While their performances at the highly popular Funk Night parties in Detroit gained them a strong following in the city, Will Sessions is much more than just a funk band. Originally started by bandleader Sam Beaubien, along with his former Wayne State University classmates Bryan Arnold and Tim Shellabarger, the members shared musical tastes that ranged beyond funk to jazz and hip-hop. "We come to find we like all similar music," says Beaubien. "Bryan, our drummer, was into different Miles Davis stuff and was into hip-hop and J. Dilla, as I was. Tim, our bassist, was into funk and Herbie Hancock, as I was. We became friends and played together a lot."
The band would officially come into existence after Beaubien's former college roommate, Dominic Arellano, gave a listen to some of the music that he was making just for fun. Arellano was more into the music business side and started The Few Records back in 2005. Will Sessions' Many Faces album was the first release for the label. "I felt like I had something special in my hands even back then," Arellano says of Beaubien. "You could just tell in the songwriting, there was a natural ability to do complicated things that I didn't think other producers were at that level."
The new album, Kindred: A Tribute to the Pioneers of Jazz Fuzion, is a project paying homage to the musicians that influenced the members of the band, such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Beaubien explains the recording of the album: "We never practiced the music. One or two of the songs were completely jams that we made up on the spot. We knew we wanted to do something in the style of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. We just started recording."
Originally, Kindred was a project that Beaubien wanted to give to The Few Records after they recorded it back in 2008, but after picking up the Funk Night gigs, along with session work with the likes of Mayer Hawthorne, Black Milk and Slum Village, its completion would get sidelined. This would actually work out in their favor though, as they were able to work with Detroit greats such as Wendell Harrison and Jeremy Ellis while finishing the album, along with landing vinyl distribution through Carl Craig's Community Projects label. | RDW
Will Sessions Album Release Party • 8/21, 9:30 p.m. • Cliff Bell's • 2030 Park Ave., Detroit 313.961.2543 • cliffbells.com • $10
Kindred: A Tribute to the Pioneers of Jazz Fuzion
The Few Records/Community Projects
Recorded mostly within a church in Detroit's Eastern Market, Kindred is a free-flowing show of respect to the musicians that revolutionized jazz-fusion — and this loose and unrestricted composition doesn't try to copy any pioneers, but rather instills the ideals those musicians tried to give to the people.
On Kindred, Detroit jazz legend Wendell Harrison lends his tenor sax to the band's stab at Miles Davis' Bitches Brew kind of sound. With "Seven Miles," another homage to Miles Davis, the band delivers a bit of spooky sound over a killer drum break. Will Sessions enlists the talent of Detroit multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Ellis on "Polyester People" to rock the Fender Rhodes for this funky tribute to Herbie Hancock. The bass-driven "Omniverse" is in honor to the work of bassists like Jaco Pastorius. The era of John Coltrane, when jazz met spiritual music, is shown on "Redirections," where Will Sessions creates a free-form take on A Love Supreme. "Phre" is just an open season jam session from the band. The kindred spirit of the band members is most evident here.
Kindred is a respectable tribute to artists that have changed the way we think of music and how it's made. The camaraderie within the band takes their music to a boundary-less realm that will help keep the legacies alive. — Kelly "K-Fresh" Frazier
Worth a listen: "Seven Miles"