Have you heard of West End Blend? You should.
Hartford may not be known for its funk, but nobody told this 14-piece band. Horns? Check. Rap? Got it. Hearty, soulful vocals? Yup. Toe-tapping beats? Of course.
The Where We Live crew first ran into West End Blend after host John Dankosky hosted the Connecticut Forum at the Bushnell. It was a pretty draining night, and we needed to blow off some steam and celebrate.
We made our way across Bushnell Park to the BBQ blues club Black Eyed Sally’s and what we saw on stage was pretty amazing. West End Blend had more musicians than we could count and they were belting out the classic New Orleans song, "Iko Iko." The horns section made its way through a packed bar and it was impossible to not pay attention.
Right away, we knew we really wanted to have them on the show. But getting this huge band together is tough, so West End Blend invited us to the TELEFUNKEN factory and studio in South Windsor, site of their semi-regular “Wednesday/Blendsday” rehearsals.
Several members of the band work for TELEFUNKEN and they use the studio space, which is where world-class audio engineers build and test their microphones.
West End Blend is releasing an EP this summer and they gave us a preview that blew us away. They're a well-oiled machine with with top music pedigrees and a pretty serious commitment to their hometown, and to getting the crowd going.
"We get together a massive amount of great musicians onto one little stage," said band co-founder Sam Horan. "You have no choice but to have a good time and dance and move, and that's what we wanted to do," he added.
There isn't a shortage of talent when they take the stage. They have three very distinct vocalists, including the incredible rapper Tangsauce. He's a laid-back, quiet guy until he gets a microphone in his hand - then he knocks you out.
The new EP has been in the works for several months now. Some of it was recorded when they get snowed into TELEFUNKEN last winter. With 14 members, the mixing process has taken a long time.
There is also the challenge of translating their energetic live show into the studio setting. "It's tricky," said keyboardist Paulie Philippone. "It's hard to preserve that same initial feel, that same initial goal. So it's been a long process but I think we're all really, really happy with it overall."
This is one local music release that we're really looking forward to this summer.