The New Mastersounds’ extensive U.S. tour is under way with the first of three concerts at the Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday, coming after a quick appearance at Wannee Festival. Opening a three-night residency on a Thursday gave fans a unique opportunity to see a band deliver a compelling show to a small weeknight crowd while also gearing up for the rest of a big weekend. The jazz-funk quartet from Leeds, UK, was supported by Brooklyn’s own Moon Hooch.
Moon Hooch put on an opening performance that was brimming with creativity and authenticity. Their music is a sort of new wave-influenced EDM brought to life with an arsenal of carefully selected acoustic and electronic instruments. The compositions are rooted in tight dance rhythms precisely metered out by drummer James Muschler. Mike Wilbur’s saxophone melodies typically take the lead while Wenzl McGowen produces womping bass lines using anything from a contrabass clarinet to a baritone sax to a woodwind MIDI controller. Song arrangements did vary in surprising ways, though, such as when
Muschler sat down on the floor of the stage to provide some excellent tabla playing or when Wilbur delivered a dope rap verse. All three members of the trio proved themselves to be versatile and cleverly skilled. Moon Hooch’s set had a spiritual undertone throughout, made explicit at times by slowed down samples of Alan Watts and McGowen’s closing remarks about imaginal cells, which turn caterpillars into butterflies.
The New Mastersounds kicked off their set with characteristic pep and never slowed down for a second. Their brand of bouncy, uptempo jazz riffing was infectious and immutable. Drummer Simon Allen propelled the band with giddy enthusiasm. Bassist Pete Shand was an endless fountain of rhythmic momentum and complex harmony. Some of the most ebullient soloing came from keyboardist Joe Tatton’s organ. Guitarist and bandleader Eddie Roberts defined the character of each tune with a steady cascade of jazz-funk techniques. The set consisted pretty much entirely of cheery, major key groovers. Whatever it may have lacked in emotional range, it more than made up for in intensity. The buzz that the band created was one of pure joy and vigor. Even as the Thursday night crowd began to thin towards the end of the performance, the remaining audience was huddled in front of the stage, soaking in every moment of what came to feel like a very intimate musical experience. The band seemed to be projecting a humble appreciation for the setting and to be gearing up for the remaining shows on Friday and Saturday. These weekend shows are likely to see larger turnout and even more fiery performances from The New Mastersounds.