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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

Much More than Funk

Olympia's The Brown Edition deserves its own genre

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I, for one, hate applying labels to bands. After all, these days, almost no band follows in the footsteps of a singular genre. Typically, bands are a mash of sounds they've fallen in love with or have been exposed to dating back to the time they were kids. That can lead to an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to music. And frankly—I'm getting a little tired of using hyphens.

The trick is, then, getting the sound a band employs to translate well via other methods in print. This often results in my taking a bit of poetic license when describing music. Of course, I could easily just say something like, go see funk band The Brown Edition at Old St. Francis School on Jan. 17. But simply calling a group like The Brown Edition a funk band is almost a crime. They are so much more than that, it's ridiculous.

Go to their Sonic Bids page and their genre is listed as "funk." Their secondary genre is listed as "jazz." But that's to be expected, right? More than likely there is no option in the dropdown menu that says "a blend of big band horns, slappin' funk guitar and panty-dropping rhythm and blues." Yet, that is just what The Brown Edition is.

Calling them a "funk band" implies that they are nothing more than a band you can dance to. The truth is that because their performances feature a round-robin of emotional solos—including jazz sax and flute—it's pretty hard to break focus from watching them long enough to dance. Add to that the mid-range yet smoky vocals of front man Miguel Pineda, 26, and you've got something reminiscent of a Duke Ellington project mixed with the vibe of Eric Hutchinson. It's the kind of mature sound someone in his 20s doesn't just stumble on to.

"I come from a family of musicians who have been playing together for the last 50 years," said Pineda when we spoke with him via phone. "They use a more traditional Tex-Mex sound that usually consists of accordion."

Pineda, who also holds a degree in performing arts, says he isn't the only one in the band with formal training. According to him, virtually every member of the eight-piece group attended music school at some point. Husband and wife members Ninee and Aaron Wolff even run Puget Woodwind Studio, offering a variety of music lessons, including improvisition instruction.

That doesn't sound like the kind of background deserving of such a simple label asfunk. But Pineda says they aren't too worried about it.

"There are so many styles we let influence the groove," said Pineda. "I think the funk is what initially brought us together but what matters to us is that people enjoy the music. How they categorize it is something you can't change because everyone has a different interpretation."

So maybe the best way to tackle spreading the word about The Brown Edition isn't to fret over how accurately I can describe them. They don't seem to be concerned with it. Maybe I should just put my stamp of approval on the show and let that speak for itself. Of course, that's not as much fun to write.

The Brown Edition

7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17

Father Luke's Room

700 NW Bond St.

FREE

About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...

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