Soule Monde: Instrumental Organ-Driven Funk

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Photo: Soule Monde ( Click To Enlarge Photo )

Soule Monde (pronounced SO-lay MON-day) is instrumental, organ-driven funk in its purest form. Erupting from the syncopated minds of power-drummer Russ Lawton and organ-wizard Ray Paczkowski, long time members of the Trey Anastasio Band (TAB), the duo take soul-jazz back to the deep end. A Haitian Creole term, loosely translated as "smashed world," the name Soule Monde derives from Lawton's middle name (Soule) and Paczkowsk's first name (Raymond). Soule Monde's eponymous debut CD was released in November of 2012. All eight groove-laden tracks, originating as improvisational jams, came together as finished compositions in the studio and were named after important or influential musicians in Ray's and Russ' lives.

Russ has been a member of TAB since its inception in 1998. What started as one-time engagement celebrating the opening of the Higher Ground ballroom in Burlington, Vermont, turned into an ongoing collaboration. He co-wrote several songs with Trey Anastasio which were recorded on Phish's 2000 album, Farmhouse, including "Gotta Jiboo," "Sand," and the Grammy-Nominated "First Tube." Lawton also played drums for the independent films Left Hand Path, Mud Season, and Mike Gordon's Outside Out. Paczkowski has played in every lineup of the Trey Anastasio Band since he joined the band on keyboards in 2001. Trey discovered Ray anchoring another great Vermont band, Viperhouse. Ray was also invited to join Trey to tour with Dave Matthews and Friends and subsequently opened up for The Rolling Stones.

Photo: Russ Lawton ( Click To Enlarge Photo )

Forged off a sound that originated with Booker T. and Jimmy Smith, yet highly influenced by the redeveloped grooves crafted by Medeski, Martin & Wood and The Beastie Boys, Soule Monde is the ideal union of swagger and raw talent. Over a decade of touring together as members of The Trey Anastasio Band has fervently cemented these two into an indestructible pocket, and bold improvisational leaps by either player are met by near-telepathic response from the other. These strut-worthy rhythms are further accentuated by a passionate longing for melodic story arcs. So while their songs will make your ass shake like a Jello plate on the San Andreas Fault, they will also take you on a narrative journey of harmonic exploration.

Paczkowski demonstrates a thorough understanding of players like Jimmy McGriff, Art Neville, Jimmy Smith and Herbie Hancock. The grammy-nominated Lawton's beats and fills push the melodies along a tightrope. Throughout the album, Paczkowski's bass lines provide a solid basis for his clavinet and Lawton's energetic rhythms. Each tune started as an improvisation but was developed into a full composition: there's nothing thrown together or haphazard or indulgent about this; rather, it's a fully risen soufflé for the body and the mind.

Photo: Ray Paczkowski ( Click To Enlarge Photo )

Paczkowski has an intrepid knowledge of the Hammond B3, playing it as fearlessly as Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field. Meanwhile, his left hand lays down bass lines on the clavinet with the ferocity of the meanest four-string, soul-cat. Lawton is constantly responding to his partner's attacks – pushing the groove further and deeper, whilst still holding the pocket like he's handcuffed to the snare. Don't ever expect the beat to drop with Soule Monde, and at the same time don't expect to get stuck in one groove. This is fluid funk, crafted for the dance floor but supported by an extensive grasp of jazz improvisation. Quite simply, this is the jazz-duo your parents warned you about.


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