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Jazz-Funkers Audioform 

The Houstons ink deal with MoRisen Records

It's a busy Saturday at Manifest Records and the joint is jumping -- and not just because you scored a $25 copy of Scratch Perry's Arkology boxset in the used bin. No, the sizzling atmospherics come courtesy of Charlotte's jazz-funk septet Audioform, who is performing free in-store, pushing its debut full-length, Compositions.

Hours later the band will celebrate with a CD release party at the Neighborhood Theatre. But before they can get halfway through the opening cut at the record store, much of the business bustle had died down; patrons and record store clerks drawn in by the thick rhythms, Latin percussion, and powerful three-horn front-line.

Audioform plays soul jazz funk, or funky soul jazz, if you prefer. Familiar touchstones abound, including 1960s' Blue Note artists like Lou Donaldson and late-era Lee Morgan, the big combo jazz of Charles Mingus and Tito Puente, Curtis Mayfield wah-wah guitar, and '70s funk acts like Tower of Power and Parliament. The band is comprised of tenor saxophonist and band leader Erick Payne, alto saxophonist Tony McCollough, trumpeter/flutist/trombonist/saxophonist Jack Forseen, percussionist Antonio Diaz, guitarist Keith Whatley, bassist Joe Smalls, and Corey McClure on drums.

"The project started out as just a couple jazz guys getting together," says Diaz. "We got a little college radio publicity, then people found us through the MySpace.com site, and it kind of took off from there."

Some key opening dates followed, including a couple for the Neville Brothers.

"A lot of these jazz-funk bands align themselves with the jam-band movement because they know a lot of people come out to these shows," Diaz says.

The band recorded a couple of EPs at Mount Holly's Mount Hollywood studio, as well as its full-length, with Catalyst Recording's Rob Tavaglione.

Audioform got another break when it was invited last summer to the Fillmore Jazz Festival in San Francisco, the oldest free jazz festival in the world. Audioform has already been invited back to participate this year, and was recently nominated for an appearance at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Europe. Only 350 unsigned bands receive nominations, and of those only 150 get invited. The band will be notified in February.

"If we get that, man, that'll be a big deal because there are so many industry people at Montreux," Diaz says.

For now, the band will be doing some limited touring, including local gigs at Tempo (Jan. 26) and the Evening Muse on March 16.

THE HOUSTON JOINS MORISEN:

Chalk up another coup for MoRisen Records, who have signed the Houstons (ex-Houston Bros.) and will release the band's third record, Still, this spring. Led by the Faircloth brothers, Justin and Matt, the band was initially a two-piece, with Justin handling keys, drums and vocals, and Matt playing guitar and bass pedals. The band took a year-plus hiatus after closing down its Cougar Camp studio, but returned as a sextet early last year before settling into its current five-piece lineup with Chris Lonon on bass, Vance Carlisle on guitar and Chris Walldorf on drums.

"Justin and I have talked about working together for a while, and the timing couldn't be better now considering the momentum MoRisen Records has going," said label chief Chuck Morrison. "We'll be providing the Houstons with horsepower they've never experienced. It's an interesting record and one that people will want to listen to again as soon as they're done."

GETTIN' IN "TUNE":

Some of North Carolina's contemporary and traditional music -- gospel, Piedmont blues, jazz, classical music, bluegrass, and a thriving Indie rock scene -- is featured on the star-filled N.C. In Tune benefit CD. Among those musicians with North Carolina ties donating their music are Branford Marsalis, Charlie Daniels, the Embers, Doc Watson, Nnenna Freelon, Katharine Whelan, the Connells, the Red Clay Ramblers and Tift Merritt. Disc proceeds will go toward the state's shrinking music education programs to purchase instruments and sheet music, according to the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, which is producing the CD.

BEACH MUSIC:

The Charlotte-based Endless Summer Quarterly will include a Carl Wilson tribute CD in its February issue to celebrate what would have been the late Wilson's 60th birthday. Artists on the 20-track compilation include Brian Wilson; David Marks (founding member of the Beach Boys); Gerry Beckley (America); Robert Lamm (Chicago); Desi Arnaz, Jr. & Billy Hinsche (Dino, Desi & Billy); and The Rip Chords.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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