The first #MusicMonday feature of the 2017 series covers Lettuce’s music, background and success that has made them into the Funkiest Band Alive! The past few years the band has been on an upward trajectory headed straight to outer space to join the ranks of legends like Parliament Funkadelic and The Meters. I was introduced Lettuce about 5 years ago when visiting a friend in Chicago… little did I know I happened to also be staying with Jesus Coomes who just back from Electric Forrest. In no time Jesus became my homeboy by showing us around town, introducing us to his musical crew, and getting us into some epic shows – a highlight was seeing Nigel Hall perform with The Nth Power. The rest is history and they shot straight up to the top of my all-time favorite bands list. It has been a pleasure seeing these guys elevate themselves to new heights, but their history goes much further back.
In the fall of 1994 while undergrads at Berklee, the band formed and attempted to play at various Boston jazz clubs, walking in and asking the club owners and other musicians if they would “let us play”, giving birth to the name Lettuce. Mainly from word of mouth, Lettuce began developing strong followings in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, and Tokyo. They released their first CD, Outta Here in 2002, followed by their Live in Tokyo album recorded at the Blue Note in 2003.
They got chops; which have been accumulated over their two decade bandship including dynamic collaborations with very talented musicians together and individually. The team has revived the funk revolution and inspired a call back to the classic sound that was created in the 60’s and 70’s. Their presence has definitely influenced a new age of infusions through every genre from Griz’s future funk takeover to more pop sensations like Daft Punk’s track Get Lucky.
Lettuce has built a rock solid fanbase and credentials through relentless touring, constantly improving and raising the stakes. It seems like the stages and their sound keeps getting bigger and won’t stop until they are at the top. Even if you haven’t heard of the band, you definitely have heard their beats, riffs and bass lines in some of the biggest hits. They are made up of renowned touring musicians, studio musicians and producers who have worked with artists like 50 Cent, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Redman, Talib Kweli, Justin Timberlake, Daniel Bedingfield, Wyclef Jean, The Fugees, The John Scofield Band, The Game, Britney Spears, Pretty Lights and countless other acts.
Their hip-hop infused beats are backed by deep bass lines which complement the roaring horns that are tied in by melodic key structures and ripping guitar licks. Tie that in with the best new soul singer in America, Nigel Hall, and it’s a wrap! Their widespread dynamics can be heard in the funky anthem, “Sounds like a Party”, to the progressive psychedelic stylings of “Phyllis”. The later was the debut single off of Lettuce’s long awaited record, CRUSH. It was the squad’s fourth full length studio album and backed by their extensive ‘SLAP’ Tour. If that was not enough, they fulfilled their diehard fans’ hunger for Lettuce with a delicious sonic dessert that is Mt. Crushmore. The fittingly named EP was compiled from tracks that did not make it on the original list of Crush, plus some added sweet treats. The cherry on top was having Alecia Chakour featured on the Track “The Love You Left Behind”. She is a longtime Lettuce family member and current vocalist with Tedeschi Trucks Band.
According to Lettuce, that sense of unity and togetherness has much to do with a camaraderie that’s only intensified over the lifespan of the band. Formed in 1992, when several band members attended a summer program at Boston’s Berklee College of Music as teenagers, Lettuce was founded on a shared love of legendary funk artists like Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power. After returning to Berklee as undergrads in 1994, Lettuce started playing in local clubs and steadily built up a following that soon extended to cities across the country and then throughout the world. Releasing their studio debut Outta Here in 2002 and its follow-up album Rage! in 2009, the band dedicated the coming years to balancing their frequent touring with involvement in a host of other musical endeavors (including Evans and Krasno’s role as founding members of acclaimed soul/jazz trio Soulive).
In recent years, Lettuce have watched their fanbase expand as they’ve hit bigger and bigger stages and earned their name as a can’t-miss festival act. And in making Crush, the band had no trouble harnessing the spirit of their explosive live show. “Some of these shows we’ve played over the past couple years have been so amazing, it’s like you go home a different person,” says Coomes. “I’m sure remembering those moments in our minds and our hearts helped bring out something special when we were recording these new songs.”
If you want more check out Let Us Play. Directed by Jay Sansone and presented by Live For Live Music and A Human Being Media, the 45-minute “funkumentary” follows Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno, Neal Evans, Adam Smirnoff, Jesus Coomes, Ryan Zoidis, Benny Bloom and Nigel Hall over the course of six months of touring as well as in the studio recording their most recent album Crush. Breaking down the mechanics of improvisation and the artistry of making a modern funk record.
Stay Funky my Friends,