Live electro-fusion throwdown: in the band Kung Fu’s own words, they describe themselves as a part of the new-funk movement. Not that funk didn’t need revising — it did. Consider that the funk of old was often just about a groove. Sometimes, two notes would suffice, as long as they were the right notes. That kind of minimalism in and of itself took some artistry of a kind not required by new-funk.
Kung Fu, "Rattlesnake"
Kung Fu, a jazz/funk/fusion band, is more about an EDM approach to old fusion: electric jazz from the likes of Weather Report or Miles Davis set into a jam band’s framework. It’s a noisy, eclectic ride. Kung Fu has been a festival favorite for the past five years or so. Originally from Connecticut, the original members formed after a jam session, as the story goes, in 2009.
Last year Kung Fu toured the East Coast and Midwest as part of the Fez Tour. They split their set into half original music and half Steely Dan covers. Among musicians, Steely Dan tunes are held as something of a gold standard for their melodic complexity: that Kung Fu could play them and play them well says much about their instrumental chops. Slightly less funky than Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, more EDM than Lettuce, Kung Fu is Tim Palmieri on guitars and vocals, tenor saxist Robert Somerville, Beau Sasser on keys, bass guitarist Chris DeAngelis, and Adrian Tramontano on drums.
In the final analysis, the new-funk band thing comes down to that endless one-chord jam. Again, not a new musical device. No, Phish did not invent the form. Think James Brown, way deep in the 1960s, for the source. And if good old Sly Stone taught us anything, the trick of funk is to take us en masse to the edge of boredom with that one chord and make us dance. Yeah. Kung Fu’s got that.