Review and Photos – Ghost-Note at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, June 25 2022
Ecstatic. That’s how James Brown would feel if hearing Ghost-Note’s futuristic funk. He’ll be dancing with swagger to their drum’n’bass funky jazz rhythms, a proud funk Godfather. It’s easy to name the geniuses behind the band’s name, having standout founding members, Sput Searight and Nate Werth—Snarky Puppy’s drummer and percussionist.
Perhaps Mono Neon is the most photogenic, with their outstanding brightly-coloured outfits and their upside-down bass technique. The ultra-virtuoso bassist played alongside Xavier Taplin on keyboards (both former musicians for Prince) and the rest of the cool cats, and made a remarkable headliner on the main stage at the Vancouver Jazz Festival on Saturday night.
‘We are ready to funk!’, those were Werth’s words to kick off the show, dedicated to the music from the 70’s, ‘all of it’ said Searight. The band had to take a forced hiatus during 2020, Searight told the audience. After a year of not playing together, they hooked a gig in 2021, but forgot how to play all the songs, so they decided to retire Swagism from their repertoire. Some of the songs heard Saturday night were new and others were a selection of 32 songs recorded before the pandemic.
If you play rhythms and melodies together, over and over, and you add hundreds of humans craving live concerts, the inevitable will happen. Led by Taplin’s, ‘if you feel all right say oooouuu yeah’, the audience followed, letting the good times roll up, getting us all the presents, a united feeling of freedom and a need to just move your body to funk!
Each musician took their time to rip apart their instrument at their solos, demonstrating their prodigy on both saxophone and trombone while giving it their all during “James Brown is Out on Love”, a title inspired by James Brown’s famous 1988 interview with CNN.
Dedicating, “Papa Mike’s Kitchen” to a chef that was very kind to the band, was the moment for guitarist Peter Knudsen to open up with a wah and drive the melody, once again bringing the audience to their feet.
One hour in, the sweat on the musicians’ faces was shared with the audience and people were dancing non-stop. They played “Origins”, a new song for the tour. Taplin got everyone to say ‘paaaarty’ and the audience’s loud chorus resonated downtown with more, ‘PAAAAARTY’.
Ghost-note ended the night with a warning from Searight, the last song will be a very fast one. ‘Save some for the end’, he said and we all laughed, knowing that could not be possible when your body is full of funk.
The band ended the night with peace signs, and three powerful last words from Searight, ‘peace, love and FUNK!’