Former New Orleans for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) student, guitarist Benjamin Greenberg headed to the University of North Texas to continue his music education. In a sense, this four-cut EP finds Greenberg checking in with his hometown of New Orleans by documenting his and (presumably) his fellow students’ directions and progress. The route taken by the eight-piece band, Funkle Sam—no, not a person—definitely heads to the funk as played by obviously talented jazz musicians.
Greenberg is a gifted guitarist who screams of style and technique by his reliance on well-placed notes and strong, chordal comping rather than flash. He also acted as the EP’s co-producer and composed and arranged three of the tunes.
Musically, The Union remains a group effort with some slamming ensemble work. The guys each get to shine as they step up for solos that punctuate the soul/funk/jazz grooves. What most clearly defines Funkle Sam’s sound is the ensemble’s clever and dramatic use of dynamics. Greenberg’s “The Gospel According to Samuel” moves from a quiet jazz blues, transformed by the trumpeter into a powerful ballad before it builds to an explosive crescendo. The song unexpectedly returns to a peaceful calm and boldly struts out.
“Okay, who is that?” seems the likely response to stumbling across the music of Funkle Sam on the radio. That is Funkle Sam, assuring folks that jazz is in the good hands of the next generation.