By Kaye Blum
Guitarist and frontman of The Bamboos, recording artist, songwriter, DJ, producer, broadcaster – Lance Ferguson wears quite a few hats these days. And he’s about to hit the stage with a superb line-up of musicians to perform selected tracks from his three-album recording project, Black Feeling, in a premiere gig for Stonnington Jazz festival next week.
The liner notes describe Black Feeling as “a rhythmic feeling, a soulful feeling”. But there’s a diversity of genres from deep funk to Latin across the three volumes, which feature Ferguson’s re-workings of carefully chosen covers ranging from obscure to renowned tunes, from around the globe to around the corner.
The first Black Feeling volume was released on Freestyle Records in the UK in 2007, with the third instalment emerging last year to critical acclaim. So, what inspired him to record three albums of covers over nine years? Ferguson explains there were a few different motivations, starting from the perspective of producer and musician.
“A bunch of us are making music in the world of funk, soul, jazz and Latin with that kind of fusion which we cover on the records,” he says. “There’s this amazing cannon of work out there and I’ve picked some of my favourite tunes in those genres and I wanted to kind of reverse-engineer them to find out how they worked and what made them tick. Making an album of cover versions was just a great way to get inside these tunes and take the arrangements apart, work out what made them so great.”
From a DJ perspective, Ferguson explains the original recordings of some songs can be difficult to spin for a club crowd because they might sound a little thin or have a solo that plays too long. “Not saying that they need to be fixed up,” he says, “but I guess just sort of tailoring them for a modern dance floor just a little bit.”
For someone as passionate about the genres as Ferguson, covering some of his favourites is, of course, a lot of fun. And fun is best served shared. “I love this music,” he says, “and I want to expose more people to it.”
While the album artwork looks like a random sixties rarity you might find in an American second-hand store, all Black Feeling albums were recorded at his friend John Castle’s studio, The Shed, which is tucked away in his parent’s backyard in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs. “It’s where all The Bamboos’ records are made and where most of the records I’ve worked on have been recorded,” he adds.
Some of Melbourne’s top funk-soul talent played on the three volumes, including members of The Putbacks who Ferguson claims has “one of the best rhythm sections in the country, if not THE best for my money”. Hiatus Kaiyote’s Simon Mavin, who was previously a member of The Bamboos, played on the second volume. Ben Grayson, one of the original members of The Bamboos, plays keys on the third volume, “and also a great keyboard player named Sam Keevers who’s been a legend of the local jazz scene for quite some time,” he says.
Grayson joins The Putbacks’ Mick Meagher on bass and Rory McDougall on drums in the line-up for the upcoming gig. “And some of the horn players from The Bamboos will be there as well, so it should be good fun.”
As for the choice of venue, Ferguson wanted it to be less of a traditional jazz venue, with Black Feeling tracks suited more to a dance crowd and a club environment. “It’s great we can do it at Revolver,” he says. “Some of the very first Bamboos gigs were at Revolver, and some of my first ever DJ gigs way back in the day were at Revolver so it feels like a spiritual home to a degree, it’s going to be really fun to go back.”
Lance Ferguson presents: Black Feeling at Revolver Upstairs, Friday May 13, as part of Stonnington Jazz festival.
This interview first appeared in Beat magazine issue number 1523, May 4, 2016