SPANK! was a dynamic Funk-Soul-Jazz trio formed as a side project back in 2001. Fuzz and Eric Kalb were members of a jaw dropping nine piece Funk-Soul band called 'Deep Banana Blackout' (DBB) featuring diva Jen Durken with a stellar three piece horn section. Fuzz and Eric were the leaders of their strokin' five piece rhythm section. I was performing as 'Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom', which was basically a Soul-Jazz-Blues organ trio augmented with tenor sax and trumpet (see RLWK's 'The Lost Session'). We all first met through a mutual friend, Melvin Sparks, the great Soul-Jazz pioneer, one of it's inventors, an incredible Jazz guitarist and composer as well as an awesome spirit. I first met Jen while co-producing Melvin's album on my Cannonball Records label.
A few years later we did a triple bill in Gloucester, Mass. with saxophonist supreme, Karl Denson and his band. That night proved to be quite fortuitous for us all. We all ended up collaborating on many projects and shows, separately and together. [see "Tales of a Road Dog" - www.Levtron.com] Not long after that gig, DBB invited me to join them for a special show out in San Francisco. That's when the concept of forming the more compact organ, guitar and drum trio began. Fuzz came up with the kinky name.
Soon after, we got right to work and began rehearsing some tunes Fuzz and I each wrote. We also wanted to do some tunes in tribute to our collective musical influences (James Brown, The Meters and Booker T). Soon, the three of us came up with a nice repertoire and we began doing gigs whenever we were not booked with our own bands. We had a lot of fun as you can hear on this recording.
As much as we all liked the full-force of a richly orchestrated sound complimented with horns and/or vocals, we felt we were more than capable of providing as much of the same dynamic energy being an instrumental trio. Plus, it gave us all a chance to really stretch-out musically and be freer to improvise creatively on the fly, and we did. Our creative juices never ran dry. Every performance was new. Why? Because, we always listened, felt, supported and complimented each others musical ideas. We also loved playing a 'collective' groove together as much as soloing individually. My Hammond organ's full range of super-sonics was matched by Fuzz's colorful palette of his guitar and effect pedals. We never ran out of funky sounds or combinations of them. Kalb always kept us at bay with his relentless groove, but mostly stirred us on, kicking and jabbing at us like a caged wildman behind his vintage traps. We played and created well together.
Our audiences took our band name SPANK! quite literally. I wrote the tune "SPANK!" and whenever we performed it, our crowd began spanking each other to the accent beat at Fuzz's coaxing. It was really entertaining and funny for us while we were looking out at the crowd 'dancing', as well as realizing we may have actually started a 'whacky' new dance craze! Dipping into the fashion arena, I designed some t-shirts (pictured on the cover). The 'slap' was; the logo and arrow were on the back, pointing down towards one's back pockets.
After about a year or so, Eric got a call to tour with John Scofield, Fuzz formed his Gypsy-Jazz band, 'Caravan of Thieves' and I went to Israel for awhile and upon my return, focused on writing and recording with Melvin Sparks and Karl Denson. Melvin, Karl and I recorded four critically acclaimed albums together. The unintended consequence of Fuzz, Eric & I moving on with these new additional projects proved to be the end of SPANK! We're hoping to do a re-union gig someday soon, as do many of our fans, but in the meantime, here are some great cuts from a few shows recorded by some 'tapers' we know you'll dig, but only if you're good!
Ron Levy - Hammond organ
Fuzz - guitar
Eric Kalb - drums
Rob Somerville - tenor sax on 'Old Smoother'
Mr. Rourke - DJ turntables on 'Grandsons of Abraham'
1. Spankin' James Brown ***
2. Hippest Huggah ***
3. SPANK! *
4. Old Smoother **
5. Stand Up **
6. Blues for B.B. *
7. Look at My Pye-Pye ***
8. Grandsons of Abraham *
* Ron Levy / Levtronic Music BMI
** Fuzz Fuzzman / Fuzzy Banana Music ASCAP
*** Levy - Fuzzman - Kalb / Levtronic Music BMI
PRODUCED BY RON LEVY / Levtron.com
Recorded 'live' at: The Middle East, Cambridge, MA, Bill's Bar, Boston, MA & The Makor, NYC.
Digital Mastering: EarAttica, Arlington MA - Henri Nigro - engineer
Artwork: Tatiana Marcussian Design & Lev