A Stagey Bank Affair
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Audio CD, July 1, 2016
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A STAGEY BANK AFFAIR marks ARUN SHENOY s first album in 4 years and a follow up to his critically acclaimed GRAMMY®- nominated debut Rumbadoodle. The highly anticipated concept album is Shenoy s first collaboration with THE GROOVE PROJECT, a musical supergroup of Shenoy s long term collaborators.
"A STAGEY BANK AFFAIR is an immersive audio visual experience of the Bansuri Funk Music, Artwork, Animation, Liners and Physical Packaging. ""Bansuri Funk"" is sound stylized by the fusion of Funk, Jazz and Rock with a spicy hint of Worldly Pleasures, the latter being a reference to the blazing performance on the traditional Bansuri by acclaimed flautist Ravichandra Kulur. The album s title, A Stagey Bank Affair, draws inspiration from a popular phrase in the North East of England that goes a house like stagey bank fair. The phrase is actually a reference to an agricultural fair at Stagshaw Bank, near Hexham, Northumberland. Legend has it that over the years, the farming side dwindled and the remaining fair became more associated with gambling and drinking. Renowned for its rowdy and notorious repuatation, the fair was eventually closed in the 1920s, and the phrase Stagey Bank fair passed into common parlance.
The concept has served as an inspiration for Art Director Roshni Mohapatra to craft a visual aesthetic built on vintage fairgrounds and the fading art of carnival poster illustrations. Her vision, in collaboration with the team at Actuality Films NYC with Robert Capria at the helm have resulted in vivid illustrations and animation that complement the funky edge to the music."
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As you’ll see (& hear), this short clip does a far better job of explaining the “spirit” of circus & merriment that Arun & The Groove Project evoke with their high-energy/high-talent compositions… this goes far, FAR beyond the “contemporary instrumental” framework noted in the promo sheets… this is full-blown fun, and certainly will merit new consideration by the Grammy Awards (the album I reviewed earlier was nominated for the 55th awards) (& remember to pass on to your friends that you heard it FIRST right here – this one will not only be nominated, but will WIN). Arun’s stellar guitar work is complemented by one heckuvva cast of players… Ravichandra Kulur Flute; Jeff Coff and Nick Stefanacci on Saxophone; Jonathan Anand Wesley, Ed Roth and Dave Gross doing Keyboards; Felipe Praino, Jim Kimo West and Owen Gurry on Guitar; Ian Cameron Violin; Duke Purisima Bass; Jerry Chua Drums; and Don Hart providing Orchestration. As you listen to tunes like “Speedway Rush“, featuring some astounding flute work from Ravichandra, and some wonderful orchestration, you’ll realize right away how powerful this musical extravaganza is! The high-energy vibe and total beauty created on the 4:10 “Mary Go Around“, will make you fall in love with it right away – I particularly loved the keyboard/flute duos on this tune. For some strange reason, the emotion-laden violin on “Sad Clown” evoked aural images of the Beatles “Fool On The Hill” (not quite sure why).
Of the ten excellent tracks offered up for your merriment & aural enjoyment, it is the the 4:57 “Hot Head Balloon” that got my vote for personal favorite… it most clearly illustrated (for this reviewer, anyway) what they were trying to do for the listening & viewing audience… bring to life the carnival/circus that life can (and should) be every day… in other words, Arun knows just how to use his music to inspire joy and fun! If we had more music like this rolling round the globe, no one would be interested in thoughts of war and mayhem running so rampant today. I give Arun and the Groove Project players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this totally absorbing musical adventure. “EQ” (energy quotient) rating is a 4.99. Get full information on the project, the players and Arun at his page for this fantastic album.
From the very opening piece we are gifted a superb vibe that hovers between New Age, Jazz and Funk with consummate ease. It’s called Sugar Free and features the talents of Uziel on keyboards.
I must say that this album is a breath of fresh air dear listener and reader and now you have a moment to “GET DOWN” with the title track A Stagey Bank Affair. I haven’t heard such good Jazz Funk like this since the band Level 42. This is simply perfect, a fantastic guitar segment can be found in here to rock it up and yes, of course, a lovely slice of slap bass as well, the brass section just emphasised what a fantastic composition this is, and it was my favourite off the album.
I found it hard to contain my desire to dance and move whilst listening to this brilliant album and on Mary Go Around; it was near on impossible, kudos to Ravichandra Kulur for his Ian Anderson like flute on the piece and we could easily slip back into the 70’s with a little Waa Waa peddle on guitar as well.
On Sad Clown we have a curious composition, it’s sad yet upbeat, one can surmise that’s the life of a clown, a beaming grin for the public, yet the tears fall when he is once again alone, is indeed a hard one to live. A real smartly produced piece this one, with sumptuous amounts of incredible multi instrumental talent ranging from a screaming organ to a flaming violin and in-between so much more, I would suggest multiple listens, as there is so much to take in.
That funky flute is back for Speedway Rush, and as the bass is slapped once more, the orchestra smooths the musical path, and we have a delightful segment of piano for us to all enjoy, in fact one could easily call this one, symphonic funk. There was a slight Celtic influence on this piece as well, that really seemed to add a whole new dimension to the arrangement.
Guitars, bass, and acoustic drive the narrative in this next offering, Pirate on the Seven Seas (Unplugged). This is a really smooth arrangement that has a little sun kissed energy about it; the percussion here is perfect with its influence in the arrangement. The whole piece has that grace and power that is always needed when performing an acoustic based composition, there is everything to love about this very free styled arrangement.
Hot Headed Balloon is up next, a mix of flute and a teasing Jazz funk beat create something enticing and it features Owen Gurry on guitar. This song intrigued me, again so many little nuances were involved here and the timing of the performance was sublime. The Groove Project is not just a super band set up by Shenoy; this is a collective of musical genius, and this track is further proof of that supreme musical intellect.
Let’s go brass; a more traditional funky style is used to begin the next piece called High Striker. While we’re talking all things Brass let’s give some applause to the members of the horn section in Steve Patrick (Horn) Mark Douthit (Alto Sax) Jimmy Bowland (Tenor and Bari Sax) and Barry Green. High Striker is a number that I would imagine will be a main stay on your music player of choice, it is simply undeniably brilliant.
The penultimate piece off the release is called Sky Coaster; this one has a real world global ethic to it which gives it a delicious flavour, the mixture of brass and flute playing a combo styled dance with each other, was a stroke of musical mastery and all the while that deep and heavy bass created the foundations of a very classy arrangement indeed.
Mermaid Crusade is our last offering from the album and what an amazing way to leave this outstanding release, the strings here were really fiery (Ian Cameron on the violin) and a a tip of the hat goes to Jim Kimo West on the guitar it is rip roaring fantastic. You simply cannot ask to finish a new release in a better way than this one.
A Stagey Bank Affair had it all for me, maybe I am biased as a Jazz funk and rock lover, but when you mix in the further instrumentational genius there can be no doubt that Arun Shenoy has created here a musical collective of top class artists to manifest for him one of the most vibrant and exciting releases for decades.
One also has to praise Shenoy for his dedication to album art as well, the booklet and whole presentation of this album is sheer quality and I can absolutely, dear reader and listener, guarantee you a happy journey with this album, and many hours of rhythmic pulsating evenings of musical bliss in funk heaven with A Stagey Bank Affair. You really must not miss out on this one, it’s simply magnificent.
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An instrumental work of art that quickly engages my entire being! I don't just listen..Read more