Butcher Brown sounds like a band that has been around since the ’70s. Their brand of soul/jazz/funk fusion may take people back to that Me Decade, when jazz fusion greats like Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington, Jr., Tony Williams and others injected some groovy, groundbreaking soul and funk into the jazz mix.
However, Butcher Brown (not to be confused with the Detroit hip-hop beat maker who has the same name) actually consists of four 20-somethings from Virginia, and they’ve only been kicking it as a full-fledged band for two years. However, it’s their intention to sound as if they’ve been around for decades.
“We really love that raw, gritty sound,” says drummer Corey Fonville, on the phone from Richmond. Fonville cites Hancock, The Crusaders and Earth, Wind and Fire as just some of the band’s many influences. “Like, we record analog – we record a lot of our music to tape, like they used to in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, just because we love that sound. We want to capture that same vibe that those guys were getting.”
Even though the Richmond-based band is young, they’ve known each other for quite a while. Keyboardist/de facto leader Devonne “DJ Harrison” Harris met guitarist Keith Askey and bassist Andrew Randazzo while they were all studying jazz at Virginia Commonwealth University. As for Fonville, he and Harris have been buddies since high school.
“We pretty much are on the same page musically,” says Fonville.
The band has recorded several EPs – including the must-have “Backtracks” – which can be downloaded for free on their website ( butcherbrown.com). Their down-and-dirty, throwback numbers made a fan out of Cicely Mitchell, one of the co-founders of the music-presenting, non-profit Art of Cool Project. She immediately booked them to perform at the inaugural Art of Cool Festival in Durham earlier this year.
“It was our first time performing in the Triangle,” says Fonville. “But I must say the Art of Cool Festival is probably one of the coolest experiences that I’ve ever had. I mean, I’ve been blessed to be able to perform in a lot of countries and a lot of different festivals. But I must say it was such a, like, incredible vibe when we played down in Durham at that festival. I mean, it was very homegrown. It had such a family-oriented atmosphere that I don’t think you can really get anywhere else. And, just, the hospitality – it was amazing. Like, just the way they treated the musicians, it was awesome.”
Fonville and the rest of the crew are coming back here on Sunday, performing another Art of Cool-presented show. They’ll most likely perform new stuff from their first official, full-length debut, titled “All-Purpose Music” (scheduled to drop next month), as well as some numbers from “Numbers,” the recent collaborative effort they did with trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Payton.
Ultimately, Butcher Brown is a band that’s taking music from the past to get people moving in the present – and, hopefully, making some future, lifelong fans.
“We always use this phrase where we like to touch souls,” he says. “We’re pretty soulful individuals musically and we’re just positive, man – just positive people. And we hope our energy just transfers over to them.”