Shuffle Demons




The title, which dates from before the current imbroglio, certainly suits the manic edge that is one side of this Canadian R&B band’s character. You hear that edge in Richard Underhill’s urgent alto solos, in the three-part horn lines that could cut you off at the knees if you came too close, and in the restless propulsion of Stich Wynston behind the drums. But if Shuffle Demons’ only option was that emergency-ward state of mind, their funk would eventually wear thin, however well executed. Thankfully they have other cards to play.

They can lean back on a groove as well as push forward, and they can introduce a rap and vocals (most notably on the instantly engaging title track) to pull focus on the horns for a while. And then just occasionally the wall of jazzy funk can part altogether for a moment, and we glimpse music that’s more atmospheric or pensive, such as Mike Downes’ double bass feature on Even Demons Get the Blues. That the band can make this sharp-cut jazz-funk thing work with no guitar or keyboard is a particular tribute to the cunning arrangements for alto and two tenors, as well as incisive soloing and fat grooves. Anyone who fondly remembers Defunkt should have a listen.