Turkuaz is going for it.
An exhilarating nine-piece funk band out of Brooklyn, Turkuaz includes seven graduates of the Berklee College of Music who recently turned 30 years old. The musicians played more than 180 shows and made a record in 2015 and they are just as busy this year. A months-long tour with the New Mastersounds stopped for some live music at Lake Tahoe Sunday.
About 50 people greeted the band as it took the stage. Before the first song had ended, more than 400 filled the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room. It’s somewhat of a mystery where they all come from, but it happens a lot. As the energy built through the night, audience members could feel the wooden floor bounce with the rhythm in the venerable room.
Afterward, saxophonist Josh Schwartz said how fun it was to play for the first time in a casino. This show might have spoiled him for such gigs. The CBC is a contrast to the casinos on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, a regular stop on classic rockers’ old-timers’ tours. The Crown Room and its diminutive little brother, the Red Room, have been the showcase for several bands on the cusp of blowing up, such as The Avett Brothers, Trampled By Turtles, Devil Makes Three and the London Souls. Add Turkuaz to the list. The group is simply undeniable. It played the High Sierra Music Festival this year and Hangtown Halloween the year before, but it especially shined in the indoor showroom.
The band is funk, first and foremost. But guitarist Dave Brandwein will step on his pedals and change his bright, clean riffs into fuzzy rock and roll. One tune even was a straight-ahead jam-band celebration. Several of the players were featured on lead vocals, including Schwartz, who hit an extended note so high you’d swear it was a horn. Schwartz, by the way, plays a baritone sax but he’s so tall it looks like a tenor.
The show was a homecoming for trumpet and keyboard player Chris Brouwers, who grew up in Truckee. His parents and brother were in the crowd during the set that climaxed with a trumpet-guitar duel between Brouwers and Craig Brodhead.
Turkuaz’s second West Coast representative is Taylor Shell, who plays bass and wears a stovepipe hat and orange one-piece. Shell is from San Francisco and he was a youth ski racer at Sugar Bowl.
On this night, Turkuaz was a 10-piece ensemble. Snarky Puppy’s Nate Werth played with both Turkuaz and the New Mastersounds, who, oh yeah, were the headliners.
Turkuaz had a spectacular performance but it certainly did not steal the show. The quartet from Leeds, England, which has been around since 1999, simply kept the dance party going, and by the end of the night Werth and several Turkuaz members returned to the stage.
The New Mastersounds, with its British soul, has a penchant for collaboration and it seems natural that it will someday record with its upstart, like-minded peers Turkuaz.
Guitarist Eddie Roberts has embraced the United States, spending time living in its great places: San Francisco, New Orleans and Colorado, where a year ago he survived a scary ski accident. Fast Eddie’s speed isn’t just used on the guitar.
“I just bought this guitar and you just heard its first solo. It was made in 1966 and brand new it cost $385. It costs considerably more now,” Roberts told the crowd, which included Lake Tahoe musician Wesley Orsolic.
“That’s a Gibson 333 with P90s,” Orsolic said, as he marveled at the music.
Roberts and keyboardist Joe Tatton played fast jazzy R&B over the rhythms of drummer Simon Allen and bassist Pete Shand.
“They are playing Middle Eastern rhythms,” said Orsolic, a native of Croatia. “You don’t get to hear those combinations anywhere else but the U.S. That’s why I live here.”
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To see all of Larry Sabo’s photos from the Turkuaz set at Tahoe, click the LINK