Portland has more than its fair share of horn players gigging out on a regular basis. Sax player Ryan Zoidis might be the town's most high-profile ambassador, with his work in Soulive and Lettuce, but trumpeter Mark Tipton, executive director of the Portland Conservatory of Music, has a resume that would probably surprise you (and you might want to hit SPACE on August 7 to hear his score for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). The Fogcutters, Sly-Chi, Rustic Overtones, Model Airplane, Kenya Hall Band. We still miss ya Shufflin' Tremble.
And, okay, some of those bands have the same horn players, but you get the idea.
People probably underestimate how hard it is to play the brass and woodwinds (saxophone=woodwind). They ain’t harmonicas. Breath control and omberture? They take practice.
Maybe that’s why an arrangement of alto and baritone sax, trombone, and trumpet combining to front a band like Mama’s Boomshack grabs your attention so completely. There just aren’t many bands doing that.
Boomshack have been working their set for a few years now, but Speed of Soul is their debut record, nine original tunes that throw back to the early days of soul—whether Sam and Dave as backed by Booker T and the MG’s or Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers—while peppering in everything from disco to contemporary jam.
As with many of those old soul acts, singers Todd Regoulinsky and Lisa Brundage (also the bari and alto sax players, respectively) spend a lot of time exhorting listeners to move their feet and listen to the music and whatnot. Sam and Dave’s biggest hit is “Hold On! I’m Coming!”, after all.
Essentially, if you’re coming for the lyrics, you’ll be disappointed. In the opening “Back to School,” there is talk of “getting funky like a monkey.” Also: “It ain’t no junk / We’re bringing it back with some old-school funk.” In the title track, we are encouraged to “get it on down / All over this town.”
If you’re coming, like Daft Punk, to lose yourself to dance, though, you’ll probably be generally satisfied. Like the band the Blues Brothers pulled together, this seven-piece could play just about anything and be welcome if you’ve got a crowd of friends and some available drinks.
Guitarist Sam Berce can lay out a jam, and does so in that opening tune and on songs like “Truly Sweetly,” where he’s a little bit Stevie Ray Vaughan, and “The Danger,” where he’s a little bit Santana when he’s not doing a really fast wicka-wicka . He really locks in, too, on “Sho’ Nuff” (it’s unclear who actually talks like that) with a repeating riff mimicked tightly by John Berce on the bass. The latter Berce is most notable in the steady eighth-note walk that drives the melody of “Speed Sound.”