Since 1993, Brooklyn Funk Essentials have been presenting their unique brand of eclectic funk to ecstatic audiences around the world. Made up of musicians, singers and poets from around the globe, the group famously mix styles like jazz, latin, house, drum & bass, reggae, afrobeat and Anatolian melodies all rolled into one ferocious funk fest. If it grooves, they will funk it!
Brooklyn Funk Essentials was born out of New York’s buzzing hip-hop-jazz and slam poetry scenes of the early nineties. Originally conceived by producers Arthur Baker and Lati Kronlund as a series of studio jam sessions, the group soon turned into a 12-piece live outfit consisting of some of the finest young musicians, singers, rappers, dub poets and djs the Big Apple had to offer. Lati Kronlund played bass, and other members included Hanifah Walidah (aka Sha-key), Joi Cardwell, Papa Dee and Stephanie McKay (vocals), Everton Sylvester and David Allen (dub poetry), Josh Roseman (trombone), Bob Brockmann (trumpet), Paul Shapiro (sax & flute), Yancy Drew and Tony Allen (drums), E.J. Rodriguez and Danny Sadownick (percussion), Desmond Foster and Masa Shimizu (guitar), ATN Stadwijk and Yuka Honda (keys), Bill Ware (vibes) and djs Jazzy Nice and Smash on turntables.
The debut album ‘Cool & Steady & Easy’ (1994/95) also featured prominent guests like Maceo Parker, The Tower Of Power Horns, Michigan & Smiley and Dizzy Gilespie. It was first released by UK label Dorado in Europe, but was soon picked up by RCA’s Groovetown imprint for the US and the rest of the world. The first single – a funky reggae-inspired reworking of Pharoah Sanders’ classic ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ became an instant hit, reaching the Top 20s. The album, which topped Billboard Magazine’s ”Best R&B Album Of The Year 1995”, also featured songs like ‘Big Apple Boogaloo’, ‘Take The L Train’, ‘Dilly Dally’ and ‘A Headnadda’s Journey To The Planet Adidi – Skizm’, all of which became classics of the genre. The popular album cut ‘Bop Hop’ was featured in a world- wide Nike commercial featuring Grant Hill and ‘Take The L Train’ became a signature tune for Hennessy Cognac’s TV ads.
Apart from being regulars in the New York’s club scene, BFE began touring the world marking highlights in the company of acts like Parliament Funkadelic, The Roots, James Brown, Jamiroquai, The Meters and Ben Harper. One of these tours found the group headlining the Fuji Jazz Festival in Istanbul, Turkey. The reception was so great that BFE were invited to record their second album in Istanbul together with eleven Turko-Roman folk musicians know collectively as Laço Tayfa. The result was 1998’s ‘In The BuzzBag’ album, which became a milestone in Anatolian collaborative projects and earned BFE a Grammy nomination. It also escalated the group to a stadium capacity act in Turkey.
In 2000, BFE released their third album ‘Make Them Like It’, which continued where the first album left off: A happy mélange of funk, Latin, reggae, jazz, house, dub, electro and hip hop which featured fan favorites like ‘I Got Cash’, ‘Mambo Con Dance Hall’, ‘Jump Around Sound’ and ‘Woman Thing’. For the band’s 2001 world tour, Iwan VanHetten had taken over the keyboard and trumpet duties. The tour ended with a show at the Vieilles Charrues Festival in France, where the band played to an audience of 80,000 ecstatic fans.
After a hiatus between 2001 and 2005, a core of BFE members got back together again in the summer of 2006, to do a tour of three world continents, while at the same time writing and recording songs for the forth album ‘Watcha Playin’, which was released in 2008. Songs like ‘The Park’, ‘Dance-Free Night’, ‘S-Curve’, ‘Dibby Dibby Sound’ and the epic 12+ minute ‘Need’ featuring a guest appearance by Turkish legend Hüsnü Senlendirici on clarinet, became instant hits with the fans.
BFE toured extensively in support of the ‘Watcha Playin’ album doing celebrated shows at Summer Stage in Central Park (New York), The Cape Town Jazz Festival (South Africa), Jazz à Vienne (France), One Love Festival (Istanbul), Casa Musica Festival (Casablanca), Celebrate Brooklyn Festival (New York), Jazz à La Villette (Paris) and the Mosaic Festival (Singapore).
Saxophonist Anna Brooks, became a full-time member of the band in 2011, whereas the drum chair was alternately commanded by Yancy Drew, Tony Taylor, Morgan Ågren and Hux Nettermalm.
2015 will see the release of Brooklyn Funk Essentials’ fifth studio album. Celebrating twenty years since the release of their debut, the new record brings together many of the band’s past and present members, and is naturally entitled – ‘Funk Ain’t Ova’. The album, which has been recorded in studios in Brooklyn, Birmingham (UK) and Stockholm (Sweden) leans heavily towards classic soul music. One song even features a cameo by none other than Mr. Hot Buttered Soul himself, the late, great Isaac Hayes.
Pre-sales of ‘Funk Ain’t Ova’ will commence in December 2014 in association with PledgeMusic, with the release date set for March 30, 2015. Brooklyn Funk Essentials will be supporting the album by massive touring in the spring and summer of 2015.