THE FUNK BROTHERS Justin and Paul.
The 2010 Best Music Poll nominees announcement is fast approaching, but we do know all of the '09 victors will return to defend their titles, including jazz/funk reigning champs Funkatronic, who are looking for a three-peat. Paul Caraher (guitar/occasional vocals) and brother Justin (drums) were born and raised in the music mecca of Nashville, but their affinity for jazz, funk, and the jam band scene eventually lured the aspiring duo north. In 2001, they relocated to Providence, which they considered a central locale to set up shop and kick out the jams.
"We wanted to be closer to the jazz scenes in Boston and Manhattan, as well as the Northeast jam band scene, which has a significant presence in Vermont and upstate New York," Paul told me earlier this week while chatting up Funkatronic's upcoming show at Jerky's, an opening slot for drummer extraordinaire Yonrico Scott of the Derek Trucks Band.
"We really wanted to get out there and play shows, and the Northeast corridor just seemed like an ideal region to work, with so many big cities in such close driving distance." (Close driving distance? With that outlook the Carahers were clearly raised elsewhere.)
Paul cites Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Chick Corea as vital early influences, along with the jazz-laced jams of Lettuce and Medeski Martin & Wood. But Herbie Hancock provided the blueprint for Caraher's aural game plan.
"Herbie Hancock is the bridge that led us from jazz to funk via records like Head Hunters and Man-Child," he said.
Shortly after relocating to Rhode Island, Paul and Justin released Caraher, an acoustic album of covers and original compositions (available at CDBaby.com). The duo competently interpreted John Coltrane and saxist Joe Henderson, along with a nimbly accurate rendition of "Mediterranean Sundance" by acclaimed fusion and Latin jazz guitarist Al Di Meola. Following the album's release, the brothers scored their first local gig, a major slot at the 2002 Capitol Arts Jazz Festival.
"Our first album is an interesting point of reference as to how our approach to music has changed and evolved," Paul offered. "[At] the Capitol Arts Fest, we played basic jazz standards on two acoustic guitars, but we have since focused more on funk and Latin rhythms, with the addition of drums and bass into the mix."
The Carahers linked up with local musician/producer Brendon "Low B" Bjorness-Murano (of notable jam bands Funk Nugget and the Law) in 2003 while he was working at Guitar Center in Warwick. He eventually became a quasi-third member of Funkatronic, playing more than 30 shows with the brothers. (Bjorness-Murano reports that the Carahers will back him on a few tracks on his forthcoming solo album, Low B. and the Daily Blotter.) Funkatronic released its debut disc, Up from the Underground, in 2006 (available at iTunes and MySpace.com/Funkatronics).
The Carahers will be soon be gigging in New Hamapshire, Connecticut, and Albany, in addition to their local dates, and may take up Yonrico Scott's open invite to jam with his crew in his hometown of Atlanta. You can also catch Paul performing weekly at Powers Pub, a piano bar in Pawtuxet Village, satiating the after-work crowd with covers ranging from the Beatles to Marvin Gaye.
But Paul guarantees a full set of originals at the big Jerky's show, for which the duo has recruited veteran Newport bass player John Sippell. The set will include new numbers "F to A" and "Porno Funk," and a "big two drummer jam session with Funkatronic and the Yonrico Scott Band.
FUNKATRONIC + THE YONRICO SCOTT BAND | Friday, March 19 @ 9 pm | Jerky's Bar, 71 Richmond St. Providence | $10 | 18+ | 401.621.2244