One of New Orleans hottest players, Big Sam Williams wants to jam with Mojo Green on Friday. That’s how the fortuitous summer has been for the budding seven-piece funk band from Reno.
Mojo Green plays the Red Room after-party for the Big Sam’s Funky Nation-Stooges Brass Band show in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room. On Saturday the band plays The Alley in Reno in a performance celebrating its album “Funk in Public” being voted 2013 Album of the Year by readers of the News and Review.
“I love the New Orleans funk and the power of Big Sam’s trombone,” said Mojo Green bandleader Tim Bain. “For him to even know of Mojo Green, and then to have the thought of getting up and playing with us, the whole band, that would be a huge musical highlight for us.”
There have been plenty of highlights lately.
The band played for the third time Squaw Valley’s Funk and Brew Fest, was the headliner for festivals in Idaho and Grass Valley, performed three times in the venerable Crown Room and, of course, released the acclaimed “Funk in Public.” Being the recipient of an Album of the Year award in Reno is impressive, considering this year’s new CDs from the Mark Sexton Band, Whitney Myer, the Novelists and Keyser Soze.
Inspired by horns at a Karl Denson show in Tahoe City, Bain four years ago started the instrumental funk band.
Bain likes to switch from a classic clean funk guitar to pedal-controlled wah-wah. He said he learned about pedal effects from watching Tom Morello of Rage against the Machine. But his fundamental idea for a band was to have a driving horn section.
While Mojo Green succeeded in its goal to let loose on the bandstand and get folks moving on the dance floor, it often heard the back-handed complement, “You guys are awesome, but when are you going to get a singer.”
Two years later Jenes Carter of the Black Rock City All Stars joined the band onstage at a post Burning Man show and rapped some verses over a tune.
Bain said he was satisfied with having an instrumental group, but realized the
band could develop with Carter and her powerful stage presence. He encouraged Carter to find her “soulful side” and begin to sing rather than to hip-hop lyrics like she did with the All Stars. Orgone had a similar metamorphosis and has become a national sensation.
Other additions were bassist Trevor Rice formerly of Albino, singer and multi-instrumentalist Monte Adams and drummer Frank “Fletch” Fletcher, who came aboard in October 2012.
Production of “Funk in Public” had a “Green” theme. The song “Mudslide” includes some lyrics by Cee Lo Green the cover art was drawn by Josh Clark of Tea Leaf Green. Bain said he told Clark the album’s title and Clark came up with a “Bitches Brew” styled cartoon of a couple dancing in what looks like a crowded BART train.
The recording philosophy was to give the songs a live flavor and to be reserved about adding studio effects. It was all done in 24 hours during three sessions.
“Producer Alex Viscotti really kept us on track,” Bain said. “He didn’t tolerate us bullshitting. It was, ‘Come on dude, let’s go. This is your guys’ money. Let’s get this done.’ He was really a crucial part of that process getting it done that fast.”
The album was released May 11 with a live performance in John Ascuaga Nugget’s Celebrity Showroom. As is its bent, the band members dressed for the occasion, its mantra: “Look good. Feel good. Play good.”
May’s CD release show bookends with this weekend’s shows.
While horns are the musical inspiration for guitarist Bain, Big Sam said he wanted to be a guitarist but struggled so much he made horns his emphasis. If Williams joins Mojo Green onstage Friday Bain will be prepared to see what the trombonist will do with the Meters “Cissy Strut” and Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady.”
When: After-party Friday, Sept. 20 in the Red Room
Where: Crystal Bay Casino
Crown Room: 9 p.m. Big Sam’s Funky Nation and the Stooges Brass Band