Louis Cole wants to make jazz electric, funny and funky. On stage, he is like this crazy immature kid who plays every instrument with ease, as he looks like a prodigy child having fun with his favorite toys while composing incredible music on the spot, with a bipolar energy. On Friday night, he had a party at the Lodge Room to celebrate his third album, ‘Time’, released that same day on Flying Lotus’ label, Brainfeeder. Knowing very little about Louis, I honestly went to the show with almost no expectation and left as a fan! The evening covered many musical grounds, from electrifying funky-grooved dancefloors to lavishly orchestrated ballads, and was full of surprises, including a live birth,… literally,
A one-man-band named Nate Wood, aka ‘Four’, opened the night with an impressive drumming performance, but it was obviously much more than that, as he was playing bass and several keyboards at the same time, producing unique music, sounding like an outer-space drumming party with high-energy beats, synth swirls, and occasional vocals. With all the stuff around him, he was truly full-handed and I had no idea how he could be so multi-task when I can barely drink a bottle of water while driving. However, he looked like a technical master — unsurprisingly he was placed in the 2015 Modern Drummer reader’s poll among the top 5 drummers in his category — and continued drumming through the night with the main act with the same energy, when Louis Cole was not taking his place behind the drumset.
If his new album features a lot of his friends, from Thundercat to jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, Dennis Hamm and his KNOWER bandmate, Genevieve Artadi, Louis Cole did surround himself with a large ensemble, something like 20 people, including a full horn section playing trumpets, saxophones, trombones, and flutes, completed by a keyboardist, bass and guitar players, and three vocalists/dancers who were first hiding themselves inside cupboard cubicles. But he started alone with one of his handlers (who were all wearing white jumpsuits) lighting his face during a luminous hymn-like song he sang with a high falsetto that he never abandoned while making his keyboard vibrate like an organ in a church. But soon, the funk took over, with an infectious short solo on keys revealing his extravagant outfit below his jacket (a skinless muscle anatomy costume) and the large band hid behind a curtain. And starting from this, it was a constant dialogue between muscle man, his wobbling funky keyboards and his marching (sitting) band, as he launched many ‘1, 2, 3, 4’. This immediately sounded like a party, his cool Michael Jackson falsetto piercing over some adventurous jazz horns and infectious beats, while the groovy energy of the songs would have made the most reluctant man clap and tap along.
And then there were the jokes, as immature and ridiculous as you can think of, from a ‘remote control DIY boner’ (a giant cardboard penis moving up and down with the help of a remote control) to the graphic birth of the new album, as Genevieve Artadi laid down on a table to give birth to a ketchup sprayed CD… Okay, I get it, Louis Cole doesn’t take anything seriously, except the music, his multifaceted, jazzy and unexpected music with explosive grooves breaking barriers between jazz, funk, pop, and R&B, which would have made Quincy Jones smile,… I actually read he is a big fan.
Despite the remote-controlled penis and the live birth, Louis did insist it was a family show, successively inviting on stage his sister, who made him a very special piece of clothing able to light up his chest,… his mother, who brought up some snacks… and his father who played a mad funky keyboard with him on the second take of ‘Thinking’… But everything happened in a very organic way, with a sort of improv-style, many floating timeouts between the songs and a certain-organized chaos. The entire show actually looked as much as improvised as it sounded perfectly orchestrated, but it was not difficult to understand it was part of Louis Cole’s genuine charm, bringing a joy and a playfulness in the execution that you don’t see much these days.
If they played the infectious, ‘Thinking’ twice, my favorite songs of the show may have been the furious beats of ‘Freaky Time’ and ‘When You’re Ugly’, which cultivated a super cool groove with a horn explosion and some freaks on stage, who should have made nobody feel awkward on the dancefloor. Needless to say, it was a lot to digest at once, an overwhelming profusion of sounds and vibes, some impromptu parts like a trombone starting a solo in the middle of a song, and a heavy load of dance moves… without forgetting these wide-eyed ‘80s R&B melodies, mixing sweetness and irony between the fired-up drumming, the electro-funk, and the horn marching-band outbursts.
Cole played ‘Mean it’ during the encore, a furious trashy funky-electro-dubstep number, crashing a James Brown move into an Atari game, revealing a rare freedom taken with music genres. Nothing surprising I should add, as it sounded as spontaneous, weird and free as the entire show.
Louis Cole (Intro)
F It Up
After the Load IS Blown
Failing In A Cool Way
When You’re Ugly
Last Time You Went Away
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