Following Delta Nove: An Afro Samba World Funk Experience

Delta Nove, a Long Beach, Calif.-based jazz/world funk band, self-dubbed an "Afro Samba World Funk Experience," derives their name from a metaphor meaning the manifestation of the mind through music.
By Chad Simon

Though the band performs mostly across California and Nevada, Delta Nove are road warriors nonetheless, traveling the country tightly packed inside a small tour van to perform for its devoted hippie fan base. Last year, the band played Xingolati - a three-day jam cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, with 40 other bands, headlined by the Flaming Lips, Medeski Martin & Wood (MMW), Banyan, and G. Love and Special Sauce.

"We did a Brazilian martial arts act during our set and Billy Martin (from MMW) sat in and played with us," described Bobby Easton, Delta Nove's guitarist and one of the band's founding members, among the event's highlights.

Delta Nove began their steady climb in the jamband world in 1999. They have four albums to their credit, with the latest, "Deep in the Compound," a reference to their recording studio, The Compound, based in Signal Hill, Calif. In addition, the band appeared on a Talking Heads tribute album, performing the song "Cross-eyed and Painless."

The band is currently comprised of six players: Easton (a.k.a. "Dr. Fuzzy" presumably because of his long, flowing dreadlocks) on guitar, vocals, and percussion; Rob "Pukey Bear" Covacevich on saxophones, flute, and percussion; Matt Welch (a.k.a. "Viking" because of his long, red hair) on bass and vocals; Heath Bennett on vibes, steel drums, and percussion; John Harrington on trumpet, percussion, and vocals; and Dominic Freedham on drums. Increasingly incorporating an Afro-Brazilian twist to its music through percussion, Delta Nove stamps their signature on a percussive breakdown during every show, in which each band member stops what they're doing and picks up a drum, creating a tribal seance-like atmosphere through a united, world, rhythmic jam.

"When we originally started, we wanted to play funk, jazz, and rock. As we all developed independently and with each other, we brought in the Brazilian and Afro beat elements. It's all pretty much a different twist on funk," said Easton. "We never play the percussive jam the same way twice. It always happens during a different part of the set and we change up the parts. We started doing this as we began to incorporate more and more Brazilian instruments into our music."

Delta Nove participates in an average of around 10 music festivals per year, and that number is steadily increasing, according to Easton. Last year, the band toured throughout the Southern U.S., headed up to New York, and worked their way back West. After that tour, the band stayed local to work on writing and recording new material.

"I wrote the majority of our original music, but it's getting to the point where everyone is contributing," said Easton. "We're trying to form a cohesive balance where we all write together."

Among the band's musical influences include: Parliament, Funkadelic, Frank Zappa, and jazz heavyweights including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonius Monk. Delta Nove has shared the stage with bands such as Spearhead, Latin Jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez, Karl Denson, and Burning Spear.

Following in the path of traditional jazz, Delta Nove assimilates the improvisational element into their music by allowing the players to solo and segueing songs into one another. Describing the feeling of performing in front of a packed house, Easton says, "I just go on auto pilot. It' s a full circle and everyone's having fun. We balance our sound off each other."

Named one of the Top 10 Bands to See in 2005 by Jambase and Road Warriors of the Year by Home Grown Music Network, Delta Nove's new album is unofficially due out this summer. The band plans to promote it through heavy touring, music festivals, including Wakarusa in Lawrence, Kansas, this June and 10,000 Lakes in Minnesota in July, and also airplay on several college radio stations.

One of Delta Nove's previous recordings, the White Album, featured collaborations with guest musicians. "It was a really colorful album," said Easton. The band typically doesn't record compilation albums, the way Pink Floyd, The Who, and others have historically done. Much of the traditional Delta Nove world funk sound with more of a Brazilian twist can be expected from their upcoming release.

The band's future goals include "creating a lot more music," according to Easton. "We went through a lot of changes the past few years with personnel and now we have a stable band and we're feeling really good. We're getting into that creative zone."

Check out the latest on Delta Nove at the band's Web site: