Butcher Brown bring the heavy jazz funk to the Forge

Hugh Morris
Thursday, November 9, 2023

The Richmond, Virginia five-piece some hip and heavy grooves from their latest album

Butcher Brown firing up at the Forge
Butcher Brown firing up at the Forge

If the 1990s saw the birth of jazz rap, then the genre has successfully navigated the growing pains of its adolescence to reach young adulthood today. It’s less a trend and more of a foundational part of today’s musical context: from the savvy Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak collaboration Silk Sonic at its commercial peak, to any number of artists offering their take on the theme (compare and contrast Barney Artist, Loyle Carner, and Kofi Stone in the UK), this kind of music – somewhere between jazz, funk, and hip-hop, though leaning towards the latter two  –  is here to stay.

On last year’s album Triple Trey, Butcher Brown, an outfit out of Richmond, Virginia who veer between those three points, dug into their jazz roots, their usual five-piece sound blown up to big band proportions. Solar Music, their follow-up release that they’re currently touring, travels down other paths, with appearances from Pink Siifu, Braxton Cook, and Michael Millions. “This ain’t no goddamn jazz concert, it’s a cool concert,” Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney, the evening’s MC, declared to a decent-sized crowd at The Forge, Camden with a laugh. The feeling of their live show is of exactly that: cool, as their series of nodding grooves commenced.

On keys, Tennishu joked, was the entire ensemble. He’s not far off: Tennishu covers MC, tenor, and trumpet duties; bassist Andrew Randazzo (composer/arranger on ‘Triple Trey’) straddles electric and synth bass; there are two keyboards and a Rhodes for DJ Harrison to tackle, and guitarist Morgan Burrs leads from sample pads (including a well-worn airhorn effect) for the set’s more house-y moments. There are singing duties, too, deputising for the rotating cast of vocalists on ‘Solar Music’. They took a while to get going, but properly gelled on easy-going cut ‘DYKWYD’.

Only Corey Fonville sticks resolutely to one thing: playing pocket grooves while deep in the zone. Sometimes, it’s a little too in the zone, and, whether because of sound issues or a bit of residual stress from the journey (there were multiple references to Butcher Brown’s ‘flightmare’ getting to the gig), the whole evening is tempered with a thought of something not quite clicking onstage. When they’re cooking, Butcher Brown’s feel is second to none, but on a Monday night in Camden, it took a while for the many moving parts to fit snugly into place.

If there was expectation building through a night of generally laid back grooves, it was for Fonville’s eventual solo, a fiery demonstration of his ability to go from loud to explosive. Local lad Jay Prince appeared for his track ‘MOVE (RIDE)’, demonstrating just how good Butcher Brown are as live support for rappers. And, despite the ‘flightmare’, the band were determined to have fun with each, Tennishu appearing for an encore with a shot glass in hand. When they truly hit their groove, feel and personality flow out of Butcher Brown.


Subscribe from only £5.83

Never miss an issue of the UK's biggest selling jazz magazine.


View the Current

Take a peek inside the latest issue of Jazzwise magazine.

Find out more