Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Live music

Philly’s Phunkestra is phat and all that

Express Staff Writer

The Portland, Ore.,-based Philly’s Phunkestra Soul Orchestra will play Whiskey Jacques’ in Ketchum on Friday, April 29. Courtesy photo

Philly's Phunkestra Soul Orchestra from Portland, Ore., is coming to Ketchum to play a blend of rich jazz and jam band music with a New Orleans-style southern funk influence. To be clear, Philly is not a reference to Philadelphia but to band member and founder Chris Phillips, the keyboardist.

Phillips began his Portland music career with a trio that grew to a 10-piece band, Philly's Phunkestra Soul Orchestra. Band members include Grant Thomas on trombone, Justin Partney on trumpet, Elysia Strauss on baritone sax, Marc Hutchinson on tenor sax, Ryan Cheng on alto sax and flute, Mitch Wilson on drums, Greg Porter on percussion and vocals, Brett McConnell on bass and Aniana Hough on vocals.

"The band came together two years ago in Portland," Phillips said. "The majority of the group is from Portland and the drummer is from New Orleans."

Phillips said Portland State University offered scholarships to musicians who left New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.

"I met five or six musicians through the program who moved to Portland and stayed," he said. "The city has a great mix of musicians."

In his spare time, Phillips fixes keyboards, which has allowed him to become familiar with many Portland musicians, including indie bands and people such as James Mercer from the Shims.

At 25, Phillips said he has lots of energy to get people dancing. The band members range in age from their mid-20s to 30s, so they have plenty of stamina to get people dancing.

"We are a big band with big music," he said. "We have done festivals but we are having a great time getting out and playing bars and clubs."

The band plays Boise every month, which may be in part to the bass player's being from Boise.

"It's a block party every night we play in Boise," he said. "We will go out on the street and play as a brass band. We have great versatility."

Philly's Phunkestra Soul Orchestra will release two new CDs—a studio recording and a live CD from the Portland Jazz Festival. The orchestra will have the studio CD ready for sale at Whiskey Jacques' in Ketchum for its show on Friday, April 29.

"I compose about 80 percent of the band's music but we do a lot of covers, including James Brown," he said. "We are like Orgone [a funk band from Los Angeles], which is my all-time favorite and that's what's hot right now."

For a complete listing of music events in the valley, see the Music, Dance and Theater section of the Calendar on Page C5.

—Sabina Dana Plasse

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