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Shakatak to Spread British Jazz-Funk All Over Germany and the U.K.

The members of the legendary British Jazz-Funk act Shakatak are being accused of planning to spread sophisticated Jazz-Funk. They are reoffenders. Shakatak’s tour was supposed to take place earlier, but a virus was in the way.

Berlin, November 17th, 2020, (The Berlin Spectator) — In the late 1970s, British Jazz-Funk acts like Morrissey Mullen and Light of the World delivered some stunning sounds. The same applied to the latter band’s offshoot acts Beggar & Co. and Incognito that are still active today. This was long before The Brand New Heavies and The James Taylor Quartet were founded in 1985, and even longer before Jamiroquai entered the British Jazz-Funk arena in 1992.

Genteel Jazz-Funk

Exactly 40 years ago, in 1980, pianist Bill Sharpe, drummer Roger Odell, slap bass hero George Anderson Junior, guitarist Keith Winter, vocalist and percussionist Jill Saward and others extended the existing British Jazz-Funk community by founding Shakatak. Except for Keith Winter, who had to drop out for health reasons, all of the members mentioned are still in the band today.

While Beggar & Co. and Incognito hit the stages with huge brass sections, Shakatak was more restrained. They delivered genteel, unobtrusive Jazz-Funk. Their sound was different. It appealed to the Pop crowd more than the other acts mentioned, due to their partially more simplistic, piano-based songs and Pop-compatible vocals. But Shakatak did deliver the Funk too.

‘Night Birds’ Around the World

George Anderson’s killer slap bass was always very prominent. In the 1980s, he often started their gigs with breathtaking 10-minute solos. Combined with Bill Sharpe’s brilliant keyboard and piano sounds, Roger Odell’s precise drumming and Jill Sawards percussion sounds, they developed their own Funk style. The guitarists they played with, including Keith Winter and Mezzoforte’s Friðrik Karlsson, added Rock and Fusion sounds more than Funk rhythms. By doing so, they made Shakatak’s sound even more distinguishable, both in the studio and on stage.

Shakatak were hot in the 1980s. Photo: Shakatak

Shakatak quickly became very popular among Contemporary Jazz, Funk and quality music enthusiasts around the world. In the early 1980s, even Roberto Morales, the man behind the radio station Jazz FM in Mexico City, could not get enough of those Brits. “Aqui les presentamos el conjunto británico Shakatak con su nueva canción ‘Night Birds'”. This is how the late Roberto Morales announced them. He played all of their stuff, including ‘Late Night Flight’, which he loved.

Jazz-Funk and Commercial Stuff

One of those early Shakatak tunes which did not become a hit in the single charts, ‘Takin’ Off’, may be one of the most typical pieces of theirs. It stands for the sophistication of their compositions, for the energy they put into their sounds, for their typical backing vocals and the stunning slap bass sound they were already known for in 1982. ‘Takin’ Off’ includes it all, but so do many other Shakatak tunes.

Once they managed to hit the single charts, Shakatak released some very commercial songs such as ‘Down on the Street’. At the peak of their worldwide success they recorded ‘Day by Day’ with the late Al Jarreau. Even when those chart hits were history, they kept on going. In Japan, Shakatak have always had a huge fan base. They play those venues in Tokyo and Yokohama all the time. And they have recorded several exclusive albums for Japan.

Heathrow and Gatwick

‘Da Makani’ is a good example. Or ‘Golden Wings’, an album that even features a breathtaking pure Fusion piece entitled ‘One for Cara’. The records kept on coming, including live recordings. Pop and Funk, Fusion and exceptional piano solo tunes like ‘In Shadows’: All of it is part of Shakatak’s blend of music, of its history and present. There may have been some kitschy tunes too, but what is kitsch to Europeans might not be to Japanese fans. The total number of studio albums released is 31.

Bill Sharpte doing ‘In Shadows’.

Today, Shakatak are as energetic as ever. George Anderson and Roger Odell are the Duracell bunnies in the band. They run their own projects on the side, including the George Anderson Band and Beatfik. And they are doing so in spite of the extensive tours Shakatak keep embarking on. Heathrow and Gatwick are like second homes to them. Brexit does not exactly make those countless trips easier, does it? Neither does Corona, by the way.

Conquering Germany

The gifted Jill Saward is their main vocalist and percussionist. She did a stunning solo album as well. An interesting aspect is that neither of the solo projects mentioned are too far from Shakatak what the style is concerned. During the Corona crisis, mastermind and keyboarder Bill Sharpe has delivered excellent solo piano versions of Shakatak tunes via social media. But he also mesmerizes live audiences by playing ‘In Shadows’ on stage.

Time to get to the good news: Shakatak are coming to Germany soon. The invasion is going to happen in spring, if Corona does not screw it all up again. Witnesses accuse the band of an intent to play sophisticated British Jazz-Funk all over the place. The court verdict is ‘guilty as charged’.

Both Sides of the English Channel

On March 15th, 2021, they will enter the European Union in order to gig in Bremen. Two shows in Hamburg are next, before they travel to a city nobody has heard of, namely Berlin. Shakatak will be performing at the ‘Quasimodo’ on March 18th. Dortmund, Bad Salzuflen and Jülich are listed on the touring plan too. So are Bonn, Augsburg, Stuttgart and Schwetzingen in late March.

After all of these gigs, Shakatak will need to cross the Channel again quickly, in order to tour their home turf. In September, they are scheduled to perform in South Africa, where George Anderson has already gigged with his own band. Obviously, nothing, except for Corona, will stop the legendary group with the most rhythmic name ever.

Shakatak’s detailed touring schedule can be accessed on their website.

Related article: Roger Odell: Shakatak’s Rhythm Master for 38 Years