Downbeat Magazine Big Funk Review


Don Braden/
Karl Latham
Big Fun(k) Live
Recorded over a series of gigs at
Cecil’s Jazz Club in West
Orange, N.J., Big Fun(k) Live
brings together a powerhouse
quartet of old friends who seem
hell-bent on having a ball. It’s a
funky, electried jam on seven contemporary-leaning original tunes and
two covers (Beyonce’s “Deja Vu” and Lennon/McCartney’s “Lucy In
The Sky With Diamonds”) spanning a range of styles from bebop to
rock. The title, an obvious reference to one of Miles Davis’ electric-era
albums, pretty much says it all.
Saxophonist Don Braden was playing instrumental rock and funk
long before he ever became known as a Young Lion of straightahead
jazz in the ’80s—and it shows in his well-developed, hard-hitting solos,
which unfold with brains and brawn over the bedrock laid down by
drummer/co-leader Karl Latham, electric bassist Gary Foote (of Blood,
Sweat And Tears fame) and New York synth man Nick Rolfe. Big Fun(k)
Live is thick with compelling improvisations by outstanding instrumentalists
who are clearly enjoying every minute spent together onstage.
The tunes are decent, but the real meat of this recording can be found
in the expertly executed arrangements and the high-ying solos, which
must have been a gas to see and hear live in the club. —Ed Enright

BassPlayer BP Recommends Unit1 March 2013 Issue

Review:Mark Egan, Karl Latham, John Hart
Mon, 11 Mar 2013

[Wavetone Records]

Fretless master Mark Egan’s über-versatile trio (with guitarist John Hart and drummer Karl Latham) reimagines bebop classics live with an East Coast edge. Applying straight-16th grooves to the normally swung “Epistrophy,” “Bemsha Swing,” and “Mr. Clean” (also just covered by Marcus Miller) creates a fresh canvas for mind-locked interplay and Hart’s heavy blowing. Elsewhere, the standard “Old Folks” becomes a modal Afro-bossa with a killer outro, while the doubletime treatment of “Footprints” boasts Egan’s finest solo turn.

JazzTimes Review Mark Egan/Karl Latham/John Hart Unit 1


Mark Egan/Karl Latham/John Hart
Unit 1
Wavetone Records

By Mike Joyce

Not that fans who’ve been following bassist Mark Egan’s long and remarkable career need reminding, but this leaderless ensemble’s recording debut is yet another illustration of just how well versed he is in the art of the electric trio.

While flashes of similarities to Egan’s work in like settings are inevitable, the performances captured on Unit 1 swiftly reveal a distinctive brand of jazz-funk propulsion and interplay, a match of wits featuring drummer Karl Latham and guitarist John Hart in equally prominent roles. Several jazz and pop standards, including tunes by Thelonious Monk, Ann Ronell, Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins, provide grist for the trio’s willfully out-of-kilter mill.

It’s a power-trio-generator, all right, but what often stands out amid the 16th-note rhythms, spiky harmonies and syncopated drive is a keen sense of dynamics, especially when the focus shifts to Hart’s feather-light phrasing, Latham’s deft brushwork and Egan’s fretless bass finesse. Although improvisation is the album’s primary thrust, with most of the tracks running between six and nine minutes, melodies linger and charm during “Old Folks,” “Willow Weep for Me” and “My One and Only Love.” What’s more, Hart’s sheer soulfulness and unmistakable blues affinity subtly complement Egan’s rippling undercurrents and Latham’s deep grooves.

Well worth the wait, Unit 1 was recorded five years ago at the club Bula in Newton, N.J. Here’s hoping Egan, Latham and Hart offer an update soon—in or out of the studio.

Unit 1 – Jazz Weekly Review

What a joy this last record is. Bassist Mark Egan, best known for his stint with Pat Metheny and his own band Elements, has one of the most identifiable and pleasant electric bass sounds around. Here, he teams up with kindred spirits John Hart/g and Karl Latham for a fresh look at jazz standards. Sure, you’ve heard material like “Old Folks,” “All Blues” and “My One and Only Love” a billion times, but these guys put an bit of funk and world music feel into the idiom, and it fits like a pair of blue jeans out of the dryer. The pair of Monk tunes, “Epistrophy” and “Bemsha Swing” have a sizzle that is irresistible, while “Footprints” has an alluring spacey-ness to it. Their interplay, particularly on the calypso “St. Thomas” is something that can only be achieved by artists who have this music in their dna. What a blast!!!

Unit 1 Review – JazzTimes

markegan3Unit 1 has been described as a “jazz-funk power trio,” but it has a certain refinement that precludes bombast or overplaying, thanks to an acute rapport and the refreshingly original arrangements of well-known tunes on this live recording. Guitarist John Hart, an infrequent leader but sideman extraordinaire, gets a chance to shine and makes the most of it, and bassist Mark Egan and drummer Karl Latham more than hold their own, making for a well-balanced and always interactive musical flow. These three musicians’ past credits are impressively wide-ranging, from the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Jack McDuff and James Moody (Hart), to Pat Metheny, Sting, and Gil Evans (Egan), and Johannes Mossinger, Joe Lovano, and Johnny Winter (Latham). The striking music comes from three 2008 performances at the club Bula in Newton, NJ, but has only recently been released on Egan’s Wavetone label. Unit 1 should appeal to fans of jazz, funk, blues, and fusion alike.

Click here to read the full review

Unit 1 Review – Jazz Station

markegan3So far the best fusion album released this year, “Unit 1” was actually recorded live at the small Bula club (in Newton, New Jersey) from March to May 2008. Mark Egan & Co. taped three gigs and selected their favorite moments. The result is impressive, a fiery collection of jazz classics – from Thelonious Monk to Wayne Shorter to Weldon Irvine – performed by a power trio that combines creativity, energy, swing and great grooves; something very different from similar groups that seem able only to play loud and say nothing.

Click here for the whole review

Big Funk on O’s Place 2012 Best Contemporary Jazz List

2012 Contemporary Jazz Golden Selections
O’s 5-Rated Performances
Artist Title Label
David Gilmore Numerology Evolutionary Music
Aaron Hardin Coming Home For Christmas Grooveworks Entertainment
R&B Jazz
Axel Schwintzer Uncommon Sense Armored Records
Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Heads Up
R&B Jazz
Bob Baldwin Betcha By Golly Wow Peak
R&B Jazz
Don Braden & Karl Latham Big Funk Creative Perspective
Fo/Mo/Deep A Beautiful Bang RH Media
Lee Ritenour Rhythm Sessions Concord
Yonrico Scott Be In My World Blue Canoe
R&B Jazz

JazzTimes Review of Don Braden/Karl Latham “Big Funk”


Don Braden and Karl Latham
Big Fun(k) Live
Creative Perspective
By Owen Cordle

Big Fun(k) is a synchronized rhythm machine. Not that it sounds mechanical; rather, each player primarily emphasizes rhythm, and all the parts interconnect—drum backbeats, bass grooves, keyboard riffs and colors and (mostly) pentatonic tenor saxophone figures. Joining leaders Don Braden (tenor sax and alto flute) and Karl Latham (drums) on this live session are Nick Rolfe (keyboards) and Gary Foote (bass). Except for the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Beyonce’s “Déjà Vu,” the compositions are originals.

The tunes invite macho tenor playing. Braden’s “The Funky View,” on which he solos with blitz-like swirling runs, is a technically dazzling example, as is his “Grover Miles,” which—you guessed it—mixes elements from Grover Washington Jr. and Miles Davis. There’s more Braden brilliance on “Having a Ball,” a solo tenor prelude to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” and the quartet gives the Lennon/McCartney classic a soulful treatment, with shimmering keyboard support. Rolfe’s “A Foote in the Door” features bassist Foote soloing with Jaco-like flamboyance. Throughout the album, Rolfe sparks the ensemble with a variety of keyboard effects and in-the-pocket jabs. Latham is an unshakable catalyst.

In the end, the album title is spot-on: This band is nothing if not fun—and genuinely cooperative. You get the picture that each player is listening to the others and responding for the benefit of the whole.

O’s Place Jazz Newsletter Review

O’s Place Jazz Newsletter Review

O’s Notes: Big Funk is exactly that featuring drummer Karl Latham leading a pumping rhythm section. They provide a solid landscape for Don Braden (sax, fl) to build upon. The program is mostly originals with a couple of complementary covers thrown in. Keyboardist Nick Rolfe shares the lead lines with Braden and bassist Gary Foote is right there with them as on “Deja Vu” and the explosive “A Foote In The Door”. Don shows his stuff on “Having A Ball” a solo prelude to “Lucy In the Sky”. Energy packed to get your head nodding and definitely funky! Review

Review Don Braden and Karl Latham’s Big Fun(K)

User Rating: / 0

Don Braden​ And Karl Latham - Big Fun(k) Live The duo Don Braden and Karl Latham, as band Big Fun(K), recently released their same titled Live album Big Fun(k). The album has been recorded at Cecil’s Jazz Club and Restaurant on May 13-14 2009. The album includes ten instrumental jazz funk tracks. Don: The tunes on this album will be played different during other live sessions because our repertoire is still evolving.

Track #1 ‘High Rise’ starts with a slappin’ bass guitar followed by the Hammond and Sax. This tune is written on a flight home from the Netherlands where Don often performs. Don, when you are in the Netherlands give me call. The slappin’ bass is also starting on the second track ‘Deja Vu’. This 8:45 minutes long track which is based on Beyonce’s ‘Deja Vu’ from 2005 is very funky and energetic. Great Hammond and a bass solo at six minutes. Track number three ‘A Foote in the door’ starts with, i think, a well known melody line. Can’t figure it out what/who it is. It’s probably Don Braden and Karl Latham. ‘Having A Ball’ is a sax solo. ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ is a down-tempo instrumental jazz tune from The Beatles with the sax in the lead. At 4 minutes the style changed to a very funky groove with great reeds solo. Don’t need to write anything about the track ‘The Funky View’ because it’s in the name. Slammin’ funky Hammond cords, sax, bass play. Don wrote this track during his days as composer for Bill Cosby and CBS from 1995-2000. ‘Heads Up’ is an example of evolving music. This tune was written as a ‘Smooth Jazz’ piece. My colleague listened to track #8 ‘Confusion’ and recognised some fragments from ‘Chick Corea’ and from Miles Davis his song ‘Jean Pierre’. ‘Song For Mother’ is a slow tempo jazz tune that Don dedicate to his mother. My favourite tune is the last track on this album ‘Grover Miles’ is very funky with fabulous synth sounds/cords, superb bass play and luckily last nine minutes. This tune is dedicated to the late Grover Washington Jr. and Miles Davis. The bass line is related to Miles’ Tutu, and the melody has elements of classic tunes from Grover’s recordings of the late 1970’s, early 1980’s.

Don Braden grew up in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1970’s. He has toured the world and recorded with many Jazz giants, including Wynton Marsalis, Tony Williams, and Freddie Hubbard among others. Karl Latham grew up in Northwest New Jersey. He broke on the NYC jazz market with an RCA/Novus artist in the late 80’s, played in many groups including the Fantasy Band. Since 1993 his career makes a move in the European Jazz scene.
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