In the spirit of the funk movement, this album is "the message" of Thousands of One - it speaks of ending racism, growing food, and finding unity. Turning heads with intense lyrics - incendiary politics, spiritual tenacity, wit and dope phrasing - the soul and voice of Jhakeem Haltom bolstered by a rocking and raw band cutting cunningly original music that pays tribute to the roots of soul, funk and reggae... The explorations that are presented in this album show no boundaries; gospel juggernauts taking the starliner as far as it will go.
“Thousands of One: Music for Everyone”
By: David Dancy, Life & Times of Utica
UTICA - On Saturday March 29 The Electric Company on Varick Street was the scene of a rare musical event. No it wasn't a musical magic show. No, Barack Obama did not show up and sing. It was rare because of the music.
It had a vintage quality. A timeless mixture of melody, harmony and rhythm that transcended time, space and emotions.
Genre? Hmmmm. Sometimes it's hard to label music. Every once in a while a band comes along that just hits you in the gut.
Through their music they wield power. The power to raise or lower spirits. The power to conjure good or bad energy. The power to inspire violence and rage or to nurture love.
With five years of war looming like a dark cloud over our lives, the violence and rage seems to dominate the airwaves.
Just in the nick o' time a band like Thousands of One comes along. The six piece group out of Ithaca, N.Y. define their music as space age gospel, roots hip hop and soul funk dub. I describe it as spiritually uplifting neo soul with a sprinkle of punk and hip hop, a dab of jazz and a heaping spoonful of talent.
Think Jamiroqui with a light dab of Rage Against the Machine, exemplified through their righteous politics (peace, love, justice, racial harmony).
The group has been together six years. Two albums later they have mastered a sound that not only makes you dance but also makes you think.
Not every band is political, has a mission or takes a stance. Some groups are just about a good time. Others declare their stance.
What they write for. Why they sing.
Lead singer Jhakeem Haltom clearly stated their purpose early during their show.
"We represent love and racial harmony. I hope you enjoy."
Enjoy we did.
Performing songs off their self-titled debut album and their sophomore effort titled SoulForce, Jhakeem, accompanied by backup singer Will Sapp, belted out his melodic lyrics with an authenticity reserved for church or Broadway theatre. Eyes were transfixed, hips swayed and conversations got deep when Haltom sang.
Perhaps it was the lyrics like this sample from "I Believe" off of the first album:
”I step into infinity
these feelings of serenity
moving trough me endlessly
there's order in the tendencies
I know I was meant to be”
The heady mix of guitar, bass, relevant lyrics, bongo drums and the saxophone all add to their unique stage presence. Sax player Mark Weinand literally shows off on each song with a solo. He wields the tenor, alto, and baritone sax with equal aplomb, adding an intangible quality to the music. His band mate the Turkish guitarist, Safak Ozkan performs magic using feedback from the reverb, wah and distortion pedals. A truly signature sound to go with his signature appearance. Modest drummer/ producer Joel Blizzard (real name) and bass player Brent Eva, playing in his socks, complete the eclectic mix of souls that make Thousands of One.
Throughout their show they periodically broke into an impromptu jam session inspired by Haltom on the congas. Haltom learned percussion from his father, an original member of classic '70s soul group Tower of Power. He obviously is not limited to the congas. His vocal mastery and command of the flute were on full display as well for all art lovers to appraise.
Owner operator of the Electric Company, Zee, offered his opinion.
"I heard these guys the first time (demo) and booked 'em. That almost never happens."
They have performed at the Electric Company twice and each time have left a memorable impression.
Sometimes their message gets lost in the harmony. People are having too good a time to worry about being a consumer automaton programmed to eat, drink and sleep without worrying about anyone or anything else. But we thank them for distracting us.
For more information on Thousands of One check out their myspace page at: