Children of the Horn


Band of the Month: Children of the Horn

When asked the reason for forming Children of the Horn, sax player Wayne Leechford’s reply is as straightforward as it gets: “I wanted to start a funk band.” Leechford was one-third of the horn section in another band (“we were getting a big sound,” Leechford offers), and the other two guys were quickly sold on his idea. They traded mix CDs of their favorite funk jams to get a feel for their direction. “What we came up with was heavily influenced by funk and jazz-funk from the late sixties and early seventies,” he recalls. “The good stuff!”

One of those two other horn players, trombonist Robo Jones, is still in the band, and the line-up has been fleshed out gradually. Drummer Ed Butler and keyboardist Jim Crew signed on as the rhythm section, with Crew’s work on organ eliminating the need to recruit a bass player. Cornet player Bryan McCune took over for original member James Lane, and versatile guitarist Bernie Petteway recently became the sixth Child of the Horn. The results, true to Leechford’s initial blueprint, can be described as funk, but to be exhaustive mention also has to be made of jazz, rock, New Orleans, Caribbean, Afro/Cuban, and R&B.

The Independent Weekly managed to corner five of the six band members recently. And although they probably would have preferred talking about their self-titled debut record and the upcoming show to celebrate its release, the guys graciously discussed their other musical activities and influences as well as how to build a first-rate funk collection from scratch.

Independent Weekly: You all are incredibly busy. Please tell us about some of the other bands and musical projects that you're involved with beyond Children of the Horn?

Jim Crew: Bernie, Ed, and I have been doing some trio gigs, playing an eclectic selection jazz-type tunes. I am also recording/producing several singer/songwriters in my home studio.

Bernie Petteway: In addition to freelance gigs and the trio with Ed and Jim, I have
another jazz guitar trio with Ed and bassist Robbie Link. And I play acoustic music in a contra dance band called Contrazz with my wife Diane on piano, Rodney Marsh on sax and flute, and David DiGuiseppe on accordion. I also participate in another acoustic ensemble called Stringfellows and occasionally play alt-country gigs and shows for local theater productions.

Ed Butler: I do a bunch of freelance work, plus the aforementioned trios with Bernie, Jim, and Robbie and Stringfellows. Every now and then I work with The Red Clay Ramblers. I'm currently the musical director for a collaborative dance project with LD Burris & Keval Kaur of "2 Near the Edge" and Scottish/Gaelic scholar Michael Newton. Also, Bernie and I are in the pit every year for "A Christmas Carol" at Raleigh's Progress Energy Center.

Wayne Leechford: I'm mostly freelance. I do a fair amount of musical theater, chamber music, big bands, and I play with a couple other groups I started: the Raleigh Saxophone Quartet and my own jazz group, the Wayne Leechford Trio. I'm getting more and more into recording in my home studio. Right now, I'm developing a new Latin jazz/salsa band with some other local area musicians.

Bryan McCune: I do freelance gigs off and on. I try to be engaged in some sort of recording project at any given time. I have produced several unconventional CDs in recent years, including Zoneranger's Twilight and my own Trumpet Rock, on which you'll find some COTH members.

IW: If someone were starting a funk collection from scratch, what are ten or so records that are absolutely mandatory?

Collectively: Blue Break Beats, Vol. 1-4. Maceo Parker’s Life on Planet Groove. The Best of Parliament: Give Up the Funk. The James Brown box set Star Time. Lonnie Smith’s Witch Doctor. John Scofield’s A Go Go. Medeski Martin and Wood’s Shack-man. Soulive’s Doin' Something. Marcus Miller’s Tales. Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters. Miles Davis’ Bitch's Brew.

WL: If you want a real education in funk and you are fortunate enough to live in the Raleigh/Durham area, then all you need to do is tune your radio to 88.9 WSHA every Friday and listen to John Bouille's "Funk Friday" program. I've learned tons about the music from listening to his show.

IW: There are obviously a number of other styles at work (and at play) in your music and a number of influences. If somebody were to make a speculative list during a COTH show or while listening to your CD, what are some of the things that you think might be listed in the "Influences" column?

EB: I don't even know where to begin. When I started playing drums, I was listening to Elton John, Earth, Wind, & Fire, some Creedence Clearwater Revival, Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding and a whole lot of Weather Report. It wasn't until much later that I started listening to John Coltrane and Miles Davis. I never really know how to answer these kinds of questions about "styles" or "categories.” One person's vision of something jazz may be another person's idea of funk or R&B.

WL: Everything from classical to metal! I go through phases where I immerse myself in whatever I'm digging at the moment. I've turned into a real jazz head lately. I'm mostly listening to hard bop from the sixties. Blue Note recordings like Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Grant Green, Jimmy Smith, and many more. I also listen to electronic music by the likes of LTJ Bukem, DJ Shadow, Chemical Brothers, and remixes of many other artists' music.

BP: Pat Martino, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Jimmy Nolen, Roy Buchanan, and more recently John Scofield. I was in a horn-based R&B band in the early ‘70s, playing a lot of stuff by the Meters and War, so it's fun to revisit that kind of configuration and sound again.

JC: All my organ heroes! Dr Lonnie Smith, Larry Goldings, Neal Evans, to name a few. Plus, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Eddie Palmieri, Marc Cary, The Meters, Weather Report, Salif Keita, Baba Maal, King Sunny Ade, Papa Wemba.

BM: As far as trumpet/cornet: Miles Davis, Jon Hassell, Don Cherry, and my dad (who still plays his ass off) to name a few. Other influencing artists include Bill Frisell, Johnny Cash, Dick Dale, and Wayne Horvitz.

--Rick Cornell
Independent Weekly, Raleigh, NC (November 2006)

 

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