British funk quartet The New Mastersounds made their first trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night for a show at The Rex Theater in the South Side. The Cory Henry Trio opened up. Despite seeing most of their peers in the jazz/funk/jam scene over the years (i.e. Soulive, Greyboy Allstars, Medeski Martin & Wood, Charlie Hunter, Galactic, etc.), The New Mastersounds have somehow eluded me…until now.
The New Mastersounds came onto to US live funk scene around 2004. By this time, my days of going to as many shows and festivals as possible were pretty much behind me. After that, I became more selective and also traveled less. So with this being their first Pittsburgh show ever, I just haven’t had a good opportunity before now. Their music is a riff driven, high energy, mostly instrumental funk more along the lines of The Meters or Booker T & the MG’s than the 1960’s Soul-Jazz of Lou Donaldson or Jimmy McGriff. They have several albums, most of which I have heard and I was excited for this show.
As they made their way on stage, one of the band members commented that they were surprised by the size of the crowd inside The Rex and that even though it was their first trip to Pittsburgh, “It won’t be their last”. The energy was high right from the start. Most of the songs were fairly short with very little “jamming” or even many solos in the traditional sense. I normally expect bands like this to stretch out at least a few things here and there, but that wasn’t really the case here. The songs were tight, focused, and funky and kept the crowd moving. I love being at live shows where a large portion of the audience is dancing. It’s comforting and feels like home. The band seemed to be having a good time as well. When guitarist Eddie Roberts broke his second string (out of 3!) of the night he said, “You’re an excitable crowd! Or maybe I’M the one that’s excitable.”
Pianist Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy) opened the show with a trio that consisted of Jay White on bass and David Wood on drums. Henry’s an extremely talented young piano player who is not afraid to keep things loose and playful. Their hour long set included takes on Prince’s “1999”, Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and a great reggae-ish version of Herbie Hancock‘s “Cantaloupe Island”. Enjoy.