Does Santa Fe bring the funk? The Sticky rocks it often, the Family Stone toured through and George Clinton is coming to New Mexico later this summer for Meow Wolf's Taos Vortex festival, so those add some points—otherwise, it's a genre I don't come across nearly as much as I'd like.
But to find that Santa Fe has a funk band that combines Afrobeat, hip-hop and jazz influences without muddying their sound, and they're good to boot? That's a treat I was not expecting until I heard Shake Alert. The band is poised with its upcoming debut album Aango (recorded with producer Kabby Kabakoff at Kabby Sound and mastered by Will Dyar at Hills Audio) to prove that booty-shaking is alive and well in our dance-crazy town.
Lead vocalist KC Dutcher, an accomplished MC in his own right under the moniker K.Dutch, declares the upcoming album as the band's first definitive statement, a confident presentation of their catalog to date with a fully realized sound.
"We have been working slowly for pretty much four years," says Dutcher. "These are the songs that have stuck."
Shake Alert borrows from an expansive range of styles, and to call it solely funk music doesn't quite paint the whole picture. What immediately hits the ear is the rhythm, which is pinned down with scientifically precise groove by drummer Dave Wayne, one of Santa Fe's musical treasures as far as his involvement in dozens of excellent projects dedicated to almost every shade of jazz, fusion and beyond.
The rhythm section continues, however, with the inclusion of dual percussionists flanking Wayne's kit work. Dave Shaffer, who played on the record but has since left Santa Fe, and Ramon Lovato provide a richness and variety to the foundation of Shake Alert's funkiness that allows it to venture into territories of Afrobeat as well as many different styles of Latin music.
This three-pronged percussive approach supercharges the music. Basic structures are written primarily by keys-player Joseph Salack, guitarist Kevin Sennott and bassist Neal Denton before the rest of the band adds their own tones and influence. Salack mostly plays the Fender Rhodes electric piano, an iconic instrument in the long history of fusion that adds a buzzy coolness to the proceedings. Sennott's guitar work channels a few
different icons, from early-era Carlos Santana to Al Di Meola, for an active yet restrained style through which Sennott knows when to let loose and when to simply reinforce the rest of the players. Denton's nimble bass lines apply a near-perfect bounciness to the music, no easy task in any funk-adjacent band.
Dutcher, who joined the band after many of the songs were already written, is tasked with doing his own thing, and his voice sounds confident whether rapping, singing or some combination of the two. And while all of the music is enjoyable, Dutcher also provides a much needed lyrical point of view that elevates the material. Similarly to the elder voice of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, whose music was his activism, Dutcher is not content to let the listener simply glaze over while the music plays on; while not overtly political, there is a conscience at the core of his lyrical style.
"It's definitely deliberate," Dutcher explains. "In general, as a lyricist, I tend to lean toward conscious subjects and want to use my voice in this way to raise awareness, get people thinking about things."
The song "Long Road" won't be confused with a Rage Against the Machine anthem, but it does touch on many of the ills of trying to operate as a human being stuck in the gears of an often inhumane political machine. It's a number that stands out with a slightly more somber tone and touches on spikier
corners of funk with some nods to the transcendence of fusion giants like Mahavishnu Orchestra.
It's a dense sound, but danceable, fun and demanding of close inspection, multiple listens. Shake Alert borrows from genres that are easy to overlook as dance music but have always had more to say than casual listeners might
initially realize—and with enough hooks to keep the party going if that's all you're looking for.
A few errant copies of Aango may find their way to the band's upcoming Zephyr gig, but the album won't be officially available until July 11 on the band's Bandcamp page (shakealertmusic.bandcamp.com), just ahead of a July 13 gig at the Railyard where physical copies will be widely available to the masses.
Shake Alert with Dandu and Love Unfold the Sun
8 pm Wednesday June 26. $5-$10.
Zephyr Community Art Studio,
1520 Center Drive, Ste. 2