Staten Island’s 10-piece afrobeat brigade The Budos Band is all-instrumental, impossibly cool and more soulful than ever

The Budos Band with DJ Bronzai
9 p.m. Tuesday
The Conservatory
8911 N. Western

If Blood Sweat & Tears stole The Doors’ electric organ, raided a university percussion closet and grabbed anything that would fit in a hand or under an arm, local cops would be justified in calling up their New York counterparts to set up surveillance on Staten Island.

The Budos Band is a huge gang of musicians ” a dozen in the studio for its latest album, and 10 currently on the road ” operating all manner of instruments and employing all genres. There’s been quite an evolution through its three albums, and the members have grown progressively tighter with their arrangements, and broader with their influences.

Afrobeat, a rhythm-heavy blend of funk and jazz born in ’70s Nigeria, is a common thread throughout the Budos sound. With the group’s latest, “The Budos Band III,” the percolating claves, congas and bongos lay a swaying framework for a spinning dive in organ psychedelia ” a conscious progression, said baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel.

“It’s a real natural evolution,” Tankel said. “Our first album was definitely more afrobeat-meets-funk. We had started listening to a lot of Ethiopian jazz, so that comes through heavily on the second album.”

Released last week, the new record has a more “straight-up” feel, he said, a sound led by several Budos members ” the “metal heads” and those with a love ’70s psychedelic rock ” but the group’s vintage trip remains peppered with blaring horn lines and serpentine guitar. 

The Budos Band is all-instrumental, and from the beginning, Tankel said its members have been moving toward a harder, darker sound. The afrobeat elements provide much of the outfit’s flair and personality, but the musicians are constantly mindful of keeping to a somewhat standard rock-song format.

“Something we pride ourselves on is writing and performing songs that are really hard-hitting and upfront, just exciting and high-energy,” he said.

Tankel said their early jam sessions went afrobeat’s more traditional route, with multiple verses and choruses interspersed with “sprawling solo sections.”

“But before we even recorded the first album, we made a real conscious decision to just cut it down, make it more of a funk or soul band,” he said. “We just kind of realized that if anyone was soloing for more than a couple of minutes, at tops, we all just kind of got bored. We kind of feel the songs would lose their focus at that point. To us, a 12-minute song was just was like ‘Man, when is this song going to end?’ It just keeps going and going.”

The bandmates have a collaborative writing system that usually forms around a riff from guitarist Thomas Brenneck; the song gets built and layered around the individual elements. The horn section works out and carries the melodies atop the guitar and bass, while the rhythm section sets the pacing and “round out” the song’s groove, Tankel said.

With three years between the three records, the group had plenty of time to work on the album’s 11 tracks, which were refined at live shows, Tankel said, and well-defined by the time they entered the studio.

“We’ve been playing together for so long now, it’s a real comfortable environment,” Tankel said. “Everyone is completely free to bring in influences and ideas, and there’s a level of comfort that if something doesn’t work out, there’s no hard feelings.”

The Budos Band came together in 2003 as an after-school project for its members, most of whom find regular, full-time employment as teachers. Summer then, obviously, is the only time they can tour for any extended length of time.

“We’ve had a pretty busy summer,” Tankel said. “People have turned out in good numbers, and seem really into what we’re doing, so it’s been good.” “Joe Wertz

Joe Wertz

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