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The funky year that was 2017

Amidst the worldwide turbulence in 2017 I seemed to have found sanctuary in my world of Funk and associated musical adventures. As always my believe in the magic of music and its connecting powers has been upheld. Read on if you want to get a little bit more of an insight in to my activities of the past year and the ones to come.

RSB RECORDS

In 1987 my great and late friend and vocalist Bernie ?Big B? Auer – gave me a stage nickname – ?Red Steven Baker? – ?Baker? was short for ?Redtenbacher? and ?Red? – well, at the time I had massively long AND (Henna) red hair. Somehow this name stuck for a while until I studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. ?Red Steven Baker? became RSB and my roommate turned ?RSB? into ?Real Sexy Bass? – good job I?d say! RSB music has since become a steady companion for my musical activities. Not a leap but small step to turn ?RSB Music? into ?RSB Records? in an effort to give all my recent releases a home – hence, ?Real Sexy Bass Records? was born.

The first two releases in 2017 were:

Backwood Five – ?Brother Joe?s Garage? RSB 73100

Redtenbacher?s Funkestra – ?Re-imagined by Beat Fatigue? RSB 73200

What?s on my release schedule in 2018?

The Red Counts – ?A Little Book of Jazz? RSB 7300

Redtenbacher?s Funkestra feat. Helena May – ?Part of me? RSB 73400

Redtenbacher?s Funkestra – ?The Vinyl Collection? RSB 73500

Beneath The Bassline‘ – soundtrack for this documentary about the bass guitar by Nick Wells RSB 73700

Redtenbacher?s Funkestra – ?Big Funk Band? (feat. Benny Greb, Stanton Moore, Francesco Mendolia, Mike Sturgis, Cory Wong & many others) RSB 73600

Redtenbacher?s Funkestra – ?The String Sessions? (Fab project with equally fab violinist and string arranger Pete Withfield) RSB 73800

FUNKESTRA (FNKESTRA)

This year has not only seen the strengthening of our musical relationship with vocalist Helena May, it has also brought the addition of a ?quasi? new member with guitarist Andy Little. Andy has long been a friend of the band and seems like a natural development to add him to the band. His own band ?Mr Little?s Noisy Band? is a great operation, well worth checking out. Maybe 2018 will bring the long wished for double bill?

In November we?ve been to the studio to record a bunch of tracks with Helena – we are hoping to be able to present it to you sometime this spring – it will be a bag of funkified re-imaginations – 2018 here we come! Next stop – horn session recording with Sid Gauld (trumpet), Simon Allen (tenor saxophone) and Nichol Thomson (trombone) – closely followed by percussion overdubs by Karl Vanden Bossche and we?ll be in good shape!

This year has also seen an effort to modify the band?s name – let?s face it: ?Redtenbacher?s Funkestra? is quiet a mouthful and I?ve witnessed many occasions when people who are otherwise really happy with the music, have shied away from pronouncing ?Redtenbacher? and only ?Funkestra? itself seems to be subject to numerous phonetic interpretations?.

So, short of changing the name altogether or going back where we started, namely ?RB Funkestra? (short for ?RedtenBacher‘), which I find a little bit ?generic? and none-described, I?ve started experimenting with ?Fnkestra? – quiet a bit shorter and perhaps less of a mouthful, yet, still with the obvious Funk connotation in it? Any thoughts welcome.

Anyone starting a band and looking for a new band name – beware of the seed that you are going to saw. My band name started as a joke at Berklee College of Music in 1994. As fellow students of mine referred to me as ?Orville? – short of ?Orville Redenbacher?s Popcorn?.

I thought ?Redtenbacher?s Blue Funkestra? has a similar three word ring to it?little did I know that I?ll drag this ?cumbersome? name with me for the next decades and I can?t see another band name on the horizon, other than playing around with what we?ve got, ergo?Fnkestra?.

One more thought – yes, there are numerous Funkestra ensembles dotted around the planet – some active, some party bands, some studio projects, some long gone?I guess our strongest stance is that we are steadily releasing original music and seem to have the strongest listenership around the globe, I guess this helps:-)

I?ve also been working hard on the ?Big Funk Band? album – so far I?ve recorded amazing drummers Benny Greb, Stanton Moore, Francesco Mendolia and our own ‘oracle’, Mike Sturgis as well as Vulfpeck guitarist Cory Wong and Bill Cobham keyboardist Steve Hamilton. There is lots more to do before I can go into the studio with a full Big Band horn section of 13 players and present it to you. When I will – I hope you are going to be as excited about it as I have been at every step putting this together!

Also, again, very grateful to collaborate with arranger Peter Tomasso who always manages to make the horns sound ?phatter? and in every sense more balanced. I had a taste of this fat and balanced sound when Mark Armstrong, musical director for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO) invited me along to a rehearsal with his stellar Big Band and I was most pleased and encouraged with what I heard. Thank you for the opportunity – looking forward to rockin? all the new tunes with you somewhere on a bandstand!

[Stefan and Helena May with Funkestra at Ziggy’s Jazz & World club; picture courtesy of Rob Blackham]

THE BAND SOON FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE STAKS

This year has been a busy and in my book a pivotal one for this band. I?ve been in the band since late 1999 when it was formed. It started as a one-off surprise party band and has since formed into a formidable beast of +/- 16 musicians, fronted by lead singer Noel McCoy. I think we?ve always seen ourselves as a mature of ?Mad Dogs and Englishmen?, Otis Redding, Sharon Jones/Charles Bradley and The Dapkings with a good extra dose of Rock?n?Roll chucked into it.

Over the years we?ve played with artists like Beverly Knight, Joss Stone, Imelda May, Steve Winwood, Paul Carrack, Lulu, and also the late Jack Bruce. I think we were the last band to ever perform with him live on stage. What an honor!

With this pedigree behind us we thought it would be time to put ourselves on the map and release a few records in 2018! To pave way the way we have hooked up with Brooklyn artist Eli ?Paperboy? Reed and after a rehearsal trip to Paris and a few shows in London decided to team up – what a great story, especially as the journey started with me watching ?Preacher? – an Amazon Prime exclusive series – and when the tune ?Your Sins (will find you out)‘ came one during one of the iconic scenes I was blown away by the vibrancy of the tune and just had to find out about the artist – Eli ?Paperboy? Reed – what a start yo our future musical adventures!

[The Staks with Joss Stone and Seal; photo courtesy of Monica Dart photography]

BACKWOOD FIVE

Joseph or ?Seppi? Hinterhoelzl AKA Joe Backwood has become a real good friend ever since our first musical Big Band outing about two years ago. Joe is a great drummer and he set out to become the bandleader for ?Backwood Five? – ?Hard hitting Fuzz for Groove Jam lovers – since 2016?. Joe, Andreas See (sax), Oliver Kerschbaumer (organ), Paul Slaviczek (guitar) and honorary members Johnny Sommerer (guitar) and Martin Gasselsberger (organ) have played a bunch of gigs in 2017 and we are looking forward to continue to ?funkify? the Austrian population with our brand of funk, penned by yours truly. Listen to our first release ?Joe?s Garage? on RSB Records here: and check in at our Facebook page for future gigs.

HUGH TURNER FUNK QUARTET

Hugh is a formidable guitarist, bandleader and a household name in and around Reading in musician?s circles. I would describe his music as * electrifying * free-fall * psychedelic * guitar funk * and had the pleasure to play with his quartet pretty much every month of 2017. The nucleus of the band are Hugh Turner and Nial Tompkins on guitar, Steve Wyndham on drums and me on bass.

Our regular-once-a-month-gig at the The Global Cafe in Reading is always fun and I very much enjoy the free spirit of Hugh who lets us all stretch out and be creative on the spot. My own spontaneous offerings don?t always work out but sometimes it seems as if all planets align just nicely. Love it – more of please! Maybe even a recording and release in 2018? I know a label (hehe!).

FUNKY PLAYALONGS

Over the past few decades I?ve produced a mini-mountain of backing tracks. When I started out I always created little loops to play-along to in order to work on improvising, bass lines, sight-reading, etc. During my time as head of bass at the ACM I continued this tradition and also produced tracks for the Bassguitar Magazine and then the iBass Magazine.

I still spontaneously create my own play-alongs when I?m working on something I want to focus on, for example ?licks? with symmetrical scales and such. For a few years this catalogue of backing tracks, including ?minus one versions? of most of the Funkestra records were offered exclusively as AudioSheetMusic via the KR Player app. As this technology is currently morphing into its 2nd phase I?ve decided to release the best sounding high quality backing tracks plus their music notation of Bandcamp.

I called the Bandcamp site ?Funkyplayalongs?. To start out with I?ll only upload ?minus bass? versions but who knows, as time goes by, I might the ?minus one? tracks for drums, guitar, keys, etc. as they are all sitting on a massive hard drive. I?ve opted for the ?name your price? model as I feel it it most aligned with my vision being an ?independent artist? and educator. It honestly makes me feel happy knowing that a bassist somewhere in the world has decided to have a go at my lines of practises along to one of my backing tracks.

Although the current catalogue is technically ?free? I want to thank all of you who have payed generously for my offering- I?m most grateful. 2018 will bring a steady growth of this site – so, if you are interested, check in frequently.

[picture courtesy of Rob Blackham]

Thank you to everyone of you who supported me and the band throughout the year – listening to the music, coming to a gig, watching a video, interacting on social media or simply having words of encouragement for my ?independent artist? adventures.

Wishing you a healthy, successful and fulfilled Happy New Year and peace to all!

Carpe funkem, Stefan

[Stefan recording with the Staks at British Grove Studios]

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