DATE: Sunday July 26, 2015
STAGE: The Village Outdoor Stage (Family Stage)
ADDRESS: 111 Garrison Village Drive, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
TIME: 4:30PM – 6:00PM
TICKET PRICE: Free
Richard Underhill – alto sax/lead vocals – road manager
Perry White – tenor sax
Kelly Jefferson – tenor sax
George Koller – bass/vocals
Stich Wynston – drums/vocals
The Shuffle Demons are a high-energy band that blends virtuosic jazz and funk playing with eye-catching costumes and over the top stage antics to produce an incredible show.
The Shuffle Demons first broke onto the Canadian music scene in 1984 with an electrifying musical fusion that drew in equal measure from Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.
Over a 30 year span the Shuffle Demons have released eight CDs, two hit videos, won several music awards, done numerous TV and radio appearances and toured nationally and internationally including 20 cross Canada tours, 5 US tours, 16 European tours, a tour of India, a tour of China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Cuba playing on big festival stages, theatres and clubs.
The Shuffle Demons – Juno Nomination – 1987
Richard Underhill – Juno win 2003, nominations 2005, 2007
Kelly Jefferson – Juno Nomination 2011
September 20, 2012
Peter Hum – The Ottawa Citizen
ShuffleDemons Clusterfunk 270152 large Five Canadian quintets, Demonic and otherwise (CD reviews)The KISS of Canadian jazz is back.
I refer, of course, to those costumed, high-energy beatnik cut-ups, the Shuffle Demons. (Lest you might disagree with my analogy remember: Gene Simmons was a Demon too.)
Spadina Bus, Out Of My House, Roach and The Puker made the sax-heavy Toronto group, now 28 years old and still going strong, hip before there was hipsters. With ClusterFunk, their first album of original material in more than 17 years, the Demons are back, delivering extroverted, hard-hitting crowd-pleasers like the groovy One Good Turn, the slow and nasty Daddy Long Legs and He’s the Drummer, a much deserved salutatory rap to that slamming Demon Stich Wynston and drummers everywhere. Here’s a slightly potty-mouthed, bikini-enhanced version of that track that also features two members of the Barenaked Ladies guesting:
But the Demons have much more than grooves and goofiness on their minds. Most notably, Demon Rich Underhill is a prominent voice for social justice, environmentalism and other left-wing causes — not just a wailing alto saxophonist. Thus, his tune Sell Me This is a send of mindless consumerism, “1,000 useless things headed straight to the dump.” Shanghai Shuffle is a companion piece, pointing to the exploitation of Chinese workers. Bottles and Cans is a booty-shaking ode to recycling. Fukashima and Earth Song are instrumentals that flow from funk to free, nodding respectively to Japan’s recent nuclear disaster and the planet as a whole.
Those who might find the shades, suits and shtick a bit much can just focus on the music. As caricaturish as the Demons can seem, their music stands on its own merits. The oversized, viscerally appealing rhythms, the smart and tightly executed horn arrangements and passionate improvisatory flights combine for a mighty wallop. Instrumental tunes such as bassist George Koller’s breakneck swinger Way After Midnight, drummer Wynston’s reggae blast Strollin’ and especially tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson’s On The Runway would boost anyone’s jazz cred.
Critical Jaz – 2012
As a critic it is incredibly easy to reach a level or burn out or perhaps musical indifference when going through the motions of critical review. Let’s face it, reviewing roughly 800 releases a year leaves one little time to listen simply for enjoyment. There are those rare occasions when the job of the critic and the joy of the music come together and make musical multi-tasking a thing of beauty. Welcome Shuffle Demons!
The Shuffle Demons and their first release in nineteen years, Cluster Funk makes this review a literal walk in the park. Canada in general and the Toronto area in particular are home to some great artists but one question begs to be answered. Where in the hell have these guys been for nineteen years? For those of you playing along at home, Shuffle Demons are a Canadian jazz fusion band that may quiet possible fuse old and new school jazz/funk as well as any band since Tower of Power or some of the larger Blue Note ensembles of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Instead of imposing my own genre tag, Shuffle Demons refer to the band as a mashup of funk and free form jazz however their vision is not limited to mere labels.
Opening with the slightly tongue in cheek “Sell Me This” which is seemingly a jab at the rampant materialism occurring in society, the horn section immediately grabs your attention with their foot to the floor articulated pop reminiscent of Tower of Power. Musical frames of reference are inherently unfair. Every artist or band has their own voice but to grasp a sonic visual of where I am coming from sometimes these references can be of great help so for me they are the Canadian Tower of Power and I mean that with great respect. The vocals are well constructed and seem to set the table for that party band atmosphere but one that actually finds their groove without the need of the listener to ingest semi-lethal quantities of alcohol to find it with them. “All About The Hang” has an incredible cool retro groove that brought back memories of the 70’s hit television show Sanford & Son. Unlike similar jazz/funk ensembles the one key ingredient to Shuffle Demons would be their improvisational chops are equal to that of just about any band on the planet. “Shanghai Shuffle” is another blistering tune guaranteed to set your hair on fire or make your musical back leg shake if that’s how you roll.
So after roughly nineteen years where have they been? In 1995 the band took a break while exploring other creative ventures. Richard Underhill released his Juno nominated debut release. For those of you playing at home the Juno is the Canadian Grammy. George Koller began working with the great Holly Cole. Stich also worked with Holly Cole among others. Perry and Kelly resumed their careers as “A” list studio musicians with Kelly receiving a Juno nod in 2011.
Long story short…These cats can play!
Peterborough Folk Society
Forget using Clusterfunk as the background music for the next meeting of your local book club or even the annual board conference of the Mister Rogers Niceness Appreciation Society ’cause peeps is gonna be dancin’, carousin’, drinkin’, and be-boppin’ all over the place as soon as the first cut, Sell Me This, jumps out, amigo. No doubt about it. Not only is the band popular in The Great White North and the upper U.S. festival circuit but has earned awards and acclaim far and wide. Mssrs. Underhill, White, Jefferson, Koller, & Wynston are doing something quite unique in covering myriad musical bases. Whether you just want a lot of way-shakin’ jump numbers or outside stretches of dexterity and imagination—as in Way after Midnight and Fukushima—well, ya gets it all, Hiram, and lots more besides. Heck, hook ’em up in concert with an ensemble like Soullive (here), and you’ll have a night to remember.
YOUTUBE: Shuffle Demons
FACEBOOK: The Shuffle Demons