2016, it picked up artists that previously had headlined at Terminal West including The Nth Power and Consider The Source (November).  Other standout shows included Sidewalk Chalk (January), Kung Fu + Naughty Professor (April), The Nth Power and The Fritz (April),  The Fritz (again in July), Dynamo (September), The Hip Abduction (October) and perhaps the best show of the year at the venue, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra in November.  The Jonathan Scales show featured Weedie Braimah (The Nth Power), Robert ‘Sput’ Searight (Snarky Puppy) and MonoNeon (Prince) and was unbelievably high energy.  Thanks to the whole A5 team for a memorable year!

Funkiest Festival – Live From The Lot, Ardmore Music Hall

The AMH is Philly’s version of Terminal West at the size of Aisle 5 and yet they put on a two day festival that was second to none.  Top to bottom it was nothing but the funk – Snarky Puppy (2x), The Greyboy Allstars, Soulive and Friends, The Revivalists, Foundation of Funk, Electron, Marco Benevento, Charlie Hunter, Pimps of Joytime, Swift Technique and more!.  To top it off, when rain threatened Day 1 of the festival, they moved the whole thing inside to the Electric Factory on 48 hours notice and pulled it off without a hitch!  Holy Funk – what an achievement.  Looking forward to seeing the lineup soon for 2017!

Funkiest Large Festival – Hulaween 2016

After the Bear Creek Music Festival folded in 2014, many funkateers turned to Hulaween for a fall festival and it hasn’t disappointed.  While not strictly a funk festival, the middle of the lineup features enough funk to keep any fan satisfied and 2016 was no exception featuring Snarky Puppy, Lettuce, The Fritz, The Motet, Big Gigantic, STS9, and Ajeva among others.  Keep the funk alive in 2017!

Funkiest New Artists (tie)  – Brass-A-Holics and  Naughty Professor

Perhaps the toughest category based on the great sounds of both these bands.  Technically, neither is a “new” artist since they’ve been bouncing around for a few years but since we decide who’s in, we’ll add both.  Coincidentally, Brass-A-Holics and  Naughty Professor are both from New Orleans and both are issuing new albums in the next few months.  I caught the Brass-A-Holics  once in NOLA and again in ATL and each time they blew me away.  Their mix of original and cover songs are a non-stop high energy dance party. It seems natural that their new album ‘#WordOnTheStreet‘ will be a live recording from the House of Blues New Orleans on February 3rd.

Naughty Professor was described to me by a showgoer this year as a cross between Snarky Puppy and Galactic which is a high compliment but these young lions deserve credit in their own right for making some extra greasy and heavy horn licks.  Perhaps more than any jazz-funk group, Naughty Professor is horns first with three of the six musicians blasting the funk.  When the group played a Snarky Puppy after party on the roof of the Georgia Theater, my friend Mark Cavanaugh remarked how impressed the Snarky guys were in the licks that Naughty Professor was laying down.  Naughty Professor’s new album will feature guest singers on most or all of the tunes.  You can check out the first release, with David Shaw of The Revivalists here – Stray.

Funkiest Leap Forward – Kamasi Washington

How many artists can record 3-CDs for their initial release and call it “The Epic“?  Kamasi Washington burst on the scene in 2015 and played Aisle 5 (capacity ~300) and then leapfrogged several steps to play the Variety Playhouse (capacity ~1100) in early 2016. Kamasi offers fresh perspective on traditional jazz and his tunes often connect on a spiritual level.  Expect his star to rise even further in 2017 starting with two performances on Jam Cruise. Check out a live recording of The Rhythm Changes.

Funkiest Surprise – Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk Chalk on Ropeadope Records mixes jazz, soul and hip-hop  which makes them a funky surprise.  Their show at Aisle 5 in January kicked off the year right.  The balance between the spoken hip-hop vocals and sung soul lyrics coupled with the horn section was a powerful combination.  Looking forward to the next trip down south for this Chicago based group.

Funkiest “Under the Radar” Band – Dynamo

Dynamo is a Nashville-based jazz and funk band blending in elements of soul.  The band tends to emulate Snarky Puppy, but with vocals and has both composed and improvised music with catchy hooks and  uplifting lyrics.  They  came through Atlanta 3 or 4 times in 2016 and looking  forward to catching them again this year.  Here’s a taste of Dynamo in Find Your Way.

Funkiest City to See Live Music – Atlanta, “FunkCity”.

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