Thursday 5 March 2020

Beat Bronco Organ Trio: "A Trip Worth Taking" [Interview]

Since its inception in 2013, Rocafort Records have garnered a strong reputation as having unearthed some of yesterday's classic and unsung records from various parts of the world.  The Barcelona-based label initially hit big with their discovery of Johnny Zamot and secured wins with subsequent releases like The Nitty Gritty Sextet and 'Africa Gone Funkee'. 

But Rocafort have also provided a home to innovative new artists many of which carry on the legacy of the artists that the label have become renown in championing.  Break beat rapper Andy Cooper saw the release of projects including 'The Layered Effect' and now we have the release of Madrid's Beat Bronco Organ Trio's debut full-length, 'Road Trip'.

Comprised of members Gabri Casanova on keys, Lucas de Mulder on guitar and Antonio "Pax" Alvarez on drums - musicians who have all put in time as members of various bands amidst Spain's thriving funk and soul scene - the ten track project delivers with a selection of Hammond-heavy and up-tempo numbers.

April 2019 saw the release of Beat Bronco Organ Trio's debut 45, also released through Rocafort, which paired the singles 'Easy Baby' and 'Geriatric Dance'.  If you were quick then you picked up one of the limited vinyl pressings but, if not, you have the consolation that the digital versions are still available.  And while 'Geriatric Dance' is notably absent from the final 'Road Trip' tracklist, 'Easy Baby' thankfully did secure its place fitting in snugly amongst the gems throughout 'Road Trip'.

The album powers through at a great pace - many of the tracks hit with tremendous energy like 'Hard Play' and 'Beat Bronco', the latter of which displaying some incredible drumming, and there's the 60's Roy Ayers-esque aesthetic to the album's title track which is another strong highlight.  And then there's a couple of strong guest contributions from flautist Chip Wickham who guests on two of the album's tracks ('Squirtly' and 'Electro Pi') and vocalist/guitarist Alberto Palacios guests on 'Hey Hey' which serves as the group's ode to the music of the revered New Orleans musician, bandleader and producer, Dave Bartholomew.

Blue-in-Green:RADIO were thrilled to have caught up with Antonio "Pax" Alvarez from Beat Bronco Organ Trio to discuss the 'Road Trip'.

Congratulations on the release of 'Road Trip': are you happy with how the project is being received so far?
Thanks!! We are so happy with the reaction of the specialized media.  Having good reviews from people such as Craig Charles is something to be proud of.  And not only that, [the] general public is also digging it, fellow musicians from different parts of the planet sending good comments, etc.  [It's] definitely a good start.

Who were some of the band's early influences that went on to shape your own sound?
Well, we all come from the same musical source.  We all have our heroes in jazz, funk and soul styles.  The three of us dig all those 60s Hammond records - Blue Note, Impulse, and so on.  To name a few: Grant Green, Jimmy Smith, Ben Dixon, Lou Donaldson, etc.  The Hammond Organ is the glue of this kind of music.  All those Organ players and all the great musicians they gather are our biggest influence, among many others, of course.

How did the three of you come together to form Beat Bronco Organ Trio?
Lucas and Gabri were running a jazz-funk jam session in a club in Madrid.  After jamming together we decided to try out a trio and see what happens.  We were very surprised with the sound and the vibes of the three of us together.  After playing some shows, we decided to lay down a couple of songs in the Sweet Vandals recording studio.

How did you come to the attention of Rocafort Records?
One of the two owners of Rocafort Records, Ivan Ivanovich, runs the music in a venue in Barcelona, Marula Club.  We are long-time friends, so I called him for booking a show with my new project.  I told him we had two great numbers and we were looking for a record label to put them out.  He was interested in listening to those tunes for his record label and in a few weeks we had a solid offer to release a 45.

Can you talk a little about how the album was put together, and how the writing and recording process usually works for you?
The boys at Rocafort offered us to work on an album after releasing the 45.  Lucas and Gabri are great music writers. There were plenty of ideas on the table.  We worked together on the arrangements and parts, beginnings and endings. Some songs were created in the studio, based on a drum break, a guitar riff or a bass line.  We wanted to print the vibe of a live music session, so most of the songs are first or second takes.  I have to say that we made this record at Gabri’s home studio.  He is a hard working guy, he looks after every detail and his musical background is pretty huge.  Besides the musical part he gets all the credit on the technical engineering and musical production.

What led to the collaboration with Alberto Palacios and the cover of 'Hey Hey'?
By the time we were recording the album, we learned about the [passing] of Dave Bartholomew.  We decided to pay a tribute to him and his jaw-dropping musical career, life and influence over modern music.  Lucas suggested [the] killer cut 'Hey Hey' after hearing it on a local radio station.  We loved the idea of including Boogaloo on the LP.  After recording an instrumental version of the song, we thought it could be great to include a vocal number on the album.  Alberto Palacios has a fantastic band, Anaut (which I highly recommend), where Gabri is the keyboard man.  It couldn’t have been more easy.

It was really exciting to see Chip Wickham featured on two tracks: how did that collaboration come about?
Chip is a long time friend.  Both Gabri and I had different projects with him when he was living in Spain, a few years ago.  I play the drums (and easy vibraphone parts :-) on his two first solo albums.  Gabri plays piano on the first.  Chip took me for a UK tour with his fabulous band last summer, when the recordings were happening, and we talked about doing something together for the album.  We literally created a musical base for him to put a flute melody.  It’s a pretty heavy song in the line of our old projects together.

Spain seems to continually garner a strong reputation for upcoming funk and soul bands: how would you describe coming up through that scene?
Spain has a fantastic musical scene on many different styles and funk-soul is no less.  I think the influence of 90s UK acid-jazz played an important role.  Funk DJs and bands are a real deal in Spain since many years ago.  The three of us were on this scene for some time with different projects, backing international artists, etc.  Not famous but pretty well-known in Madrid as good funksters!

Who's a dream artist for the band to either record or perform with?
That's a great question!  I don’t know.... there’s lots of people I could think of, but most of them are unfortunately resting in peace now.  We have some people in mind for collaborations with the band in the near future.  All friends met along the road and great musicians.  If I was given the wish to bring any person I choose to record/tour with, that would be Curtis Mayfield.


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