Brooklyn Funk Essentials was born out of New York’s buzzing hip-hop-jazz and slam poetry scenes of the early nineties. Originally conceived by producers Arthur Baker and Lati Kronlund as a series of studio jam sessions, the group soon turned into a 12-piece live outfit consisting of some of the finest young musicians, singers, rappers, dub poets and DJs the Big Apple had to offer.
The Original Line-up
Lati Kronlund was the band leader and played bass. Hanifah Walidah (aka Sha-key), Joi Cardwell, Papa Dee and Stephanie McKay were on vocals, Everton Sylvester and David Allen on dub-poetry. The original horn section consisted of Josh Roseman (trombone), Bob Brockmann (trumpet) and Paul Shapiro (sax & flute). The drums were handed by Yancy Drew and E.J. Rodriguez played percussion. Yuka Honda was the band's first keyboard player, but she was soon replaced by ATN Stadwijk. Bill Ware played the vibes on the first album and also gigged a lot with the early band. Guitarists Desmond Foster and Masa Shimizu both joined later. DJs Jazzy Nice and Smash both toured and recorded with the band during the early years .
The First Record
The debut album ‘Cool & Steady & Easy’ also featured prominent guests like Maceo Parker, The Tower Of Power Horns, Michigan & Smiley and even Dizzy Gilespie. It was first released by renowned UK label Dorado in 1994 in Europe, but was soon picked up by RCA’s Groovetown imprint who released it in 1995 in the US and the rest of the world. The first single – a funky reggae-inspired reworking of Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas' classic ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ became an instant hit, reaching the Top 20s in certain countries. The album, which topped Billboard Magazine’s ”Best R&B Album Of The Year 1995”, also featured songs like ‘Big Apple Boogaloo’, ‘Take The L Train’, ‘Dilly Dally’ and ‘A Headnadda’s Journey To The Planet Adidi – Skizm’, all of which became classics of the genre. The popular album cut 'Bop Hop' was featured in a world wide Nike commercial featuring Grant Hill and ‘Take The L Train’ became a signature tune for Hennessy Cognac’s TV ads.
Touring Without A Record
BFE used to get $500 for a gig at The Cooler in the Meatpacking Distict. Paul Shapiro's Plymouth Valiant '67 was the band's first tour bus. It would break down sometimes. From left to right: Lati Kronlund, Bassy Bob, Papa Dee, Paul Shapiro, Yuka Honda, Josh Roseman, Bill Ware lll, Yancy Drew and E.J. Rodriguez.
Apart from being regulars on the New York club scene, BFE began touring the world marking highlights in the company of acts like Parliament Funkadelic, The Roots, James Brown, Jamiroquai, The Meters and Ben Harper. One of these tours found the group headlining the Fuji Jazz Festival in Istanbul, Turkey. The reception was so great that BFE went back to record their second album there in 1998, together with eleven Turko-Roman folk musicians know collectively as Laço Tayfa. The result was the album ‘In The BuzzBag’, which became a milestone in Anatolian collaborative projects and earned BFE a Grammy nomination at home in the US. It also escalated the group to a stadium capacity act in Turkey.
In 2000, BFE released their third album ‘Make Them Like It’ (Dorado/PIAS/Shanachie), which concluded where the first album left off: A mixture of funk, Latin, ska, jazz, house, R&B, dub, drum & bass and hip hop which featured fan favorites such as ‘I Got Cash’, ‘Mambo Con Dance Hall’, ‘Jump Around Sound’ and ‘Woman Thing’. At the end of 2000, many members of the band went on to persue solo careers. Iwan VanHetten replaced both ATN Stadwijk on keys and Bob Brockmann on trumpet. Andre Atkins took over the trombone spot after Josh Roseman and Tony Taylor took over the drum chair from Yancy Drew. Dave Jensen took over from Paul Shapiro on saxophone, and Stephanie McKay relocated to the UK to record her first solo album.
In July 2001, BFE ended their world tour playing in front of 80,000 fans in Carhaix, France. After that peak, the band took a hiatus which lasted until the summer of 2006, when a group of core BFE members got back together again, to do a tour of three continents, while at the same time writing and recording songs for a forth studio album. ‘Watcha Playin’ (Peace Bisquit/Comet/Tropical) was released in the spring of 2008 in Europe and in the summer of 2009 in the US. The album was built around the vocal talents of original BFE members Hanifah Walidah, Papa Dee and Everton Sylvester and it included new classics like ‘The Park’, ‘Dance-Free Night’, and ‘Bellybuttons T & A’, which was also supported by a video. The epic afrofunk workout, ‘Need’ featured a guest appearance by legendary Turkish clarinet playerHüsnü Senlendirici and ‘Dibby Dibby Sound’ was based around Mozart’s melody ‘Rondo ala Turca’.
BFE supported the album by extensive touring in over 20 countries and sharing stages with artists like Iggy & The Stooges, George Benson, The B-52s, Bootsy Collins, Graham Central Station, Erykah Badu and Underworld.
In 2014, BFE began work on a new album to coincide with the band's 20 year anniversary as a live act. The album brought together many of the band's original members as well as newer talents like Anna Brooks on saxophones and Hux Nettermalm on drums.
Recording in Bedford Studio, Brooklyn this spring 2014
The album was recorded in studios in Brooklyn, Birmingham and Stockholm and among it's highlights was 'I'm Gonna Find Me A Woman', a re-working of a never released song that the band had recorded in the late nineties with the late, great Isaac Hayes. The first single, 'Blast It!' was released in October 2015, and featured the combined vocal talents of Papa Dee, Everton Sylvester, Desmond Foster, andStephanie McKay, who also sang lead on 'Prepare', a co-write with legendary house diva Crystal Waters. Joi Cardwell was back on lead vocals on the second single 'Dance Or Die' as well as on BFE's reworking of Roy Davis Jr and Peven Everett's classic 'Gabriel'. BFE were also back with their original label, Dorado Records, who released the album worldwide in November 2015.
BFE and Hüsnü - the saga continues in the brand new Babylon Bomonti club, Istanbul 2015