Paul Liberatore Posted: 02/22/2007

Vinyl’s latest release, ‘Fogshack Music Vol. 1, is a departure from its retro sound. It’s the band’s fifth album. Vinyl, the popular homegrown Marin band, has always prided itself on being old school, paying homage to classic funk, reggae and R&B, going so far as to put out its albums on vinyl as well as on CD. But the band’s latest release, “Fogshack Music Vol. 1,” its fifth album (available at www.vinylgroove.com), is a departure from the retro sound that has made the instrumental seven-piece group a favorite Bay Area live act, a top-drawing club band over the past 11 years.

Vinyl came out of a Mill Valley garage in 1995 with a rootsy sound inspired by the records band members grew up listening to from the classic rock emporium Village Music in their hometown. “Our name and our whole history has been on getting back to the days of good old rock ‘n’ roll jamming with Hammond organ and Fender guitars and real horns and real drums playing groovy tunes,” says Vinyl co-founder Jonathan Korty. “It was a response to the ’80s, a backlash to the era of drum machines and fake horns. Now it’s almost like we’ve come full circle. Our sound is so organic and old school. We wanted to know what would it sound like if we got digitized a bit and looped and buffed out. And we’re very pleased with the result.”

A remix of outtakes from Vinyl’s “Flea Market” album, “Fogshack 1″ takes off in the direction of electronica and hip-hop, a disc that DJs are starting to spin in dance clubs and is getting played on college radio. “They’re such a danceable band, but they haven’t been explored by the DJ world as much as other bands playing danceable music,” says Jim Greer, who remixed the record with his partner, Brandon Arnovick. Calling themselves the Rondo Brothers, Greer and Arnovick have remixed songs by Patti Page, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald – unlikely artists for beat box treatment. But check this out: As an example of making even the most corny song hip, they scored a hit on iTunes with a remix of “Frosty the Snowman.”

For the Vinyl remix, the Rondos scoured 10 hours of free-form jams recorded six years ago at the In the Pocket Studio in Forestville with former Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads keyboard guru Bernie Worrell sitting in as a guest artist. The Rondos built this first “Fogshack” release around Worrell, whom Korty describes as “a father figure to us.” “Bernie Worrell’s like a poet,” Greer says. “He’ll play by himself or rhyme. We treated him as if we were sampling him. We stretched and twisted and pushed and pulled his bits to make them work in ways we thought were cool.”

As far as I’m concerned, they succeeded. “Fogshack” is interesting musically, stripped down and different. I totally dig the huge, fat bass and drum sounds on a Funkadelic song called “Moonshine Heather,” a tribute to Worrell’s early days. But perhaps most important, this new product gives Vinyl a much-needed shot in the arm.

After a decade on the jam band circuit, the group is older now, members are raising families and cutting back on touring. So they’re looking for new ways to stay vital and market their distinctive sound. “They are so original, so Marin County, a mix of Grateful Dead and Tower of Power,” says Vinyl producer Tony Mindel, who came up with the idea for the “Fogshack” project. “But they’re a jam band in a genre that’s grown exponentially, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. This is new and fresh.” Vinyl – Korty on keys, bassist Geoff Vaughan, percussionist Johnny Durkin, drummer Alexis Razon, guitarist Billy Frates, trumpet player Danny Cao and Doug Thomas on saxophone and flute – just returned from a two-week tour of the Rockies. They’ll be at 19 Broadway in Fairfax tonight.

The band has plans for a second “Fogshack” remix, this one featuring the virtuoso bassist Les Claypool. Recently, they’ve been experimenting with vocals, occasionally adding singer Marcus Scott from the R&B cover band Pride & Joy to the lineup. Scott, who will be performing with the band tonight in Fairfax, has added songs from the Stax catalog like “The Breakdown” and “Funky Broadway.” “This is our 11th year together,” Korty points out. “We’re getting just as much love as we’ve ever gotten on the road. We were packing in 500-person rooms across Colorado. So it feels like the ball is still rolling and we want to keep it rolling. We want to continue to look for new ways to innovate and shift to avoid stagnancy. This thing with the Rondo brothers is one. Marcus Scott is another. We’re looking for ways to keep Vinyl changing and innovating.”

It’s easy to get discouraged the music business, as Mindel, the producer on this project, knows only too well. But the important thing is to keep going and have faith that hard work and talent pay off. Paraphrasing the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, he says, “Like bad architecture and an old prostitute, you get respect if you stay around long enough.”

SF WEEKLY 
- Jonathan Zwickel

“For a city as obsessed with latex and leather as San Francisco, it’s a surprise that Vinyl has stuck around so long. Then again, the freaky and the deaky alike are pheromonally attracted to high-potency funk and sweaty good times, which are what the reigning kings of Bay Area groove are all about. Vinyl follows in the tradition of fellow S.F. funkateers Tower of Power, spiking saucy sax and trumpet with boogaloo bass lines and Latin-leaning percussion, all bound by the members’ unswerving dedication to leaving dance floors well buffed at the end of the night.”

Published: 2004/12/31
by Chris Clark Jambands.com

Vinyl’s Variegated Hues Funk is a sound that countless bands attempt; some fail, some prevail. Often, a band will no more than mirror the sounds of their predecessors, with nothing added to the pot but a touch of new flavor and an all too distinguishable resemblance to something else that came before.

Since forming in the Bay Area over eight years ago, Vinyl has progressively proven to be a band capable of achieving and sustaining full-on sweaty dance parties, night after night, with their brand of left coast, upbeat funk. But for the seven instrumentalists, their funk is copiously saturated with tastes of Latin, jazz, Afro-Cuban, reggae, blues, dub and hip-hop to name a few.

“If people aren’t having fun, it’s a drag,” said Doug Thomas, whose sax and flute unite with Danny Cao’s trumpet to produce a vibrant Vinyl horn section. “However, it seems to come naturally to us. Once we start a set of music, we get people into a nice frame of mind. As a musical group, of course we want to sound good and be tight musically, but ultimately, we want everybody to be stoked.”

Created in 1995 at keyboardist Jonathan Korty’s Homestead Valley garage just outside San Francisco, Vinyl has steadily stretched outwardly from the California coast into becoming an easily recognizable name in today’s live music scene. “Having grown up mostly in the same scene in Marin, we simply wanted to create music for our friends and their parties. The band formed originally through a series of jam sessions which ultimately led to our first gig at a party in Ocean Beach-for which we were paid with a bag of mushrooms,” explained Korty. “We had never heard of the term jamband,’” he added.

What began as a loose collaboration of like-minded friends, jamming together in garages in central California’s Mill Valley for the sake of playing has spurned several main stage performances at the High Sierra Music Festival, as well selling out the legendary Maple Leaf in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. Vinyl also performed as Phil Lesh’s backing band in 2001 at a packed benefit concert in Petaluma, CA and has been keenly received at coveted main stage spots at Berkshire Mountain Music Fest and the All Good Festival. “Playing music is sure fun, even if one isn’t doing it professionally,” said trumpeter Danny Cao.

From the very beginning, Vinyl was noticeably influenced by the old school funk grooves of bands like The Meters, while holding a certain flare for Latin, reggae, jazz and dub elements. Drawing upon these old school funk influences, they meld their worldly textures-from South American percussive percolations to West African-with Caribbean reggae, dub and west coast hip-hop. Put it all together with a big smile and a party atmosphere, you have Vinyl.

“We’re all over the map influence-wise,” said Thomas. “Everyone is very open-minded musically. The seven of us bring our individual tastes to the table to form a smorgasbord. Doug Sahm, Sonny Rollins, hip-hop, reggae and The Meters were all early influences. And of course we celebrate Michael Bolton’s entire catalog,” Thomas explained with a glimmer of the light-heartedness and humor that characterizes much of the band. Vinyl’s instrumentation boasts a wide array of sounds. Hammond B-3 organ, piano, guitar, sax, trumpet, flute, harmonica, congas, timbales, bass and drums each play important roles, enabling them to seamlessly transverse a multitude of American and world music, all with a fresh approach and unique old meets new, east meets west style. Emphasizing an instrumental approach that concentrates on seven person groove cohesion and moving the music forward, the band has increasingly steered away from padding their stats by trading solos while the rest of the band holds the groove and awaits their turn. Rarely will one hear the band move from sax solo to guitar solo to keyboard solo in such a routine manner. Instead, they opt to push the whole is greater than sum of its parts mentality and trade unnecessary, directionless soloing for a more full, collective sound. In doing so, they have been able to attract new fans while keeping the old ones more than satisfied.

In the live setting, Vinyl is a polyphonic dance party that touches upon an extensive palate of colors and textures. Latin rhythms with pulsating congas and timbales meet soaring horns and wah wah guitar for full-flavored funk that would make James Brown smile, do a little dance and yell, Get up!.’ Coupled with their taste for a unique mnge of smooth, head bobbing dance hall dub and reggae, Vinyl brings with them the dance party. “Live music will be fine as long as people enjoy the company of other people. If people choose to sequester themselves in front of their televisions, and isolate themselves in their homes and cars and expect culture to be brought to them, all they’re going to get is brand marketing, ignorance, bad food and the health, social and class problems that go along with the three,” Cao continued.

“Diversity is something that is both emphasized and marketed here in the Bay area, so one has access to a wide variety of music. Some of the guys in the band are very conscious regarding the style of music they prefer to direct the band towards while others are more influenced by unconscious inspiration,” he finished.

Instantaneously, a funk throw-down will deflate into dub reggae trance as Alexis Razon’s precise drumming will team with bassist Geoff Vaughn’s vivacious rhythms to drive the moment and shape the sound. Johnny Durkin, former member of Deep Banana Blackout, is a mainstay in the live Vinyl sound, providing a Latin hue to a powerful horn section headed by Cao and Doug Thomas. Korty’s versatility on the Hammond, keys and harp team with guitarist Billy Frates sometimes smooth and melodic, sometimes chunky and thick guitar work. Craftily taking on their material with adaptability and diversity, Vinyl thrives with the difficult task of getting seven distinct people and sounds on the same level and producing one, unified sound.

“The band sounds great when there is a circle of energy flowing through all of us at once. It is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts sort of thing,” explained bassist Geoff Vaughn. “I suppose all bands aspire to these moments. You can’t just snap your fingers and have them; this is where having played together for so long can really help.” Through steady, but sometimes inconsistent touring and a great deal of positive word of mouth, Vinyl has expanded their fan base beyond the friendly Bay area confines and onto the national music spotlight, but still situate themselves in the pristine, central California outdoors.

“We have a strong gravitation to the outdoors and our surroundings are ripe for exploration,” explained bassist Geoff Vaughn. “Most of us live in a beautiful area just north of San Francisco which lends itself to hiking, running and biking.”

Studio-wise, the band has released two impressive albums. Their debut self-titled album is a glimpse into what the future would hold for a band that at the time certainly had an abundance of talent. Flea Market, released in 2001, is more full-fledged, present day Vinyl. With the help of guest appearances by the likes of Bernie Worrell and Les Claypool, they soar through dub laced funk and chunky grooves to elevate the Vinyl sound and situate themselves for future success.

Cao elucidated, “I’m quite pleased with the quality of our studio albums. Although it may harder and harder to find good engineers and affordable facilities for recording live bands as opposed to synthesized or sample oriented music.”*

Over the last eight-plus years, the band has released four albums-1997’s self-titled debut, 1998’s Live at Sweetwater, 2001’s Flea Market and All the Way Live released just months ago. All the Way Live, a double album recorded at a sold-out run at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, further solidified the band as a true contender, not just in their home state of California, but on the national scene. With the help of heavyweight musical friends like Rob Wasserman, Bernie Worrell, Huey Lewis, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Terry Haggerty of Sons of Champlin fame, Vinyl explores many vast territories, from the horn driven funk opening of “Lasiti” to the dub style of “Things I Could Do” to Felonious’ M.C. Soulati and M.C. D Wolf smooth lyrical poetry on “Wax.” As a result, the album clearly displays Vinyl’s diversity and aptitude at playing many musical styles, and frankly, playing them well. Not to mention, All the Way Live paints a vivid picture of the party atmosphere that is Vinyl live.*

“People like dancing to the music we play,” admitted Cao. “We play better when we’ve gotten absolutely no sleep the night before.”* Fortunately for live music fans on the western half of the country, especially for those in California and the surrounding states, heavy doses of Vinyl’s old school meets new school funky dub timbale trance can be found on the regular. Sadly, for those on the right half of the country, Vinyl has become an increasingly rare entity. Other than yearly trips to New Orleans in late April for Jazz Fest, (if you’re lucky, you may have caught one of their sold-out, sunrise performances at the legendary Maple Leaf) and a ten-date run through the east coast in 2004 in support of the All the Way Live release, loyal fans must either wait, or make the trip out west to cash in on the dance party. The band played only a dozen or so shows on the eastern half of the country in 2004, so if you were at one of the few, consider yourself lucky.*

“The progression of the band has been less goal oriented and more geared toward taking advantage of sensible opportunities,” said Cao. “In so far as the future is concerned, hopefully the continual evolution of the music will open up new opportunities and provide interest for our long time fans.*

“Financially, live music becomes less and less able to sustain itself and it sometimes seems as though live music is destined to become a museum relic supported by endowments, grants and corporate marketing concepts rather than through direct support by the listener,” said Cao. “However, I remain hopeful that people continue to leave their living enclosure to enjoy life in all its forms,” he concluded.*

Fogshack Music Vol. 1
- Jonathan Zwickel

As products of San Francisco’s mid-’90s acid jazz heyday, Vinyl has both succeeded and suffered thanks to its pedigree. The six-piece ensemble enjoys huge popularity within the cadre of holdouts from that mostly forgotten era; these are the same heads who salivate over a new Charlie Hunter record and stand in line for tickets to Galactic. But Vinyl’s reputation as hardcore slaves to the groove also rendered the group sort of invisible — it’s easy to forget about a local mainstay that plies limitless, chops-heavy dance jams once you’re out of college and into, like, songs.

Someone in Team Vinyl must’ve realized that going beyond the band’s circle was necessary for freshness, so Fogshack Music Vol. 1 relies on the tried and mostly true method of remixers remixing. Local production duo the Rondo Brothers (perpetrators of last year’s Hawaiian hip-hop experiment No Time Left on Earth) blow up eight new Vinyl tracks here and the result is the band’s best recorded work. Clean and concise but still raw and funky as hell, these tracks ride the Rondos’ whiplash drum programming and exaggerated electronic thump but still swell with the horn-heavy, percussion-driven foundation Vinyl was built on. Veteran P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell, sitting in throughout, adds incontrovertible soul to up-jumping opener “Give and Go” and renders the old Parliament nugget “Moonshine Heather” as genuine as can be. “Imperial Majesty,” a syncopated cut ‘n’ paste burner, proves how sexy you can get with just a rim shot and a slinky trumpet line. Vinyl is still a slave to the groove, but Fogshack is a much-needed update thanks to the new guys cracking the whip.

Review of All the Way Live – Vinyl 
Matt Brockett – jambands.com

Fewer bands have a more fitting name than Vinyl.

Their sound blends body moving percussion, ripping guitar licks, smooth horns, and hip-shaking Hammond work to create everything from tight funk grooves, to Afro-Cuban rhythms, to dub, to straight-up reggae, to good old rock n’ roll. 
With their latest release, All The Way Live, recorded over two nights at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Vinyl preserves the spirit of their namesake not just in their music, but in the innovative album packaging as well. The cover art of a flooded temple and the sea creatures that inhabit it, along with a winged and clawed Victrola-beast, evokes the feel of the big old school gatefold record albums, complete with psychedelia and fantasy landscapes. The most noticeable thing about this tight-as-a-drum seven-piece is the fact that their sound never gets boring, mostly because their songs never get boring. They just start on a basic groove, and then some or all of their players take leads one at a time, letting each song take twists and turns around its main theme. They keep it all exciting and fresh, by not letting themselves fall into the realm of repetitive simple songs that limits so many groove-based bands.

On All The Way Live, Vinyl is joined by a slew of guest musicians, including Huey Lewis, Bernie Worrell, Rob Wasserman, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Cochemea Gastelum. Since Vinyl is an instrumental group, they bring in several guest vocalists to give more variety to their songs. Sugar Pie’s unmistakable vocals on “In The Basement” immediately transport the listener to a smoke-filled basement R&B club. Pop legend Huey Lewis lends his talents not vocally, but with his harmonica, on the awesomely titled “Skumbo,” a New Orleans style tune who’s intro seems to draw influence from the theme songs of old sitcoms like Blossom and Mr. Belvedere. The reggae side of Vinyl shows up on tunes like “Things I Could Do,” the rootsy “Truth and Rights!,” featuring guest vocalist Jethro Jeremiah, and “Mokpok,” a dubbed out powerhouse of a tune. Vinyl even seems to have a bit of a ska influence, visible on tracks like “Mole Rat” and, to a lesser extent, in the relaxed funk of “Whedawedat.”

The backbone of Vinyl is no doubt, the funk, and they bring it in every way possible. Funk drips off of tunes like the ripping “Animal 57,” and the oddly edited album closer “Vinyl Party.” On “Turtle,” the absolute best song on the album, they blend oozing organ funk with vintage ’70s guitar sounds and raging hand drums as the song builds to a reggae-tinged ending that gives the listener no choice but to bop along. 
Even if Vinyl isn’t for you, there is no denying the absolutely mind-blowing tightness of this relatively young ensemble. The booty-shaking grooves of All The Way Live is a perfect snapshot of the total dance party that Vinyl brings with them wherever they play.

SF WEEKLY – Jonathan Zwickel SF WEEKLY – Jonathan Zwickel

“For a city as obsessed with latex and leather as San Francisco, it’s a surprise that Vinyl has stuck around so long. Then again, the freaky and the deaky alike are pheromonally attracted to high-potency funk and sweaty good times, which are what the reigning kings of Bay Area groove are all about. Vinyl follows in the tradition of fellow S.F. funkateers Tower of Power, spiking saucy sax and trumpet with boogaloo bass lines and Latin-leaning percussion, all bound by the members’ unswerving dedication to leaving dance floors well buffed at the end of the night.”

Vinyl: “Fogshack Music Volume Two”

This is the second remix of instrumental tracks from Vinyl’s “Flea Market album” sessions in 2001, a rich vein of music mined once again for sonic riches. For “Volume One,” Vinyl producer Tony Mindel and the Rondo Brothers, aka Jim Greer and partner Brandon Arnovick, remixed tracks from the “Flea Market” sessions and added P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell to the instrument stew. On “Volume Two,” the Rondos and Mindel again took out-takes from master reels from “Flea Market,” remixed them in their signature style and laced them with the thundering bass grooves of former Primus funk master Les Claypool. Lyrics from Don Wolf and Tommy Shepherd of Felonious add to the listening experience, as does the authentic blues wails of Sugar Pie De Santo on “Spill the Wine” and the guest playing of bassist Yossi Fine, DJ Quest on turntables, vibraphonist Riz Rizza, percussionists Antonio and Sean Onorato and saxophonist Doug Thomas. Vinyl keyboardist Jonathan Korty, trumpet player Danny Cao, guitarist Billy Frates, bassist Geoff Vaughan and drummer Alexis Razon have been tightening their sound since the Marin band came out of a Mill Valley garage 11 years ago. Although they were originally inspired by classic funk, Latin percussion, reggae and R&B from vinyl records they dug from the bins at the now defunct Village Music, Vinyl isn’t afraid to place their music in the capable hands of others to update it into something modern, fresh and new.