As the bassist for one of the UK’s leading Brit-Funk/Jazz-Funk bands, George Anderson is an incredibly funky man. One of the founding members of the band Shakatak, Anderson has great success as the group’s bassist, playing on hits such as ‘Night Birds’, ‘Day By Day’ (featuring the vocals of none other than icon Al Jarreau), and the 1984 classic ‘Down on the Street’. The group have had incredible success within the UK scoring several Top 10 hits, as well as being massively popular in Japan. Now, Anderson has released a new album, the third of his solo career, a live recording of his show in South Africa entitled Live in Cape Town.
In support of his latest release Anderson made a return to Newcastle’s brilliant Hoochie Coochie last week, preforming songs from his two previous solo albums and a few from his Shakatak catalogue. Unfortunately, at the beginning of Anderson’s set the venue was pretty empty – disappointing for a man of his stature and ability. Nonetheless, the crowds eventually trickled in, and those of us who were there from the start were treated to over an hour of funky goodness. Joined by a stellar line-up of musicians, including the incredibly cool John Fisher on drums and Raffy Bushman on keys, Anderson entertained the Hoochie faithful with his incredibly funky bass licks.
Having seen the George Anderson Band at the Hoochie Coochie last year, I was expecting pretty much the same set as before, which is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable because it was, but Anderson has re-grouped, taking what worked well last time and adding in a few more well-known and well-loved soul classics. The songs taken from his second solo album Expressions – a great piece of modern jazz-funk – included the wonderful ‘Back in the Day’ which allowed the band to show off their musical abilities, all the while allowing Anderson’s bass to set the pace and tone. Debby Bracknell, a sometime vocalist with Shakatak, was on hand to provide some sultry vocals, as was Geo Gabriel, a man of untapped vocal ability. Whilst Bracknell impressed on ‘Back in the Day’, Gabriel was equally impressive on ‘Into U’, one of the best solo songs Anderson has recorded – made complete with the incredible sax solo.
As a bass player Anderson can do it all, but he is most impressive when he’s playing slap bass, and he demonstrated this on a cover of The Brothers Johnson’s classic ‘Ain’t We Funkin’ Now’, dedicated to the great Louis Johnson who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. The band performed this song superbly, a real testament to the talent that the George Anderson Band has at his disposal. By this time of the night the Hoochie crowd had thankfully grown, and the group treated us to excellent covers of Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Knots’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’, and Luther Vandross’ epic ‘Never Too Much’.
Regular readers and listeners of TFSR will know that ‘Never Too Much’ is one of our all time favourite songs, and we’re generally quite sceptical of anyone who dares cover it (after all, we witnessed Jessie J attempt to commit murder on the spirit of Luther at Radio 2’s Festival in a Day a few years back, but that’s another story). The George Anderson Band, however, stayed true to the original – Anderson’s bass mimicking Marcus Miller’s groove on the original, in fact Anderson’s version was perhaps slightly funkier than the original, playing it less straight than the groove Vandross and Miller laid down in 1981. Indeed, Geo Gabriel handled the lead vocal well; it’s difficult to cover a song of such stature without being compared to the original, but Gabriel sounded pretty good, backed by Anderson’s stellar line-up of musicians.
The set came to a close with a brilliant cover of The Crusader’s ‘Street Life’, affirming once again that George Anderson is one of the top musicians on the UK soul and funk scene, and one of the nicest – coming out to chat with members of the crowd after his set, posing for photographs and sharing a drink. It’s a shame that more people in Newcastle did not make the effort to check out the George Anderson Band, because at just a fiver entry, they missed out on a serious night of funk at the Church of Hoochie Coochie.
Another ‘When George Met George’…