Close your eyes and imagine losing your identity for a minute. You are no longer black or white, male or female, adult or child. You’re at a pure psychedelic state. Imagine traveling the world through sound. That’s right kids, you can lose the bath salts and feel infinite with Houston’s very own underground band The Free Radicals. The group is giving rebirth to funk with their fourth album “The Freedom Fence” releasing June 16th. The funk, jazz, and soul group incorporates rhythms from around the globe with lyrics pleading for social justice. The group has won the Houston Press award for “Best Underground Jazz Group” consecutively for five years. Pete Sullivan and Nick Cooper started the band in 1997 and now they have a total of seven musicians, each with a unique style, which include Jason Jackson, Theo Bijarro, Doug Falk, Chris Howards, and Al Bear. Pete, Theo and Jason are very jazz oriented, while Chris specializes in different types of percussion, specifically Brazilian and Flamenco. Nick and Al are the funk masters.
Free Radicals have won an amazing nine Houston Press Music Awards for Best Jazz, but jazz really doesn't even begin to cover the 16-year-old Houston group's sound. It's so all over the place that the only category that really fits is the oft-misunderstood "world music," especially on the Radicals' new record The Freedom Fence. In the course of 23 songs, the seven-piece group visits -- lyrically or musically, and not always at once -- Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cuba, Russia, the Holy Land, Mexico, New Orleans, Sugar Land and Houston's own Third Ward.
On the 23-track album, which the band releases Saturday night at Fitz with a few guests, Free Radicals examine the idea of borders and boundaries from all possible sides and nationalities -- from the Israeli/Palestinean conflict, the Zapatistas, and even the Iron Curtain to issues a lot closer to home, such as Third Ward gentrification and the considerable number of Houston jazz musicians who have wound up in Ben Taub Hospital.
the sound produced by the Free Radicals-a horn-heavy mix of bebop-inflected jazz, hard funk, punky Jamaican ska and Brazilian samba-is outta sight, man. And as the brassy out t heats up an already sultry evening, dancers work up a sweat on the dance floor.
(June, Houston Modern Luxury Magazine)
Houston’s Free Radicals has always operated as a core band plus collective, and the new “The Freedom Fence” is no exception. Over 23 tracks the band and its admirable guest list of collaborators move through jazz, hip-hop, poetry, dub, Afrobeat, New Orleans brass, blues, reggae, klezmer, as well as sounds that hail from Russia, Mexico, Ethiopia and other far-flung locales.