'Resonate' Review: Funk/jazz kings Lettuce transport, delight and mesmerize in epic masterwork return

The Grammy-nominated masters of improvisation are renowned for their genre-bending brand of funk-jazz-soul-hip-hop-psychedelia and this album is definitely one to be relished


                            'Resonate' Review: Funk/jazz kings Lettuce transport, delight and mesmerize in epic masterwork return
Lettuce (Jay Sansone / Human Being Media)
ADVERTISEMENT

On the heels of their Grammy-nominated 2019 album 'Elevate', funk/jazz powerhouse Lettuce are back with 'Resonate', the band’s seventh studio album which releases on May 8.

Originally from Boston, these masters of improvisation are renowned for their genre-bending brand of funk-jazz-soul-hip-hop-psychedelia.

The band comprises Adam Deitch (drums, percussion), Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff (guitar), Erick "Jesus" Coomes (bass), Ryan Zoidis (saxophones, Korg X-911), Eric "Benny" Bloom (trumpet, horns) and Nigel Hall (vocals, synths, keyboards).

ADVERTISEMENT

As on-demand world-class musicians, they have already worked with practically everyone worth knowing in the music industry, including Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Questlove, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, The Fugees, Eminem, Gary Clark Jr, Skrillex and many more.

According to Lettuce, 'Resonate' is a definite continuation of 'Elevate'. Their new 11-track album was recorded at the same Colorado studio where 'Elevate' was made with producer Russ Elevado.

ADVERTISEMENT

The band also released a statement regarding the new album: "When listening to 'Resonate', we hope you can feel the groove, be moved to dance and allow it to shine a bright, positive light on any lingering negative vibes. We want the good vibes we have as brothers, a band, and musicians to resonate with those that hear this record and see us live. We’re stoked for all our peeps to hear it!"

ADVERTISEMENT

Artwork for 'Resonate' by Lettuce (courtesy of artiste)

The opening track 'Blaze' kicks off in the same mood space that the previous album 'Elevate' occupied. A mid-tempo number, 'Blaze' has a groovy, laidback rhythm section that provides a bedrock for Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom to flex their horn section chops, with both of them playing mesmerizing solos.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nigel Hall and Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff also jump in with solos of their own later on. As a first impression, this funky song feels like a sampler of the band’s diverse sound palette and has listeners locked in from the get-go.

'Good Morning Mr Shmink', is the title of the next upbeat outing, with bassist Coomes and drummer Deitch creating an infectious groove. The melodic base of the song with its chromatic interludes makes this song a real foot tapper.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lettuce never shy away from the fact that they’re a jam band that loves to let loose and get funky, and that's clearly displayed on this track.

'Ndugu' is an homage to Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler, the legendary American jazz drummer who played for heavyweights like Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Tina Turner and Santana.

Here the band explores their afrobeat leanings with Deitch and Coomes laying down a groove that is a distinct departure from their trademark powerful funk rhythms.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alongside dreamy guitar layers punctuated by staccato horn bursts, the song also features a fantastic trumpet solo by Bloom. 'Ndugu' is a great reminder of the effortless ease with which Lettuce can slide in and out of music styles.


ADVERTISEMENT


 

After that sonic detour, the band gets you right back in their wheelhouse with 'Checker Wrecker'. This lead single marries funky house to go-go rhythms, making for a heady concoction.

Also featuring are Washington DC music scene veterans Big Tony Fisher and Tyrone "Jungle Boogie" Williams, who add quips like "Add a little bit of that trouble funk with some Lettuce baby!" and "Put some stank on it!"

ADVERTISEMENT

The track sees Shmeeans playing a soulful solo, while the horn section is locked in tight with the rhythm section and packs quite a punch.

"Go-go music is the style of music that links funk to hip-hop and this song is a tribute to that groove. Having Tony and Boogie, iconic go-go legends, as features on the track gives it even more of a boost in energy and swagger," Lettuce revealed.

ADVERTISEMENT

In contrast to the previous tracks, 'Silence Is Golden' sees the band breathing a little more with plenty of harmonic movements from the horn section. Coomes and Deitch are again in top form, keeping the bottom end tight as ever while letting Hall and Smirnoff express themselves freely.

Zoidis and Bloom punctuate the sonic landscape with their chops in a breakdown section towards the end of the song that really ups the energy. It's remarkable how Lettuce takes their listeners through a range of emotions while still being rooted in power funk. 
 
Guitarist Adam Smirnoff's love for Indian music is well known, once seeking out maestro Indrajit Banerjee to learn the sitar. The fruits of that exercise are seen here in the track 'Moksha', which features a heavy infusion of traditional sitar musings.

ADVERTISEMENT

The track features a transcendental dialog between funk and Indian rhythms, wrapped up in ambient psychedelia, and rounded off by Hall's soaring synth lines. 'Moksha' is one of the stand-out tracks on the album and showcases the virtuosity of these talented musicians.


ADVERTISEMENT


 

The next track 'Mr Dynamite' sustains those lingering psychedelic leanings with a more traditional funk approach. Sweeping synthesizer tones and delayed patches by Hall give this track a nice mellow feel, a lovely contrast to the grandiose sound of 'Moksha'.

Smirnoff’s clean sections shimmer through the mix and perfectly complement Hall’s playing while Deitch and Coomes expertly hold the rhythms down. 

ADVERTISEMENT

'Remember The Children' marks a strong return to Lettuce's funk sensibilities. Hall delivers vocal lines that twist and turn with soulful abandon and the band follows suit.

Zoidis plays an exquisite sax solo that uplifts the track and gives it a near-gospel vibe. Full of life and bursting with harmony, 'Remember The Children' is a fantastic track that showcases Hall's strong vocal chops.

ADVERTISEMENT

'Lude' is a short and sweet track that serves as a sonic reset in the relentless flow of the album. It almost feels like a snippet from one of Lettuce's jams that was artfully repurposed as a palate cleanser. 


ADVERTISEMENT


 

As indicated by the title, the standout single 'House Of Lett' is an upbeat song that represents everything we love about Lettuce. It's supremely funky and dance-worthy, filled with jazz progressions, throbbing bass lines and a groovy rhythm section.

"House music can be funky!" the drummer Deitch said about this track. "The driving force of the beat can lift you up and make you MOVE. Turn it up and get your at-home dance party on!"

ADVERTISEMENT

Clocking in at a little more than eight minutes, the title track 'Resonate' is a magnum opus that encapsulates the entire album perfectly. Starting off with airy washes of synthesizers and swelling horn sections, the song moves in and out of dynamic changes almost like it was breathing.

The track is very breezy in its development, taking the listener on a journey that is both stripped down & lush sounding in turns. Zoidis and Bloom weave lines that fade in and out, giving the song a subtle melodic narrative that isn't obvious, but very much implied.

ADVERTISEMENT

The choice of patches, arrangement and measured play makes this jam song an absolute treat for the ears and a beautiful closing track overall.

We're expecting a lot more to come from Lettuce, despite the current coronavirus pandemic derailing their tour plans. Their guitarist Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff revealed, "We want to release a lot of stuff right now, We want to keep the momentum going. We want to keep our people engaged with new music."

ADVERTISEMENT

"Between stuff we recorded with the symphony and stuff that we’ve been doing video-wise, I just think you’re going to hear and see a lot more Lettuce over the next couple years." We fervently hope so too!