As time marches onwards and music becomes increasingly digital, we see certain genres falling out of fashion, their music only played by bands who have come before, and rarely seen on the charts.
Despite this of course, plenty of bands are out there putting in the hard yards to keep classic sounds and genres relevant again, reinventing them for a new audience and coming up with some genuinely exciting work in the process. Soul, rhythm, blues, jazz and more continue to be thrust back into the limelight by new waves of talent, who aren’t content to abandon classic genres for new trends.
One such act is Trombone Shorty, who’s bringing his searing modern take on jazz and funk to Australia to play Byron Bluesfest from April 13-17, with headline shows in Sydney on the 10th and Melbourne on the 11th. With the spirit of reinvention in mind, we’re taking a look at some of the acts who are bringing classic sounds to new audiences, and keeping them alive for years to come.
Trombone Shorty is one of the most revered trombone and trumpet players going around these days. With an early start that saw him sharing the stage with Bo Diddley at age four, before gaining worldwide recognition as a member of Lenny Kravitz’ touring band, Troy Andrews has done it all.
While many folks might have thought that hopes for mainstream popularity for jazz and funk may have died with Miles Davis, they have all been proven wrong with the intense but carefree manner with which Andrews plays his music. Having played with huge artists such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifah at the Grammys in 2014, both his profile and that of his chosen genre have risen dramatically.
With a bunch of close friends that include members of the Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers (who you’ll also find him touring alongside), Trombone Shorty’s jazz-funk mission is one we’re feeling very thankful for.
Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. is one of the most critically acclaimed guitarists in recent years, and has managed to almost completely invent his own niche in the world of blues, rock, and soul music. With his trademark, fuzzed-out guitar, Gary Clark Jr. has achieved success in ways numerous musicians could ever dream of.
In a Rolling Stone interview from 2013, it was said that Gary Clark Jr. managed to re-inspire Eric Clapton to play guitar again, and even made the legendary blues musician Buddy Guy claim that he may just be the saviour that blues needs. With a list of supporters longer than one of solos, and with his own unique, versatile style, Gary Clark Jr. has achieved legend status a solid 30 years before many other artists do.
A lot of Aussie bands are cited as being influences on their overseas contemporaries, but few have been name-dropped as much as Melbourne neo-soul outfit Hiatus Kaiyote, most recently when they were sampled in Drake’s More Life mixtape. The band pricked ears up with their debut record Tawk Tomahawk, which gained them Grammy plaudits with a nomination for ‘Best R&B Performance for ‘Nakamarra’ and its Q-Tip feature.
They’ve gone from strength to strength since, with 2015’s Choose Your Weapon earning them their second Grammy nom for lead single ‘Breathing Underwater’ and firmly lodging them at the top of the food chain of artists bringing the soul back for a new generation of listeners.
Sadly, jazz is one of those genres that has never been too accessible for the mainstream crowds. While all of the genre’s highbrow connoisseurs will argue that you ‘just don’t get it’ if you deride the genre in any way, jazz has remained out of reach of the younger and mainstream crowds. However, Canada’s BadBadNotGood has managed to turn this fact on its head, and have even managed to infiltrate the main stages at the legendary Meredith Festival.
With all the group’s members having studied jazz at some point, they’re a collective of well-trained musicians who know exactly how to handle their instruments. For a group to achieve that in itself is no impressive task, but BadBadNotGood decided to then branch out, expanding into other genres, such as hip-hop, funk, and electronica as a way to fully express their creativity before collaborating with heavyweights such as Tyler, The Creator, and Ghostface Killah. To put it simply, the group know how to appeal to the music-loving masses.
Vintage Trouble have been in existence for the last seven years, and in that time, they’ve managed to make the ’50s and ’60s cool once again, completely reviving the rhythm and blues genres that have fallen by the wayside in recent decades.
With more and more artists claiming to be bringing back rock and roll to what it used to be, Vintage Trouble are the only ones who could truthfully make that claim, even though they’ve got no desire to be viewed that way at all. Despite only having released three records in their short existence, Vintage Trouble are undoubtedly going to be one of the few bands of today’s era revered by rock historians for decades to come.
Like BadBadNotGood, Kamasi Washington is an academically trained jazz musician who knows how to adapt to a changing musical landscape. After having released his first record as a bandleader in 2004, the saxophonist started to collaborate with a vast array of jazz and hip-hop musicians, such as Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg, and Wayne Shorter, rapidly increasing his profile.
These days, Washington is still on the cutting edge of jazz and after releasing his debut solo record, The Epic, in 2015, managed to appear on a number of ‘best of’ lists for the year. Most recently, his work was featured on Run The Jewels’ third record, once again blurring the lines between jazz and hip-hop, and turning it into something that appeals to countless music fans.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Undoubtedly one of the most underrated funk bands in recent years, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have captured the hearts and minds of fans in their native America, but their sound is managing to reach around the world with their catchy, tight, funky jams.
With only two albums under their belt at this point, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have a bright future ahead. With a refreshingly vibrant, ’70s-styled approach to their music, the group’s fun sound is undoubtedly going to see them share stages with a wide variety of funk musicians in the future.