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Liquid Soul

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Album Review

On its largely instrumental and mostly live debut album, Liquid Soul serves up precise horn charts and tight dance grooves at the junction where early-'70s old-school funk à la the J.B.'s meets new-school mix culture. And jazz, too, as strong versions of John Coltrane's "Equinox," Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," and Miles Davis' "Freddie the Freeloader" enter the mix alongside jamming live funk with a rapper on "Afro Loop" (or as the band splits the difference between the two forms on "Java Junkie"). Leader Mars Williams' tough, intense tenor sax tone cuts through particularly strongly on "New E," and he's ably complemented by Ron Haynes' trumpet. Guitarist Tommy Klein is a great rhythm comper — check the slinky riffs he throws down on "New E" — and the rhythm section is up to the considerable challenge of chopping up funk rhythms or fluidly swinging jazz with equal aplomb. "Blue Groove Freestyle" is a sterling example of what freestyle rapping with a live band could be. It many ways, Liquid Soul's real peers are artists like Manu Chao and Amparanoia in Spain, Zebda in France, or Ozomatli in Los Angeles — bands that choose the elements they want to emphasize from a floating pool of dancefloor moves. Liquid Soul comes from Chicago, so the equation adds up to funk, jazz, and hip-hop delivered with smart, varied arrangements and skilled playing.


Genre: Trance

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Chicago acid jazz outfit Liquid Soul originally comprised saxophonist/musical director Mars Williams, DJ Jesse de la Peña, guitarist Tommy Klein, bassist Ricky Showalter, trumpeter Ron Haynes, keyboardist Frankie Hill, and drummer Dan Leali; formed in 1993, the group quickly emerged as a Windy City club favorite thanks to their regular Sunday night gigs at the Elbo Room, and soon recorded a self-titled debut LP for their own Soul What label. A series of high-profile gigs including appearances at...
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Liquid Soul, Liquid Soul
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