First Listen: Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Dance Or Die (Black Plastic Magick/Dorado)
Dance or die (not to be missed with Sweat Pea Atkinson‘s track of the likes)! “Just when you thought that music was forever hi-jacked by laptop-gazing, knob-fiddling, fist-wapping, carrot-nibbling bunnies… Along comes ‘Funk Ain’t Ova’, the new album by BFE”… As many words saying it all as to what to expect from Lati Kronlund‘s Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Nothing of a surprise though. This when considering this multi-ethnic/cultural group who, for 20 years, has been relentlessly exploring the various facets of the groove. Eventually melting it with Worldbeat like on the memorable ‘In The Buzzbag’ album back in 1998 along with Turkish musicians…
Acting as a platform, BFE delivers a kaleidoscopic music in the tradition of Jazz leavin’ space for successive solos. ‘Dance Or Die’ makin’ no exception. Thus featuring Joi Cardwell, Papa Dee and Desmond Foster on vocals. Themselves along with Anna Brooks on sax over a Disco-influenced Funky groove. Jam on and dance or die!
Multicultural Acid Jazz collective Brooklyn Funk Essentials saw the light back in 1993. This at the initiative of producer Arthur Baker and bassist/musical director Lati Kronlund. With the latter made famous with his production of the memorable ‘Where Love Lives’ for Alison Limerick.
What pretty much made BFE like no other group is its multi-ethnicity. With early line-ups including singers Joi Cardwell, Papa Dee and Sha-key. But also poets Everton Sylvester and David Allen. Not to mention DJ Jazzy Nice, keyboardist Yuka Honda, trumpeter Bob Brachmann and trombonist Joshua Roseman. With saxophonist Paul Shapiro, drummer Yancy Drew and percussionist E.J. Rodriguez completing the list.
Brooklyn Funk Essentials‘ debut-album, ‘Cool And Steady And Easy’, arrived in 1994. Itself being for much in the emergence of independent British label Dorado as a matter of fact. With thanks to a memorable rendition of Pharoah Sanders‘ ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan’. But also to saxophonist Maceo Parker‘s contribution on ‘Blow Your Brains Out’. Then how to not give a mention to its outstanding opening cut by the likes of ‘Take The L Train (To Brooklyn)’ at the end?!?
Four years on and BFE resurfaced on a new label (Doublemoon). This with a new album by the likes of ‘In The BuzzBag’ which saw them sharing the bill with Turkish Funk band Laço Tayfa. But also jamming with a bunch of local luminaries as a matter of fact. Beginning with clarinettist Hüsnü Şenlendirici with whom they started like a long term collaboration. Thus opening themselves to brand new vibes in a so to say Worldbeat experience. Meanwhile Stephanie McKay replaced Joi Caldwell who’d gone to pursue a solo career in the meantime.
Two years after, Brooklyn Funk Essentials added a third album – ‘Make Them Like It’ – to their repertoire. And, by that another single – the jazzy dubbish ‘Woman Thing’ – which their label at the time (PIAS) went on to release. Although I would tend to consider the bumpin’ ‘Hard To Stop/Feelgood’ as its highlight at the end. Strangely enough Kronlund and Co. would remain silent during the next eight years. Meaning by that we would have to wait until 2008 to see them back to the forefront. This with their fourth effort by the likes of ‘Whatcha Playin’. With the firing Eastern vibes fueled funky ‘The Day Before Adidi’ standing as the necessary reason to grab a copy of the album.
Finally, and after a bit more than 20 years, BFE returned to Dorado. Thus delivering their last album to date – ‘Funk Ain’t Ova’ – back in 2O15. And, in the meantime, the uplifting ‘Dance Or Die’.
– A New York City native, Joi Cardwell appeared for the very first time on stage at the early age of 5 at Carnegie Hall. And, after five years, she was pretty much accustomed to live performing. She graduated from New York University with degrees in English and Music in the mid-80’s. Eventually singin’ back-up for artists such as Melba Moore, LL Cool J and Jermaine Jackson. Then, with thanks to her connection with Kashif, she signed a record deal with Arista for her Pop/R&B girl-group The Promises. But that didn’t work back then, most likely because of saturation of the market.
She then came to collaborate with Lil’ Louis. This further to the publication of an ad on the Village Voice about an Epic recording artist looking for a background singer for a live tour. With both of them eventually recording four tracks on Louis‘ 1992 ‘Journey With The Lonely’ album. And, by that, ‘Club Lonely’, ‘Do U Love Med’, ‘Dancing In My Sleep’ and ‘Saved My Life’. This before delivering backing vocals on Barbara Tucker‘s classic ‘I Get Lifted’ in 1994.
Soon after, Cardwell signed with Eightball Records, releasing her debut-album – ‘The World Is Full of Trouble’ – in 1995. She eventually contributed to the Brooklyn Funk Essentials‘s cover version of ‘The Creator Has A Masterplan’ Then to former Deee-Lite DJ Towa Tei‘s ‘Luv Connection’. With her second (epnymous) album seeing the light in 1997.
Joi Cardwell kept on working with a bunch of extra luminaries along with time. From Blaze with whom she sung ‘Keep Hope Alive’ and ‘Be Yourself’ as parts of their Underground Dance Artists United For Life‘s 2004 ‘Keep Hope Alive’ album. To Studio Apartment, Steal Vybe and Mike Dunn. This in addition to Groove Addix (‘Je T’Adore’), Groove Junkies (‘What’s Freedom’) and Kraak & Smaak to name but a few. Eventually reappearing with Brooklyn Funk Essential back in 2014 on ‘Dance Or Die’.
More recently, in March 2018, Cardwell delivered a new version of her single titled ‘Trouble 2018’. Then on On June 01, 2018, she released her eighth album – ‘Pride And Joi’ featuring new remixes of her previous singles.
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