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The New Cool: Fresh Tracks For The Winter Doldrums

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Another month until spring...

Late-February in the Northwest is a non-turning point. The Presidents’ Day three-day weekend feels like a holiday, but unless your making tracks on the ski slopes, the weather usually doesn’t offer much worth celebrating. With spring still a month away, this Puget Sound native knows it’s time to mix things up.

Just in time, this week’s episode of The New Cool features new additions from a slew of fantastic modern jazz musicians. The New Mastersounds from Leeds, England got started nearly two decades ago with a sound owing a debt to the '60s boogaloo records from the Blue Note label, developing into a looser funky jazz outfit that’s become one of Europe’s top live bands. Their new album "The Nashville Session" gets its first play on The New Cool, returning the band to their early sound with the groovy “Carrot Juice”.

From Denver, rather than the next galaxy over, Space Orphan released their debut album "Shut Up About the Sun" last fall and it was quickly named by among the top 20 funk albums of the year.

Recorded live in the studio in a single night, it’s a fantastic document of this band’s first two years together. Self-described “progressive old school,” their grooves evoke The Meters popping soul funk, but check out the synthesizer and drum breakdown on “Free Swag” to hear how this band progresses into uncharted musical territory.

A band requested after the very first New Cool show by one of your fellow listeners, the Boston funk outfit Lettuce features a pair you’ve heard in the band Soulive – keys player Neal Evans and guitarist Eric Krasno. The driving funk horns on “Chief” from their 2015 album "Crush" will have you wondering if Starsky and Hutch are on your tail.

Kneebody are performing live at Nectar Lounge in Fremont with the Seattle supergroup Happy Orchestra opening the show. The Brooklyn-based quintet’s latest album Kneedelus is a collaboration with modern electronic producer and DJ Daedelus, an atmospheric affair with abstract hip-hop rhythms setting the stage for searching horns and a hypnotic percussion break on “Drum Battle”.

Also new to the Saturday afternoon lineup, you’ll hear The Budos Band’s mysterious soul grooves, Django Reinhardt-inspired electro swing from Caravan Palace, Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels '05 debut with his group El Michels Affair conjuring a blaxploitation vibe, cool Afro-beat with The Souljazz Orchestra from sunny Ottowa, and The Polyrhythmics from Seattle. They’re back home for a big Mardi Gras show at Nectar Lounge on February 28, I’ll be spinning records there before the show and I hope you’ll be there, too. In fact, why not win a free pair of tickets?

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.