These are not just groove-oriented jams but full-blown, often melodically complex tunes. They find their heart in the classic Memphis Stax style yet push at the borders of that genre to create memorable instrumental music that doesn’t need a vocalist or frontperson to connect. The band’s firm grip on dynamics and especially arrangements makes the music sizzle with a power and intensity lost on other instrumental acts without this intuitive talent.
Memphis soul/jazz organ trio The City Champs return to Memphis’ Electraphonic Recording studio for the follow up to their acclaimed debut album, The Safecracker. The Set-Up finds the group stretching out, adding Latin jazz, psychedelia and 60’s film score influences to their established Booker T. and the MGs meets Blue Note/Prestige Records sound.
The City Champs are comprised of three of Memphis’ top musicians: Guitarist Joe Restivo, organist Al Gamble and drummer George Sluppick. Their resumes include studio recordings and live dates with artists such as Rufus Thomas, Alex Chilton, JJ Grey and MOFRO, William Bell, Syl Johnson and the Memphis Horns.
Augmenting the City Champs trio sound on The Set-Up is renowned Motown Funk Brother Jack Ashford on tambourine (who was featured in the award winning documentary, Standing in the Shadows of Motown), The Bo-Keys horn men (Marc Franklin, Jim Spake and Kirk Smothers), Latin percussionist Felix Hernandez and Bo-Keys bassist and The Set-Up’s producer, Scott Bomar, who most recently produced Cyndi Laupers’ “Memphis Blues.”
Since the release of their first album, the group has toured the US with The North Mississippi Allstars and performed shows with bassist Robert Mecurio from Galactic. The group has also had their music prominently featured in the Emmy Award winning documentary, I Am a Man: From Memphis a Lesson in Life and the MTV series, $5 Cover