This bicoastal double bill brought together L.A.'s Cody ChesnuTT and New York's Sugarman 3, two unrelated artists with minimal fan crossover in what seemed, at first, to be a disparate paring. But both artists are tied together by soul, though they disagree on what body part is essential for it to work.
This bicoastal double bill brought together L.A.’s Cody ChesnuTT and New York’s Sugarman 3, two unrelated artists with minimal fan crossover in what seemed, at first, to be a disparate paring. Each has a new record: ChesnuTT’s proudly lo-fi debut “The Headphone Masterpiece” (Ready Set Go) is a bedroom-recorded double-disc set influenced by hip-hop and garage rock; Sugarman 3’s recent release “Pure Cane Sugar” (Daptone) continues the band’s tradition of paying homage to Hammond-organ jazz-funk. But both artists are tied together by soul, though they disagree on what body part is essential for it to work. For ChesnuTT, it’s all about the heart, while Sugarman 3 concentrates on the butt.
ChesnuTT and his band often evoked Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsies. ChesnuTT led the way with tuneful, clean-tone guitar picking and spaced-out digi-delay vocals, while drummer Craig Waters and bassist Aaron Roy beefed up his arpeggios. But Hendrix wasn’t around for hip-hop; when ChesnuTT beat-boxes in between verses, it’s clear that he’s not just a throwback.
His charisma is undeniable; even when he’s singing straightforward verses that equate erections with God, the effect is not humor but goodwill. But ChesnuTT needs his band to temper him — his music becomes too lazy when he’s playing solo and his between-song rants teeter-tottered from interesting to pretentious. Still, ChesnuTT’s got soul in the place that often gets overlooked; his raw talent has a still-untapped potential that could mean great things down the road.
Raw is the last word that could be used to describe Sugarman 3, whose crisp, funky sound follows a decades-old recipe: Throw together Hammond organ, horns and wah-wah guitar, stir slowly, and serve hot. Like Blue Note’s Soulive, Sugarman 3 isn’t interested in innovation — the band just wants to boogie. Guest vocalist Lee Fields, who was making his Los Angeles debut, added a much-needed front man to the ensemble; his James Brown impersonation was extraordinary and spot-on. Soul, to this band, is about packing the dance floor, and with Fields at the helm and Neal Sugarman as musical director, that was easily achieved.