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The Tomas Doncker Band At The Blue Note, Monday, September 9th, 2013, Reviewed

The Tomas Doncker Band Bring Global Soul To the Blue Note













“There is magic

in new beginnings.” An ailing friend once told Tomas Doncker those sage words and Tomas shared them with us in a hushed whisper at the 8pm Blue Note show . And while it was the only hushed moment in the 80 minute reboot of True Groove Record Label Inauguration come  release party for an astounding three albums, it was no less true for all that.

With a stage packed to overflowing, the Tomas Doncker Band brought the funk, brought the soul, and brought the global and then brought some moew The sheer depth of their repertoire, the band can swing from blues to spoken word, in a heartbeat, was on amazing display.

Tomas Doncker’s True Groove Label has the world by the tail, the question is, where will the ride take them? The band opened with the opening track off the first of the new True Groove releases Power Of The Trinity… A Slight Return Global Mix Tape Volume One’s  “Brooklyn2Ethiopia”. The song is hardboiled funk with African shadings in the Tom Toms; it is up to the minute, state of the art funk,  Shinobi Nonja could cover it, and it should get you out of your seat and dancing instantaneously.

The band gave the song so much they were jumping out of their skins with excitement , with Betty G’s electric back up vocals, and Tomas intense and tireless on the guitar, buckling and grimacing, the set was exploding and the first song wasn’t over yet.  Seven minutes plus later Tomas says “Join us” and extends the party invitation with an equally good, though more funky “Peace (Hold On)”. The Blue Note should have been in shambles by now but the audience is, while very good looking, a little on the sedate side for this powerful blending of World Music.

It seemed to frustrate Tomas to a degree, and he asks for their participation, and gets it from time to time, but Tomas should be aimed at a mix of college kids and soul fanatics; if you love the Weeknd or you love Funkadelic this is for you, at his loudest, like these first two songs, you should be flipping out. Quarter of an hour in and Tomas is already a little bemused by the reception, pointing out his two music students , tussled haired kids, and worries they are going to think the audience are really bored with Tomas. “They might take up soccer instead”

Lael Summer, who I reviewed year, sings the very good “It’s About Soul” off the second of the new releases Burden To Bear next, about as well as you expected, meaning astoundingly soulful and strong. And then Tomas gives rock nyc a shout out before playing possibly the best song of the set, a very sweet and soulful but always with  that Tom Tom paddling in the back ground “How Long” due to be released in November. “How Long”, a calypso funk workout, that would do very well with a Geoff Barrow remix, someone to trip hop it out, it would be immense with heavy drums. It segues into “Funky Good Time” and the evening is on flames. It is the best moment of the evening but for the wrong reason; Tomas mismanages his time a little (I bet he got it right on the second set) . What should have been the highlight of the evening, “Abet Gurage” followed by “Lucky Day” (an oldie but goldie), was cut to only “Abet Gurage” and perhaps the only real mistake because , the experimental rhythms of “Happy”  should have been dropped to include “Spoonful” in, slipped up the momentum.

Lael was followed by Kevin Jenkins, a soul journeyman and the third and final purveyor of a new album, Step Inside, and came as close as anyone could to stealing a show, mixing a slow one with a fast one, it was the single most beautiful moment of the evening.

David Barnes,  who is such a great harp player and was stunning in Central Park, you hope he gets his own album soon, was terrific on “Shook Down” and Marla Mase, who disappointed a little at Arlene’s Grocery earlier in the summer, gave a taste of what she can do with a spoken word “The Heart Beats” and followed with a hard hip hop type funk song “Hooked Him Up”. The evening was completed with everybody on stage for “Abet Gurage” which essentially brought the evening full circle.

Tomas is one of the most confident band leaders you ever want to see. Nothing seems to phase him, he is in complete control of the stage, and he can change gears from towering egomaniac leader to team player and back like that. He gives everybody their props and shares the limelight but only to a degree. He is a benevolent despot, like King Hussein of Jordan or something. It is a gracious, gentlemanly and yet still hot performance. Tomas is a large, imposing figure, he appears gentle but on stage he holds the center of gravity, everything revolves around him and he keeps it balanced as he leads the band through genre after genre. It is intimidating in its strength and righteousness and the buzz surrounding him and the band is getting louder but hasn’t reached  the tipping point yet. On top of that, all sales of CDs for the evening went to The Studio Samuel Foundation’s 1Hundred Girls Impact Plan.

Then the band got their hands”Abet Gurage” good and rocked it hard. It is one his great songs and  for around eight minutes all you can hear is  funk extolling and African rhythms.

A fitting end to a new beginning.

Grade: A-

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