From the eye of the polar cyclone stormed a giant black bus covered in a mixture of snow, salt and wintery grime, gold swirls of etching twinkled between the splotches of dirt as it perched under the alley light at the Vogue Theater in Broadripple, Indiana. The jazz infused bluegrass folk funkadelic crew was ready to give Indy More Than A Little. The sun dipped behind the cityscape and the Polar Vortex seemed to rip through the streets with even more velocity and the world seemed frozen, footsteps crunched through snow from the parking lot behind the Vogue only to fall silent in the line that snaked its way down the street as folks gathered to see Keller Williams and More Than A Little. Through the shivers and chattering teeth were cheers as the doors opened promptly at 8:00 PM.
As fans made their way into the venue from the converging subzero temperatures and chilling winds their smiles spread and they were welcomed by Keller Williams opening for Keller Williams and More Than A Little. Keller filled the air with improvisational loops of jam and spiraling funky riffs on his acoustic. The crowd seemed to engulf the stage, taunting him with banter and requesting tunes…heckling him to the point of him coming over and whispering to the drunken disrupter that he’s got a two hour set, be patient, the tunes will come. Keller continued to play, creating his own circumpolar whirl on the stage, at one point snatching a video camera from the audience and flipping it to record the audience before jesting and putting it in his own pocket before returning it to the sulking individual who he took it from. The rotational flow of familiar KW tunes warmed the crowd nicely for the main attraction, Keller Williams with More Than A Little.
Keller Williams is known for his collaborative performances with other artists from the jamband scene. He has played numerous times with the String Cheese Incident as the Keller Williams Incident. He has also toured with the bassist, Keith Moseley, from the String Cheese alongside other musicians Gibb Droll and Jeff Sipe as the WMDs. Most recently he toured with Larry and Jenny Keel as a trio of bluegrass musicians known as Keller and the Keels. To say the man is well versed in collaborative style is an understatement; he is quite versed and puts together extremely talented artists for exceptional music experiences. His project with More Than A Little holds his record to the same standard of excellence and introduces his fellow jamband fans to something a little more funkier, a little more jazzier and a little more soulful with the deep rooted sound of R&B they may not be accustomed too. In past interviews he’s mentioned that he has always been curious of big band jazz-funk ensembles. After sitting in one night with EJ Shaw (bass); Gerard Johnson (keys); Toby Fairchild (drums) and Tonya Lazenby Jackson (backup vocals) at a local R&B bar in Virginia, Keller put his dream in motion and added Sugah Davis (backup vocals) to complete the big-band sound he was after.
The transpiration of a one man jam of funk to an ensemble of jazz funk was quick with barely enough time to grab a beer but somehow was long enough for Keller to ditch his socks and change into a suite and tie. Fairchild (drums) was first on stage followed by Shaw (bass) and Johnson (keys) the sexy ladies, Ms. Tonya Lazenby Jackson and Ms. Sugah Davis (backup) hit the stage next followed by Keller who was smiling from ear to ear. They opened with a jazzy interlude into, “More Than A Little,” (Funk, released 2013). The bass riffs bouncing off the keys and percussion in polyrhythms. The crowd responded and found the swagger as their hips started shaking. They took it into a smooth mellow jam, “Let’s Jam,” (Funk, released 2013), Sugar’s vocals coiled around Keller’s while Jackson’s vocals melded in the bottom tone in a liquidy vocal jam. They brought a funk jazz spin to, “Once In A Lifetime,” and went into, “Fist.” Keller kicked out, “Love Handles,” (Home, released 2003) into “Right Here,” (Funk, released 2013) a groovy number with bottom ended swoops of good feel that melded nicely into, “Doo Wap.” “Ninja of Love,” (Dreams, released 2007) had a very nice reggae funk groove into a bassy, “Cadillac,” (Dreams, released 2007). As Keller took them into, “Freakshow,” (Laugh, released 2002) the crowd seemed to hover in bliss before hitting a wordy funk flow of, “Hollywood Freaks,” (Bass, released 2011). The freaky funk continued with, “I Told You I Was Freak,” (Funk, released 2013), “Freaker by the Speaker,” (Laugh, released 2012) and into, “That’s How She Rolls,” before a funky R&B version of a Grateful Dead cover, “Women Are Smarter.” They encored with, “Hey Ho Jorge,” (Bass, released 2011) which was pure funk.
There’s a quote on jazz by JJ Johnson, “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.” The restlessness moved quickly as the crowd moved outside the venue and dissipated rapidly due to the freezing temps and the big black bus rolled back into the polar vortex to complete the, “What the Funk Tour.”