self released, 2011, CD EP, 9m 8s, £3.50
Fresh Like Dexie are funky. Very funky. I’ve been a fan of funk since I first heard Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and the Parliafunkadelicment Thang in my late teens, and I devoted a lot of time after that to studying the music, so I have some idea whereof I speak. In the more than two decades since then I’ve heard a lot of bands playing funk, and more than a few of them falling on their faces in the attempt. Funk can sound pretty busy to the uneducated, and it takes some application to strike the right balance, between putting in enough tasty links to make it exciting, and looking after the One. The One is crucial: every little flourish of tricky syncopation is there to emphasise the One. A funk groove is made up of the One, and of all the other stuff that exists to make the One fall as heavily as possible. Fresh Like Dexy are on the One.
The curious thing is that it takes many musicians quite a few years to develop the maturity necessary to understand this. Funk is not an opportunity to display your chops; it’s just that chops are required to play it. This band (whose members look very youthful on their CD artwork) have the chops, and the maturity to know what to do with them.
There are no horns in this, just a four piece rhythm section and some vocals, and the grooves are more of the continuously rolling variety beloved of the early 90s acid jazz scene, than the spatial type practiced by James Brown and his many acolytes. In fact, this band could have slotted in very nicely to the acid jazz scene, had they been born about twenty years earlier (by the look of them).
I can’t think of anything I don’t like about this band: they have an extremely likeable exuberance about them, an enthusiasm that is tempered only by the precision with which they play. Their singer is soulful and technically adept, with a very nice line in phrasing: you can hear that her voice still has room to mature, and open up a little, but that’s no criticism. The material is sophisticated and intelligent, with a good command of harmony, and the arrangements are full of variety and imagination. If they’re half as good live as they are on here they’ll be a kickass party band. I’m impressed.