By Andy J. Gordon and Jenny Peters
Two bands based in the northeast and with a strong dance party vibe came to The Mint in Los Angeles on May 19, 2016 – and crushed it. The combined energy of the The Nth Power and Turkuaz brought the sold-out crowd to a state of near hysteria. The packed house pulsed with sweaty bodies as the band’s beats wowed the audience.
The Nth Power opened. They are the band formed by drummer Nikki Glaspie, a rhythm powerhouse who has played with Beyoncé and is the current drummer in Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. Singer and guitarist Nick Cassarino met Glaspie in 2004 when he sat in with the Jennifer Hartswick Band and played with her. Bass player Nate Edgar and percussionist Weedie Braimah complete the rhythm section. The newest member, keyboardist/singer Courtney “Jay-Mel” Smith, rounds out this hot group. Together they play a marriage of funky soul, rock, R&B, jazz, gospel, folk and world beat.
Their short – but dynamic – set included material from their new album “Abundance.” They opened with two new songs, “Right Now” and “Only Love.” Cassarino played a funky guitar solo on “Soul Survivor,” but the highlight of the set was the percussion battle between Braimah and Glaspie. As the stunned audience looked on, the two pounded through some rapid-fire drum sequences. The set ended with a sweet ballad sung by Glaspie followed by a duet between Cassarino and Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias.
After a short break, the steaming-hot packed house got their boogie on for Turkuaz. The nine-piece “Powerfunk” outfit from Brooklyn, New York, blends elements of pop, R&B and soul. Bandleader, guitarist and vocalist Dave Brandwein fronts an incredibly talented group. Sammi Garett and Shira Elias perform lead and supporting vocals, while baritone saxophonist Josh Schwartz provides additional supporting vocals. Bassist Taylor Shell and drummer Michelangelo Carubba handle the rhythms.
Craig Brodhead plays lead guitar and keyboards while Chris Brouwers hits it on trumpet and another set of keys. Greg Sanderson fills out the horn section on tenor saxophone. Turkuaz’s tightly arranged songs are built on thick grooves, driven by those powerhouse rhythm and horn sections, as well as the four distinct vocalists.
The band opened with the infectious beats of “Chatte Lunatique” and segued into “Percy Thrills the Moondog.” Sammi Garett took over lead vocals for a sultry version of “Tiptoe Through the Krypto.” The band then played scorching versions of “Future 86” and “Snap Your Fingers.”
About halfway through the set, Brandwein invited Nikki Glaspie to take over on drums for “Mountain.” After another standout performance, Glaspie left to loud applause and the band followed with the trippy “Digital Love” and “The Generator,” a soul-funky tune, both from their new album “Digitonium.” Weedie Braimah came out to contribute some funky percussion on “Everyone’s a Winner,” while Taylor Shell did an extended bass solo. The wild set ended with Brodhead doing an amazing guitar solo during “Murderface,” another great song from “Digitonium.”
The band came back for an encore and invited drummer Robert “Sput” Searight from Snarky Puppy to join them. Searight also plays keys and jammed with the band on that instrument for a rowdy version of “Let Bubba Slide.” The exhausted audience roared at the conclusion and slowly filed out into the Los Angeles streets, all agreeing that The Nth Power and Turkuaz really know how to give a mesmerizing live performance and that their show at The Mint was a night to remember. We know we’ll never forget it!
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon 2016©.