Brooklyn Funk Essentials – “Cool and Steady and Easy” (1995)

I’ve had a copy of Rickey Vincent’s book Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of The One laying around for about a month now, and it finally made it’s way to the top of the pile. Coincidentally I spent a few hours hanging out at Silver Platters Records in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood last Friday and spied the double album Cool and Steady and Easy by Brooklyn Funk Essentials. It was like it was meant to be that I’d pick up this album at the same time that I cracked a book on funk. Serendipity. Perhaps a cosmic alignment. Or maybe just coincidence. I don’t know.

To call Brooklyn Funk Essential’s music “funk” would be to put it into too small of a box. This is acid jazz – electronic but with horns, sometimes instrumental but sometimes hip hop, and sometimes even reggae and soul. What is it? It defies explanation. Just listen to Cool and Steady and Easy‘s second song, “The Creator Has a Master Plan” with it’s jazz opening followed by male reggae vocals that give way to female soul singing; it’s a microcosm of the entire 1995 album.

When I looked this album up on Discogs I only found a listing for the 63 minute, 12 song CD (also available on iTunes for $8.99)… nothing at all about the two 12″ vinyl version I found in the DJ Masa collection section at Silver Platters. Was the vinyl version a DJ only promo? Maybe… given the plain black jacket with just a sticker on the front, this may have never been released commercially on vinyl. So I’m particularly glad I found this version… because this is music that belongs on vinyl. It’s just right.

Stylistically Cool and Steady and Easy is all over the place. From the opening jazz instrumental “Take the L Train (to B’klyn)” to the previously mentioned reggae/soul “The Creator Has a Master Plan” to the jazzy, reggae scat-like “The Revolution Was Postponed Because of Rain” that comprise side A, you’re being taken on a musical journey that weaves in and out of different styles and sounds, with just the jazz horns to anchor you. Bottom line is it’s brilliant.

Brooklyn Funk Essentials’ collective approach and large number of musicians ensures that no matter what a song needs, there’s an expert to step up, and nowhere is that more evident in the horns which are the key to their sound. Acid jazz is great chill music, and Cool and Steady and Easy takes it a step further by layering other styles over that jazzy base in a way that keeps a steady vibe but ensures that each song sounds unique. If you like jazz, you need to check this out.