Soul Jazz And Funk reviews Urban Funk Heroes And Legends

Thursday, 18 November 2010 19:47 Bill Buckley

Urban Funk are a US band whose music isn't quite the funk that their name implies. Rather, the sound of Urban Funk is the sound of smooth jazz. On this 13 tracker you could make comparisons with outfits like Spyro Gyra and the Rippingtons, though in fairness these Urban Funksters offer, in places anyway, a little more bite and attack. Throughout it's all pleasing, pleasant and polished and like most classic smooth jazz sets the repertoire is a mix of originals and covers with a smattering of vocals thrown in for variety.

Indeed two vocal covers are the album's highlights – probably because of their familiarity and accessibility; they are Marvin Gaye's 'Mercy, Mercy Me' and Bobby Caldwell's 'What You Won't Do For Love' – two great songs to begin with and Urban Funk don't stray too far from the originals. In vocalist Tommy Lepson, though, they've found a real talent... no histrionics – just honest soul singing. The other covers are takes on Bob Marley's 'Is This Love', Christopher Cross's 'Sailing' (both very light), Steely Dan's 'Josie' (some great, driving sax from Wayne Sulic), Chick Corea's 'Spain', Santana's 'Samba Pa Ti', the film theme 'Black Orpheus' (all chosen to show the band can "do" Latin properly) and Stevie Wonder's 'Ribbon In The Sky' ( great keys from Steve Long here).

That leaves a quartet of original tunes of which the opener, 'Urban Phunk' is the strongest. It rides a great soul groove and features catchy rifffing from the three piece brass section. 'Under The Sea' is another goodie – more flavours of Steely Dan... clearly the band dig Becker and Fagen. More established smooth jazz outfits would be rightly proud of these two cuts and you can find out more about the album on , while the album is currently available from CDBaby.

Smooth Jazz Gateway

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smooth Jazz Gateway reviews Urban Funk Heroes And Legends

Ronald Jackson's Smooth Jazz Gateway
Urban Funk – Heroes and Legends
Bringing us some East Coast jammin’ is this MD-based group, Urban Funk, which does a really decent job of incorporating a solid group of covers with some competent original material to create Heroes and Legends, a nice collection to add to your smooth jazz goodies.Designed with the intent, as the group says, “to pay homage and elaborate on the creativity of our teachers, gurus and masters of an art form we love” as well as to “add original material as the culmination of the experiences performing, recording and representing the pulse of the eras in we which we participated,” this album obviously has a direction. The covers are nicely interpreted though only conservatively tweaked. I suppose that was to drive home the point that the approach to these tunes was to preserve the integrity of the compositions and to show respect for the work of those coming before this group. A noble gesture.
The original material suggests that the group didn’t just sit down and bang out a few notes, record them, and thrust them forward without regard to the listening public’s sensitivities.
After a funky and snappy opening track, their original “Urban Phunk,” the group goes right after Steely Dan’s “Josie,” a brave gesture in my opinion, since I highly respect Steely Dan’s work, and it handles it most effectively.
There are other examples of some satisfying quality playing (and singing, as is evidenced on Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love,” sung here quite well by one Tommy Lepson), and you can hear that time was truly used wisely-- and not wasted-- in creating this production.
Posted by Ronald Jackson at 8:28 PM

Coconut Times


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coconut Times Reviews Urban Funk's Heroes And Legends

Now what got me thinking of those sexy men on sax was a blast from the past from our old friend Wayne Sulc who played with Jr. Cline and the Recliners for many years in several clubs here. Most of you know that Darryl (aka Jr.) had some health problems that prevented him from performing but he’s back and better than ever. Wayne told me they have played a few dates and are working on a return to Fager’s Island - maybe. Let’s hope, right? Anyway, Wayne has continued playing with several groups over the past few years doing everything from jazz to salsa, and now has assembled a group of superb musicians to produce a CD of Urban Funk titled Heroes and Legends. I can tell you I am really enjoying this collection of songs, most of which are arranged by Wayne Sulc with vocals recorded by another person with whom we are quite familiar, Tommy Lepson. The CD opens with the jazzy cool instrumental “Urban Phunk,” one of the originals on the CD, composed and arranged by Steve Long, that immediately captured my attention. Next is “Josie,” by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen, a superb arrangement by Mr. Sulc that is mostly instrumental with vocal tags by Lepson and Jennifer Smith. Following is “Mercy Mercy Me,” composed by Marvin Gaye, that is another combination of arranging genius and musicians’ triumphant performances. Another highlight for me is “Lourdes From Heaven” written by Wayne Sulc. So, you get the picture. Homage is paid to artists who helped shape the preferences and styles of these musicians; hence the name Heroes and Legends. This is a magnificent studio collaboration that spanned a few years to its completion. I doubt that we will ever hear these musicians assembled live, so go to saxman productions or request it from your local music store to hear what I’ve been happily listening to.

Red Rocker Review

Susie Mudd

Red Rocker Review

February 2010




  Urban Funk’s debut CD is why I am so determined to get my words heard, so I can spread the word out
about our music. “Heroes and Legends” is easily one of the best pieces of music I have ever heard.   
There is nothing really bad about this release. The best of the best are in this group.  These creative
energies have created the masterful release. Heroes and Legends were born by the love of the
saxophone. Probably, that is one of the reasons (our) Music keeps me dreaming of getting my energy and
spirit  back, and Music Monthly (albeit) with a new name.  Heroes and Legends is brilliant.  Title tells it all,
and when you hear the best we have lay down tracks and create magic.  On the disc are Steve Long,
Wayne Sulc, Jeff Bonk, Don Junker; John Thomakos, Tim Cututrona, Chuck Underwood¸ Tommy Lepson ,
and  Jennifer Smith.  If you get off on great, funky music, with amazing vocals, licks to die for, and freaking
awesome drums, excuse me, I mean percussion.  I am sure the release is available wherever you can get
good and bad music. Thank you so much for the gift of this CD. The first cut knocks me out, and it just
keeps getting better from there. The fact that this record is all covers, doesn’t alter my opinion of this
record—these guys picked some great tunes.  I imagine it was really fun laying down tracks for it.
Phenomenal listen!

Art Jamz

In perhaps the most significant partnership since launching a year ago in June 2010, ArtJamz participants will get a chance to paint while listening to live jazz in the Kogod Courtyard of the American Art Museum during three of the museum’s ongoing Thursday night “Take 5! Concerts.”

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard designed by world-renowned architects at Foster + Partners in London

In each of the three sessions, ArtJamz participants will get a chance to paint from 5PM to 8PM while taking in the live sounds of funk jazz bands. The June 16th session features live music from D.C.-based jazz band “Urban Funk;” the July 21st session features live jazz from “Funk Ark;” and The Kelly Bell Band headlines the August 18th session.

It’s free to come to the Kogod Courtyard and listen to live jazz; however, for $40 participants can receive a 22x 28-sized canvas they get to keep, an easel, acrylic paints, brushes, art materials, the support of ArtJamz hosts and a chance to make art in one of America’s most iconic museums. Participants also receive 20% off drinks and food at the Courtyard Café during the session.

“We are so thrilled about this partnership. It’s amazing to think that in just one year, we’ve gone from an experimental participatory art concept to hosting ArtJamz sessions within the walls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. We can’t wait to see what kind of inspiration this beautiful courtyard and live jazz will give the artjammers,” says ArtJamz founder and Genki Media CEO Michael M. Clements.

The Washington Post

Urban Funk

Please note: This event has already occurred.


Music Type:


Quick Take

The Smithsonian American Art Museum brings this jazz/R&B/Latin fusion band led by local saxophonist Wayne Sulc to the Kogod Courtyard for a free concert, part of the museum's "Take 5!" series. While you're listening, peruse the works in progress being painted by ArtJamz participants (ArtJamz has a temporary studio set up for the concerts).

Eye Level

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Getting Funky with American Art's Take 5!
June 14, 2011

Summer is almost officially here, though it already feels like it when we step out of the crisp, cool corridors of the museum. In celebration of the sunshine and swelter, one of our public programs assistants, Laurel Fehrenbach, has some ultra funky sessions of our monthly jazz series, Take 5!, lined up for you. Eye Level grabbed Laurel on the fly to ask her about what's in store.

Urban Funk

Urban Funk: On Tap This Thursday

Eye Level: So, you're "funkdefying" your monthly jazz concerts this summer. Which bands are on stage?

Laurel Fehrenbach: I'm really excited that I was able to grab some of the best local funk bands! DC has such an incredible history of jazz and that led directly into Funk and Go-Go. This Thursday, June 16, we have the Saxman himself, Wayne Sulc and Urban Funk. July 21 is the famed FunkArk, who are on the ESL label so we were lucky to nab them with their busy tour schedule. To close out the summer of a big not, the Kelly Bell Band will be on hand August 18. I can't wait!

EL: Where did you find your summer acts? Do you browse sites like MySpace Music, scout shows yourself, or ask other local programmers for recommendations?

LF: All of the above! Looking for funk bands was a pretty specific task so I had to do a lot of research and listen to a lot of great funk. Tough job, right? But someone has to do it!

EL: Aside from the music, what other features to Take 5! will continue this summer? Anything new?

LF: Summer seems to be a good time to experiment and try new things. We'll have our ever-popular board games, of course, but we'll also be working with the ArtJamz crew to add a visual art component to the concerts.

EL: Tell us a little bit more about your collaboration with ArtJamz.

LF: These guys are so cool! Michael Clements started this group in DC not long ago and it has totally taken off. For a registration fee they give you an easel, canvas, paints. The American Art Museum provides the free live funk music, galleries full of incredible art and the atmosphere of the Kogod Courtyard for added inspiration. You are free to unleash your inner artist and showcase your creativity on canvas while enjoying the concert and learning from your fellow painters. We'll see how funky everyone gets!

EL: We're sure you have quite a few groups vying for the once-monthly Take 5! slot. Can you tell us what you look for in a potential performer, and how Take 5! hopefuls should apply?

LF: I get lots of requests and I try to give everyone a fair shake. I'm more inclined to book bands that have never performed here before, but we also like to invite old friends back. If you are considering applying, send me a CD or direct me to your website with a reference or two. I tend to like quartets or larger, because the Courtyard is such a big space. High energy and audience engagement makes the best performances, but I also really love to work with groups on making connections between the artwork in galleries and the music they are performing. If you are a jazz musician and have ideas how your repertoire supports our collection, let me know!

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'Urban Funk' free Thursday eve at the Smithsonian (Photos)

Jazz, rhythm and blues, percussion and Latin music mixed make Urban Funk's sounds of "funk fusion," certain to energize and make happy all listeners at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Thursday evening.

Wayne Sulc on saxophone is the leader of Urban Funk, a local DC band.


Their performance is one of the monthly "Take 5!" series on stage at the Kogod Courtyard in the museum across the street from the Verizon Center. There is no charge to attend, but you may want to purchase beverages and a treat or two for additional enjoyment.


Games for guests to play are also available at no charge, and there's plenty of room for dancing. During band breaks, visitors may want to take advantage of an exhibit or two at SAAM or the National Portrait Gallery before 7 p.m. when they close.


Who: Urban Funk

What: Take 5!

When: 5-8 p.m., Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where: The Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum at 8th and F streets, NW

Cost: No charge

Metro stations: Gallery Place-Chinatown, Metro Center, or Navy Memorial-Archives

For more information: 202-633-1000 or 202-633-7970

More Take 5s! Coming up:

Thursday, July 21, 5-8 p.m., Funk Art, "soulful big band" with keyboardist Will Rast and "a gang of ten by his side"

Thursday, August 18, 5-8 p.m., Kelly Bell Band, voted the Best Blues Band in the mid-Atlantic region for 12 years


, DC cultural events Examiner

Patricia Leslie is a woman of the night and the weekend who roams the District pursuing cultural and athletic delights which feed her spirit. Her label, The Queen of Free, stems from her wallet. You may contact Patricia with your comments and questions.