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00-Soul Honors Its Funk Fathers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The digits 00 may threaten to throw our computers into a funk, but they signify grooving satisfaction for feet that want to get funky.

If there’s a drawback to this Southern California band’s debut album, it’s that the solid sounds are a tad too committed to solidarity with classic predecessors.

The nods to Santana, War and Sly & the Family Stone are obvious, as the three opening tracks use direct quotation as a building block.

The Santana-like percolating Latin groove and organ-generated drama signal that solidarity right off the bat in “Cosmic Voodoo”; in “Ramon,” 00-Soul again courts comparison with Santana with a syncopated groove akin to “Oye Como Va.” The track develops into a flute-led jam that hoists a glass to the Latin funk of War, spilling much wine in the process. In “Yo Hey,” the only number with vocals, the piercing horns want to take you higher.

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00-Soul (pronounced “double-oh soul”) does have a wild card to play in co-founder Gary Tesch, who splices in tape loops and sound effects. Tesch, who made his name presiding at theme parties as deejay and conceptualist, adds some deft touches--the operatic voices sampled on “Cosmic Voodoo” to shade the Santana-isms with something unexpected, and the tribal chants that run through “Yo Hey.”

Except for the high-speed chase soundtrack to “Squad Car,” Tesch keeps his additions subtle and understated, possibly to a fault. A bit more out-there madness, perhaps drawing on the joyful mess and eccentricity of George Clinton and P-Funk, could have made this excursion more than solid.

That might have required a more daring guitar player than 00-Soul’s other founder, Ian Yater, who frames the rhythms with crisp, spiny licks but never breaks free for a wild solo ride.

Most of the firepower comes from trumpeter Hank Ballard Jr. (son of the R&B; pioneer) and saxophonist-flutist Jack Fulks; they take bop-inspired liberties here and there, but mainly the horns play within the band’s concept of group cohesiveness.

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R. Scott, who played alterna-rock with National People’s Gang and instrumental funk with West Coast Harem, has the Santana organ sound nailed; his old-fashioned synthesizer puts the spaciness in “Journey to the Chocolate Planet” and the smooth, eerie flutter of what sounds like a mellotron keys the album’s most impressive and distinctive composition, the sultry, laid-back, mysterious and smoothly alluring “Suena de Novia.”

*

Founded in 1994, 00-Soul took its time delivering a debut album; farther-flung galaxies of funk may be within its reach. Unlike the typically creaky and flavorless neo-swing bands catering to a passing dance craze, this eight-piece brotherhood knows how to represent funk and Latin-rock grooves in ways that do justice to the sources and carry forward their lasting appeal.

(Available from Groove House Records, [888] 476-6838; For 00-Soul information, call [888] 556-9347 or Web site https://www.oosoul.com.)

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* 00-Soul and Earl Jones play Saturday at the Atlas Supper Club, 3760 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. 9 p.m. $10. (213) 380-8400. Also Dec. 5 and the first Saturday of every month at the Foothill, 1922 Cherry Ave., Signal Hill. 9 p.m. $7. (562) 494-5196 (club) or (562) 984-8349 (taped information).

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).


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