Afrobeat on an international trip
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, May 11, 2012
On "High Noon," the second album from local jazz-soul band the Funk Ark, there's an audible Latin accent. Perhaps that's because it was produced by Adrian Quesada, whose Austin-based Grupo Fantasma also blends Latin and African music. Yet these 10 mostly upbeat (and usually vocal-free) tunes don't sound all that different from the material on the group's debut, "From the Roof Tops," which was released less than a year ago.
Heavily syncopated Afro-Caribbean music has inspired everyone from Nigeria's Fela Kuti to the District's Chuck Brown, so it's not unexpected when the 10-man band stresses that beat (notably during "Road to Coba") or bases one track, "Hey Mamajo," around a vocal chant that evokes 1970s salsa. But the Ark's material is still driven primarily by either the horn section or the keyboards of Will Rast, who composes most of the music.
The title track adds wah-wah funk guitar and echoes of Italian composer Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores, while "Wayward Bill" is a more traditional jazz number. As on the previous album, the most immediate track is the one with guest vocals. With the help of Mustafa Akbar's tenor, "Funky Southern" cuts a warm groove that evokes Memphis more strongly than Havana.