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All Music Guide:
One of the cornerstone acts of the U.K. retro-soul scene, the New Mastersounds play taut, old-school instrumental funk with a contemporary energy and an enthusiasm that has earned them rave reviews and led them to collaborate with a number of major acts in Britain and the United States. The New Mastersounds were formed in 1999 by guitarist Eddie Roberts, who was DJ'ing at a weekly club night in Leeds devoted to classic soul and funk. When the event moved to a new venue that covered two floors, Roberts saw the opportunity to add a live band to the mix, and he recruited drummer Simon Allen, who had previously played with Roberts in a band called the Mastersounds. With the addition of Pete Shand on bass and Bob Birch on piano and organ, the new act was complete, and in tribute to their old group, Roberts and Allen dubbed the combo the New Mastersounds.
It didn't take long for word about the New Mastersounds to spread, and in 2000 they released a pair of 7" singles on Blow It Hard Records drawn from early rehearsal tapes. In 2001, they recorded their first full-length album, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds, which was issued on Darge's Deep Funk label; the album earned enthusiastic reviews and top DJs such as Cut Chemist, Pete Rock, and DJ Shadow sampled their grooves. Their second LP, 2003's Be Yourself, included guest vocals from Corinne Bailey Rae, and following a third studio set, 2005's This Is What We Do, the band documented the sound of its fabled live sets on 2006's Live at La Cova, recorded at a club gig in Spain. In 2006, the New Mastersounds briefly expanded to a five-piece with the addition of Rob Lavers on sax and flute (a number of guest horn players have recorded and toured with the group over the years), but he parted ways with them in 2007, the same year Bob Birch left the lineup, making way for new keyboard man Joe Tatton.
As the New Mastersounds toured clubs and festivals around the world, they continued to attract new fans, including American funk legends Art Neville of the Neville Brothers, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley of James Brown's J.B.'s, and George Porter, Jr. of the Meters, all of whom have jammed with the combo on-stage. In 2008, they collaborated with vocalist Dionne Charles on the album Plug & Play, and in 2009 they celebrated their tenth anniversary with the appropriately titled Ten Years On, which included guest spots from Grace Potter, Chip Wickham, and Skerik. Having established a strong fan base in the U.K., Europe, and Japan, in 2011 the New Mastersounds began looking to the United States; during a stay in Texas they cut the album Breaks from the Border, which featured vocals from the group members for the first time. Therapy followed early in 2014.
The New Mastersounds are a four-piece jazz fusion and funk band from Leeds, England, United Kingdom.
In the late 1990s, guitarist and producer Eddie Roberts was running a club night in Leeds called "The Cooker." When The Cooker moved into a new venue with a second floor in 1999, there was space and the opportunity to put a live band together to complement the DJ sets. Simon Allen and Roberts had played together in 1997 as The Mastersounds, with a different bassist and no organ. Through friends and the intimate nature of the Leeds music scene, Pete Shand and Bob Birch were added on bass and Hammond respectively, establishing The New Mastersounds. Their first rehearsal produced the release for Blow it Hard Records on two limited-edition 7" singles in 2000.
As a band, and as individuals, they have since clocked up collaborations with an impressive array of musicians DJs and producers, including: Soul Rebels Brass Band, Lou Donaldson (Blue Note), Corinne Bailey Rae (EMI), Quantic (Tru Thoughts), Carleen Anderson (Young Disciples / Brand New Heavies), Keb Darge & Kenny Dope (Kay Dee Records), John Arnold (Ubiquity), Mr Scruff (Ninja Tuna), Snowboy (Ubiquity), Fred Everything (2020 vision), Andy Smith (Portishead), James Taylor (James Taylor Quartet), LSK (Faithless), and Karl Denson (Lenny Kravitz),(Greyboy AllStars).
In 2006, as well as playing club gigs in France, Spain, Belgium and Italy, the band toured the USA & Japan. In August they finished recording their fifth album, 102% (released on One Note Records in 2007). The album features collaborations with sax and flute player Rob Lavers who performed as a guest with the band on several subsequent live tours. In the same year producer/guitarist Eddie Roberts had already released a live album in Japan (Roughneck – Live in Paris), and produced a studio album of his own arrangements of traditional Italian songs called Trenta.
2007 started auspiciously – on their very first Jamcruise the NMS were playing Meters tunes with George Porter Jr. sitting in – just one of the highlights of a 3-hour set. On their return to the United Kingdom the band were greeted by a capacity crowd at London's prestigious Jazz Cafe venue, for the album launch of 102%. They also performed tunes from the new album for Mark Lamarr on BBC Radio Two. At the end of January, organist Bob Birch reluctantly retired from the band due to commitments at home. In February Eddie, Simon and Pete ushered in another Leeds keyboard player, Joe Tatton, who had depped for Bob in the past, as well as working with United Kingdom soul star Corinne Bailey Rae and funk renegades The Haggis Horns. Joe's real initiation took place in April with the band's first trip to New Orleans during which they played late night at the House of Blues and the Blue Nile and where Eddie stuck around for the following week to sit in with the likes of Idris Muhammad, Lonnie Smith, Galactic, Papa Mali and The Greyboy Allstars. Having thrilled audiences at Wakarusa, Harmony, Gratefulfest and High Sierra Music Festivals, the NMS returned to the United States at the end of July – to Chicago, to play Wicker Park and to open for The Headhunters.
After a well-earned break, the NMS regrouped in October for a 2-week tour of France during which they rediscovered the joy of the original 4-piece NMS sound: bass, drums, guitar and Hammond.
On the record front, German label Legere Recordings released their compilation An Introduction to The New Mastersounds on CD and LP back in May, while Milan-based label Record Kicks was putting together an album of NMS tunes remixed by a host of talented underground funk and beats producers. "The New Mastersounds – Re::Mixed" was released on CD, LP and iTunes on 15 October.
As an example of the respect this band commands, Peter Wermelinger – deejay, collector, and author of the crate-diggers' bible The Funky & Groovy Music Lexicon – places the 2001 NMS track 'Turn This Thing Around' in his all-time top-ten tunes, along with the likes of Eddie Harris, Funkadelic, and Herbie Hancock.
§One Note records
Since 2003, The Mastersounds have distributed their music on One Note Records. According to its website, One Note Records was set up by the New Mastersounds in 2003 and is named after the NMS dancefloor classic One Note Brown."Official Website". One Note Records.