For their second release together, Tomas Duncker and Pulitzer-Prize wining poet Yusef Komunyakaa take cues from the Blues, but refuse to be found by it. Doncker describes his sound as “Global Soul” which he describes in part on his record label True Groove as, “the sound of our collective consciousness…it is not genre specific but genre inclusive.” This inclusiveness drives Big Apple Blues. It’s rooted in the Blues with its guitar chords and harmonica breaks. The band’s horn section sounds they came right out of Bourbon Street as they blare loudly behind Doncker’s voice. “Little Blue Room” is a hard, blues-funk hybrid while “Ground Zero” contains a distorted disco-style guitar line complete with a David Gilmour-esque solo.
Big Apple Blues is a hard-hitting record that resonates on many levels. The genre-bending only add to its appeal. Every single musical element fits together seamlessly: not an easy feat. It’s frustrating to listen to because Doncker makes it seem so effortless.
Many of the lyrics – written by Duncker and Komunyakaa – seem to focus on New York City and its inhabitants, both past and present. “There’s no hero at Ground Zero/Only human beings doing human things,” Doncker almost shouts. In a dream, he imagines “the towers rose up from smoke and ash.” The deep-fried soul of “Harlem Hell Fighters” tells the tale of World War I soldiers from Harlem who were “fighting Jim Crow over here to fight a war over there.” Komunyakaa appears for a spoken word bit giving details about “the brothers fighting over-seas.”
Any fan of the Blues or Soul music would be a fool to turn away from Big Apple Blues. It’s a rare kind of record: one that moves the body, soul and mind.
For more info on the Tomás Doncker Band, check out True Groove’s web-site.