The New Cool: Seattle's FUTURENOT use jazz skills to create new music
Trombonist Jason Cressey and saxophonist Peter Daniel are known quantities on Seattle's modern jazz and funk scene. Their new collaboration, FUTURENOT, is a fusion of modern pop, funk and rap music. As they told New Cool host Abe Beeson, while not exactly jazz, their music wouldn't exist without it.
You've heard and read here about Jason Cressey's work in many band, including The True Loves, who recently co-headlined at Woodland Park's ZooTunes to an enthusiastic crowd.
Peter Daniel's 45th Street Brass played to a packed Nectar Lounge just last weekend, and that band's "digital 45" was released this spring with more music ready to be recorded soon.
When I spoke to Cressey and Daniel this week, however, both told me that they're focused on FUTURENOT. Their new group focuses these prodigious funk-jazz talents on a new musical path.
"It's jazz-inspired pop music," Daniel told me, hesitantly.
"I like to use the word 'cinematic,'" adds Cressey. "It's a feeling-based vibe, it's music that tells a story — a weird, silly, quirky story."
The debut album Greatest Hits is expected to be available early next year and represents the "greatest" moments from several dozen musical ideas they've been working through even before FUTURENOT was formed. Cressey and Daniel were particularly excited to talk with me about their debut single "Let Us In," featuring rapper Moe Betta.
"I've known Moe for years," explains Cressey. "We recently reconnected in New York, started hanging out, and we talked about maybe collaborating."
"We always knew we wanted vocals (for the album) somehow," Daniel continues. "He's clearly the right vibe for what we're going for."
"Let Us In" leads with a funky disco beat and brash horns, "Shaft"-theme-style, then settles into a confident hip-hop swagger as Moe Betta takes the mic. His celebratory rap surprised me with rhymes for "vita-meata-vegamin," and sets a positive, optimistic tone for FUTURENOT's first single.
Cressey blows a creative, muscular trombone solo, giving way to Cole Schuster's electric guitar. He's been exploring more rock music recently, and this passionate solo is informed by his improvisational expertise.
In a closing chorus, Moe Betta delivers the vocal hook: "Medicine delivered in the lyrics when, a veteran say they better let us in. Medicine, deliver that medicine. Let us in! Yo, they better let us in!"
Lyrics, obviously, change a song. For FUTURENOT, that was intentional, but not dramatic. Daniel points to the song titles adapting to Moe Betta's lyrics, but says by that stage the arrangements were mostly finished. Cressey explains, "The songs are in their best form," thanks to the lyrics.
Appearing on three songs, Moe Betta is just one of the "featured" players. The powerful four-person rhythm section of FUTURENOT is a top Northwest crew: guitarist Cole Schuster, Tim Kennedy on acoustic and electric keys, Mark Hunter at the bass, and David McGraw drumming. To his trombone, Cressey overdubs some trumpet; likewise Daniel's saxophone work is augmented by flute playing. Their friend Skerik adds a sax on a song as well.
Daniel tells me all the players made critical contributions: "Tim (Kennedy on keyboards) layered his sparkle all over it. Every song is now bigger than it was before - and Moe did the same thing."
The resulting album is cinematic, to be sure. You might hear a heist theme, a soulful montage or the background to a car chase - on Greatest Hits, your protagonist or antagonist is likely dressed in bell-bottom jeans.
Despite the potential complication of busy schedules for every member of the band, Cressey and Daniel are committed to the future of FUTURENOT.
"It started as just a fun thing to do, but when the pandemic began, we realized we had time to make a record," Cressey admits.
Daniel adds, "It's where a lot of my energy is going right now. I'm really proud, it's a really good record."
FUTURENOT's debut performance was March 10, 2020. The next day began Washington state's stay-at-home order, and quarantines were underway. "It was nice to have something to focus on," says Cressey, "to bring some joy amidst the chaos."
Daniel says excitedly, "We all want to get back to this (live concerts). We're ready!"
For the immediate future, FUTURENOT's second show is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Drunky's Two Shoe BBQ in White Center. Barring any societal disruptions, it's expected to be the first of many for this new outfit and their new music.
Emerging funk ensemble Jaws of Brooklyn will be first on stage that night. Full disclosure: I will be opening the show playing selections from my record collection.
Listen for "Let Us In" featuring Moe Betta on The New Cool Friday night, and peek into FUTURENOT's optimistic and funky hopes for the future of music.
The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.