(Reproduced with the gracious permission of the International Clarinet Association.
Originally published here.)
Blast-Off!, a 2019 release from Richie Kaye’s Houston-based Space City Funtet, is the perfect album for anyone looking for delightful, lightweight music to play at their next party or gathering. With influences ranging from Raymond Scott to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, this poly-stylistic album features 16 short tracks and one live bonus track (Pretty Please!, performed live at The Mint in New Orleans).
The five-member Funtet includes Kaye on vocals and various small instruments, as well as Ernesto Vega on saxophone, flute, and clarinet. According to the album description on Bandcamp, each piece is intended to “accompany films, TV shows and commercials that haven’t yet been created.”
The Funtettists gently push the boundaries of instrumentation, lyrics, and form. Although the majority of the tracks are swing-influenced and danceable, this album easily avoids being formulaic. As soon as listeners form an idea of what to expect, a song comes along to challenge those expectations.
Fruit Fly is a particular favorite, featuring an imaginative clarinet duet set against a walking tuba bassline. A cute pun is at the heart of the track Lava Love, where Kaye croons in a Sinatra-like voice, I’ve got a lava love for you. Do This, Do That is a quirky tune featuring a woodblock and brief instrumental outbursts, contrasted with more melodic material from the clarinet and saxophone. There is certainly no shortage of clarinet on this album. Vega’s woodwind performances are whimsical and charming.
Part of Blast-Off’s appeal is the way it seamlessly incorporates such diverse influences as children’s sing-alongs with jazz. It would be impossible to imagine it any other way—Kaye and the Funtet have successfully integrated these multivarious influences to create their own musical language.
– Erin Cameron