Funky Shaman

music_PimpsOfJoytimeFor The Pimps of Joytime, the groove is sacred
If you ask Brian J, guitarist, singer and chief songwriter for the Brooklyn-based The Pimps of Joytime, what the “J” in his name stands for, he might tell you, but he certainly won’t respond if you call him by the moniker he inherited from his father.

And that isn’t because he has anything against his dad—the man who instilled J with his love of R&B, soul and funk by keeping the stereo pumping in his household. It’s because, as J puts it, his legal surname is “the name I use for government shit.”

When J is onstage with his band, as he will be tonight at Moe’s Alley, he doesn’t want to think about taxes or long lines at the DMV. He wants to lose himself in the unique primeval catharsis that can only be achieved through rhythm.

“The groove is very deep and serious,” J says, referring to the pulse most music possesses, and that is especially present in The Pimps’ music. “It speaks to something primal in us. We approach it from a place of respect for where these rhythms come from.”

J wants his audience to feel that connection as well.

“The best gigs we ever do, that’s what it becomes—some sort of ritualistic type thing,” says J, who sees himself a bit like a modern day shaman, creating a musical rite through which he hopes the crowds might find a sort of spiritual release. “We’re not dancing around a fire, but we’re definitely bringing a fire, musically.”

The Pimps of Joytime bring that fire with a piping hot amalgam of just about every musical genre you can imagine—swinging adeptly from one style to another. On the title track from Janxta Funk, the group’s May release, The Pimps showcase their familiarity with roots soul and funk: a simple, air-tight beat struts behind, the treble changa-chang guitar and harmonizing horn punches; you can just about hear James Brown screaming “Hit meh!” from beyond the grave.

On “Take the L Train,” the group takes a Shaft-esque skeleton, and beefs it up with a fuzzy bass synth that sounds like it belongs in a Justice techno anthem, Michael Jackson flourishes, and a smooth jazz saxophone solo that gives way to an old-school-tinged rap verse from conga player and occasional emcee, Chauncey Yearwood.

And on “Workin all the Time,” hip-hop boom-bap and some dexterous record scratching morphs into a riff that simultaneously recalls Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” and The Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy.”

Watching J onstage and hearing the music he writes, it is clear that while he certainly takes his craft seriously, he and The Pimps also have a whole lot of fun playing.

“We do this night after night,” J explains, “so the grooves and the sounds and the vibe is fun and the kind of thing that makes us want to do it every night.”

J’s father didn’t play an instrument, but he did play a lot of records for the youngster, who grew up in New Jersey listening to Otis Redding, Ray Charles, traditional and New Orleans jazz, along with The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

He first sat down at a drum kit around the age of 7, and now, according to J, “if it’s got strings, I can mess with it and start making music with it.”

The Pimps of Joytime are looking forward to their stop at Moe’s, according to J, who says, “We play all over the country and Santa Cruz is definitely one of our favorite places to play.”

The Pimps of Joytime play at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 479-1854.

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