Keeping it funky at Jazz Fest

Local funk band grows in sound, size and audience


Kronic Groove Band with Alkatine & Stinger

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“I think we have a sound that no one else in Calgary has right now,” says Alex Baum, drummer and founding member of Kronic Groove Band. Citing Jamiroquai and Tower of Power amongst the band’s influences, the “KGB” bridges ’70s funk and acid-jazz grooves, generously coupling them with catchy hooks. Playing to a full house at the Beat Niq jazz club in May led directly to an outdoor show at Olympic Plaza for this year’s Calgary Jazz Festival. “It’ll probably be one of the best opportunities for us so far for exposure,” says Baum. “It’s a completely new crowd.” Rather than target just the small funk scene in Calgary, the KGB is looking to introduce the uninitiated as well. “[With] Calgary, it seems like it’s a lot of rock, a lot of metal, and a lot of indie rock and that sort of thing,” says guitarist Scott White. “We’re trying to show people that there’s alternatives. We’re filling a void, you could say.” Originally a musical duo that gradually grew to eight members, the band saw its sound changing and evolving quickly. From high school classmates to friends of friends, the band never posted clippings or held auditions when adding members. “We’re all connected in weird, different ways,” says White, which may account for the band’s myriad influences. “Everyone had completely different backgrounds,” says Baum, describing band members that listen to death metal, classic rock and everything in between. The collective decision to make funk music was as logical a step as any. “The funk idea is that each person brings something to the table,” says White. “Someone might bring in a chord progression or a keyboard riff or a guitar riff or a bass line or a drum beat or something, and that would probably start it off.” “Everyone kind of writes every song,” adds lead singer Taylor Cochrane. Improvised solos are abundant in the music, from wild guitar jams to horn explosions. “Every single person in the band is the most important.” White recalls the challenges the band had in the early days trying to get people to come out. They would often perform at Vern’s and the Distillery, gradually building a fanbase. However, having released its first album in March and embarking on its first tour across Western Canada in August, the KGB now finds itself in a critical transition. It’s cutting down on typical gigs and focusing on more event-based performances, such as the jazz fest. “At the heart of it, we try to make every song danceable. That’s pretty much key in all our songs,” says White. “It’s gotta have a beat. It’s gotta have a catchy hook. It’s just all about having fun and a good time.” The band emphasizes that its playful and energetic tone will not be toned down for the festival, nor will it attempt to appeal to jazz traditions. “It’s gonna be us,” stresses Cochrane. “We’re going to show them what we’ve got,” adds White. “We’re not going to try to learn any John Coltrane.”

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