Cole Berry currently serves as world-fusion/funk band New World Ape’s percussion virtuoso, but if his passion for their eclectic brand of music ever wanes, he’s got other plans. “If I wasn’t in this band right now, I’d probably just be in the Andes,” he admits. Fortunately, it’s that immutable wanderlust that feeds his band’s musical fire. The core five of the seven- to eight-piece ensemble met while studying at UC Santa Cruz. In 2009, a year after graduating, Berry was contacted by drummer Beaumont Bradbury. “I was actually in La Paz, Bolivia, recovering from some intestinal issues,” recalls Berry, “and I got this email from him saying he wanted to kind of put together this serious progressive dance band, and I said yeah, count me in.”
Since then, the band’s produced a collection of dynamic (not to mention lengthy) jam tracks that take that “progressive dance band” idea to a whole new funk planet. With West African, Caribbean, South American folkloric, and Cuban jazz influences fine tuned into cinematic compositions, New World Ape produces a tangible groove. The band’s dance-friendly live shows are elevated with a wild medley of instruments—Berry delivers stirring percussion on Gangan drums, the shekere, and timbales, Bradbury rages on drums, Berry’s brother Miles lays down the bass groove, Michael Glick masters the keyboard, and the remaining members contribute everything from saxophone solos to electrified rock interludes. After the release of its first album, 2011’s Present Day, the band took a brief winter hiatus, only to come back and head full speed in new directions—they’re working on incorporating a vocalist, and getting a touring van to play a host of world music festivals. The hunger to explore uncharted territories in life and in their music has made the band stronger than ever. “The five of us have established mutual destinies,” says Berry.
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 479-1854.