Funkdozer at Teviot Row have to be one of the big surprises of this year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival – an unknown band, an early evening 6 o’clock start and barely a spare seat in the room. Who and what are Funkdozer then? Well they are currently an 8 piece band playing exactly what the name suggests, but with more than a few surprises.
The band may be a new 8 piece band, but the core line up of Michaela Lawton, Liz Jones, Jon Mackenzie, Jamie Hamilton, John Burgess, Rod Kennard have between them many years of performance experience, and many names will be familiar to regular music goers in Edinburgh (and further afield). Front of the band for most of the show were vocalists Michaela Lawton (from Newcastle) and Liz Jones (from Leith), two very distinctive voices but importantly here, two very different voices and vocal approaches.
Any funk /soul revue band is always going to run the risk of getting classified in with a “Blues Brothers” style tribute band, but Funkdozer have managed to avoid that trap as there are some real surprises in their source material, coming often not only from far more recent times than you might expect, but also from some very unexpected artists.
With hardly a stop in the music during a 60 minute set, some musical surprises included “Blue Boy” (John Fogerty), “Franklin's Tower” (Grateful Dead) and “Take Me To The River” (Talking Heads). Also in this set, the classic sounds of “Mr Big Stuff” (Jean Knight) and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, but this version perhaps owing a little more to the Rosie Gaines cover. I always have a liking for revue shows like this one because I always find new music somewhere in the set-list, and tonight that “special find” goes to “If I Don’t” by Bo Saris, simply a wonderful song with wonderful lyrics proving beyond doubt that some people out there still make “great songs” to equal any of the classics, and Michaela Lawton did a fine job on vocals with this one.
Funkdozer is an ensemble group and Jon Mackenzie on guitar and vocals added much to the overall sound of this performance. Nice too to hear the always expressive sounds of John Burgess on saxophone. Keeping everything in tight rhythm was the always precise and a pleasure to listen to bass guitar work of Rod Kennard. Some interesting percussion and Bongo Drum work too by Suzy Cargill.
With such an eclectic choice in music, Funkdozer are going to be an interesting band to look out for in future, and I for one look forward to finding some new music (even some new old music) from them.
A little footnote here, Liz Jones and some of the band on-stage tonight also play in the band Broken Windows which features new songs by Liz and a nice cross selection of other artists’ material; a band well worth catching next time you get the opportunity to do so.
Review by Tom King