Spoken word or tamborine? Which is it, Al?Spoken word is hard to pull off. Sometimes this genre, or subgenre, if you will, brings to mind beret-intensive poetry slams where ideological rhetoric tends to trump skill. There are some heavy spoken word elements at play with Alfred Howard and the K23 Orchestra, but it's not the sort of aforementioned dimly lit coffee house nonsense.
AHK23 is a San Diego-based four-piece band that serves as the anchor for the vocal avalanche that is Alfred Howard. For the most part, AHK23's sound is marked by a laundry-line tight funk assault that rises in tempo along with Howard's pristinely clear speaking/rapping/singing voice.
Some might consider the band a jazzy hip-hop act in the spirit of the Roots, but what Howard is doing isn't always hip-hop, because half the time he's more singing than rapping and at other times his flow is more like he's reading from a leather-bound collection of contemporary poetry than hyping the crowd in the true spirit of hip-hop. Those who need a local barometer, one could compare some of Howard's riffs to what Bend's own Jason Graham does when out doing his solo stuff. Where Howard and Graham differ is in the improvisational orchestra department.
Lyrically, Howard exudes his socially conscious mentality in nearly every cut. Although not a completely original mission statement, AHK23 seeks to create change "through music and art." There are times when you'd rather listen to music than get a lesson, and that's understandable, but Howard and his guys make the message worthwhile with a total product that has a strong enough groove to make for solid music - not just a soundtrack of ideological ramblings.
This has the makings to be one of the more intense Silver Moon shows in recent memory - you might have to dig back to the Soul of John Black to find an act that can bring it this tough to the ol' Moon.
Alfred Howard and the K23 Orchestra
8pm Wednesday, June 4. Silver Moon Brewing Co, 24 NW Greenwood Ave.