Bona Fide - The Poe House 

 

Every now and then itís nice to review an album from a band youíve never heard before and know nothing about.  I had no liner notes so could not even see the track listing as it was playing Ė I just had to rely on my ears. 

What Iíve learned subsequently is that Bona Fide are a Baltimore-based trio which originally comprised keyboardist Joe Ercole, bassist Tom Camponeschi and saxophonist Kevin Levi.  Their debut CD ďRoyal FunctionĒ gained enough attention to win the band the Best New Artist award at the Smooth Jazz Awards in Chicago in March 2001.  

This, their second album features an expanded group of players and still features Tom Camponeschi on bass, under his more familiar name Ė Slim Man.  Fans of Down to the Bone and others who like their funk jazzy and their jazz funky, read on... 

Club Charles opens the album on a very Ďupí note.  Itís a real club jazz number with tight sax and vibes, pinned down by seriously solid bass and drum tracks with glorious piano all over it.  Stay still if you can. 

The repetitive sax line that hooks you at the start of Willie Don drives home the point that is a jazz album to dance to, cruise to and just have fun to.  The groove is irresistible and if my car stereo hadnít just been stolen this would be on all the time!  The cheeky rhythm guitar, organ stabs and that sax keep you smiling. 

I love the chugging bass and clavinet sound of The Poe House - itís a bit 70ís, no make that very 70ís and the way that organ is used as a rhythm instrument is very original. The whole thing reminds me of a jazzy B.T. Express. 

That funky bass is doing all the right stuff on El Dorado for me.  Itís mean and moody as is the piano - sounding like Bob Mamet - and a smoky sax.  This track is too short - itís utterly sublime. 

What a nice intro to Itís Love - it could go anywhere - into a full blown funk number or a ballad.  It does the former and it does chaotically - with a spacey female vocal, crazy percussion and horns that sound like they came off a 70ís latin album.  If, like me, youíve been into all shades of jazz and funk for a few years this will turn you out! 

And if you have been tuned in like me for years, the irrepressible groove of Warís Low Rider will be familiar instantly.  Itís a pretty straight rendition with some cheeky rhythm guitar added.  Great fun! 

The trancey keyboards which open Blaze make way to a mid-tempo dream on sax and vibes.  That electric piano sounds fabulous and that bass line winds round it all in a very sexy way.  Itís the little touches which make this song - particularly the string sounds which are very retro.  Are they real strings?  Could I care less? 

The funky clavinet sound is back for The Horse You Came in On.  So is that in-your-face Crusaders-style electric piano.  The melody is strong, if you stop dancing long enough to listen.  You canít call it smooth jazz - itís moving, grooving, in-the-pocket stuff!  At over 6 minutes, itís maybe just a little too much of a good thing thoughÖ 

I adore the rhythm on The Block.  The piano leads the melody, but also provides a mass of rhythm accents, together with amazing funky guitar.  The keyboard and sax breakdown in the mid section catapults you back to the late 70ís but by the next verse youíre bang up to date.  Itís like travelling in a jazz-funk time machine. 

A breathy sax and a doubled-up acoustic and electric bass line make Nevermore an attention-grabbing song.  The electric bass then doubles the piano line on the chorus section - on this slow, hypnotic track, the bass is doing some exceptional things.  Youíll rarely hear music this inventive.  Superb. 

Fluid acoustic bass swings like mad on Schmoke and this mid-tempo funk number has so many layers of rhythm it makes my head spin.  The sweet sax whips it all up into a frenzy.  Some sounds on this song are utterly unique.  I love it!

The drum track sounds synthesised on Tio Pepe and it rattles along perfectly, never getting in the way of the sweet, sweet piano or that busy bass.  I love the spacey synth breakdown on this song.  The music on this CD spans the gap between the golden age of jazz-funk and the current acid jazz and smooth era with ease - and great style. 

Goose is a mid-based funky jam held down by mean bass and purposeful drums.  Itís alive with riffs from tenor sax and electric piano.  Touches of vibes, vocal chants and Ohio Players-style horns provide the 70ís feel on what is essentially a modern-sounding song.  The point is made before the 7 minutes are up - but the point is that these guys have seen it, heard it and can kick it with the best!

 

I think Iíve told you all you need to know Ė go listen!

 

 

N2K/Warlock Records NC42252 Ė Executive producers Carl Griffin and Geoff Hazelrigg

 

Reviewed by Chris Mann