By Andy J. Gordon
Nikki Glaspie, founding member and drummer for The Nth Power, has created a once-a-month residency jam session at The Mint, a well-known live music club in Los Angeles. Billed as “Nikki Glaspie & The Homies,” the first gig was a big hit on a Tuesday night back in September. She and her rotating band returned for one night in both October and November. The most recent show took place on December 18, 2018, and the raucous night of wild soul, funk and classic jams nearly blew the roof off The Mint.
Glaspie used to be the drummer for Beyoncé and Dumpstaphunk. She is incredibly well connected in the music scene and assembled a who’s who of industry heavyweights for the December gig. The “Homies” are nearly 20 musicians who rotate on and off the compact stage. Several members of the group share her educational experience at the Berklee College of Music. Everyone in the band is a seasonedpro in the soul, funk, R&B, hip hop and rock music worlds.
There were four bassists who popped in and out including Steve Jenkins (who has played with Vernon Reid, David Gilmore, Victor Wooten, Corey Glover, John Scofield, The Roots and John Medeski), Uriah Duffy (Whitesnake), Dimitri Gordetsky (who has played with Lauryn Hill, Eric Benet, Wyclef Jean, Nas, Christina Aguilera, New Kids on the Block, TLC and 50 Cent) and Brandon Brown (Fergie, The Jacksons, Stevie Wonder).
In addition to Glaspie, there were several excellent vocalists including Maureen Murphy (STS9, Phish, Zac Brown Band, Blackberry Smoke), Philip Bailey Jr. (Earth, Wind & Fire), Kudasin Kai (toured with Elton John) and Dale Spollett (Soul Scratch). An excellent five-piece horn section also performed with the band. They included Pete Ortega (Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Lionel Ritchie, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Janelle Monae) on tenor saxophone, LaQuin Lay (LaQuin & the Family Tree Band) on tenor saxophone, Alex Wasily (The Isley Brothers) on trombone and Chris Gray on trumpet. Enrique Sanchez (Meghan Trainor) on trumpet joined the group for a song as well.
Rounding out the incredible lineup were Noah Hernandez (Eddie Wayne Vance, The Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra, Keia Johnson and Dani Mcculloch) on guitar, Tyler Coombs on percussion, Shaundrin “DRiN” Elliott (Eric Benet, Benard Wright, Frank McComb, Yarbrough & Peoples, Lucky Peterson and Natalia Jimenez) on keyboards and Maya Kronfeld (The Memorials) on keyboards to complete the huge ensemble.
Glaspie and her talented band broke out several soul, funk and rock deep tracks to the delight of the fans in the crowd. For those in the know, it was a walk down memory lane, but for the casual listeners, Glaspie provided a scholarly history lesson.She identified the artists that originally recorded the songs, told funny stories about how each tune inspired her as well as the like minded musicians she brought along for the night’s ride.
The first set included imaginative covers of Michael Jackson’s “Get On the Floor,” Isley-Jasper-Isley’s “Caravan of Love,” Parliament Funkadelic’s “Pumpin’ It Up” and what Glaspie called “Aretha Franklin’s version” of The Doobie Brothers classic “What a Fool Believes.”
For the second-set opener, Philip Bailey belted out Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Remember the Children.” The audience was also treated to an amazing version of The Gap Band’s “Early in the Morning” sung by Philip Bailey with a sit in by Taiki Tsuyama (Tevin Campbell) on bass. Lakesha Benjamin, who has performed with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Macy Gray, the Roots and Anita Baker, also sat in for a fantastic alto saxophone solo.
The second set also featured tight horn arrangements on a great version of Tom Browne’s “Funkin’ for Jamaica” with Kudison Kai on lead vocals. For a cover of “Cool,” a song by The Time that was originally produced, arranged and performed by Prince with Morris Day, Noah Benjamin played an excellent guitar solo and the other musicians went on a funky, extended jam. Chaka Kahn’s “We Got Each Other” featured Maureen Murphy’s amazing vocals and more great sounds from the horn section.
The show was wrapping up when Glaspie introduced “our theme song,” the infectious “Birdie,” a funky, deep track by The Brides of Funkenstein. It was a fitting closer that The Homies have played at each of the residency gigs. Glaspie, Bailey and Murphy shared the vocals and harmonized beautifully. Enrique Sanchez played an inspired trumpet solo, Glaspie pounded out the rhythmic beat and the other musicians kept up the groove. As the song continued, she introduced all of The Homies and eventually the horn players left the stage. However, Glaspie would not let the fun night end – just when the song seemed to fade out, she would scream, pound her drums and the band relaunched the heavy beat. After several reboots, the song and the rowdy show finally ended, with the packed house cheering the incredible experience.
Glaspie has a comprehensive knowledge of old-school funk, soul, R&B, hip hop and rock music. Her incredible drumming, fine vocals, endless address book of musician friends and inspired selection of deep tracks have created a series of must-see, jam-heavy gigs. The Mint in L.A. has hit on something unusual and impressive with the Nikki Glaspie & The Homies residency. The next gig is scheduled for January 22, 2019. The only thing that could possibly be better would be if Glaspie and her “Homies” put on their show more than once a month.