Roscoe Danza fuses styles without losing groove

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Joshua Kinser

Published: November 9, 2005

On Oct. 2, DJ Radar and Raul Yanez brought their “Concerto For Turntable” to Carnegie Hall and a standing ovation. The blending of traditional orchestra composition with electronic hip-hop beats and turntables not only validated the turntable as a legitimate instrument, but also pushed the boundaries of live orchestral performance.

Today, the first generation of musicians to have lived in an age where all forms of music from around the world are instantly accessible are carving their path and pushing forward the evolution of music. The influence of this environment is encouraging a growing interest in the fusion of musical styles and is leading the musician and music enthusiasts on a journey into uncharted areas of melodic and rhythmic exploration, electronic and acoustic unification and traditional and modern collaboration.

While few bands in Pensacola are making this innovative path of fusion their own, Roscoe Danza stands out as a group that is making it happen from their own perspective and making people dance at the same time.

Roscoe Danza blends funk, jazz, rock, Latin, blues, reggae, and world beat creatively. The best way to get an idea of what Roscoe Danza sounds like is to look at the style and influences of each individual member. But take into consideration that great bands are like great recipes. While each individual ingredient may taste good on its own, it is only when they are all combined, and in some cases baked, that they reach their full potential.

Damien Louviere, vocals and guitar, brings a style soaked in the swamps of Louisiana and steeped in funk, rock, and Jazz. As the newest addition to the group, the accomplished vocalist and guitarist has shifted the focus of the group’s creative direction from mainly jazz-funk instrumentals to well- arranged vocal featured tunes that encompass the many stylistic talents of the group.

“None of the last three or four songs that we have written ended up sounding like what we expected them to sound like at all because you bring (the songs) into five other people with different backgrounds of influence that get a hold of it, take it, hear things with it and do all these unexpected things to the songs,” said bass player Sean Peterson.

Peterson spent 2002 on the road with Col. Bruce Hampton as a member of The CodeTalkers and also has played bass with Karl Denson, Robert Walter, Carlos Washington and Jeff Sipe.

Both Trey Hebson, trumpet, vocals and keys, and Brandon Warren, drums and vocals, spent time in the prestigious jazz studies program at Florida State University. Warren also performed as the drummer for the PJC jazz band. Together they intensify the jazz-funk influence.  Roscoe Danza’s primarily self taught guitarist, Gary Seaman, is one of Pensacola’s most in-demand guitar teachers and brings smooth, funky cord arrangements and solos to the band. Steve Ferry, percussion vibraphone and keyboard player of the group has more than 20 years of playing every style of music under his belt.

Whether it is gluing together a Latin or funk selection with punchy congo rhythms, or layering a vibe solo over a jazz groove or filling out the band with a thick organ or synth accompaniment, Ferry fuses a world of modern electronic and traditional acoustic instruments.

Every Tuesday night Roscoe Danza performs at the Gutter Lounge. Here an unexpected type of fusion and collaboration takes place. While the club is usually a venue for rock, punk, and power pop groups, the Gutter pushes it’s expected genre boundaries with the group’s Tuesday night shows. Brian O’Sullivan, owner of the lounge located inside of Liberty Lanes at 3200 N. Palafox St., explains why.

“Well, basically what we want to achieve is music every night of the week. We brought Roscoe Danza in for Tuesday nights because they have a great following, they are an awesome group, and they help diversify the type of music that we have at the Gutter,” he said.

Apart from their danceable and most often funky fusion original tunes, Roscoe Danza incorporates familiar songs from Toots and the Maytals, Bob Marley, Sly and the Family Stone, Talking Heads, Albert Collins, the Funky Meters, Buena Vista Social Club and Otis Redding into every performance. While the group enjoys exploring the reaches and possibilities of fusion, jazz, and song writing they make it clear that their primary objective is to make people dance, relax and have a good time.

“What all these styles have in common whether it is jazz, funk, world beat, Latin, or reggae is that they are all rhythmically based,” Peterson said. “They are all essentially dance music, and what we want to do more than anything is to make people dance.”