Friday at MOTR Pub, the powerhouse nine-member ensemble known as Ernie Johnson From Detroit celebrates the release of its new self-titled full-length album. The tight, funky Cincinnati crew, which features a bevy of talented local musicians (including a full horn section), will play two sets. The free show kicks off at 10 p.m. (Click here for more info.)
Ernie Johnson From Detroit is a glorious representation of the band’s infectious mix of Funk grooves, Jazz flourishes and, most alluringly, hypnotic, percolating Afrobeat guitar and percussive pulsations, plus a sprinkling of various other influences. While the crafty, supple rhythms make up the music’s lifeblood, each player is crucial to the group’s vitality and effectiveness. The horns provided by Wayne Kilgard, Collin Thompson and Walt Azagba are like bold splashes of colors, while the deft keyboards of Aaron Holm (who also plays trumpet) provide further shadows and shading.
But each element of Ernie Johnson From Detroit is also capable of shifting to fill multiple roles.
For example, like the best Afrobeat, the winding, serpentine guitars of Drew Loftspring and Nathan Lewis enhance the music’s relentless rhythms, but on the new album’s second track, “Ram’s Horn,” they both shape-shift into a more Rock & Roll mode, intertwining distorted riffs behind the beefy horn melodies before breaking off some scorching Blues Rock leads that alter the atmosphere.
There’s not a down moment on Ernie Johnson From Detroit, but the centerpiece is “Buster Kuti,” a nine-and-a-half minute epic that encapsulates all that is great about the group. Wholly mesmerizing, the track is anchored by the insistent percussion of Brendan Blumer and Rob Stamler, while Eric Osmanoglu’s simple but powerful bass line is as memorable as anything else in the song — like when you push in on your eyelids for several seconds and see lighted impressions when you let up, Osmanoglu’s bass whoomp is a sonic tracer that sticks with you after the supple groove ends.
Anyone who has witnessed the power of Ernie Johnson From Detroit in concert can attest to the group’s spellbinding attraction. But where the live experience often manifests itself in a sweaty, dance-imploring manner, the take-home version offers a more cerebral experience. While it certainly still has party-starter capabilities, Ernie Johnson From Detroit also has an almost meditative quality, the kind of album you can put headphones on, kick back and get lost in the captivating flow.
For more on Ernie Johnson From Detroit, visit erniejohnsonfromdetroit.com.
You can also revisit the group’s previous releases at erniejohnsonfromdetroit.bandcamp.com.