Still Funky at 40
Veteran dance band Sage releases a new CD at Sly’s.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Sage’s “Something Righteous,” from the band’s recently completed third CD, Funksway, seems to describe the way this band, which has been around for almost 40 years, feels right now. Over a tight mid-tempo groove with horns and a smooth B3 organ solo, Sage vocalist Lou Soliz sings lines including “I heard some stranger, she whispered to me/ You’re on top, creatively” and “Something righteous goin’ on/ Can feel it in my bones.”>
The song details a band still on a high after winning the award for Best Cover Band in the Bay Area classic rock station KFOX’s Last Band Standing Contest this past fall. Sage bandleader and keyboard player Frank Anzalone says the horn-heavy R&B and funk act parlayed some newfound confidence into the recording of Funksway.
It’s easy to hear Sage’s self-assurance and bristling energy in “Knock You Out,” the opening track off of the CD. Filled with lyrics comparing the band to a champion boxer, the song is as tight as a James Brown number and features fluttering horns and jabbing bass lines.
Other upbeat standouts on Funksway include the title track and the Stevie Wonder tribute “Small Wonder.” The former is as complicated and funky as a classic Sly Stone song, while the latter recalls Wonder during his “Higher Ground” prime.
“We weren’t trying to emulate Wonder,” Anzalone says. “We are just saying that he’s an obvious influence.”
Another act that inspired Sage is the East Bay horn-driven soul band Tower of Power. While there is no distinct homage to the group on Funksway, three of Tower of Power’s current players—saxophonist Tom Politzer, trumpeter Adolfo Acosta and guitarist Bruce Conte—performed on the album, a fact that Anzalone is excited about. “Now, some of these guys are playing our music rather than us playing their music,” he says proudly.
The dance band also got an assist from Andy Winer of the house band for the TV show “American Idol.” Winer, a trumpet player, arranged all the horn parts on Funksway.
Even with these guest artists, the most compelling aspect of Funksway is the way the eight full-time members of Sage seamlessly perform complicated funk and horn music together. The band’s tightness can be attributed to the fact that all but one of Sage’s members has played in the group for more than a decade.
Though the band has released two other albums of original material—2002’s King of the Avenues and 2004’s Some Assembly Required—Anzalone is most excited about getting Funksway into the public’s hands. “I think this is our best effort so far,” he says.
Anzalone says the sole reason for Sage sticking around so long is a simple one. “It’s kind of like a boy’s club,” he says. “Everyone looks forward to playing together.”
Though the band is at a peak 38 years into their career, Anzalone’s future goals for his outfit are surprisingly modest. “The long-term plan is to keep breathing,” he says, “and keep playing.”
SAGE plays a CD release party for Funksway at 9pm Saturday, July 7, at Sly McFly’s, 700 Cannery Row, Monterey. 372-3225.>