It may be difficult for today's youth to get their collective head around the idea, but at one time, actual bands specialized in instrumental funk. The Meters, James Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, and the Bar-Kays laid down irresistible grooves without the "benefit" of a vocal star (though sometimes there might be a band member or guest singer on vox). Liquid Soul is a Chicago combo that refuses to let that concept disappear -- but don't conclude that these hepcats are peddling nostalgia.
While its sound is firmly based in the Godfather of Soul's fiery, snaking, forceful funk, Liquid Soul folds samples and DJ cuts into its mix, along with nods to rock, jazz, drum & bass, and hip-hop. Leader-saxophonist Mars Williams -- also a player in the Windy City's free-jazz scene -- has a sumptuous, blues-drenched approach, complemented by the bristling, torrid tone of trumpeter Hugh Ragin. (Living Colour's Vernon Reid contributes some terse, incendiary guitar.) Best of all, Liquid Soul peppers the festivities with bursts of shredding, unfettered jazz skronk without compromising the revelry. One-Two Punch is an eclectic, all-out party in handy CD form.