Filthy Funk: The Interview and Review

foto: antonio aresco, rit, xi mag
werd: james niche

Filthy Funk "Adversity"
click to download

Once again, it's time for the sit-down. I recently spent some time with Rochester's triple threat jazz, funk, and hip-hop group, Filthy Funk. The group has been working incredibly hard for the past ten years or so - here and outside of Rochester, not only as an ever-morphing group of musicians who have, through their passion and drive, broken musical barriers on the stage, but who have also taken their craft and talent to the studio.

In comes Filthy Funk Records, the music marketing and production group created by John Viviani (guitar) and Nick Murray (keys). Filthy Funk Records is now becoming a place for talented, hardworking musicians to call home. We talked about a couple of their artists and also about things to come. Check it.

ACT:LIVE: For those out there not really familiar with Filthy Funk, what have you been up to these days?

John: Lately, we've been playing a lot of gigs. We're playing at the Rochester International Jazz Fest coming up, (and) we also played at the Lilac Festival yesterday. We released my album "Tasty Licks" (2007, Filthy Funk) about seven months ago which we just sold out of. It was the first real release on Filthy Funk Records. We followed that with another CD that was more beat-oriented, "Beats Of Fury" (2007, Filthy Funk), and that's because, really, we have two different musical performances we do.

We have John Viviani and Filthy Funk, which is just sort of instrumental and you'll see a little bit of that tonight. It's a little more of free jazz sounding. Then, we also have the Filthy Funk shows, The Funky Soul Breakdown, which (adds) MCs and soul singers. RICRUDE makes it out a lot, Hassan (Mackey) makes it down sometimes. Danielle Ponder will be down as well.

Nick: We're also doing a lot of recording. Not just of ourselves, but of local and regional artists. Lonnie Smith was down - an old jazz organ player. He used to play with Benson. He came down and did some crazy stuff. He'll be down here for Jazz Fest, for sure. We still play around with making beats, and we're not doing a lot with that right now, but we want to continue to do that. We want to do everything that we can get our hands on.

Filthy Funk "Hamburger Pimp"
click to download

Filthy Funk has had many in it's wings over the years, but began as John Viviani (guitar) and Nick Murray (keys). They have worked with different drummers over the years and Devon Tramell has served as the latest and greatest. He joined the band last year and has a strong hip-hop, jazz, and gospel influence from listening - and the dude can jam. Enter Devon Tramell.

ACT:LIVE: Tell us where you came from, what brought you here, and what involvement you have had in the productions aside from drumming with Filthy Funk.

Devon: Well, before I joined the band I was sticking around Rochester with salsa bands, top 40 bands... bands like that. I've been working as a side man for what has to be the past ten years... maybe a little bit longer than that. I was always looking for a solid band to play with and came upon these guys and it's been great. I've been playing a strong part in booking. We all do our own booking, but together, we have been booking a lot of festivals this summer.

ACT:LIVE: What festivals will Filthy Funk be performing at this summer?

Nick: (laughs) Well, we said we had a lot in the works. But we are playing the Canandaigua Fest and the Village Gate Square (274-302 North Goodman Street). Village Gate is doing a weekly festival during the summer and we'll be playing the end of June. We got some fun stuff going on.

John: We're also going to be back at the Bug Jar (219 Monroe Avenue) in June.

Filthy Funk "Keep Talkin'"
click to download

ACT:LIVE: You mentioned that you are working with RICRUDE, a well-known and respected MC here in Rochester. That makes a hip-hop fan like myself smile. Where else in the hip-hop community have you given the Midas touch?

John: That goes back to the studio side of things for us. RICRUDE has had an album waiting to go for a long time now and we have been working on the mixing at the moment. He's also doing some work with producers John Woodring and HUSKY. RIC has been making the tracks and we have been mixing for the final cut. That's about half done at the moment.

In the past we have done work with local MCs, some who are still rapping and some who aren't. We worked with Emilio Rojas in the past, but he's in New York now, so we don't get to see him too much. We provided on a few tracks on his "For Good" album.

We're not doing the beat thing so much, just because of so much of the live recording and bands we're working with, but our next project will definitely have some more of that flavor to it. What you're gonna' hear tonight with RICRUDE - we want to start recording that kind of thing with the band. That will probably be a Filthy Funk release in the future... something with Danielle and RIC involved.

ACT:LIVE: With all the genres you cross, I can see you all must have a variety of musical influences. Who inspires you to do what you do?

John: For me, a lot of the great jazz guitarists. People like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. Then there's modern day producers like J-Dilla & Pete Rock. I'm really kind of into the beat tip. I come back to DJ Premier, Shadow, and Pete Rock. Hip-hop and jazz.

Nick: I always have a list of people that never gets said when I say this, but Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder. They are a couple of the top. Organ players like Jimmy Smith, McGriff... Anita O'Day, a jazz vocalist who got started back in the forties... She just died last year, I think, and she has been a huge influence. Someone who influences me is somebody new to me, somebody I haven't heard and has got something going on. Someone who makes me say, "Wow, I can't believe I haven't heard this person before." That's the most inspiring thing to me.

Devon: Well, for me, I'd have to say James Brown, Quincy Jones, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets... That's the kind of stuff I grew up on, so that all comes together for me.

ACT:LIVE: Where are things going from here in Rochester, with you as well as other musicians?

John: I think the community has a lot of great artists, it's just a matter of getting everyone involved. I think we're doing that with this event with RIC and Danielle. Rochester can be niche-like and we're just trying to plant a seed.

Nick: Rochester has always been a huge music community and it has so much potential, all we can do is continue to keep doing what we do, keep playing, and do what we can to support local artists. We also have to support ourselves. It's a cool little city and I think too many people are missing out. I think more people should get to the downtown area. (laughs) Hopefully, things won't get all "Fast-Ferry" on us.

Devon: I see Rochester going in an eclectic direction. Musicians from different genres of music are actually starting to come together. Jazz, hip-hop, rock - whatever. Like when people started coming to the jazz fest, it was just for swing. Now they're coming for funk, R&B, hip-hop - everything. People used to just go to the bar and spend their money, but now people are starting to get the picture and realize there are good shows to go to. There are good bands to go see. We're trying to bring that back.

John: People should get out and get away from their TVs. In my opinion, sometimes you want to go out to the bar and just chill, but I'd rather go hear some live music. I think society is becoming more insular. They need to engage the art...

Filthy Funk "Majik"
click to download

Filthy Funk is John Viviani (guitars), Nick Murray (keys), and Devon Tramell (skins). Filthy Funk hosts The Funky Soul Breakdown every third Friday at Dubland Underground (315 Alexander Street).

I stayed for the evening, tied on a nice buzz, and was taken back by the performance of RICRUDE right off the bat. Fresh Fingaz was doing a great job warming the crowd as they piled in, but RIC carried enough heat on his own. RICRUDE is one of the most talented MCs from the area, in my opinion. Any MC can stand in front of a turntable and recite, but RICRUDE delivers with confidence, intelligence, and something to say. There's nothing more proper than a jazz band to back you as an MC, so with my pinky finger out, cheers to that.

The rest of the evening was equally as live. Danielle played the crowd with her vocal hypnosis and brought us back to where the soul is. Filthy Funk, well, they blew off like a car bomb on "Eddie Fisher" and lit the evening up. That was music in motion.

I want to give props to Miguel Urbina for keeping the sound tight and the Filthy Funk for sitting down with me and spreading some knowledge. Cheers.

- james niche, act:live

Right now we're listening to:

Nujabes "Battlecry" (featuring Shing02) ("Samurai Champloo - Music Record Katana", 2005, Geneon)


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