James Brown is Annie @ The Jazz Bar, 17 August

Live Review by Aidan Ryan | 24 Aug 2015

Edinburgh outfit and Jazz Bar regulars James Brown is Annie play through their debut album, recorded on home soil with Average White Band's founding tenor saxophonist Molly Duncan, much of which was fleshed out in frequent appearances on this very stage. At their best they’re excellent entertainers of the James Brown School: they have the hooks, quick competent solos, and at moments – as when singer and guitarist Aki Remallay really shreds, or when the band just lays it down for a few bars of unassuming funk – we feel the little hiccup-and-hum of a Prius switching from battery to gas. 

They've said their name (from an Eddie Murphy Saturday Night Live sketch) conveys a desire to toss together incongruities and make them funky. There's something off about watching seven guys playing music that for half a century has channeled pure sexual joy, dressed like the signers of the Solemn League and Covenant playing with a Rubik’s Cube but the band finds its groove soon enough.

To their credit, JBiA seem to have the Right Stuff: Remally has the voice for this music, they’ve given serious polish to material that must be difficult to master, and their lines, riffs, and solos show they’ve studied the Funk and Soul Songbook well, ending their set at a bleary-eyed 1:30am with a smoldering cover of Bill Withers' Use Me and a note for note rendition of AWB's Pick Up The Pieces. But as any student of James Brown knows, if this music doesn’t give you the cold sweats, your audience won’t catch the fever, either.