MUSIC BOX: Abundance to the Nth

By on May 3, 2016

Members of fusion quintet Nth Power have toured with Beyonce, Chaka Khan, Maceo Parker, Big Daddy Kane.

Fresh from Nola’s Jazz Fest, 9th Power, which lit up the Jackson stage during Contour Fest last summer, returns to the valley Tuesday.

Fresh from Nola’s Jazz Fest, 9th Power, which lit up the Jackson stage during Contour Fest last summer, returns to the valley Tuesday.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There’s a keen sense of timing when it comes to piecing together the magic that happens within the tight grooves of The Nth Power. It’s moody, powerful and brings to mind the elements that made Weather Report’s jazz-fusion so hypnotic. Yet the contemporary approach melts well with the soul of Marvin Gaye and the impact of The Roots. Add some seriously heavy dance grooves spanning R&B, rock, gospel, and World Beat, and you have a five-piece that spells much of what cannot be explained without seeing them live. Perhaps you remember them from Contour Music Festival last June?

The formula starts with heavy-hitting drummer Nikki Glaspie (Dumpstaphunk, Beyonce), compounded by ultra melodic bassist/vocalist Nate Edgar (John Brown’s Body), guitarist Nick Cassarino (Jennifer Hartswick Band, Big Daddy Kane), West African djembe master Weedie Braimah (Toubab Krewe, Kreative Pandemonium), newest member, keyboardist/vocalist Courtney “Jay-Mel” Smith. Smith came on board in spring of 2015 to replace Nigel Hall (Lettuce, Warren Haynes Band), and is a close friend of Braimah’s from St. Louis and also a member of their band, Kreative Pandemonium.

“Nigel is an old friend of Nikki and I’s, so it was definitely a bummer when he left but we’re super blessed to bring in Courtney Smith,” explained Edgar, who also performed as Roosevelt Collier’s backing band at Contour with Glaspie. “He came in never having toured, never really leaving St. Louis a ton, and had mostly been playing in the local church. At first, we had to play that Steely Dan set in front of 10,000 people and it’s difficult music and we were under the gun. It’s been a pleasure to see such a young cat grow so quickly. He’s got a vibe, and his contribution to the band is big. Vocally, he’s such a great harmonizer. He’s a choir director back in some really big churches in St. Louis.”

Nth power came together following an impromptu, middle-of-the-night jam at Jazz Fest in 2012. The big picture element that makes this unit so remarkable is their individual backgrounds. Take, for instance, Braimah’s ancestry and influences. Descending from a remarkable 111 generations of percussionists on his Ghana-born father’s side, Braimah’s name literally translates to “little drummer” in the country’s Akan dialect. Besides playing with a litany of the world’s greatest drummers like jazz great Idris Muhammed, his uncle “Pie” has the distinction of having taught the famed Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters how to play. Yeah, that’s heavy.

Local modern funk and neo-soul outfit Freda Felcher plays at the Silver Dollar Friday and Saturday.

Local modern funk and neo-soul outfit Freda Felcher plays at the Silver Dollar Friday and Saturday.

While The Nth Power had already grown exponentially in popularity without any recordings, 2014’s independently released Abundance bolstered their appeal. The band’s self-defined genre of “Love” is hard to argue as the non-verbal dialogue of the instrumentation really dictates the cohesion. Much of that glue is held together and nurtured though the bass lines of Edgar, though the sum of this group’s “higher power” is ultimately achieved with a rare chemistry. Edgar is also involved heavily as one of the band’s songwriters.

“Serving the song up and writing a song up in a way that we can touch as many people as possible with what the fuck we’re trying to say within the song, ya know, is really where we are coming from,” Edgar said. “It really has to do with trying to communicate the human experience. And those fans that support the live music are important to the preservation of live bands. I grew up on sampled music. I’m an old hip-hop head, love that early EDM and early dub and all that ‘whanka whanka’ stuff. I’m a fan [of that music] for sure, but the community that loves humans playing the music is really important.”

The band’s new video for the R&B slow-burner, “Only Love,” is a colorful animation with a dark, urban feel. The song appeared on the 2014 album. Edgar mentioned that the band does have new material to showcase at the Jackson show, which is a steal at $5. Fresh from a week of Jazz Fest shows in New Orleans, will the band be tired or inspired?

“We’re old road dogs by now, you know what I mean?” Edgar responded. “We come to deliver … just so excited to play the material and get to know our own music better. We love that town. It’s a special place. Those Tetons, man, I think they enjoy the Nth Power as well.” PJH

Nth Power, 10 p.m. Tuesday at Town Square Tavern. $5. 733-3886.

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

160504Music_PlanetPicks

FRIday

Freda Felcher (funk, soul; Silver Dollar),
86 (hard rock; Town Square Tavern)

SATurday

86 (hard rock; Knotty Pine),
Freda Felcher (funk, soul; Silver Dollar)

SUNday

Stagecoach Band (country, Western; Stagecoach Bar)

TUESday

Nth Power (funk, soul, R&B; Town Square Tavern),
Bootleg Flyer (country-soul; Silver Dollar)

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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