By Charles Gunn
Finding great live music in Calgary on any given night can be a daunting task: most watering holes offer generic canned music, an inane atmosphere, and, if you’re lucky, a washed-up band playing a live version of their studio album. One thing is certain: live shows are no longer the place for creativity.
Fortunately, groups like Moses Mayes and the Funk Family Orchestra successfully save live music from the throes of mediocrity. As one might expect, this seven-man "musical collective" is far from normal by the standards of today’s music industry.
"We’ve tried to describe our sound a lot of different ways along the road," says keyboardist Nathan Riemer. "It’s hard to nail it into one category without using the word ‘fusion.’ The best thing we’ve ever come up with is jazz-funk-house fusion."
No matter how you describe the style of the Winnipeg-based group Moses Mayes and the Funk Family Orchestra, one thing is certain: it’s unique. With an absence of vocals, there’s no single centre of attention.
"Every single one of us has different influences," says bass player Paul Farley. "Certainly, ’70s funk fusion has a huge influence, but I’m really into bluegrass and classic rock. When you have seven different guys who all have different musical backgrounds, you draw from whatever you can."
After playing an astonishing 147 shows across Canada in the last year, Moses Mayes has acquired a definite and devoted following. Their self-titled debut album is available at their live shows and on their Web site, mosesmayes.com. For their upcoming release, tentatively scheduled for a Spring 2002 release, the collective has a distribution deal in the works that could substantially bolster album sales and increase recognition of the group.
With this anticipated success, the band is preparing to return to the stage once again.
"Seeing any live band is an experience, let alone a seven-piece instrumental orchestrated jazz-funk fusion band," says Farley. "I feel that our shows are different from a lot of other shows in that when I’m up on stage, I feel like I’m still jamming in the basement with my buddies."