The criteria is that it must be made with heart & soul. It’s got to have a dope groove throughout. The music must have syncopation, be melodic, harmonious & poly-rhythmic.
I love music when it’s got many layers of instrumentation — drums in the pocket, perfectly executed deep bass, scratchy guitar, powerful percussion, horny horns, swirling organs — all in service to the almighty groove.
I prefer instrumental music, so this list is comprised of mostly instrumental albums. For the records that have singing, the criteria is that the lyrics tell a good story, get the party started, be joyful, clever, fun, metaphoric, and intelligent…not cynical, cliche, neurotic & stupid (like most lyrics of popular music).
I like music that builds on the foundations of the great Funk, Soul, Jazz, Reggae, Latin and African music of the past…and still manages to update it for today, giving it new energy, style & personality.
My intention with Funkish is to compile & curate funky music from around the world, of a variety of different genres rooted in the African diaspora, as well as their magnificent hybrids.
These records represent my mission with Funkish — to highlight and share funky, percussive, syncopated, joyful, organic grooves spanning the globe. Not always pure Funk music exactly, but funky in their own sort of way — that’s why I say funkish.
I want to hear music that makes me feel good, groovy, happy, and vibes with the resonance of my soul. So, this list is dedicated to musicians that love their craft, create joyful music, and make the world a better place by creating beautiful soulful sounds to funkify your life…
Top 20 Albums Of 2016
All of these records are worth adding to your vinyl collection, as well, in order to hear them in their most optimal listening format. I provide links to Amazon when they’re available, so click through and get yourself something special.
With so much marvelous music it’s hard to say one album is “The Best.” The first 10, however, are more or less in order of my favorites of the year. The second 10 could be in any order (maybe even Top 10, but I’ll leave the exact order up to you to decide which are your favorites & add them to your vinyl collection).
Follow this Spotify playlist that has them all together (with many extra “honorable mention” albums). You should also click the following links to listen to the best instrumental Funk songs of 2016 and many of my other favorite Funk songs of 2016.
Bookmark this page so you can come back to it when you want to just turn on astounding music for a few hours and listen to the best albums of 2016 without having to think about it or look for them. Then, buy the vinyl to impress your friends & delight your ears.
Listen to the Top 20 Best Albums of 2016 playlist here…
While you keep reading…
If you don’t have Spotify listen to these superb songs here…
Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, from San Diego, is one of the most talented new bands on the West Coast. Mixing Funk, Soul, Jazz, and Latin & African influences to create unique, exciting music…their “cinematic Soul” is like a cross between the music from Jim Jarmusch movies & Blacksploitation films of the 1970s.
And, you can dance to it!
If you like Snarky Puppy, The Beastie Boys’ instrumentals, Quantic, The New Mastersounds, Karl Denson & Greyboy Allstars…then you’ll love Sure Fire Soul Ensemble.
From the opening mariachi horn blasts of “Baja Norte,” I knew Sure Fire Soul Ensemble’s second album, Out On The Coast, was going to be one of the best records of 2016!
“Baja Norte” gives you a taste of the diverse flavor of Sure Fire Soul Ensemble — Latin rhythms, wah-wah guitar, sublime sax, drum & bass that pin you to the groove, and yummy organ goodness. It sets the soundscape for the rest of this varied, and super groovy album.
“Rise Of The East” is an old school instrumental Soul sounding jam that’s jazzy, and fits their “cinematic soul” billing. It could have fit right in on the Shaft soundtrack.
“Tche!” boasts an Ethiopian Jazz-Funk organ style, which gives the tune its exotic foundation. Happy horns, and provocative percussion round it out and make it a modern sounding song with an Ethio-Jazz inspiration.
The album’s first single, “Jeannie’s Getdown,” is one of the best instrumental Funk songs of 2016. Propulsive percussion and driving drums power this tune so Jesse Audelo can blow his sax all over the groove, as the rest of the horn section give it some Afrobeat brass swagger. If you see them out live, they might just turn it into “Billie Jean” for you 😉
“Sunny Santa Ana” & “Balboa Park” are the perfect tunes for chilling by the Pacific Ocean and kicking back with a California IPA on a gorgeous day. The joyful, jazzy guitar work from Nicholas Costa transports you out to the coast. And, the far-out effects and fine funky flute playing on “Balboa Park” carry your mind out to sea.
“Lemon Grove Swagger” & “Volcano Vapes” get a little trippier with their mellow Jazz Funk. You might want to visit a So-Cal dispensary before cueing these ones up.
The title track, “Out On The Coast,” is a cover version of a rare-groove classic by Larry Willis from 1973 — one of the very finest examples of electrifying Jazz-Funk from the 70s. Sure Fire Soul Ensemble updates it to become a contemporary Jazz Funk jam you can’t resist.
It’s a little meaner than the original — Peter “D” Williams attacks the drums & Tim Felten takes a brief, yet nasty organ solo on this one. The horn section plays the refrain spot-on and tremendous tone on the guitar all make this tune sound more modern and stimulating than the original.
“Pigs Feet” is another perfect “cinematic soul” song. It would fit right into a Blacksploitation soundtrack from the 70s. And, it’s got some New Orleans grease and a little Stax style too. I think Isaac Hayes would be proud!
“Face 1” is a rousing number with a breathtaking interplay between organ, guitar, horns, and drums. It will make the Jazz cats and jamband dudes both happy.
Overall, Out On The Coast, Sure Fire Soul Ensemble’s follow up to their self-titled debut (one of the best albums of 2015) does what I believe music should do — it makes you feel great when you listen to it. Get this record on vinyl, and get 11 zesty instrumental Funk and Soul songs that are too cool to categorize.
So do yourself a favor — get into to the sublime, soulful sounds of Sure Fire Soul Ensemble. Out On The Coast is sheer joy!
Listen to an interview I did with the guys in Sure Fire Soul Ensemble. Click this link to hear them tell the stories behind the songs…
Watch Sure Fire Soul Ensemble play a bonus track, “Gloria’s Anthem” live…
1000 Watts is old school Reggae, Rocksteady, One Drop style with soulful singing, some Ska, and several feel-good instrumental tracks. And still, it has a totally modern vibe. It’s fun, timeless, high-quality music that makes you feel good.
Legendary Jamaican DJ U-Roy’s iconic toasting and British Soul singer Alice Russell’s sweet, soulful backing vocals make “A Life Worth Living” one of 2016’s best singles. Add in Todd Simon’s gorgeous trumpet solo from the long version, and this is some of the most remarkable Reggae music in recent years.
Superb guest vocalists include Hollie Cook — offering a slippery, nocturnal meld of Rocksteady Reggae and jazzy Soul music on “Shuffle Them Shoes” — led by a swirling tenor saxophone and grooving B-3.
Christopher Ellis, son of Reggae Soul singer extraordinaire, Alton Ellis, guests on two tracks. He takes lead vocals on the title number, where blasting sound system grooves meet sultry lovers rock. And, he sings a tropically arranged cover song of Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do Is Think About You,” an impressive homage to the Tammi Terrell hit.
Watch the band perform their soulful Reggae tune,
“A Life Worth Living” (feat. Jimetta Rose in place of Alice Russell), and Todd Simon on trumpet…live from KCRW in Los Angeles…
3. Totem — The Motet
Lyle’s got a super soulful voice, joyful style, and is a great showman in their phenomenal live performances. The lyrics make for fun & intelligent party tunes. He sings late 70s/early 80s style Funk songs while making them totally modern, and never getting cheesy or derivative.
The rest of the tracks will remind you of P-Funk, Tower of Power, and other old school Funk favorites thanks to Lyle Davinsky’s old-soul vocals. And yet, Totem is totally fresh & modern sounding. Eric Krasno’s masterful production brings out the sublime staccato stabs of bayonet-sharp brass and bedrock bass & drums. This record has a big sound throughout, and is sure to liven up any party.
Between these songs on Totem and their previous, rich catalog — The Motet blows people away in concert. Look for them to bring the mile high Funk party to a stage near you.
Watch The Motet live in their home state of Colorado at the legendary Red Rocks amphitheater near Denver on 7/22/2016, playing “The Truth” to see how Lyle & the boys get down…
4. Kidayu — Vaudou Game — Hot Casa Records
Dig the percussive potency, and deep Funk groove of Kidayu. Savor the flavor of this fun, funky tropical music touched by the powerful voodoo spirits of Togo (by way of Lyon, France).
This impressive French Funk band, led by Peter Solo from Togo, is clearly influenced by James Brown on this record. Heavy rhythms, funky guitar playing, electrifying organ, and horny horns propel their Afro-Funk groove. I can hardly understand a thing they say, but the lyrics don’t matter because you feel the voodoo spirits when Peter Solo gets into it with his stirring stage presence, and shows what a phenomenal front man & brilliant band leader he is.
Read this interview with lead singer, Peter Solo, from AfroPop Worldwide to learn how they make their impressive Voodoo Funk.
Solo formed Vaudou Game in Lyon, France, with the vision of codifying the musical scales that are found in sacred songs of Beninese and Togolese vodun music. Translating tradition into modern instrumentation, Solo says he composes music based on the two main musical scales of voodoo tradition. And, in the process they create some of the most stimulating tropical music you can imagaine!
Peter Solo channels James Brown in his singing, while always coming across totally original, inspired, and astonishing. He does a great job channeling his inner Fela Kuti as well, so Afrobeat fans are sure to love Vaudou Game too. He’s also an excellent guitar player — part Franco, part Catfish Collins.
I can’t say enough about the guys in the band — these cats are tight! I hope Solo doesn’t fine them when they make mistakes, but I bet he doesn’t need to. It seems they are also imbued with the voodoo spirits, since Solo has taught them the vodun musical scales so they can play like a band possessed.
Stand out songs on Kidayu include: “La Dette” for its mind-blowing Funk groove, and “Don’t Go” because it’s completely different than the rest of the album and sounds like Ethiopian Jazz Funk. “Elle Décide” is like a classic James Brown tune circa 1972, complete with grunts & shouts. “Chérie Nye” is perfect party Funk with a tight back beat and irresistible chorus.
All the songs on this remarkable record are sensational. Do yourself a favor and get into Vaudou Game. I can’t speak any French, and yet I find the catchy refrains getting stuck in my head. Above all, this is exhilarating music that just makes you feel good when you hear it.
This is one of the coolest song I’ve heard all year! And, I can’t understand anything except, “La Vie C’est Bon.” Listen to it here…
The music of Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band defies genre, as they mix Trinidad steel pan music with Funk, Soul, Rock, Hip-Hop, and Reggae to create unique, exciting genre-bending music, cool covers, and dope original songs.
Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band is actually a pet project of the German Funk group, the Mighty Mocambos, a tight collective that makes electrifying deep Funk. Bacao is a vehicle for bandleader and guitarist, Björn Wagner’s, dedicated enchantment with the steelpan drum.
In the past, they’ve covered a couple of funky Meter’s classics, and even a 50 Cent track (which also has dope steel drum samples), which they released as singles a few years ago.
Their first full length album, the phenomenal 55, came out in 2016 on Big Crown Records. It includes the older singles, plus new originals, and irresistible cover songs.
Keeping in the tradition of Steel Drum records, 55 is a journey through re-interpolations and cover songs with an updated approach, pushing Steel Pan music to uncharted territory. Flawlessly bringing previously untouched genres into the steel pan cannon ranging from underground Hip-Hop tunes to old-school Funk tracks, and some that fall in between.
Every song on 55 transports you to a trippy tropical fantasy island. For example, their version of Faith Evans’ hit, “Love Like This” takes away the cheesy top-40 vibe, and turns it into an instrumental Funk groove with echo effects, churning rhythm guitar, and dramatic horn stabs.
The album’s original compositions are astonishing. “Bacao Suave” is a Latin-tinged jam with percussive syncopation, and a heavy horn section that builds the excitement to fever pitch. “Port of Spain Hustle” showcases the slick-moving rhythm guitar and stabbing horn bursts of a disco classic that could rock dance floors worldwide. The breakdown at the end is priceless! “Tender Trap” is a Funk burner with that boom-bap, bold brass section, classic Funk guitar, and a steel drum refrain reminiscent of Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life.”
The covers delight, and improve on the originals, never sounding kitschy. “Dog Was A Doughnut,” an obscure Cat Stevens tune is one of the album’s funkiest, most enjoyable songs. “Jungle Fever,” the lascivious 70s sex song from the Boogie Nights Soundtrack gets the steel drum Funk treatment, and is a lot of fun, even though they leave out the orgasm sounds. “Police In Helicopter,” John Holt’s ganja Reggae classic, becomes a laid-back, dubby, steel pan Reggae riddim.
Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band is a fabulous Funk band first and foremost. The steel pan groove just adds some well devised differentiation, and acts as a sensational foundation for their one-of-a kind compositions.
55 is awesome, and like nothing else you’ll ever find! When you listen to this record, it’s like transporting yourself to a funky, underground bar in a tropical paradise. It will keep you warm in winter, and be your new favorite summer party music.
Sadly, I can’t find any live videos of Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band. So, just listen to “Tropical Heat,” one of the coolest songs of 2016…
They’re a multi-cultural band based in London. Producer and multi-instrumental director, Jack Yglesias (also a core member of the underground Pysch-Jazz-Funk unit The Heliocentrics) leads the explosive ensemble. Alongside Jack, the band features the powerful vocals and poetry of Venezuelan diva Luzmira Zerpa and the percussive West African mastery of Nigerian/Ghanaian Kwame ‘natural power’ Crentsil as well as Adrian Owusu (Guitar).
Joining them as guests on the album are two musical legends: The Sun Ra Arkestra’s bandleader Marshall Allen on alto saxophone, ewi and vocals, and Nigerian Afrobeat colossus Orlando Julius on tenor sax who was at the time of the recording living with Yglesias and Zerpa. The diversity of the Family Atlantica project is reflected in the lyrics, with singing and poetry in Spanish, English, Yoruba and Portuguese.
On “Cacao” Zerpa sings a far out, potent Venezuelan tambor tune. On “Okoroba” Zerpa sings an intoxicating, powerful song that melds African mbira with Latin percussion, and Spanish singing. You might not think of this as Latin music on first listen, but it shows how Latin America is the world’s greatest musical melting pot because of how people there mix African, European, and indigenous music traditions to create some of the world’s most fascinating & provocative new music.
Prepare yourself for a brilliant blend of Caribbean & Ethiopian music on “Enjera.” It’s a funky Ethiopian Jazz groove with a splendid steel drum dancing on top of the syncopated beat, accompanied by a funky flute, and horny horns.
Breathtaking “Baião Infinito” is a trippy, percussive journey across Northeastern Brazil. This song fits perfectly with the thrilling music coming out of the Brazilian musical underground currently.
These guys must be awesome live! Watch Family Atlantica en vivo at the Kalakuta club in Toulouse, France…
Each track is distinctive and impressive. One of my favorites, “Humaitá,” is a modern Jazz Funk masterpiece with a feel-good flute Funk groove, joyful brass section, and a healthy dose of wah-wah on top of the laid-back boom-bap drumming.
Another stand out song is “Samurai.” It starts with a cymbal that makes you think it will be “Jungle Boogie,” but this is something unique. “Samurai” opens the record on a high note with genre-bending Jazz you can dance to. Each instrument gets a chance to shine, and there is even a little upbeat Salsa breakdown in the middle.
“Venus” is an epic, 12 minute, experimental Jazz jam with moody electronic elements. It’s an enthralling, world music exploration with an amazing cinematic texture.
“Fuego Policia” is my favorite song on Nomade Orquestra because it’s the funkiest. Staccato horn stabs, baritone sax, Funk guitar, deep bass & percussion make this the track most likely to make you move your body.
“A Vida Vem em Ondas” is another sensational song. It’s an electrifying global groove with Brazilian percussion, a soulful Reggae beat, and spine-tingling sax solo. The guitar work is phenomenal on this song as well.
Both of these songs get a mind-blowing, modern Dub treatment from Victor Rice. In 2002, Rice moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil where he produces recordings for various styles of musicians. His diverse Dub stylings have led him to work with the exciting bands from the Sao Paulo underground scene, like Bixiga 70 and Nomade Orquestra.
Hear both of these songs together, live in one spectacular video, shot at Toca Do Bandido in Rio de Janeiro…
8. Southern Comfort — Matthew Hartnett
If you love bold horns, deep bass lines, and dope drumming…you must check out Southern Comfort from this tremendously tight band. Stand out tracks include, “No Patience” & “Thursday Night” — some scorching instrumental Funk for you. Also enjoy the mellow side — “She’s In Spain” & “Summer 2011” are laid-back, soulful modern Jazz at its finest.
See Matthew Hartnett perform “New Sunlight Lake Charles” and have fun with his friends in Brooklyn, while paying homage to Louisiana music…
9. Evolution — Dr. Lonnie Smith — Blue Note Records
Hear him collaborate on an epic Jazz Funk tune, “Play It Back,” with Robert Glasper. Check out his rework of his classic, “Afrodesia” with saxophonist, Joe Lovano, as well as a nice mellow collobroation between the two on, “For Heaven’s Sake.” Also enjoy astounding, distinctive versions of Jazz standards, “Straight No Chaser” & “My Favorite Things.”
Listen to the breathtaking, “Play It Back,” by Dr. Lonnie Smith with Robert Glasper…
This dynamic group of 17 members explores a lot of musical territory in ten tunes, improvising and showing off their deft interplay. Things get off to a funky start on “Tarova,” with all the guys getting down — led by organ, Rhodes piano, fat, thumping bass, hot snare breaks, and blazing horns that touch on everything from Muscle Shoals to East Indian modalism to Southern gospel.
“Grown Folks” delivers a bubbling Funk bassline, a jazzy Hip-Hop drum shuffle, and a neo-Soul harmonic line around bluesy, cinematic horns and dubby Jazz keyboards. “Semente” explores a joyful Brazilian music vibe, with frevo flute and Batucada style drumming. “Gemini” sounds Steely Dan-esque to me with its laconic slide guitar and electric piano. “G0” is the stand-out jam that’s all funky Jazz, and still has the guitar solos and synthesizers lines to impress the Jam Band crowd.
I’m really happy that Snarky Puppy has been so successful because it’s hard for a huge band playing all instrumental music to draw large crowds and make a living. And yet, these guys are doing it so well and turning on lots of people to the joys of jazzy, improvisational, instrumental funky music.
Watch Snarky Puppy play “Semente” from Culcha Vulcha live in Chile in 2016…
11. San Jose 51 — Bosq y Las Candela Allstars — Codigo Music
One of my favorite songs on the record is “Aquarembe,” a smoking, modern-sounding Latin Funk jam with Ray Lugo and Roberto Roena. It’s all high-energy, feel-good tropical music to heat you up anytime! “Vengo Arrollando” and “Balancea” are two other irresistible songs that can get people onto any dance floor. All DJs need this one in their record bag because it’s like that secret weapon that fires up a memorable night for everyone there.
Listen to “Ron Blanco Con Coco” by Bosq y la Candela All Stars…
12. Zigzagger — Takuya Kuroda — Concord Music Group
Jazz trumpeter Takuya Kuroda is a forward-thinking musician with a bent toward mixing post-bop and adventurous Soul-Jazz. Born in Kobe, Japan, Kuroda now is based in New York City.
Like the name says, with Zigzagger, Kuroda continues to push his distinctive Jazz-Funk explorations in ever more engaging and unexpected directions, getting deeper into his Hip-Hop and Afrobeat-influenced Jazz sound. Kuroda and his band make a kinetic blend of harmonically rich Jazz that’s equal parts organic Hip-Hop, angular post-bop, and bouncy, rhythmically infectious Afrobeat.
Zigzagger’s colorful single, “R.S.B.D.” highlights his fun & soulful style as his joyous trumpet dances on top of a heavy drummer, and synthesizers come in to give it an otherworldly, futuristic quality. On tracks like the bass-heavy “No Sign” and the Maceo Parker-esque “Thirteen,” he pulls the groove way back, underlining his hard Funk aesthetic with puckered horn lines, loping drum beats, and shimmering wet keyboards.
Watch the official video for Takuya Kuroda’s “R.S.B.D.”…
13. Habana Dreams — The Pedrito Martinez Group — Motema Music
Martinez performed as vocalist and percussionist with Cuban legends before settling in New York City in the fall of 1998. He was a founding member of the highly successful, Afro-Cuban/Afro-Beat band, Yerba Buena, with which he recorded two albums and toured the world.
A consummate master of Afro-Cuban folkloric music and the batá drum, he is also the music world’s first-call rumbero — playing, singing, and dancing with dozens of groups and contributing to or appearing in several important films.
His career as a leader, began in 2005 with the formation in NYC of the The Pedrito Martinez Group. They recorded their second album, Habana Dreams, largely in Cuba in October 2015. Featuring superstars like — Ruben Blades, Isaac Delgado, Wynton Marsalis, Descemer Bueno, Roman Diaz, Angelique Kidjo, and Telmary Diaz — it is a beautiful record, uplifting, alluring, exotic, and full of spine-tingling percussion jams.
It’s special because of the way it explores the spiritual Jazz & Yoruba influences on Cuban music and Salsa…while always breaking new musical ground and never sounding cliche or derivative. Listen to “Antadilla,” a gorgeous collaboration with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, and the distinctive vocals of Salsa singer Rubén Blades. “Dios Mio” is another appealing song that sticks in your head in such a nice way (whether you can speak Spanish or not). On “Tributo a Santiago de Cuba” the band explores that city’s African heritage with Angelique Kidjo.
Check out one of the most intriguing Latin music projects on the planet — The Pedrito Martinez Group. See a teaser for their terrific 2016 record, Habana Dreams…
14. Lapeitah — Corey Henry — Louisiana Red Hot Records
“We do our own style of New Orleans Treme Funk,” Henry tells OffBeat Magazine. “That consists of Funk, New Orleans brass band music, a little bit of hip-hop inspired music, a little bit of soul and R&B. We try to mix everything and keep it real New Orleans.”
All the songs on Lapeitah are hot! My favorites are the instrumental Funk songs — “Candlelight Suite,” “Feelin’ Tremazin'” & “Steppin'” a brass-heavy dope instrumental Funk track. There’s a potent cover version of “If 6 Was 9” with Living Color’s Corey Glover. “We Got The Funk (featuring Angelika Jospeh)” is a classic New Orleans party starter.
You’ll be “Feelin’ Tremazin” when you listen to this song…
15. Abra Sua Cabeça — Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra
Stand out tracks include the gorgeous “Sensitiva” with Brazilian chanteuse, Ceu, on vocals. “Tony Relax” is a groovy collaboration with Tony Allen. Their powerful “Peleja” drives the Brazilian/West African funky groove straight into your being, finishing it off with a breathtaking berimbau solo.
Listen to Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra’s “Oya! Oya!” — one of the liveliest songs on Abra Sua Cabeça…
16. Public Hi-Fi Sessions 3 — Hard Proof — Public Hi-Fi Records
This Austin-based ten-piece group began by studying the blueprint of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band, as well as from the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, plus Funk and Jazz, of course. With only 6 songs on this record, they make them tight & powerful.
“Painted Flowers” is one of the most beautiful jams of the year. “Default” is a funky Afrobeat adventure that makes you want to go shake your ass with them in a wild Austin music joint. “Revenge” is down & dirty Afrobeat with rousing horns, potent percussion, and a dope wah-wah on the guitar.
Get a taste of Hard Proof doin’ it live…
17. Blood From A Stone — Eric Krasno — Round Hill Records
Krasno is one of the best Funk guitarists going these days, working hard, touring with Soulive & Lettuce, as well as producing marvelous music for a variety of artists.
Throughout his 20 years in the music industry, Eric Krasno has never fit into any single defined role. In addition to his guitar playing in Soulive & Lettuce, both of which he helped co-found, he’s established himself as an in-demand producer and songwriter.
He’s produced songs and/or records for a diverse list of artists including Norah Jones, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, Justin Timberlake, Ledisi, Chaka Khan, Vieux Farka Toure, and Dave Matthews. In the past 2 years Eric has been on tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band (on Bass), Pretty Lights (also playing guitar & bass on the Grammy nominated album “Color Map of the Sun”) and was a part of the Hollywood Bowl tribute to James Brown featuring D’Angelo, Aloe Blacc and many others. Eric Krasno is a very busy man, also producing the amazing new Motet album.
These songs pay intimate tribute to the many classic rock and R&B sounds that influenced him before he became a new-breed Jazz-Funk icon. “Natalie” is a funky rocker, all strut and swagger with a mean clavinet and keyboard bass played by Neal Evans. And, all the songs are soulful, modern Rock at its best.
I’m glad I got to hear him live touring to support Blood From A Stone. They put on a fantastic show! On the album, Derek Trucks guests on “Curse Lifter,” the set’s lone instrumental. Interestingly, the song’s twinned leads, swelling organs, and rolling drum kit intentionally recall the jazzed-up blues groove of the Allman Brothers Band’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Even without Trucks live, it was still the highlight of the show I saw, as it morphed back & forth with Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.”
Watch this video to learn about the creative process of Eric Krasno & his friends — The Making of Blood From A Stone…
18. Oceanic Suite — Atlantis Jazz Ensemble
The group was founded in 2013 by saxophonist Zakari Frantz and pianist Pierre Chrétien of the Souljazz Orchestra, both looking to explore new directions in modal, spiritual and esoteric Jazz music (without getting weird & avant garde). They recruited like-minded trumpeter Ed Lister, double bassist Alex Bilodeau, and drummer Mike Essoudry for the journey, and the new combo was soon on its way.
This is accessible, soulful, cutting-edge Jazz at its finest. There are even Afro-Cuban (“Yemaya”) and Ethio-Jazz (“Blue Nile”) inspired tunes on this stupendous record. “Ebb & Flow” is a real cool groove that makes you feel good when you hear it. Definitely listen to Oceanic Suite several times because you’ll just keep finding more nuances to love.
Listen to Atlantis Jazz Ensemble’s stunning, “Leviathan” live…
19. The Olympians — The Olympians — Daptone Records
The album starts out with “Sirens of Jupiter,” which is reminiscent of Superfly so you know it’s going to be dope throughout! “Saturn” is more wah-wah intensive Blacksploitation groove. “Apollo’s Mood” highlights the instrumental old-school Soul flavor like only the Daptone family plays it.
Check out The Olympians “Sirens of Jupiter” official video…
20. Durand Jones & The Indications — Durand Jones & The Indications — Colemine Records
Durand Jones, classical saxophone player by day, soul man by night, earned a master’s degree in music. The New Orleans-born musician was raised in his father’s hometown of Hillaryville, LA (population 750), where he sang traditional gospel in the choir at the local Baptist church, studied classical music, and played sax in his high school jazz band, receiving the Louis Armstrong Award.
Now, he brings his raw energy to Colemine Records. Making their self titled debut, Durand Jones & The Indications pair soaring vocal work with dusty drums, slinking guitars and screaming organs resulting in a blend of deep Soul and heavy Funk. Even though veteran soul singers, Charles Bradley and Lee Fields both had new records out this year, I still think this album is fresher and more enjoyable to listen to. Durand Jones & The Indications is the best pure Soul music record of 2016.
“Groovy Baby” is my favorite song on this outstanding album because it sounds like a cross between “Superfly” and some down & dirty 60s Stax Soul. He’s got a lot of urgency in his voice on this old school Funk & Soul party song with a certain contemporary coolness. It’s a very bluesy album, with songs of love lost and despair, and yet, it’s hopeful and intriguing. Songs like “Smile” and “Make A Change” find a glimmer of hope in tough times. In addition, the band is super tight and makes these old-school Soul songs sound contemporary and irresistible.
Watch the official video for Durand Jones & The Indications’ “Make A Change”…
Best Singles Of 2016
A Soul Music Icon’s Funkiest Song Ever
“Now 75, the man still sings like an angel who’s swallowed a wah-wah pedal,” says NPR of the great golden voice of Aaron Neville.
He’s never sounded better. These are the kind of organic, retro grooves that could have come out along with his hit, “Hercules,” in the early 70s. Apache nicely captures the two sides of Aaron Neville’s music. He’s known in his solo career for heartrending ballads, but in his work with Allen Toussaint and with his brothers Art, Charles and Cyril for hard-driving Funk. You get the best of both on Apache. “All Of The Above” & “Orchid In The Storm” are outstanding love songs, for example.
Apache is also an ode to New Orleans with songs like “Stompin’ Ground” on which he sings about the city and musicians he loves. There’s a lot of New Orleans bounce, sublime syncopation, and infectious groove that characterizes the style of Crescent City music.
This album features the hot horns of Lettuce’s Shady Horns, and the Dap Kings too, so you know it’s a scorcher all the way through. Borahm Lee contributes some heavy organ Funk to Apache. And, Adam Deitch from Lettuce carries the New Orleans beat throughout this remarkable record.
Watch a high-quality video & potent performance of Aaron Neville with Soulive & Friends playing “Be Your Man” at Brooklyn Bowl…
Reggae Soul Makes You Happy
Watch the video for Organically Good Trio’s “What You Gonna Say?” featuring Ryan Montbleau… 😉
Funky, Badass Brass
“Harrow” is their blistering 2016 single — full of driving, dirty horns, punctuated by intense trombone and baritone sax solos. The B-side “Nautilus (Hijacked)” is a dance-floor burner that pays homage to Bob James…funky brass band style. I can’t wait until they come out with a full-length album!
Watch Breakdown Brass and their potent horns play “Harrow” live in Brooklyn…
The Unpredictable Peruvian Groove
They appeared again with a smoking 2016 single, “Quiero Amanecer,” a stimulating, hybrid, modern Cumbia song.
Watch this fun video for the song below. It’ll have you wanting to plan a music vacation to Peru… 😉
Jazzy, Genre-Defying World Beat Groove
Listen to “Wejene Aola” by Dexter Story & Kamasi Washington… 😉
Funky, Single-Minded Purpose
Listen to AJ & The Jiggawatts’ down & dirty Funk party starters – “It Is What It Is / Party Music”…
Also check out The Gripsweats’ rough and raw single – “Ziggy’s Walk / Alpha Dog”…
London’s Got The Jazz
Listen to Moses Boyd’s “Rye Lane Shuffle” premiered by the great Gilles Peterson…
The Best Re-Issues, Compilations, and Live Albums of 2016
The Nashville Sessions started out as a limited edition, vinyl-only release. They hit the studio at the tail end of their Fall and Winter 2015 cross-country U.S. tour, the band was razor sharp and vise tight. They selected material to record from across their 16-plus year career and ten studio albums. The lone exception being their take on legendary Jazz guitarist Grant Green’s arrangement of an obscure James Brown instrumental, “In The Middle.”
The results from top to bottom are gritty, greasy and funky to the bone. The Nashville Session presents The New Mastersounds at their finest, utterly unadulterated by modern digital technology, full-on analog and unapologetically doing it old-school. It’s one of the best albums of 2016, whether we call it a re-issue, live album, or whatever…it’s marvelous music! At least it made Funkatopia’s Best Funk Albums of 2016.
Watch The New Mastersounds play their funky cover version of “In The Middle” live in studio…