If there's one lesson we can take from the recent success of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, it's that people love a live soul/funk/jazz band. In a time when it is all too easy for producers to slap some premade loops over some rapping and call it good; producers and musicians need to go that extra length to truly make people really listen.
Hip-hop has had a long history with soul/funk/jazz grooves laid to vinyl. It could even be suggested that James Brown's funky drummer break helped create the genre, or at least made it possible, when canny turntablists learned how to pass the beat back and forth.
Portmanteau's self-titled EP Portmanteau shows the funky give and take that hip-hop has with its roots, sounding both like fresh, original productions as well as a classic funk record from the late '70s/early '80s with bright brash brass stabs rippling outward from The Tower Of Power, while Earth, Wind, & Fire tremble appropriately. This is good news for producers who are afraid that there will be nothing fresh to sample in ten year's time. We need classic LPs to set the bar and steal their grooves.
The only downside is that Portmanteau can occasionally sound like early '80s smooth jazz with a preponderance of sax leads, like some Branford Marsalis joint gone terribly awry. This is par for the course in any crate digging session. So if you've never had the pleasure of picking through some late '70s funk vinyl looking for the gold, here's your chance.
It should go without saying, but make sure you listen to this through decent headphones or speakers, as it does much to diminish the smooth jazz flavor, making Portmanteau sound more like the mighty soul jazz revue that they were no doubt going for. And use this as your gateway drug to get lost in the mighty, muscular grooves of powerful late '70s funk.
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