“This album definitely stretches the boundaries,” says chief composer and percussionist Deitch of New York funk sextet Lettuce, before pretty much summing up the album succinctly, saying “The idea was to keep exploring the different areas of funk and hip-hop beats, then writing melodies to those songs that made sense.”
And that’s at the essence of the bands new album Elevate. Experimental, drawing in not just the perhaps expected influences of 70s funk, Stevie Wonder, P-Funk, Hancock, but from elsewhere too, but Miles Davis, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Dilla, Adrian Younge and more. As Trumpet and horn-player Eric ‘Benny’ Bloom attests “this isn’t just a funk band anymore. We’re playing every style of music in every song. You can’t categorise it. We have the freedom to do whatever we want that’s appropriate for the song.”, and while that might be over-egging the pudding a little, what is clear is that Lettuce have the ambition, and more importantly the chops to reach for something new. And what comes out of that is a brilliantly played and equally brilliantly arranged record that is packed with ideas and is exciting enough to have you hanging on at times.
Despite the fantastically funky and complex intertwining relationships that are scattered all over the records, there’s still a warmness about the music (partly down to and an immediacy about the melodies, as extended as they are in places, no more so than the 13 plus minutes of centrepiece Gang Ten, which has this sort of prog/funk fugue thing going on, a Concerto da Funk if you like.
Elsewhere thought there’s plenty to enjoy, mostly instrumental, but the two songs with vocals – a rather lovely yacht rock version of Tears for Fears ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’, with the heavy soul (Daptones style) of ’Ready To Live’ by Lydia Pense of Cold Blood the other, that both catch the ear. Larimer with its Snarky Puppy like brass over this organ heavy groove also stands out, along with the space-funk/hip-hop beats of opener Trapezoid, along with the psych/prog funk of Shmink Dabby Kane, but there’s plenty of moments littered throughout the record that make it a worthwhile listen. The future of funk is here.