By: John Mabery
Every once in a blue moon, for some inexplicable reason, the Gods christen a nerdy white boy a talented MC, blessing him with tremendous skills on the mic and unparalleled showmanship. It’s a universal phenomenon that can’t be explained, but we don’t bother to question it because usually it’s just too much damn fun to watch. Such is the case with Jack Brown and the remaining members of Sophistafunk, a Syracuse band “where old school meets the new school.”
But don’t be hesitant; there is plenty of validity to that aforementioned statement. MC Jack, keyboardist extraordinaire Adam Gold, and natural born drummer Emanuel Washington know their history – blending 1960s fusion with 70s funk and 80s hip-hop into something that is irrefutably cool without the need for words like retro or nostalgia. On top of their instrumental duties, which are the lifeblood of this group, Gold and Washington also provide backing vocals, creating a dialogue between themselves and Brown that settles nicely over their tasty grooves. And, when coupled with the stage presence of all three members, Sophistafunk becomes a true performance band.
The band recently graced the stage at Mexicali Blues, giving the crowd an experience that won’t soon be forgotten. Gold and Washington set the mood with a pitch-perfect fusion-influenced instrumental before Brown, clad in a red sports coat and fedora, made his way onto the stage for a funked-up version of Rage Against The Machine’s “Renegades of Funk.” The trio never looked back from there as they blazed through tracks from their previously-released EP – “Livin’ To Rock,” “Colors (Remix),” and “Big Bad Bouts” to name a few – as well as cuts from their forthcoming album – “Wild Out,” “Lyrical Guide,” and “Hard Enough.” They also paid homage to their funk-hop forefathers in OutKast with a medley that featured Gold on the vocoder.
As the set progressed, the population on the dance floor grew in size and in life. By the end of the night, it became apparent that onlookers both familiar and unfamiliar were mesmerized by the rhythms and lyrical flow of Sophistafunk. Brown said after the show, “I make the kind of music that I want to hear that no one else is making.” Thankfully, the music that he wants to hear is very good, and, thankfully, he is sharing it with all of us. I do believe the Gods are smiling.