Bring on the heat

The weather report for New Year's Eve weekend isn't so much grim as it is irritating. The wind will likely be chilly, and sticky-cold needles of rain will fall sideways on Woodward Avenue — annoying byproducts of our inconvenient greenhouse of a winter. But here's something that warms like brown liquor in a tumbler, or even the bright summer sun — on Dec. 30, the blistering soul power of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings will blow into town, accompanied by a Staten Island-based funk/soul/Afrobeat combo called the Budos Band. The forecast for this gig? The Magic Stick's skylight will be fogged from the inside, and coats will be piled by the entrance of the club.

Like Detroit's own Nomo, the Budos Band is an instrumental combo inspired by the jam. Eleven pieces strong, theirs is a sound that runs from James Brown and the Apollo Theater to Lagos, Nigeria, and Fela Kuti's Shrine nightclub, drawing on Stax Records and the sound of Booker T & the MGs and the Bar-Kays along the way, before flowing naturally down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and the funky ivories of the Meters.

Led by songwriters Brian Profilio (drums), Daniel Foder (bass), and Tommy Brennek (also known as "TNT"; Brenneck pulls double-duty as a guitarist in the Dap-Kings), the Budos Band also includes organist Mike Deller, trumpet players Andrew Greene and Michael Irwin, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel, and a full percussion section. After getting their start nearly a decade ago as a largely Afrobeat-influenced group, the Budos took on their current, funkier form with the addition of the horn section three years ago. They're now part of a vibrant downtown Manhattan scene that includes bands like Afro-beat torchbearers Antibalas Orchestra, Jones' fiery, revivalist R&B, and retro-funkateers the Sugarman Three.

The Budos Band's full-length, self-titled debut was issued through New York-based funk and soul imprint Daptone in November 2005; appropriately, its cover art features red-hot magma spurting from a volcano.

And while they retain their Afrobeat influences (the Budos lineup also includes congas and the African percussion instrument known as a shekere), it's funk purism that drives the band's process.

"Either Tom or Dan or Brian will start with a groove in mind," Tankel says by phone, describing a typical Budos songwriting session. "Then myself or the trumpet player will help out, making up the horn melody."

"And then, there you go," he laughs. "You got a song."

The Budos have a theme song, naturally. The cleverly titled "Budos Theme" bursts from the speakers with a blare of brass and a beat that's perpetually moving downward, forcing your legs to mess with gravity. That's followed by "The Proposition," where the congas' murmur mixes with organ leads that trade space with solos for all three of the horn players. In keeping with the throwback feel of both their record label and their central mission, the band originally released "The Proposition" as a 45, its flip tagged with the perfectly alluring name of "Ghost Walk." These guys know what they're doing.

Take their version of Sly & the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song." They keep its essential nyah-nyah sass intact, even without the original's vocals. What might become a hopeless cacophony of percussion, horns and guitars is, in Budos' hands, a tight, in-pocket celebration of the song's titular simplicity.

The Budos' longest tune is six minutes, and most clock in around the three-minute mark. Based on volume alone, the band packs a mighty wallop. But the muscle behind the punch is that essential element of cohesion, and adherence to the root groove of a tune.

It's the same thing when they play live. "We stick pretty close to what the recordings sound like," Tankel says. "Lately we've had two of the horn players from the Dap-Kings sit in with us, so we have a little bit fuller of a horn section. That opens the songs up for more solos, but one of the things that differentiates us from a group like Antibalas, for example, is that we keep the format of the songs tighter, not jamming them out as much as they might."

The Budos Band call it "Afro-Soul," their particular blend of influences that makes all 11 players bring the heat. It's a term that could've been plucked from a blaxploitation film, but it's utterly unironic in their hands, and the horn blasts, multi-layered percussion workouts and chunky-funky chords churning from the guitars is a sound at home in nighttime Manhattan or Detroit. Conga-fueled, brass-busting jams conjuring hot summer nights? In the middle of our weird but still-cold winter? You know it.

"The Budos have never been out to Detroit to play," Tankel says. "We're pumped."

Besides, it's easy to fall in love with a band that has its very own theme song.


Saturday, Dec. 30, at Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.

Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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