“There are many things that you want to do when you listen to this record. Some of them I can't mention here... Have fun(k).” – Tal Bergman, Producer/drummer
This was the theme behind Rock Candy Funk Party’s (RCFP) studio album Groove Is King, an aural kaleidoscope that mashes up funk, rock, dance, electronica, jazz and R&B into 14 original tracks and 2 covers full of space, texture, and virtuoso musicianship.
Powered by a lineup of world-renowned players, the group came together for the sheer fun of making music—and a mutual love of genre-blurring grooves. With collective credits including Joe Zawinul, Hugh Masekela, Prince, Ruth Brown, Chaka Khan, Simple Minds, Billy Idol, Tito Puente, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Levon Helm, Conan O’Brien, Sheila E. and many more, they are: album producer Tal Bergman (drums), Joe Bonamassa (guitar), Ron DeJesus (guitar), and Mike Merritt (bass).
Groove Is King —due out July 31, 2015 on Provogue, a division of Mascot Label Group— was recorded at Tal Bergman Studios in Los Angeles, California. Unlike RCFP’s debut album We Want Groove (2013), a reboot of classic ‘70s /’80s jazz-funk that tipped its hat to Miles Davis’ classic 1982 live instrumental LP We Want Miles, Groove Is King pulls away from the jazz funk sounds of the first album into a modern sound, with focused compositions and arrangements and a slick production. “This time around, the concept was less jazz and more modern dance with layered grooves. The rhythm section laid the foundation and then we’d add in strings, synths and an incredible horn section, all while keeping it funky,” says DeJesus.
Also new to this album are horn arrangements by Grammy-winning trumpeter Randy Brecker, and contributions from Daniel Sadownick (percussion), James Campagnola (saxophone), Ada Rovatti (saxophone), and Fred Kron(keys). Renato Neto, who played on RCFP’s debut album, joins the lineup again on keys while ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbonslends his trademark growl to the album is as the master of ceremonies aka “Mr. Funkadamus.” Together, these players weave into the mix heavier dance beats, rock, and pure unadulterated funk, citing influences such as Daft Punk, the Brecker Brothers, Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars, Massive Attack, Sade, Prince, and Led Zeppelin.
These influences can be heard in many of the tracks, including the more rock-driven “Don’t Funk With Me” and “Uber Station,” a couple of tight, funky tunes punctuated with horns that recapture some of that classic Brecker Brothers sound, while “Low Tide” and “Groove Is King” feature a more stripped down, guitar-driven funk. “There was a definite intention of making tracks that are danceable,” said Merritt about “Don’t Be Stingy With The SMTPE,” “C You On The Flip Side,” and the EDM mash-up “The Fabulous Tales Of Two Bands,” which has traces of Prodigy’s 1997 hit “Firestarter.” “East Village” and “The 6 Train To The Bronx” both feature a cool, relaxed jazz feel while “Cube’s Brick” has a world music groove reminiscent of Weather Report; a funky yet ethereal treatment can be found on a re-imagining of Peter Gabriel’s “Diggin’ In The Dirt.”
RCFP grew out of Bergman and DeJesus’ 2007 instrumental album Grooove Vol. 1, and subsequent live dates at L.A.’s storied jazz spot The Baked Potato. They encouraged other musicians to jam with them, including Merritt and Neto, who joined the line-up early on. Bonamassa made his RCFP debut in early 2012 during one of his rare breaks from the road when Bergman—who has toured with the guitarist—invited him to sit in on a pair of gigs.
Ultimately, the defining influence on Groove Is King’s instrumental soundscape is the interplay between RCFP’s members – which serves as a riveting conversation all of its own – and the energy in the studio.
Groove is everywhere.
• Tal Bergman (producer, drums)
o Bergman recorded and played with artists including Joe Zawinul, Chaka Khan, B.B. King, Rodger Daltry, Billy Idol, Sammy Hagar, Simple Minds, Josh Groban, Joe Bonamassa, and Rod Stewart, for whom he associate produced the multiplatinum album It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook
• Joe Bonamassa (guitar)
o Bonamassa is a Grammy-nominated guitarist and blues-rock artist who earned his fourteenth #1 Billboard Blues Albums (more than any other artist) with the release of 2015’s Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks. His most recent studio album Different Shades Of Blue (2014) debuted at #8 on Billboard's Top 200 and was his highest charting album, first top 10, and biggest sales week ever. In January 2015, he fulfilled a childhood dream when he headlined two shows at New York City's legendary Radio City Music Hall.
• Ron DeJesus (guitar)
o L.A.’s go-to funk guitarist, DeJesus’ credits include The Emotions, Tito Puente, and Hugh Masekela. He has studied with teachers including Joe pass, Joe Diorio, Jimmy Wyble, and Scott Henderson, and has performed extensively, including with his own funk group Planet Funk in the 1990s.
• Mike Merritt (bass)
o A member of The Basic Cable Band on Conan, Merritt has been with O’Brien’s late night show since its 1993 debut. He was also an original member of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band, has toured and recorded Johnny Copeland and Johnnie Johnson, and performed with artists including Chuck Berry, Son Seals, Ruth Brown, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was influenced and guided by his father, bassist Jymie Merritt, of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
Randy Brecker – Trumpet
James Campagnola – Saxophone
Ada Rovatti – Saxophone
Renato Neto – Keys
Daniel Sadownick – Percussion
Fred Kron – Keys
Zia – Vocals
1. Introducing the Master of Ceremonies Mr. Funkadamus
2. Groove Is King
3. Low Tide
4. Uber Station
5. East Village
6. If Six Was Eight
7. Cube’s Brick
8. And now a word from our find sponsors with Mr. Funkadamus
9. Don’t Be Stingy With The SMPTE
10. C You On The Flip Side
11. Digging In The Dirt
12. Don’t Funk With Me
13. The 6 Train To The Bronx
14. Rock Candy
15. Mr. Funkadamus thanks all the señors but especially the señoritas
16. The Fabulous Tales of Two Bands