Butcher Brown is a quintet out of Richmond, VA playing a mix of jazz, funk and hip/hop, although their music is not easy to characterize nor should it be. The group’s been around since the early 2010s but only recently has begun more broad national touring. They recall some of the great fusion bands of the 70s including Weather Report and Return to Forever as well as some great individual players like Ronnie Laws, who they cover on this album with “Tidal Wave.”
I’ve seen them live four times although I barely remember the first time when they opened for Kamasi Washington at Atlanta’s Buckhead Theatre in 2018. More recently, I’ve seen them three times in the last year or so, first opening for Lettuce in the Caverns in September 2019 and then two nights opening for The Motet at Terminal West in January 2020. These most recent shows made a big impact on me and I realized that they were a band that I would be catching every time they come to town.
At those shows this year, Butcher Brown previewed a number of the songs from their recent release #KingButch and it was clear that this was going to be an outstanding album. I’m happy to preview the album for you here and give my impressions track-by-track.
Fonkadelic is a short intro homage to Parliament-Funkadelic with the deep base and woo-woo-woo chorus and serves as a lead in to the title track. Like many fans, I’d welcome an extended version of this live or on a future release.
#KingButch starts with a chill, keys/guitar jazz groove before the hip hop vocals come in with and it’s a stark contrast to the music. It’s a rallying cry for the band to create and hit hard in the studio, with a hook like “You know we Butcher Brown and we finna turn it out.” It’s another short one but a cool booked for “Fonkadelic.”
Broad Rock kicks off with some funky guitar licks before Marcus Tenney comes in with some muted trumpet grooves. Then he chips in also on the tenor and plays off well against the trumpet track. The break has some mellow keys work right to the end.
Cabbage (DFC) starts with a Garibaldi-Prestia/Tower of Power like opening rhythm sequence joined quickly by and Earth, Wind and Fire sounding horn riff. The bridge has a dreamy keys echo solo that takes over the rest of the tune. Sounds a bit like Ramsey Lewis – it’s cohesive but has a different feel first half to second.
Gum In My Mouth starts with a few bossa nova bars before hitting with some hip-hop lyrics again and it’s a potent combo. It reminds me a little of the Harlem River Drive melody from Bobbi Humphrey but with spoked word as the synth hits a sire-like pitch.
Frontline (intro and main tune) is comprised of two tracks on the album starting with a string sounding synth and bass pairing (intro) and continuing as a bass lead track. It rolls into another relaxing rhythm start before the sultry tenor line comes in. It’s tone brings back memories of the 80s Wilton Felder of The Crusaders. About two-thirds through the synth comes along for the ride with the sax and ultimately takes over with a more frenetic section. Then the ending is a much subdued sax ride out.
1992 starts with a nicely spaced piano and pulsing bass line and perhaps is the most danceable tune on the album. Midway through it hits with some great synth + cowbell over the rhythm and then fades out with that line.
Love Lock is the infectious original tune I remember most from the live shows. The head is so locked in and memorable and the tempo changes make this one I listen to over and over. The bridge is a nice trippy interlude before going back to the main theme which gets picked up by a fine guitar shred from Morgan Burrs as the fade out.
Hopscotch is another short one with some hip hops sounds like we’re rolling on NYC subway with a whole lot of flow and energy. The sax solo ride out is terrific and another one that I’d love to see extended live.
Tidal Wave is my favorite track on the album, if for no other reason that it covers Ronnie Laws, one of my favorite sax players and BB executes it perfectly. Marcus nails the tenor sax lead and the super laid back synth work sets the mood. The sax only close is gorgeous. Seeing this live brought back so many great memories.
For The City (featuring Fly Anakin) is a straight up hip-hop tune featuring Fly and it’s flowing with all the right city feels. It’s got an edgy anthem-like feel. The combo of BB and Fly is strong and a great album finale.
#KingButch showcases the versatility of the band and pays homage to great hip-hop and jazz artists of the past while carving out its own path forward. My appreciation for Butcher Brown grows with every listen and live show and I can’t wait for all of us to get out there together again. You can purchase #KingButch on BandCamp by clicking on the link to the right.
Marcus Tenney, trumpet, tenor saxophone
Devonne Harris, keyboards
Corey Fonville, drums
Morgan Burrs, guitar
Andrew Randazzo, bass