4 of the best players in the funk scene today are on stage together to kick of Alpenphunk 2023 at Public House!!
John Medeski – FAMED KEYBOARDIST JOHN MEDESKI IS NOT EASILY CONTAINED TO A SINGLE PROJECT OR GENRE; HE IS CREDITED ON OVER 300 WORKS TO DATE, MOST NOTABLY AS ONE THIRD OF THE GROUNDBREAKING TRIO, MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD.
Equally comfortable behind a Steinway grand piano, Hammond organ or any number of vintage keyboards, Medeski is a highly sought after improviser and band leader whose projects range from work with John Zorn, The Word (Robert Randolph, North Mississippi Allstars), Phil Lesh, Don Was, John Scofield, Coheed & Cambria, Susana Baca, Sean Lennon, Marc Ribot, Irma Thomas, Blind Boys of Alabama, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and many more. Classically trained, Medeski grew up in Ft.Lauderdale, FL where as a teenager he played with Jaco Pastorius before heading north to attend the New England Conservatory. He released his first solo piano record, A Different Time, on Sony’s Okeh Records in 2013, and current projects include a new album in the works with his band MadSkillet (Terrence Higgins, Kirk Joseph, Will Bernard), and HUDSON (a collaboration with Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield & Larry Grenadier), plus a documentary on Medeski Martin & Wood.
Eddie Roberts – Eddie started his music career proper in 1989 aged 18, having left his Welsh homeland to study Jazz at Leeds College of Music. More interested in live performing and getting his own thing going than in college work, he quickly rooted out the best players in town and set up his first band, The Jazz Mailmen, dedicated to playing the golden era of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After transcribing all the parts and enforcing a dress code of Bop suits, he set about taking the UK Jazz Dance scene by storm. During this time British Hard Bop legend Tommy Chase asked him to relocate and join his band, but Eddie had other ideas…
Around 1991 Eddie’s love for Grant Green inspired him to put a Hammond-based line up together. With the sound of Big John Patton, Lou Donaldson and Ivan Boogaloo, his band The Eddie Roberts Organisation toured UK and managed to get its first European dates at the ‘Queen’s Birthday Celebrations’ in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The next step in 1993 was to downsize to a Hammond trio – this happened after meeting two guys who nailed it down more than the seven-piece that the Organisation had become. The Three Deuces were born. After a live album was released, (recorded at Leeds’ legendary Jazz dance club The Yardbird Suite) great reviews ensured extensive touring opportunities: headlining Italy’s Jazz festival in Bari with Greg Osby as well as many UK festivals, and the start of a regular slot at the Jazz Cafe, London. “Down at Art’s” was playlisted on Jazz FM for most of 1996 – Art’s Cafe in central Leeds being the place where it all started and ran weekly for 3 years.
Other projects in tandem with the Deuces included Gaucho – inspired by Joe Henderson, Chico Hamilton, Gabo Szabo, Sam Rivers etc., comprising percussion, double bass, guitar, tenor sax & flute – and The Mastersounds with Simon Allen, Dan Brown and percussionist Sam Bell. In 1999 Eddie’s focus shifted towards Deep Funk, and hence The New Mastersounds who started out performing a mix of Eddie’s quirky Meters-inspired funk ditties and covers of Jimmy McGriff andGrant Green tunes in clubs and bars around Leeds and Manchester. Soon after, the first 7” was released on Blow it Hard Records (“One Note Brown” is now a rare collectors’ 45) they gigged at Jazz Cafe alongside Funk DJ & collector Keb Darge. This meeting proved to be a fruitful one – 3 singles and 1 album on Keb’s label Deep Funk Records earned them the dubious title ‘Best Funk Band in the World at this Moment’. 2001/2002 saw some heavy international touring for the extended 8-piece band which featured Cleve Freckleton and The Haggis Horns. Late 2002, whilst various options for a second NMS album were being considered, Eddie’s own Cooker Records teased fans with a couple of new 7” singles, as well as re-releasing the highly sought-after debut album.
Eddie’s love for 60’s Blue Note & Hard Bop, however, didn’t waver despite the media hype of the Deep Funk scene, and after a conversation with Adrian Gibson (Booker & DJ at Jazz Cafe/Messin’ Around) Eddie was commissioned to produce a Hard Bop track for the Jazz dancers to go on a ‘Messin Around’ compilation. Eddie had ulterior motives at this recording session – to record a number of ‘old-school’ tracks with re-arranging & remixing in mind. This project is calledRoughneck (a term often used to describe Eddie’s dynamic guitar style) and over the course of 2003 the multi-tracks were fed into Eddie’s creaking mainframe. “Diggin’ Around”, the first 12”, was released in February 2003 and a wave of positive responses hit Cooker’s shores. (“Pure & genuine, double bass monster. Strong heavy Jazz elements. Very, very good!” said one Espen Horne).
In Spring 2003 Eddie was approached by UK DJ & producer Mr Scruff to play on his remix of theRamsey Lewis classic “Do What You Want” for the Verve Remixed series. Then in April the original New Mastersounds quartet (bass, drums, guitar, Hammond) took matters into their own hands and set up a dedicated label for the band, One Note Records, with drummer Simon Allen at the helm. The second NMS album, “Be Yourself” was written, recorded and mixed over summer 2003 and released in the UK that October. A much broader project than the first album (which had been, to a degree, constrained by the demands of Keb Darge’s Deep Funk dancefloor crowd) “Be Yourself” reflects more truly the scope of Eddie’s musical influences and experience, hence the title.
The proceeds from “Be Yourself” were used to finance stage two of Eddie’s Roughneck project – the double vinyl LP and CD of Roughneck was released summer 2004 on One Note Records and licensed to P-Vine Records in Japan six months later. After that there were select live shows Jazz Festivals and clubs, one of which yielded the live album “Roughneck: Live in Paris” (P-Vine 2005). The band – which features Gordon Kilroy on drums, Neil Innes on bass, Bill Laurance on piano, and guest performances from ex-NMS horn players Rob Lavers (sax) and Malcolm Strachan (trumpet) – was the obvious choice for Eddie’s 2006 recording project “Trenta”. This album, released early 2007 on Salvo’s Records features Eddie’s instrumental arrangements of traditional Neopolitan songs. Eddie decided it was time to give the Americans a taste of Roughneck so he flew them over to perform at High Sierra Music Festival, where fans lapped up the soulful jazzy sounds.
Also in 2007 Eddie paid his first visit to New Orleans, with The New Mastersounds. The band played three shows over the first weekend of Jazzfest, but while the others went home, Eddie stayed on for an extra week and found himself guesting with a host of jazz and funk artists at late-night shows around the city including Galactic, Papa Mali, Donald Harrison, Johnny Vidocavitch, Idris Muhammed, The Greyboy Allstars. Later that summer Eddie joined Stanton Moore‘s trio for a festival gig, alongside keyboard wizard Robert Walter.
In 2010 Eddie moved to San Francisco to further his music career. During the next three years, as well as touring extensively with The New Mastersounds in USA, Europe and Japan, Eddie started managing the band. Also while living in the Bay Area, Eddie had the opportunity of playing with some of his musical heroes, including Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste and Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin, as well as putting together a new band based in SF, Eddie Roberts’ West Coast Sounds. Eddie also started a non-profit, the Payback 501c3, to raise money for youth experiencing homelessness in SF and hosted an annual event at the Great American Music Hall.
In 2013, Eddie decided to follow his love for New Orleans funk and moved to the Big Easy. New Orleans embraced Eddie and lots of opportunities ensued for the next 2 years, including the guitar chair with original Meters members Zigaboo and George Porter Jr’s ‘The Foundation of Funk’ along with John Medeski from Medeski, Martin & Woods on keys.
In 2015, Eddie moved to Denver, CO and fully embraced its lively music scene. In 2018, Eddie set up Color Red Music – a record label, production studio & multimedia platform dedicated to producing and releasing original music on a weekly basis. Since then, the release catalogue has grown to several hundred tracks.
2019 saw the 20-year anniversary of The New Mastersounds, along with an extensive world tour and the release of their 18th studio album ‘Shake It’, which featured a new addition to the band, Atlanta-based vocalist Lamar Williams Jr.
Nikki Glaspie –
“Being a musician is not only something that you do, it’s something that you are.” ©Nikki Glaspie
Sorceress. Alchemist. Beat Conductor. Funk Philosopher. Seneshal of Style. Purveyor of Pocket. Child of God. Agent of Love.
Nikki Glaspie is many things to many people, not least of which being among the premier drummers in music today. She has touched countless lives, laying down the groove for us to live our lives. Glaspie has played behind and alongside musical luminaries amid an array of genres, cities and scenes. As a founding member of The Nth Power, she continues blazing a path of light behind the kit, leaving a trail of fire behind her, and rolling waves of love in her wake. Nikki is already a living legend, and her name rings out among an impressive array of collaborators, calling to all corners of the globe.
Though born Fredericksburg, Virginia, Glaspie split time between Montgomery County, Maryland and Raleigh, North Carolina in her formative years. Her family were Black, Southern ministers, and Nikki Glaspie, who first hit the skins as a toddler, found her first groove at eight years old, holding down the rhythm in her church. It was evident from early on that she would not be a traditional Southern belle. She joined the choir band alongside her mother, who played keyboards, and they bonded in a shared love of music and God. It was in the church as a youth that Nikki found her calling on the drums, as well as solidified her lifelong relationship with God.
“I started playing drums when I was two years old. I started getting paid for playing drums when I was 15. I was the full time drummer for my church when I was about eight or nine. Then we moved from Maryland to North Carolina when I started my first year of high school. I then realized, it was time to get paid, because I had been playing in church for free for years.”
Around the age of fifteen, Nikki’s father started introducing her to secular music. His tastes and selections ran the gamut, as she experienced everything from Van Halen, The Gap Band, The O’Jays, Rage Against the Machine, Hall and Oates, and so many points between. Glaspie’s dad thought that since Nikki had been drumming since two years old, he would expose her to a new world of music and cultures, and see where she might take it from there. Predictably, she immediately fell in love, her mind officially blown. However, her paradigm would shift most dramatically after graduating from high school; in 2001 she then relocated to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. In the Beantown environs flush in virtuoso and metropolitan vibrations, Glaspie expanded her horizons even further, delving deep into the realms of funk, fusion, and jazz. The stage was set for her education, entertainment, and evolution. Berklee provided an embarrassment of riches for the wide-eyed Glaspie, who did her best to sponge up all the experience, perspective, and knowledge that surrounded her. She took private drum lessons from Francisco Mela, studied with the likes of Kenwood Dennard and David “Fuze” Fiuczynski, was exposed to long time heroes Dennis Chambers and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez. Yet Nikki credits the conductor of the hip-hop ensemble, and founder of the Jazz Hip Hop Orchestra, Angelamia Bachemin, as the most influential instructor during her time at Berklee, and in her life as a whole. Nikki refers to Bachemin as a mother figure, and says that she taught her more about life, inside the music and out, than anything or anybody else.
“Angelamia gave me the practical tools to be able to gig and make a living for myself in that way. She broke it down for me: you got a gig to play? How do you get there? How do you get paid? What do you need at the gig? You gotta take a rug so the kick drum doesn’t slide, because you don’t know what kind of floor you’ll be playing on! She taught me a lot of things teachers don’t even think about.”
While the long-lauded Berklee gave Nikki a firm foundation, traditionally, academically and thematically, Glaspie credits the frequent gigging at the legendary Wally’s Jazz Café in Boston as an enormous and fortuitous factor in her musical education. It was at Wally’s that Nikki connected with a variety of players in a series of pseudo-student/teacher relationships. The scene on any given weeknight resembled what many of today’s jam-band super-jams aspire to. A smattering of young, inspired players would come together in a wide variety of combos, and team up with a teacher or two from Berklee, or a well known local virtuoso. The results would be staggering, spiritualized sets of music that would propel the careers of many of today’s heaviest hitters in the jazz and jam spheres. With it’s Uptown at the Apollo vibe and a “sink or swim” culture, Nikki was called to bring her best drumming and listening, and her most daring ideas to the jam, In doing so, she proved to herself that she could hang with the baddest cats in the game.
“I used to go to Wally’s Jazz Cafe, and that’s pretty much where everything started for me and for a lot of people. I started in there when i was 18 years old. Charles Haynes was there playing drums, Mark Kelley playing bass, Davy Nathan was playing keys, Jeff Lockhart was on guitar…there were several different bands. The first night that I went down there was a Thursday night, that was Francisco Mela’s night, that was an Afro-Cuban gig. I started playing every Sunday, and when Mark Kelley left, I took over Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That’s pretty much where I learned everything.”
Glaspie spent her collegiate years geeking out to the styles, patterns and approaches of a melange of accomplished drummers. She studied the likes of Dennis Chambers and Horacio Hernandez, the grooves of early Doobie Powell, the punked-up bombast of Dave Grohl, and the minimalist, snapping hip-hop beats of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Glaspie burrowed through seminal records from all arenas of the art, mining influence and perspective from Hezekiah Walker, Fred Hammond, and James “J Dilla” Yancey. One of the most influential people in her life would be Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire) He is her hero and aspires to be just like him when she grows up.
While living, schooling and gigging in Boston, Nikki Glaspie shared the stage with a variety of diverse and accomplished artists spanning several generations and genres; the likes of which include Andre Ward, State Radio, Cee-Lo Greene, Pharoah Monch, Me’Shell N’dege Ocello, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Brenda Russell, Greg Phillinganes (Micheal Jackson), among others. Glaspie relished her role of leading the music forward, of setting the pace and the movement of groove.
“Angeliamia taught me that being a drummer means that I’m the driver of the bus. I’m the leader of the band. I lead them, they can’t go anywhere without me. I love being in the drivers seat. That’s where I live.”
Shortly after finishing school, Glaspie hooked up with another Berklee alumni, Sam Kininger, then-saxophonist of Lettuce and Soulive, who led his own funk-jam band. Nikki teamed with bassist Aaron Bellamy, Guitarist Mike Feingold and keyboardist Amy Bowles Bellamy an this mighty band made the festival and club circuit rounds. From this seat Glaspie left her first striking impressions on the newly fertile jam band scene. Meanwhile, she co-produced Adam Joseph’s R & B debut How I Seem to Be. Glaspie also scored her first endorsement, a cymbal deal with the renowned Zildjian.
The fuse was lit, and Nikki’s burgeoning career was launched skyward. R&B/rock rebel-soul guitarist Martin Luther scooped up Glaspie, in a trio with Arron Bellamy, they toured Europe and beyond. Luther came back from tour inspired, and they recorded a smoking engagement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the live record Martin Luther Live at Arlene’s Grocery. Glaspie was again gigging for Kininger when she manifested a game changing opportunity, in the form of an audition for Beyonce Knowles’ brand new, all female touring ensemble.
“I wasn’t even considering going to the audition. I had just moved to New York 6 months prior. I was trying to establish myself, but I was still going to Boston to play weddings and other gigs just to pay my bills. The audition came up on a Monday – I had a gig with Sam in Nantucket. I had 50 bucks in my pocket and said to myself, “What am I gonna do?” Which lead me to staying in New York for the audition. I didn’t hear anything until the following Friday. They congratulated me and asked me back, so I auditioned again on Saturday – this is after hours and hours of playing and sitting and waiting and playing- it was all of this for probably 8 hours each day that week. Finally, at the end of the day they told us, “You ten have been selected to be in the band.” And that was the beginning of Beyonce First ever all female band.
From there began a whirlwind few years for Glaspie as a drummer for SUGA MAMA, the collection of femm-fatales that rolled on tour with the now-ubiquitous celebrity Beyonce. Glaspie again had to study and adapt to new styles and a simpler, restrained role in the band. Playing alongside percussionist Marcie Chapa and set player Kim Thompson (the latter with whom Nikki appeared on the cover of the February 2007 Modern Drummer Magazine), Glaspie toured the world with one of the biggest entertainment stars of this generation. Her schedule took her from Saudi Arabia to the White House; she experienced the music business from a perch that few ever get to see. Glaspie played every major network morning show or nighttime talk show, recorded on the platinum album 4, and spent the better part of five years as part of the singer’s meteoric rise to fame. From Beyonce, Nikki learned about persistence, professionalism, perfectionism, and pride in yourself and your work.
“I definitely had a great school with Beyoncé, because it’s a well-oiled machine, a major production. I paid attention to every single little thing that happened around me. You pick up little gems, ‘Oh, this is how it’s done.”
On the heels of SUGA MAMA shape-shifting her career arc and life, Nikki Glaspie then hooked up with a legend of a different kind, no less potent or influential. Ivan Neville of the storied Neville Brothers family tree welcomed Nikki into the womb and the world of New Orleans funk music, and Glaspie dove in head first with aplomb. Soon thereafter, she joined Neville’s rumbling NOLA funk syndicate Dumpstaphunk, and connected muscularly with the band’s double bass attack of Nick Daniels III and Tony Hall. Glaspie took no prisoners from this drum spot, propelling Dumpsta into the top tier of touring funk bands on the festival circuit, including high-profile slots at Bonnaroo, Voodoo Music Experience, High Sierra Music Festival, Outside Lands, and more. Glaspie was also in the studio with Dumpstaphunk when they recorded their second full-length LP Dirty Word, and her fingerprints are all over the bulbous grooves that populate that release. Dumpstaphunk were invited to open for Lionel Ritchie at a coast-to-coast series of shows to promote the record.
Through Dumpstaphunk, Nikki’s reputation as a funk machine began to follow her wherever she laid down a greasy groove. In a serendipitous twist of fate, Glaspie was asked to fill in for Adam Deitch, playing two sets with Lettuce at Bear Creek 2014. The celebrated funk festival was also site of another classic Glaspie sit-in, with five-time Grammy Award-winning jazz champions Snarky Puppy. Nikki has been fortunate to play frequently at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, both at the Fairgrounds and in the clubs well into the night. Glaspie has shared the stage with Soulive, Karl Denson, G Love & the Special Sauce, Melvin Sparks, Russell Baptiste, The North Mississippi All Stars, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, George Porter, and countless others. It was a late night, Jazz Fest, Maple Leaf gig in 2012 that would connect her with what has become her passion project and life’s work, The Nth Power.
“We want to spread love all over the place and we do that through music. We believe in the healing power of music and love. We believe in the power of love. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what excites me.”
Nikki Glaspie departed Dumpstaphunk in the summer of 2014 to focus on The Nth Power full time. The public praise, and rabid responses to an independently released 2013 EP Basic Minimum Skills Test told Glaspie what she already knew inside; that she was on to something special with this band, with this music, with this feeling, inside this LOVE. The collective, which includes Nate Edgar (John Brown’s Body) on bass, Nick Cassarino on guitar and vocals, believes in music as a higher power, tapping into vibrations that are both spiritual and sexy.
Glaspie’s furious gospel chops, her focused hip-hop swagger, her funky stutter steps, and serene R&B grooves are all on display, front and center, within The Nth Power’s mesmerizing gumbo. The band released their proper debut album, Abundance in 2015, and have been relentlessly touring the US in support; their songs of faith and devotion have blessed Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival, Electric Forest, Catskill Chill and North Coast Music Festival. The Nth Power’s music and message has also taken them all the way to Australia, to perform at Caloundra Music Festival, as well as Costa Rica’s The Best Festival and at the Harvest Festival in Midlothian, ON, Canada. The band’s simple-yet potent messages of love are spoken in a language that anyone, on any continent, can easily understand.
“Just in my short experience living life & traveling the world, my eyes have been opened to the world and what it actually is and how dark and dirty and messed up it is, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to spread the light.”
The future is indeed beyond bright for Nikki Glaspie and her band of troubadours The Nth Power, as more and more people get hip to the magic brew that they are sharing in all four corners of the land. Yet if you ask her for a few words about her career prospects moving forward, she offers this life mantra instead:
“Never take anyone or anything for granted, for it can be taken away in an instant. Take care of each other. We’re all we got.”
Nikki Glaspie is endorsed by Zildjian (cymbals), Vater (drumsticks), Yamaha (drums), and Remo (drum heads) Esp & Lpd guitars.
Nate Edgar – Nate came up in the boston area playing many different styles and hanging in many scenes. His love for reggae has brought him around the world playing and recording with such acts as Stephen Marley, The Skatalites, Big Youth and Frankie Paul just to name a few. He moved to NYC in 2010 to team up with long time friend and drummer Nikki Glaspie and together they joined forces to play with musical forces such as Maceo Parker, Ivan Neville, Chali Tuna and Cappa Donna. He now tours and with the Band he started with Nikki called The Nth Power.